Our long weekend was rather spontaneously booked 2/3 weeks before we went. I first wanted to surprise my partner to visit there as he’s wanted to go for a long time to visit all the museums and learn more of the history of WW2. Well, I tried keeping it a surprise until he borrowed my laptop that had open my Trip Advisor account showing places to visit!! However it was good that he found out really, as we could both plan exactly what we want to see and do.
We reserved a car from Europcar, booked the beautiful Le Clos Saint Jean B&B and had a full list of museums, memorials and places to walk planned for our weekend. Driving from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Bayeux, France took us roughly 6.5 hours, not including our lunch stop, but it was a good drive with only one traffic jam of 30mins.
We arrived by the late afternoon, greeted by an amazing couple who had been running the B&B only for 3 months. They recommended that we walk along from the little stoney beach thats only 400m from the B&B to Omaha beach while the tide is out, and back along the bike path at the top of the cliff. It was a lovely 1 hour walk to do before settling in for the evening. It was cool and uncool at the same time to walk there, knowing so many people, most younger than us, had died there.
Check out the links below of how our itinerary filled our long weekend!
Day One – 360 Museum, D-Day Museum De Debarquement, Pegasus Bridge museum & Arromanche.
Day Two – Pointe Du Hoc, La Combe German Cemetery, American Cemetery & Memorial, the Overlord Museum & Bayeux.
Day Three – The Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, British War Cemetery, Bayeux Tapestry Museum, 1944 Radar Museum & the Longues-sur-Mer battery.
Day Four – Leaving the B&B to drive back home via the Fortress of Mimoyecques & La Coupole.
An early checkout at the B&B meant that we had a good head start on getting back to the Netherlands with plenty of time before needing to check the rented car back in. We decided to drive towards Calais as we had discovered some hidden underground places to visit. They are classed as ‘dark tourism’ so we were interested! It was 3 hours into our 6 hour drive so a great time to stop and stretch our legs too!
Luckily with no traffic on the motorway and a little detour through the Caps et Marais d’Opale Natural Regional Park we arrived at our first destination of the day, the Fortress of Mimoyecques, once an underground world of workers that was the launch base of V-2 Rockets, which would of been sent to bomb London, UK. From the sunny 28°c outside we explored the 10°c tunnels inside. It was cold, dark and a little creepy, since we were the only ones in it for a while! Though very interesting to see what was planned here during the war, and how they managed to keep it a secret for so long from spying enemy planes. Well worth a read on the link and a visit if you are in the area!
The second destination was something a little similar, with underground tunnels and the perfect hideout for the R&D and manufacturing process of rockets, which again of would been used against London, UK if they weren’t stopped in time. Hidden under a concrete dome is the La Coupole. You follow the cold tunnels through to the lift, which takes you to the main part of the museum under the dome. Here you have two really interesting videos about the V2 rockets and how people were treated who worked and lived in the tunnels. You are provided with so much information via the audio headset, so it’s understandable to hear about the history as you look at the recovered artefacts . It’s a place you can spend the whole afternoon at. Definitely recommended to visit!
Our visit to Normandy was short but packed with knowledge! We recommend the Le Clos Saint Jean to stay if you have a car as it is perfect location to travel to and from for visiting the northern coast between Carentan and Cabourg. The rooms are a good size (we had one with private bathroom) and the served breakfasts are delicious. They included fresh bread and cheeses, different fruit salads, jams and fresh juices made straight from their garden. My favourite was their homemade brioche bread with freshly crushed raspberries to pour the juice over the top, delicious! Good luck to the owners Caroline and her husband who only started running it in late 2016.
Click here to go back to the start of our Normandy trip!
Bayeux was at the top of our list on the third day, visiting the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, however after visiting all the other museums it felt a little double reading similar stories and the same photographs. It was all beautifully displayed and the video really put everything together, so we felt it was still worth the visit!
The third cemetery we visited was the British War Cemetery, close to the Bayeux memorial museum. Each grave was also perfectly lined up as the American cemetery, but with flowers surrounding them. I found it more touching to see and walk around, maybe because I knew they were British like I had a connection. Poppy wreaths were still on the memorial monument since the 72nd Anniversary was only a month and a half before we visited.
After some lunch we visited the Bayeux Tapestry Museum, something that I remembered visiting when I was younger. The 70 meter long cloth embroidered with the story of William the Conqueror and the October 14th, 1066 Battle of Hastings. I really enjoyed this museum visit and really appreciate seeing how much time and effort has gone into telling each chapter of the story in embroidery.
Taking a detour back to our B&B for a pause we stopped at a little 1944 Radar Museum that we found on the way as it was rather off track from the main roads. The museum had a collection of different radars and antennas that were used by the Germans for things like detecting the enemies, as well as a bunker that you can enter that is three levels deep. The bunker explained perfectly what each room would of been used for, and had a mock up of what the sleeping area would of been like. The radar below, called the Würzburg, is one of the three surviving Würzburgs in the world. Unfortunately this one had broken away from the base.
Lastly before dinner we stopped at the Longues-sur-Mer battery, an open area with four bunkers in a row that had 4 navy guns, two that had been bombed to pieces and two that had not been hit from the bombings. They were placed strategically to see the coast for oncoming ships.
The cloudy morning turned to sunshine as we had reached our first destination of the day, Pointe Du Hoc. Free to get in we walked past through to the viewpoints of the bunkers and monument. Amazing to see the view and how far along the coast you can see, how the Germans positioned themselves during the war. Here you could also experience the damaged bunkers (could go in a few) and the massive holes in the ground left behind from the bombs.
We took the drive from Pointe Du Hoc to Carentan, in search of a place for lunch and our next destination the La Combe German Cemetery. It wasn’t very advertised with road signs so we had to use the sat nav and address, obviously not a place the French like to advertise. How strange it was to be walking among 22,000 graves of German soldiers, many of them aged between 16 to 22. Most graves consisted of two people, with too many that were unknown with no name.
Keeping other cemeteries in mind, we headed next to the American Cemetery & Memorial, which was the complete opposite of the German cemetery. This place seemed the busiest out of all of our chosen museums and places we visited during the weekend. The American cemetery is close to Omaha beach where most American soldiers lost their lives. The cemetery is filled with perfectly lined white crosses with one grave per soldier. It was all very touching with different graves having flowers placed in respect.
The last museum on our list was the Overlord Museum. Greeted with original tanks situated outside we went in and looked at the big collection of items from June 6th, 1944. There was some interesting personal items and stories of witnesses and soldiers throughout the museum and compelling to see items like a tank full of bullet holes.
We finished the day with a dinner in Bayeux followed by a long walk around the beautiful city. Couldn’t resist a nutella pancake for pudding too!
We spent our first morning in Arromanches visiting the 360 Museum and D-Day Museum De Debarquement, parking our rented car at the top of the cliff and walking down to the museums and beach. The small town was pretty and clean, with an amazing view out to sea with high tide covering the ruins of the wall that was built during WW2. We enjoyed walking around there so much that we didn’t realise it was already 2:30pm and we hadn’t ate, so before we left we bought a nice baguette and drink each!
The afternoon lead us to Pegasus Bridge museum, visiting the original bridge that the English fought at, with a very interesting tour through the museum about the glider planes and how easy the bridge actually was to take over with only 2 Germans guarding the bridge at night.
We really enjoyed this museum, the lady who gave the tour even got a little emotional telling a story of a guy who had returned to Pegasus Bridge after 70 years, seeing the graves of his comrades and speaking for first time about what happened when he was there. The guy was a pilot who helped direct the glider planes to the bridge, which were full up with 28 men. It was so emotional to hear as he had so much responsibility for the glider plane towed behind his plane, which unfortunately broke loose too early, causing the men to die under his watch.
We headed back to Arromanche for a pizza, followed by an relaxing walk on beach. It was now low tide, so we could walk all the way out to the ruins of what had been left in the sea. We finished the evening watching a summer fireworks event at Port-en-Bessin-Huppain with all the locals.
In 2010 Lennart and I took a last minute Cruise which docked at five different locations in the Mediterranean sea. We had a rather cheap deal for the Greek Louis Majesty cruise ship at roughly €500.00 per person for 7 days all inclusive, as a few months prior it made headline BBC news for an 26ft wave crashing into the ship killing 2 people and injuring at least 14 others.
We toured the Mediterranean anti-clockwise. Check out the itinerary below as each destination I have created a separate blog post (Some still WIP):
Thinking back to 2010 seems so long ago already, but the experience hasn’t been forgotten. A cruise vacation is definitely something we would invest in again, giving you enough time to visit more than 5+ places during a holiday. The downside of course is not having enough time at those places to do and see everything we wanted, and really only visiting the touristic things.
We met some great people, explored all new locations and the cruise ship experience was very enjoyable, especially with the swimming pool/jacuzzi and the all you can eat buffets from more than 5 different types of restaurants!!
As a child I have visited the Dordogne more than 10 times, as my parents had a motor home placed on a beautiful campsite in Belvés. We would visit every year, and spend every day keeping active, visiting a castle or heading to the local French markets before heading back to the campsite for a swim and some table tennis with my brother and sister. We would end the afternoons with a delicious BBQ with salad and French bread prepared by my step mum. I always remember watching the clear sky at night in a lounge chair next to my dad, hoping to catch a shooting star, and also seeing the International Space Station (ISS) fly over.
Good memories were made here, so when my grandparents bought the motor home from my parents I wanted to take Lennart to the place where all those good memories were made. So for 2012 our summer holiday was for 8 days in the south of France with my wonderful grandparents.
This trip was special for me as I was able to spend time with my grandparents. When I lived back in England I would see them very often, but when they retired early to move to France I was still very young. I had a strong bond with them both and with every holiday to France with my parents included a visit to my grandparents in their French home in Normandy. They had a beautiful old mill house with lots of land to grow vegetables and a little stream for some fishing, they were in their element. Since growing older and moving to the Netherlands the holidays stopped to France and I was travelling with Lennart more. Plus my travelling grandparents had lived in France for up to 10 years so last year they moved back to England to be close to family again. So this opportunity to have a vacation together felt perfect to rekindle the strong bond and to make more good memories with Lennart in the Dordogne.
The week started off perfect with 35°c and a cool breeze. We were met with a warm welcome by my grandparents at the airport, as they were picking us up with their car. It was very exciting to be back, and I couldn’t wait to show Lennart what my summer holidays used to be like. For the week we had planned a day for renting canoes, a day for a visit to a castle or two and the rest of the week to enjoy the French markets, eating French bread and drinking French wine.
Well we first decided to get away from the warm weather into some caves called Gouffre de Proumeyssec. It was a perfect choice as we were literary baking outside in the sunshine! My grandparents also joined us inside to see the crystal formations and the pure crystal water. Since Lennart is 6ft 4 he found certain parts of the cave extremely low, but enjoyed the views and the coldness deep underground.
A beautiful little place to stop for a drink and eat some ice cream is La Roque-Gageac. We took a walk to the top to see the amazing views of the Dordogne. It was so lovely to walk up and down the paths with Lennart and my grandparents that I had walked years before with my dad, step mum, brother and sister. From this little picturesque town we watched the canoers and kayakers go past, enjoying every second of our time together.
The castle we decided to visit was Castelnaud. To get there you need to walk up the hill, and by this day it was 40°c so we were all knackered as we reached the top! It was a little too much for my grandparents, so while Lennart and I paid for the tickets to explore the castle they slowly headed their way back down for a coffee and a slice of cake by the water. The last time I visited the castle was more than 6 years ago, so experiencing it again with Lennart was really nice. The exhibitions were explained well in English and from the castle grounds you have a fantastic panorama view of the Dordogne. A must see for all ages!
Half way through the week we booked ourselves with a canoe company to take us to the starting point of the river where they sent us on our way. We decided to choose kayaks so we could both have the experience of our own boat and paddling, but we knew it would take a lot of energy and strength, so it was our vacation challenge. It was an extremely hot day so we were happy to have a big supply of water and sun cream with us. We had chosen to do 8km, where we followed the river Dordogne to finish at the canoe company, also where my grandparents would pick us up after their relaxing day. Lennart loved the adventure, catching glimpses of the fish through the clear water and viewing the castles and the little towns from our kayaks.
I had such a positive feeling with how we were having a great vacation, similar to all of my childhood vacations in France, and I was so pleased to share it with Lennart and my grandparents. My grandparents loved our time together too. The Dordogne is definitely a place we will find ourselves at again.
On the flight home we had some bad weather entering the Netherlands airspace. Some of the worst turbulence we have experienced and we still had to land! We circled the airport a few times while we were in the queue to land as we had to take a different runway where the wind would not push our aircraft the wrong way. Well we got down so low with the wheels out that we must have been less than 5 meters away, until all of a sudden a massive boost of power took us back up into the sky. Everyone was clutching onto their partners and seats as it felt like we were on a rollercoaster! After another 10mins circling the airport the 2nd attempt was better and we landed. Well done Transavia. Such a great way to end the holiday!