Normandy Tour Day 1 (Omaha, Gold, American Cemetery) – Aug 6

My head was hurting as we boarded the bus in Honfleur. I shrugged it off and took my seat. We spent some time on the motorway and I decided to close my eyes in hope of getting a little relief. I don’t know if there were others that had dozed off or if it was just me with my eyes shut but the guide made a snarky comment about people napping. I didn’t care. I was feeling crappy and I could hear what she had to say without having my eyes open. Off the motorway we wound our way along country roads and through tiny villages until we reached Omaha beach.

As we rounded the corner and the beach came into sight I was surprised to see the beach goers laying around in the sand. I’m not sure why it was surprising, it was a beautiful sandy beach after all. As I looked out the opposite side of the bus I was also struck by the steepness and dense vegetation of the hillside. You can almost miss the concrete bunkers cut into the bluff as they’re slowly being reclaimed by the land.

I thought about the pictures I’ve seen of the invasion over the years and how they fit into the landscape. It was eerie and surreal, to think about what it must have been like for the soldiers who had endured terrible seas on their journey across the Channel only to face nearly assured death as they went ashore.

We were given a brief amount of free time at the beach to look at the memorials. There is a good cluster of them right on the beach. There are also various museums near the beach we did not get an opportunity to visit.

As time ticked on the headache grew worse and it was making me feel a bit nauseous. It was frustrating because visiting these beaches had but at the top of my list since the trip planning had begun. I couldn’t believe my body was choosing now to betray me.

The bus parked at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer and we followed the guide to the grave sites for President Theodore Roosevelt’s sons, Theodore Jr. and Quentin. She pointed out some things that may be of interest and set the group free. I found a bench in the shade to relax at for a bit. It afforded a nice view of the sea and a fresh air I thought may help. Eventually I wandered down the path to view the informational displays and made my way to the memorial colonnade and statue. Another incredibly moving site to visit. I certainly wish we would have had more time. As I made my way to the restroom I ran into the guide and asked if it would be possible to get my bag out of the bus baggage hold. I had to take something for this headache. I wasn’t sure Advil was going to be sufficient but it was the only thing I had available.

Again we wound our way through villages I was surprised we could navigate. Thankfully it was a short journey to Gold beach. Off the bus and into the fresh air I felt slightly better. Our time at the site was too limited to make the walk down to the beach to see the remaining pieces of the Mulberry Harbors that were put into place after the invasion. An impressive amount of equipment and supplies were landed on this harbor in the 10 months to follow. Many of the concrete pieces have been removed for safety reasons but many are still visible on the beach and in the bay.

As we loaded back on the bus for our stop for the night, Caen, I opted to take advantage of our small numbers and lay across the back seats. This provided some relief and I was feeling a bit better as we arrived at the hotel. Once to my room I took another Advil and laid down for a bit. The group was having dinner in a few hours and I was hoping to shake the ache and join them.

No longer wincing in pain at the idea of being upright I joined the group for dinner. The food was mediocre but the company was good. Now off to sleep as another early day lie ahead.

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