A long weekend in Normandy (Part 1)

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My husband has always been interested in WWII history, so visiting the D-Day landing beaches has been something he’s wanted to do during our stay in France. We thought about doing a full-day bus tour (like the one I went on with my parents back in 2010), but we were hoping to have a little more freedom. When James’ mom saw that this adorable hotel/bed & breakfast was having a winter special, well, we just couldn’t pass it up!

We were nervous about renting a car since neither of us can drive a manual, but we were able to find an automatic through Europcar (although having to pay about double the price!) and reserve it online. We picked it up from the Gare du Nord, and had no problems getting out of the city and onto the highway. Whew! They do charge an extra 40 euros if you’re picking your car up from a train station or airport, so keep that in mind if you’re trying to keep the cost down. Speaking of cost…make sure to factor in the tolls. We spent around 18 euros on tolls to get to our hotel and then 30 euros on the way home (we did a little side trip).

Our hotel, Ferme de la Rançonnière, was located in the little village of Crépon and it was super easy to find. Our winter special included breakfast every day and two dinners in the restaurant, which was very convenient considering there’s not a lot happening in Crépon.

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Our hotel room was gorgeous and very spacious! We also had a side door that led directly outside which was super nice for taking Henry out.

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After we settled in a bit, we drove out to Omaha beach, only about 10 minutes away. They have a lot of great signs pointing you towards parking lots, so finding it was easier than I expected. The beaches are so beautiful, it’s almost hard to imagine what they were like during the D-Day invasion.

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For our first full day we decided to go to the Arromanches, Gold Beach (British), and the American Cemetery. The weather was not near as nice, and by the time we got to the cemetery it was raining fairly hard.

At Arromanches-les-Bains you can still see the floating harbor the Allies set up to supply the D-Day invasion. Because of the rain we didn’t walk on Gold Beach, but instead stayed more on the boardwalk.

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Next we drove to the American Cemetery, which is actually closest to Omaha Beach. In the last couple of years they have completely redone their museum and I was super impressed! It’s still free and you walk through it before accessing the cemetery. The videos are heartbreaking, moving, and very informative. We took our time going through the museum and didn’t feel the need to stop at any other ones along our way (although there is a really great memorial and museum in Caen).

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We decided to go into the larger town of Bayeux for dinner and found a great little Irish Pub (Le Conquerant). After dinner we walked around the old city (so cute!) and the gorgeous cathedral. Bayeux is known for the Bayeux Tapestry that depicts the story of William the Conqueror (we decided to pass on it).

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The next day we started out at the battery at Longues-sur-Mer.
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Then we headed to the Pointe du Hoc, which overlooks Omaha and Utah beaches and drove up to the little village of Barfleur. The Pointe du Hoc was definitely the highlight of our trip for James, but also, unfortunately  the worst weather we had. At the Pointe du Hoc you have a great vantage point for all the other beaches and you can still access many of the German bunkers. The area is riddled with bomb craters which also makes a strong visual impact.

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Next up: an afternoon trip to Barfleur and stopping by Honfleur on our way back to Paris!

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