Friday, July 4, 2014

'Have Books, Will Travel' is moving!

That's right! Movin' and groovin' and a New Name-

After some debate with myself I decided to take the plunge and move to WordPress sooner than later and with that have come a few changes.

The most noticeable changes are the design {I love my new blog theme!} and, of course, the name. Why the change? Well a few reasons but mainly One Trip at a Time does a much better job of summing up what I blog about. While I still love reading {and will continue to read my way around the world} it certainly isn't prominent enough to get essentially half the name. L suggested 'why not go with the second half of your tag line?' and you know what? It works brilliantly!

So One Trip at a Time it is! I'll still be posting about all my travels as I've done so far on here, along with some travel tips, and lots and lots of photos.

If you follow me on Bloglovin I've set up One Trip at a Time on there and would love for you to continue following me at my new blog. If you follow me by email you can still do that too- just visit any post on my new blog (or click on that link ---> ) and you'll find the 'Subscribe by Email' option on the sidebar.

 I can't wait for you to visit my new blog where I'll continue to explore the world, one trip at a time.

New look for my header. Please visit my blog to see the other changes I've made.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Exploring Normandy and Ypres: Battle Plan Day 3 {Part 3}

Actual Date of Event: March 12, 2014

After spending our early afternoon in Arromanches and the Musée du Débarquement we were off to the remaining two beaches, the Juno Beach Centre, and the Canadian Military cemetery. 

Juno Beach Centre

Juno Beach is the beach the Canadians landed on that proved a military success but costly in terms of men lost. The main task of the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division upon landing was to move inland to cut the Caen-Bayeux road and form a connection between the British beaches, Gold and Sword.

The plan was to land at low tide so the German defensive obstacles would be exposed but low tide was three hours prior to their landing so they were partially submerged. The mines took a toll on the landing craft and destroyed or damaged 30% of them. The men, after wading ashore, were then met with heavy firepower with an estimated 50/50 chance of surviving the gunfire.

After fighting hard for Juno Beach they reached the German positions behind the beach and were able to move inland with some speed to reach their target by the end of the day. The price they paid was 1,200 casualties of the 21,400 men that landed on the beach.

Exhibits at the Juno Beach Centre
In September 1939, Canada declared the state of war and joined its allies by mobilizing the mightiest military force in its history at sea, on land, and in the air. The Juno Beach Centre tells the story of the Canadians who fought in the military, as well as those the waited at home for their return. In the first room we stood in a simulated landing craft to watch a film projected around us showing images of the war, D-Day, as well as families back home describing what they were thinking and feeling at the time.

The permanent exhibits have lots of photographs and other artifacts to tell the story but my favourites are always the more personal documents like letters to home, even the letters sent home with the sad news that a loved one wouldn't be returning. The batteries, bunkers, and guns can tell part of the story but those artifacts are always what gets me. One word. Heartbreaking.

For the Fallen
by Laurence Binyon

They shall grow not old
As we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn;
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them. 

Sword Beach
Sword Beach
Sword Beach was the furthest east of the five beaches used on D-Day that was assigned to units of the British 2nd Army. The area around the beach was lightly defended by the Germans, but only as compared to some of the other beaches, and doesn't mean that the British troops didn't lose soldiers too.

The landings started at 7:25 am and by 8:00 am most of the fighting around the beach was over. By 1:00 pm that day the soldiers had met up with the paratroopers at the bridges over the Orne waterways, but on the right were unable to link up with the Canadian troops from Juno Beach. At 4:00 pm the 21st Panzer Division (German) launched an attack but it wasn't to last long. 

By the end of D-Day the British had 29,000 men landed with 630 casualties. German casualties were much higher and many German soldiers had been taken prisoner, but the Caen objective was still several kilometers away. 

Musée Radar

Musée Radar de Douvres

After our short visit to Sword Beach the sun was starting to set so it was time to make our way to the Canadian War Cemetery which was our last planned stop of the day. On the way though we realized we had come upon the Musée Radar (which was on our list for the morning) so we decided to make our stop then.

This is the site of a former German radar station that was one of the most important radar detection links in the Atlantic Wall defenses with a unique example of the Wurzburg Riese radar. The site was closed so we took in the views through the fence and therefore didn't stay very long. 

Canadian War Cemetery

Before the sun did set on us it was time to make our way to the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery which is the very peaceful resting place of 2,048 soldiers. A large number of these soldiers were killed in early July 1944 in the Battle of Caen and the also those soldiers that fell during the D-Day assault on Juno Beach. Canadian prisoners of war, that were illegally executed at the Ardenne Abbey, are also interred here. 

After quiet wander it was time for another wonderful day out to wind down. Time to head back for a delicious {and romantic} dinner and our last night at our rustic and charming hotel in Crépon. 

In my next post I'll finish off our time in France as we spend the morning at Pegasus Bridge {with a guest post about this by L!} and at our last WWII cemetery in Ranville. The it is off to Belgium!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Postcard from...Brier Island, Canada

Shame on me. Ten postcards done and none of them have been from my own home country yet! Well I best change that immediately eh?

Brier Island is a small island {7.5 km by 2.5 km} on the westernmost part of Nova Scotia that makes up the Digby Neck along with Long Island. It is driven by the fishing industry year-round and a seasonal tourism industry that is mainly focused on whale watching tours. In fact this photo was taken upon our return from one of those tours where we had spent the better part of the day looking for humpback whales. Unfortunately for us most of the day was much, much foggier than this photo suggests it could have been and we didn't see {but did hear} very many whales. The few we did see were amazing. They are so much bigger than you can imagine, especially when they surface by the boat and just lay there peacefully.

As Brier Island is frequently blanketed in fog it has a "lighthouse per mile" with Northern, Western, and Peter Island lighthouses all automated and operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. The island has seen 57 shipwrecks with the wreck of the "Aurora" in 1908 providing the lumber for the Westport Community Hall on the island.

This tiny island, in addition to being surrounded by whales, is also home to seals, many types of coastal plants and plays host to many birds during their migration. The beaches are also great for exploring tide pools and rock hounding...just be sure to keep an eye on the incoming tide!

Photo taken August 10, 2008
Saturday, June 21, 2014

Day Trips: Beautiful Bodiam Castle

Actual Date of Event: August 1, 2013

Medieval. Dreamy. Romantic. Moated like the sandcastles we used to build at the beach...and you can even arrive by steam engine which only helps transport you back a little further in time, closer to the year 1388 when Bodiam Castle was completed.

One of the many beautiful views of Bodiam Castle {Photo by L}
Our day out in East Sussex, England to visit Bodiam Castle last August actually began with us boarding a restored steam engine in Tenterden for the picturesque ten mile journey through the Rother Valley. The coaches and locomotives, dating back from Victorian times, are operated by the Kent & East Sussex Railway and chug along past little towns, farms, and just generally lots of scenic views.

A step back in time at Tenterden Station

Quiet, picturesque countryside along the rail line {Photo by L}

Upon arrival at the station in Bodiam be sure to allow some time to get up close to the engines especially if you're with a male of any age...they'll need a few minutes to check out all the parts and pieces and see how it all works. You'll definitely have a smiling guy on your hands if you take my advice. :-)

Wonderfully restored steam engine {Photo by L}
 From the rail station it's only a few minutes walk to the castle with great views of it through the trees as you get closer and closer. Keep your camera handy as this castle is one photo op after another.

Bodiam Castle coming into view through the trees {Photo by L}
The castle was built from 1385 to 1388 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge with the permission of Richard II presumably to defend the area against a French invasion during the Hundred Years' War. Looking at it further though historians think it is unusually far from a coastline for this to have really been the reason to build it. Despite this it was built with many defensive features like the crenels (gaps in the stones) at the tops of the towers on each corner and at the entrance that could have been used to shoot arrows through. It is also moated and that would have helped keep attackers from gaining access to the base of the castle's walls. If they did manage to get up to the castle and get to the gatehouse they  then had to contend with the 'murder-holes' where guards would drop all sorts of things on them to get them to turn back- like boiling water, hot sand, and even rats!

Be careful! There are murder-holes behind them gates {Photo by L}
These days, instead of being greeted with rats dropped on your head at the gate, visitors are welcome to stroll the grounds and encouraged to explore the remains of the castle. There are lots of neat little nooks and crannies among the chambers, a water well, and then stairs to allow you to climb the towers for wonderful views of the surrounding countryside from the roof.

Lots of chambers to explore {Photo by L}

Can't beat a view like this {Photo by L}
After exploring I highly recommend finding a spot in the shade under one of the great trees to enjoy an ice cream and maybe even a little afternoon cat nap especially if it is as hot as the day we were there... like 34°C (or 93°F)! My goodness that wasn't the English weather I was hoping for to escape the Houston heat! Oh well it might have been hot but the view way more than made up for it.

Our view of the castle from our resting spot under the tree {Photo by L}

For schedules and fares for the train from Tenterden to Bodiam please visit the Kent & East Sussex Railway site.

For more information about Bodiam Castle like operating hours and rates, please visit the National Trust Collection site.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Exploring Normandy and Ypres: Battle Plan Day 3 {Part 2}

Actual Date of Event: March 12, 2014

Phew! It's been a quite awhile since we were last in Normandy visiting the Bayeux Cathedral and Tapestry but I'm back today to share more of our memories and photos from this great trip.

In today's post we're far from the Mayan ruins, that we were actually in just a couple of weeks ago, and off to visit my favourite battery of our Normandy trip- the Longues Battery. It was here I did my best impression of a celebrity trying not to be recognized {this wasn't the reason this was my favourite one- I just thought it was neat}. I had a scarf around my neck and up over my head, then the hood from my sweater pulled up, and sunglasses was SO windy and chilly! Thankfully L does not sneak pics of me in ridiculous get-ups like this so there is no photographic evidence of what a goof I am. But hey, I was warm!

Three of the guns as viewed from the top of the fourth gun {Photo by L}
Built in 1944 by the Kriegsmarine, the battery was later transferred over the German army. It consisted of four 152-mm navy guns that had a range of over 12 miles- able to fire upon the Omaha and Gold beaches and the landing fleet coming ashore there. The concrete casemates protecting the guns were themselves protected by piles of earth built up along their sides. This helped to cushion the blow, prevent them from tipping over if bombs fell nearby, and also to help conceal them.

One of the four 152-mm guns- they just look so ominous to me.
Three hundred yards ahead, on the edge of the cliff, was the range-finding post. It was fitted with a telemetric aiming device and defended by machine-gun nests, barbed wire, and mines. It was so foggy over the water the day we were there that even though we could look down the cliff's edge and very clearly hear the water beating against the rocks below we couldn't really see anything. I wondered how scared I would have been if I had been a soldier in that post not knowing what could be so close, hiding in all that fog, and getting ready to fire upon me.

During the night of June 5th to 6th the Allies dropped over a thousand pounds of bombs onto the battery but it didn't have a great effect. At dawn on the 6th the battery engaged in an artillery battle with several ships and by evening three of the four guns had been disabled by British cruisers.  The crew of the battery (184 men) surrendered to British soldiers the following day.

View from behind the range-finding post as it looks out to sea

After our visit to Longues Battery it was time to make our way to the town I remembered so well from my trip over in 2011- Arromanches-les-Bains.

Remnants of the Mulberry Harbour {Photo by L}
It was on the beaches of Arromanches that the Allies established an artificial temporary harbour that allowed them to unload heavy equipment before the deep ports of Le Havre and Cherbourg could be captured.  Arromanches is in the center of the Gold Beach {British} landing zone but it was spared as much fighting as possible on D-Day so the harbour could be installed as quickly as possible.

We purposely planned our visit for low tide otherwise I knew from my previous visit that most of the remnants would be under water. It was just good fortune on my visit in 2011 that I was there at low tide because it is so interesting to walk among the pontoons that once held up the floating roadway.

During 100 days of operation this "temporary" port allowed 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of material to come ashore. To say this was an amazing engineering feat is an understatement.

It was still foggy when we arrived but to me that just made it seem all the more sombre. Standing along the boardwalk at the edge of the beach we couldn't see some of the pontoons and then walking out toward the sea they would start to appear before us out of the white blanket, which then cut us off from the town behind us. Not sure if L felt the same but it was a little eerie to me, especially when we couldn't see anyone else around us.

After wandering around for a bit we made our way into the Musée du Débarquement which had a great model of the artificial port with explanations of how it all worked. I highly recommend this for anyone, like me, that just can not visualize how the remnants on the beach fit together and the whole thing worked.

Depiction of the trucks coming ashore on the floating roadways {Photo by L}

Further out in the harbour big ships were able to unload their cargo

The museum had many other exhibits and we wandered through to see them but for me the model of the harbour was worth the price of admission. This museum was something I hadn't had time for when I visited previously so I was happy we had it on the Battle Plan for this trip.

After our visit to Arromanches it was time to make our way to the last two landing beaches- Sword Beach {British} and Juno Beach {Canadian}- and to pay our respects at the Canadian cemetery. In my next post about our Normandy trip I'll finish off our third day in Normandy and show you some photos from these places.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Postcard from...Fredericksburg, USA

Hands down my favourite building along Main Street in Fredericksburg was the Pioneer Memorial Library. I'm a sucker for a library on any day but when it is an old stone building surrounded by big oak trees I'm really drawn to it. Unfortunately it was already closed for the evening when we found it or I would have gone in and wandered through the stacks that are located on the first floor. The second floor functions as a community hall.

The Pioneer Memorial Library is also known as the Fredericksburg Memorial Library or the Old Courthouse and is hard to miss right in the center of town on Main Street. It was designed by Alfred Giles and was built out of limestone in a Romanesque Revival style in 1882 to replace the original 1855 courthouse. In 1967 it was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and in 1971 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

When the new courthouse was built in Fredericksburg in 1939 this building served other uses until it fell into a state of disrepair and was condemned in 1963. Thankfully Mr. and Mrs. Eugene McDermott {the founders of Texas Instruments} saw to it that it was restored in 1967 as a home for the town's library.

Photo taken May 25, 2014
Sunday, June 15, 2014

Since you last heard from me...

... I have been one busy bee!  One day {sooner than later I hope} I'll have posts written in advance and won't fall off the map for a few weeks at a time when a big trip comes up or I have VIP company in town {miss you already L!}. But I'm back now and have all kinds of new experiences and places I've been to share before I head out on my next adventure that is in just ONE month. My goodness it will be here before I know it. I better get to packing soon! :-)

So since you last heard from me back in May...

I had a weekend get-away in Fredericksburg, TX with L. Just the two of us to catch up, see hundreds of thousands of bats emerge from their cave into the evening sky, do a little snuggling, learn more about WWII at the Museum of the Pacific War, eat some German food, and make an unplanned stop to visit the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX {instead of Enchanted Rock when the rain just would not let up}.

Old Tunnel State Park for the evening bat emergence
Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, TX
Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX

I let the kiddo play hooky from school one afternoon as he, L, and I played tourist in Houston and visited the Museum of Natural Science. We went for the 3D movie called "D-Day:Normandy 1944" but also spent a few hours wandering through to see dinosaur bones, the Hall of Ancient Egypt, and some Mayan artifacts {to get us pumped for our upcoming cruise...well MORE pumped up really. We were already pretty excited by this point}.

Mummies at the Museum

L, the kiddo and I also played umpteen games of cards over the past few weeks and would you believe it... I won them all! Or at least I can say I won them all since neither of them are here to say otherwise. Guess you'll just have to take my word for it eh? :-)

AND if all of that wasn't fun and exciting enough {which it was!} L, the kiddo, and I got to visit THREE new countries and go on our first ever cruise with Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas! It was a ton of fun and I'll be sharing lots of pictures, stories, and cruising tips in upcoming posts after I'm finished sharing the rest of our trip to Normandy and Ypres. For today though I'll leave you with a photo from each of three countries we visited- Honduras, Belize, and Mexico.

So tomorrow I'll have another postcard and I will pick back up this week where I left off on our trip to Normandy and Ypres. Coming soon I'll also be featuring a special guest post from L as he writes about our visit to Pegasus Bridge.
Monday, May 19, 2014

Postcard from...Canterbury, England

To me there is just something so pretty about vines and trees against a backdrop of stones, especially old irregular shaped stones like most of the ones in this photo so when we found these stone walls behind Canterbury Cathedral I just had to stop and take pictures from all angles.

Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city and UNESCO World Heritage site that is consistently one of the most visited towns in the United Kingdom. At the heart of the city is Canterbury Cathedral that is well known for several reasons especially as the site of Thomas Becket's murder in 1170 right in the cathedral by the followers of King Henry II. Since then the cathedral has become a place of pilgrimage for Christians all over the world. This pilgrimage is the theme for the classic The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer from the 14th century.

There is just so much history in this little town that it is definitely worth a visit and you have to leave yourself plenty of time to just stroll through the narrow little streets, have lunch in a local pub (bangers and mash...yum!), and browse the little shops.

For those of you that visit regularly I just wanted to let you know that I'll be taking a break for a few weeks. I've got some traveling coming up and will be getting ready for both of those trips in the next week or so. When I return I'll pick back up with the next part of our wonderful trip to Normandy and Ypres and after that I'll be blogging about a completely different part of the globe as we take a cruise to the Caribbean. 

Until then, happy travels and I'll be back in a few weeks!

Photo taken August 2, 2013

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Exploring Normandy and Ypres: Battle Plan Day 3 {Part 1}

Actual Date of Event: March 12, 2014

In my post from Thursday we left off with a wonderful little picnic to end our day after visiting Point du Hoc, Omaha Beach, and the Normandy American Military Cemetery.

Our foggy walk to breakfast at our hotel
On the third day of our trip we awoke to another foggy morning and headed out to Bayeux to visit a few sites. The first stop on our itinerary was the Bayeux War Cemetery which is the resting place of over 4,000 fallen Commonwealth soldiers. To learn a little more about this cemetery and view my photos please visit my post from a few weeks ago about the WWII Commonwealth War Cemeteries.

After visiting the cemetery it was time for us to step waaaay back in time to see a cathedral that dates back to the 11th century- the Bayeux Cathedral.

Before being able to wander off to the cathedral we had to first find some parking on the narrow little streets of Bayeux and this is where, once again (in my experience anyway), the stereotype that French people are rude was proven absolutely UNtrue. We figured we had to pay for the parking but couldn't find where to actually put our money in a meter so I popped into a little shop to ask for assistance. This very sweet lady came out from the back of her store and with a big friendly smile gave me all the information we needed to find the meter and what to do with the parking permit once we got it from the machine- and she did so without even raising an eyebrow or looking at me confused (at my far less than perfect French) when I spoke to her.  And then she wished us a good day and off we went. I really can not say enough that every time I've needed help in France (and there have been a good many times I'm afraid) everyone has just been so helpful. I have had restaurants let me in early to feed me when they hadn't opened for their evening meal yet, a man who used his credit card to pay for gas for my car when the pump wouldn't accept my card (I did give him cash), and one guy that even moved the car for me when I couldn't get the darn thing out from between two boulders I had parked it between ...and he could have drove away with the car and stolen it if he'd wanted to! Yes kind French folks have certainly helped me out of some pickles. But I digress... back to Bayeux Cathedral.

The entrance to Bayeux Cathedral
The Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Bayeux dates back to the days of William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings and it is stunning! It is a combination of a Romanesque style in the the 11th century crypt and Gothic style in the 13th century nave. It was consecrated in 1077 in the presence of William the Conqueror which when you stop and think about it is pretty awesome-we were actually walking in the footsteps of the man who was Duke of Normandy and King of England! So darn cool.

Inside is even more beautiful than outside, if that's possible

The cathedral was also once the home, from the 11th to 18th centuries, of the Bayeux Tapestry which was probably displayed for the first time on the day the cathedral was consecrated. Also there are sculpted scenes here showing the life of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was assassinated in Canterbury by the order of King Henry II of England.

Details from the front of the cathedral - some so intricate and all so much work
When you travel in Europe always look up....ceilings are works of art in themselves.

More of the details inside the cathedral.
After touring all around the Cathedral we made our way along the narrow pretty streets of the town until we heard rushing water and there, out of nowhere, was the little water wheel I had seen in pictures before visiting but didn't know if we'd find. What a treat!

I thought one of the nicest touches were the poppies in the window boxes. Aren't they pretty?

I probably could have stayed and taken photos of this building at every angle for the rest of the morning but we were also on our way to see the Bayeux Tapestry in the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux. When we arrived they were going to close shortly (for lunch I think?) but fortunately for us they said we would have enough time to see the tapestry if that was good and since that's really what we came for we decided it would be all right to miss out on the rest of the museum. Maybe we'll be back another day to see the rest.

Unfortunately you can't take pictures of the tapestry (which isn't really a tapestry but is really an embroidered cloth) but when you hear that it is is LONG. As part of our entrance fee we were given a handset that told the story of the tapestry as you slowly made your way along the length of it. When we stepped in the room where it's kept we thought "wow!" it's really long but that was only half of it as it then went around the corner and kept right on going!

The Bayeux Tapestry tells the story in a series of about fifty scenes of the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Essex, and culminates in the Battle of Hastings. Miraculously this piece of history has survived over nine centuries and still retains the colours and exceptional needlework.

To view each scene of the tapestry, along with a brief description of that scene, please visit the site.

In addition to this the Bayeux Tapestry is also on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register which " lists documentary heritage which has been recommended by the International Advisory Committee, and endorsed by the Director-General of UNESCO, as corresponding to the selection criteria regarding world significance and outstanding universal value." 

I didn't even realise this register existed alongside the list of World Heritage Sites! Don't worry though L, I'm not going to make it a goal to see everything on this list too. I think we have enough to see for one lifetime. :-)

After this it was time to stop and have a bite to eat for lunch before we headed out of town and on to our next stop at the Longues Battery and then on to Arromanche. I was so looking forward to seeing Arromanche again, this time with L, as it was one of my favourite places when I visited Normandy a few years ago. In the next post I'll show you around those sites and the Musée d'Embarquement.
Monday, May 12, 2014

Postcard from...Paris, France

I can't believe it took until my fourth visit to Paris to actually make it to Montmarte to see the breathtaking Basilique du Sacré Coeur. What was I waiting for?

It's not hard to find the basilica as it sits in the 18e arrondissement atop the the butte Montmarte, which is the highest point in the city, and offers a great vantage point to look down over the whole city and take some great photos or just sit and people watch. It's also in a very vibrant part of town (though really what part of Paris doesn't feel like that?) with street artists and galleries to take in.

Construction of the Basilica started in 1876 with Paul Abadie as the lead architect. When he died in 1884, he was succeeded by Lucien Magne, who added an 83 meter (272 ft) tall clock tower. The Savoyarde clock installed here is one of the world's largest. Construction was completed in 1914 and it was consecrated in 1919 after the end of WWI.

How does Sacré-Coeur manage to stay such a beaming white colour amid the air pollution of a big city like Paris? This can be attributed to the Château-Landon stones that were used to build it. When it rains, the stones react to the water and secrete calcite, which acts like a bleacher. Ingenious!

Photo taken July 17, 2011
Thursday, May 8, 2014

Exploring Normandy and Ypres: Battle Plan Day 2 {Part 3}

Actual Event Date: March 11, 2014

After visiting Utah Beach, the Utah Beach Museum and the German Military Cemetery our next stop on the Battle Plan was Pointe du Hoc.

Pointe du Hoc

Photo by L

We had only allotted about 15 minutes for this site on the Battle Plan but after arriving we quickly realized we would be spending quite a bit more time here. There was quite a large area to roam around with gun placements, bunkers, and bomb craters to explore and then a beautiful view of the coast.

Pointe du Hoc is a 30 m (100 ft) cliff on a small rocky beach that offered no protection to the soldiers tasked with scaling it on their rope ladders. It is between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach and was a well fortified part of the Atlantic Wall that the Germans had created.

On D-Day the US Army Rangers Assault Group were assigned to land there, scale the cliffs, and overtake the German defenses. While they were shelled upon by the nearby Maisy Battery and German soldiers firing at them from the cliff's edge with machine guns and grenades, they reached the top and soon discovered that the guns in the emplacements had been replaced with telephone poles. The German troops had moved the guns inland to an apple orchard to save them from bombing and then left them unguarded. Once found by the Rangers they were quickly destroyed.

Although the Rangers mission on D-Day was considered a success as they seized this land from the German soldiers the casualties were many. Two hundred and twenty-five men landed on the beaches but at the end of the two days of fighting only ninety remained.

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach is a six mile stretch of beach overlooked by cliffs that made it very difficult to attack for the Americans on D-Day. In addition to the cliffs the Germans had built intimidating defenses around the the beach with things like 'dragon's teeth' which were designed to take out the bottoms of landing craft and in case they didn't work they were mined as well. Gun emplacements covered the beach and there was a system of trenches in places to allow the German troops to move about.

Tasked with attacking this beach were troops from the US 1st Army and their plan was to land infantry troops along with Sherman tanks to give them a lot of fire power against the Germans. However, these tanks never made it as they were released from their landing craft too far away from the beach and all but two of the 29 were swamped and sank. In addition to this, due to strong tides and winds, many of the American troops landed in the wrong place which caused confusion about which unit was where and what they were to do.

The only way off the beach and out of the line of fire from the German machine guns was to sprint across the beach and then scale the cliffs. Some small naval crafts got as close in to shore as they could and attacked the German gun emplacements in order to provide some protection to the soldiers on the beach. Despite the odds, by nightfall the Americans had gained a hold on the beach with 34,000 troops successfully landed. Sadly though it was at a high price as 2,400 soldiers died on Omaha Beach that day.

On the center of Omaha beach is the 'Les Braves' monument for the American soldiers who helped to liberate France. The sculptor Anilore Banon said this:

I created this scuplture to honour the courage of these men:
Sons, husbands and fathers, who endangered and often sacrificed their lives in the hope of freeing the French people.

Les Braves consists of three elements:
The wings of Hope
So that the spirit which carried these men on June 6th, 1944 continues to inspire us, reminding us that together it is always possible to changing the future.
Rise, Freedom!
So that the example of those who rose against barbarity, helps us remain standing strong against all forms of inhumanity.
The Wings of Fraternity
So that this surge of brotherhood always reminds us of our responsibility towards others as well as ourselves.
On June 6th, 1944 these man were more than soldiers, they were our brothers.

Normandy American Military Cemetery and Memorial

Built on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach this cemetery is the resting place for 9,387 soldiers, 307 of whom are unknown.

On June 8, 1944 the US First Army established the first American cemetery on European soil in WWII. After the war the current cemetery was established just a short distance from the original one. Like all other military cemeteries France has granted the United States a special, perpetual concession to the land which means it's free of any charge or tax.

Only some of the US soldiers who died in France are buried here because when it came time for a permanent burial the soldier's next of kin were given the choice to have their loved ones repatriated for burial in the US, or to let them rest in France.

In addition to the cemetery there is a memorial at this site that commemorates the lives of 1,557 Americans who lost their lives in Normandy but could not be located or identified. At the center of a semicircle of columns is a 22 foot bronze statue called 'The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves'. In front of the memorial is a reflecting pool where visitors can watch the ceremony of the Lowering of the Colors that happens at the end of each afternoon to the sound of a military hymn.

After our very full day filled with history we decided that dinner that evening would be something we both enjoy- a picnic in our room. We stopped at a grocery store on the way back to the hotel, picked up some cheese, a baguette (mais oui...we were after all in France!), and some other treats and enjoyed our very casual and relaxing dinner.

Bon appétit!

In my next post about this trip we'll start in Bayeux where we visit the Bayeux British Cemetery but also took a little detour from WWII history and stepped further back in time to visit the Bayeux Cathedral and Tapestry.