The 4th of July holiday that we celebrate in the U.S. reminds us of the freedoms we enjoy today. But it’s also an opportunity to honor the many human sacrifices that have been made to create, ensure and maintain those freedoms and liberties. And while the day is observed only in the U.S. it should also be a reminder of the many American lives that have been sacrificed around the world in order to protect not only our own freedom but also the freedom and liberty of our friends and allies.
And of the many places where those American sacrifices are honored, none is more beautiful to me than the simple monument dedicated to the 2nd and 5th Army Ranger Battalions that scaled the 100-foot cliffs of Pointe du Hoc overlooking and threatening the landing zones along the Omaha and Utah sectors of the Normandy beaches in France near the end of World War II.
If you’re spending time in France this year I’d strongly recommend that you take the opportunity to visit not only the memorial at Pointe du Hoc but also the nearby Normandy beaches where the amphibious assault was centered and the beautiful and moving Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial nearby, covering some 72 acres and containing the remains of almost 10,000 American military casualties.
The Normandy beaches can be reached by train from Paris in only about two hours, so a long day trip is not out of the question. But there is so much history and beauty to see along the coast here that a stay of two or three days or more would not be wasted. Among your opportunities here are:
• The town of Bayeux is a central part of the coastline here (only about 30 minutes from the Normandy beaches) and a good spot to stay for touring the cost area. Bayeux itself offers the magnificent tapestry museum (Musee de la Tapisserie de Bayeux), the British War Cemetery, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Museum of the Battle of Normandy.
• A walk along Omaha and Utah beaches, a trip to the Pointe du Hoc memorial and a stroll through the beautiful cemetery are definitely my personal favorite Normandy experiences.
• An easy day trip (45 minutes) west of Bayeux is lovely Sainte-Mere-Eglise where you can visit the incredible Airborne Museum as well as the beautiful Sainte-Mere-Eglise Church.
• An easy day trip (1½ hours) southwest of Bayeux is the unique town of Mont-Saint-Michel, with its beautiful Abbey, its impressive defensive walls and the highest tides in Europe.
• An easy trip (1½ hours) east of Bayeux is the town of Rouen with its huge Cathedral (so beautiful that Claude Monet chose to paint it more than 30 times) and a wonderful old town with cobbled streets winding between old houses, churches and cathedrals.
The Normandy coastline is packed with countless beautiful vistas and historical locations that will create unforgettable memories whether you choose to spend a week or just a day exploring what is one of France’s most impressive regions.
Photo By Pline