So after we spent the afternoon on a whirlwind tour of Paris, we finally made it back to the hotel around 1 AM local time. I was drained – up until this point, I had slept very little and all I wanted to do was lay down…so I did.
We were up early the next morning to get out of Paris to head to Normandy. The hotel provided us a scrumptious breakfast and I quickly became addicted to espresso, Nutella, and chocolate laced croissants. After breakfast, we joined the rest of the tour group and piled onto the bus. We were headed to a museum called the Memorial Museum of Caen to start our day of touring.
The museum was large and held an impressive amount of WWII artifacts. The layout of the museum reminded me of the layout of the Holocaust museum in DC. It was a long windy path through the exhibits with few areas off the beaten path to explore. This layout provided the viewer with an incredibly impressive experience as this museum did not sugarcoat any of the horrors of the destruction WWII inflicted on the world at large.
Outside the museum, there were two additional exhibits you could visit. One was a memorial for the Americans that lost their lives liberating France (which became a common theme we would see) and one exhibit that commemorated winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. I wandered around for a while snapping a ton of photos and taking quite a few in bracketed mode to merge into a HDR file when I got home.
After we finished lunch in the museum cafeteria, we climbed back on the bus to head to our next destination, Pegasus Bridge. Pegasus Bridge was a massive counterweighted bridge that was very important to the post D-Day invasion as it was the only bridge in the surrounding area that could support heavy equipment (such as tanks). The bridge could also allow the Germans to bring reinforcements to the front lines. The Germans knew this as well, so they rigged the bridge to blow up. Allied paratroopers (specifically British) parachuted in and took the bridge into Allied hands. Since traffic in that area had grown since WWII, a few years ago they decided to preserve the whole bridge, move it (!!) to the shore, and built a museum right next to it.
While we were in the museum, we watched a movie detailing the specifics of the pre D-Day operations of massive Allied airdrops behind enemy lines. It was very cool learning the nitty-gritty details of the D-Day invasion that most forms of entertainment which portray this historical event seem to gloss over. Even better was talking to my grandfather about the subject who had written a book (and done a ton of research) on wartime reporters during WII. It was almost like we had 2 tour guides!
After we spent time touring the museum as well as the area around the River Orne (the river that the Pegasus Bridge used to span), we piled back into the bus to head to the hotel to eat dinner and crash. Our hotel was in central Caen and since it was a central location it was one of the hotels we spent more than one night in. My dad, brother, Paul, and Ned wandered around downtown Caen before we had dinner and explored part of the city.
Some of the buildings have been around for centuries, so getting to see that historical architecture in person was quite a treat. We all ate dinner together as a large group and the food made by the hotel was great! After a FaceTime call with Jules (all of our hotels had free wifi- America take note), I passed out and prepared for another marathon day.
To be continued….