Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Trip of a Lifetime: Part 4

I have decided, after my little break last week, to continue on with my blog series The Trip of a Lifetime. Back in October of 2014 we were able to travel to Paris through the Make-A-Wish foundation and it was an unbelievable journey. In fact sometimes I sat back and think, "Did we really go to Paris?".   It was an amazing journey that I hope you are enjoying reading about. So let us continue....

On our fourth day in France we took a tour bus,  left the city of Paris and traveled to the Normandy section of France. I admit I loved it. Being out of the city and in the country reminded me so much of home. There were farms and pastureland with animals and everything was so green and pretty. The tour guide explained to us that it rains almost everyday of the year and that was why everything looked so green.

Our first stop was in Caen, France. This is the home of the D-Day Museum and the city is also the burial place of William the Conqueror. Unfortunately time did not permit a stop at the church he is buried in, but I did get to see it from the road. Here are a couple of pictures that I found online to share with you.

 The first thing we saw when we got to the museum was the 70th Anniversary D-Day memorial statue that had just been put in place four months earlier. 

The museum had so much information to read, so many things to see and we even got to go into a real bunker that belonged to Nazi General  . 

After a fantastic dinner of chicken, fried potatoes and salad we boarded the bus and headed over to the actual D-Day beaches. We stopped at Point Du Hoc, the place were the Army Rangers were to climb up and engage the Nazi's to take the attention off the beaches. Unfortunately they were late and the plan was discovered.  As you walk around you can still see the craters left behind by the bombs the Allied forces dropped over 70 years ago.

This is my oldest daughter down inside of one of the craters

We had a quick stop at Omaha Beach were I got a bag of sand to bring back home. It was so surreal standing there on the beach, seeing the memorial and thinking about all those brave men who stormed those beaches that day. Omaha was one of two American beaches, the other being Utah. The greatest loss of life was at Omaha.  I can only imagine the fortitude and courage it took for those soldiers to run into what they must have known would mean death for them.  It brought tears to my eyes and made me think of my good friend Charles Pike, who was a WWII veteran. He was one of the greatest men I have ever known, one of the Greatest Generation. 

We then continued to travel on past Gold Beach (one of the British beaches) onto our stop at the Normandy Cemetery. We had a brief time to spend here, but it was still overwhelming and emotional for me. So many of those markers bear no name, for that person was unknown. It makes me sad to know that someone's son never made it home and they have no idea where he is.  While there we also saw an entire wall of names of the missing, those they were never able to locate, even though they knew each man was present there. It makes you wonder what may have happened to them. 

Our next stop was what is referred to as Port Winston Harbor, named after British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It was a man made port that allowed supplies and troops to be brought into France. 

(An archive picture of what the Port looked like in 1944).
We continued on with our tour and made a quick stop at Juno Beach (the Canadian landing spot). It was so nice to let the girls have a chance to  play on the beach and run on the sand along the English Channel. As we drove along the coast, heading back to the city we passed by Sword Beach (another British landing spot). 

All in all it was a very emotional day for me and made me even more appreciative of what our brave soldiers did that day and through out the entire war.  You see on that day, June 6, 1944, 156,000 soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy. Americans, Brits and Canadians all joined together to defeat the Axis power and bring liberation to France, Paris and Western Europe.  In total 4,413 men died that day (2,499 American fatalities and 1,914 from the other Allied nations) giving their lives for freedom  and justice for all mankind.

It was a long day, 16 hours to be exact and we were exhausted when we arrived back in Paris. We headed straight up to bed and decided to sleep in the next day.
To be continued.....

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