by Udey Johnson on 27/05/11 at 6:32 pm
This is a busy – but doable – excursion from Paris to visit some of the top sites related to the D-Day invasion during WWII.
German artillery at Omaha Beach
Of the many day-trips from Paris available to the energetic traveler, one of the most captivating is an excursion to Normandy and the D-Day battlefields. And while you could easily spend a week in the area and still not have time to see all that there is to see – you can actually cover quite a bit of ground in one-day. It is a long, demanding day – but if you have the inclination and energy, it is well worth the effort. Let’s get started.
Our first stop is actually the day before your trip. That’s when you’ll stop-by your favorite delicatessen (traiteur) to pick-up the items you’ll pack for lunch the next day. Your day will be way too busy for stopping at a restaurant – and there are many wonderful picnic areas along our route – so prepare a sack of your favorite goodies and get a good night’s sleep; our trip starts early.
The first leg of the trip starts at the Gare St. Lazare where you will catch the first train to Caen at 6:45am. Be aware that no food is sold on the train and none of the station vendors will be open at that hour either – so bringing some breakfast items isn’t a bad idea. It’s a two hour train ride through the beautiful Norman countryside with brief stops in two or three cities along the way.
You’ll arrive in Caen at 8:45am and after walking outside you’ll find all the car rental agencies just across the street from the train station (except Hertz – which is around the corner to your right). Pick-up your rental car and let’s hit the road. And this will be the trickiest part of your day; namely, finding the road. You’ll want the N13 toward Cherbourg. It can get a little confusing when you get on the freeway in Caen, but just remember, when in doubt – follow the signs that say Cherbourg.
Our first stop is at Longues-sur Mer where you will find the only remaining long-range German artillery guns, still in their bunkers. To get there exit the N13 at Bayeux (sorry – no time for the tapestry today) and follow the many signs. The guns are in three well preserved (considering what they’ve been through) bunkers on an isolated cliff high above the D-Day landing beaches. Not only are the bunkers and guns fascinating – but the cliff offers a panoramic view of all of the D-Day beaches. You are above Gold Beach with the artificial Mulberry harbor at Arromanches clearly visible off to your right. In-fact, you have a better view of the Arromanches-Mulberry area from here than if you’d actually driven there. Since you won’t have time to see all the beaches we’ll head for the one off to your left – and by far the most interesting - Omaha Beach.