Storming the Beaches of Normandy

Is it a beacon or a sailboat? We’re only an hour away from Cherbourg so the little spec out in the mist could be either. It turns out to be a sailboat which is a very exciting indication of exactly how close to the French coast we really are. After the sailboat passes behind us we head up a deck to pack our bags in preparation for disembarkation.

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View of Cherbourg


Back on the deck, bags in hand we watch as the gigantic boat deftly maneuvers it’s way into it’s resting place. The dock workers below us catch the heavy ropes and secure us to the Continent. We head back inside as the captain’s deck requests us head back to the vehicle bays.

IMG_0601We are one of the few vehicles on the boat with a non-EU passport carrier on board so customs takes half a minute longer while the lady heads back to the guard hut to place her stamp of approval. We are through, and Liesel even remembers to stay on the right side of the first round-a-bout. The extra large reminders help. The GPS takes us on a scenic tour of the back roads of Cherbourg and soon we are on the motorway headed for Juno Beach.IMG_0602

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Small Village near Juno Beach

We had debated where to spend our first afternoon in France but quickly agreed to see some Canadian history at the place our soldiers made landing on D-Day. Juno Beach ended up being a relatively short hour and a half drive from the ferry terminal. As we pulled up and made our way to the beach it was strange to see children playing football and building sand castles in a place I only know about because of it’s violent past.IMG_0606

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How big is Canada?

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Remembering Canadians who gave their lives

We spent the next couple of hours touring the Juno Beach Centre, a museum dedicated to the Canadian military and their impact not only in Normandy but also in other conflicts from WWII through the present. It was clearly aimed at informing non-Canadians on our history but I found many bits that I had never learned from any history class. It was fascinating seeing the crowds of young French students being toured around the grounds being taught about Canada.

It was later than we expected by the time we emerged from the museum so we quickly made our way back to the main road, through Caen and down towards Avranches. The strong smell of cows permeated the countryside and our little vehicle. We made excellent time travelling south at a legal 130 km/h. We checked in at F1 Avranches shortly before 20:00 and headed into town to find a restaurant highly recommended by a trusted website.

IMG_0605IMG_0608Upon arrival at the small back-alley restaurant we were disappointed to find it had closed for the evening. Cars were everywhere in town, but hardly a person to be seen. We walked up and down the vacant streets hoping to find an alternate dining option but clearly we were in the wrong part of town as we mostly found closed shops. We finally settled for a small sandwich cafe nestled beside a more boisterous bar. The girl claimed to speak a small amount of English but we quickly learned this was not the case. I have no idea what I ordered, but it was strong tasting and unlike anything I have tasted before. Not fine French cuisine, but an experience non the less.

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Evening in Avranches

We finished up and walked back through town to find our car parked under the pink-blossomed cherry tree where we left it. Liesel attempted to get us a night view of tomorrow’s destination, and she succeeded by driving out to the edge of town where we could barely make out the glow of Mont Saint Michel lit up away in the distance.

We headed back to the hotel where I now sit typing to catch some sleep for another adventure tomorrow.

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