Top 3 Omaha Beach Places To Visit

Normandy American Cemetery

If I had to choose my top 3 Omaha Beach places to visit I’d opt for La Pointe du Hoc, the Normandy American Cemetery and Les Braves. In just over 7 weeks time Normandy will be hosting events for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

I visited these 3 Omaha Beach spots in February 2018 on a chilly but sunny day. I wanted blue sky for the photos I was going to take and I wasn’t disappointed. Rather than visit a museum, I chose 2 places where there were visitor centres. This gave me a real feel for the challenges that the American troops faced at Omaha Beach.

Normandy American Cemetery

It took me around an hour to drive to Omaha Beach. I started my day at La Pointe du Hoc. It’s between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. You can read about my visit here. I genuinely felt as if history came to life as I walked around this battle site.

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Next on my list was Les Braves. This beautiful steel sculpture is on the beach just beyond the memorial. Again, the clock seemed to roll back as I thought about the men who lost their lives on this beach. My review is here and includes a video of the beach.

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My final stop was the Normandy American Cemetery. The visitor centre is very informative and the cemetery itself is unforgettable. It is beautifully maintained and a fitting tribute to those for whom Normandy is their final resting place. The drone footage in my review article shows the extent of the site.

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It is still one of the most memorable days I’ve had in Normandy. I can still recall the emotion I felt as I visited each of these 3 amazing sites. Time now stands still for these heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.

For more information about Omaha Beach visit this page.

British Memorial On Sword Beach

British memorial on Sword Beach

There are a number of memorials on Sword Beach stretching from Ouistreham in the East to Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer in the West.

British memorial on Sword Beach

This British memorial on Sword Beach is dedicated to the following commando units of the 1st Special Service Brigade:

No. 3 Commando – Lieutenant Colonel Peter Young
No. 4 Commando – Lieutenant Colonel Robert Dawson
177 French Marine Commandos from No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando, commanded by Commandant Philippe Kieffer
No. 6 Commando – Lieutenant Colonel Derek Mills-Roberts
No. 45 (Royal Marine) Commando – Lieutenant Colonel Charles Ries

British memorial on Sword Beach

The 1st Special Service Brigade was a commando brigade of the British Army. It was formed during the Second World War and consisted of elements of the British Army (including British Commandos) and the Royal Marines. On 6 December 1944, the Brigade was redesignated 1st Commando Brigade.

British memorial on Sword Beach

The commando units landed here on D-Day, 6th June 1944. You can find the memorial at 15 Boulevard Maritime in Colleville-Montgomery. It’s at the intersection of rue Vauban and looks out onto Sword Beach.

For more information about Sword Beach visit this page.

The Normandy Airborne Museum

Normandy Airborne Museum

The Museum

The Normandy Airborne Museum is located in Sainte-Mère-Église’s square just opposite the church. An effigy of American paratrooper John Steele hangs on the church spire. The museum pays tribute to the paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division. The paratroopers landed in Sainte-Mère-Église on the night of the 5th June and into the early hours of the morning of D-Day. From the invasion preparations in England through the battles for liberation, meet the Airborne troops and accompany them on their heroic journey to victory in Normandy.

Normandy Airborne Museum

Reviews

See one of the many excellent reviews below.

Normandy Airborne Museum

Alternatively, you can read more TripAdvisor reviews here.

Normandy Airborne Museum
Practical Information

Address: 14 Rue Eisenhower, 50480 Sainte-Mère-Église

Phone: 02 33 41 41 35

The website for the museum is here.

The museum is open every day.

May to August : 9:00am – 7:00pm.
April and September : 9:30am – 6:30pm.
October to March : 10:00am – 6:00 pm
The last ticket sales are one hour before closing.

The museum is closed in December and January except during Christmas Holidays. Additionally, it is closed on 24th, 25th and 31st December and 1st January.

However, animals are not allowed (except in a closed carrying bag).

Normandy Airborne MuseumThere are 4 different buildings to explore and also activity books for children to help them learn about D-Day. In May 2018, ipads were introduced in order to give visitors an interactive experience.

Videos And Additional Information

Watch the video below demonstrating how the iPads work.

This video with French and English titles gives a short overview of some of the sights you’ll be able to see.

Finally, for an in-depth guide about the D-Day landing sites you can visit this page.

We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE

A Year Of Photos in Normandy

A visit to Mont-Saint-Michel

One of the highlights of being a holiday home owner is exploring the area I live in and sharing it with guests. I love heading out with my camera and taking photos of the area so I’ve had a scroll through my photo album to remind myself what I’ve been up to this year.

Normandy In Photos

In January the Normandy weather wasn’t that wonderful but I did have a drive to a village around 20 minutes away called Regnéville-sur-mer where there’s a ruined chateau and great views across the river.

Regnéville chateau Regnéville

I made two trips to the D-Day landing beaches in February; firstly to Omaha Beach and La Pointe du Hoc and later in the month to Utah Beach and Sainte-Mère-Église. There aren’t really enough words to explain this – it simply was amazing. Both days were cold but sunny with clear blue skies. It was probably the highlight of my year.

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I’ve subsequently added a very comprehensive guide to the D-Day landing beaches and surrounding areas. You can read it here.

In April I went back to the Omaha Beach area as I had a couple of volunteers staying and one of them had American heritage. I also stopped off at the Peace Statue near Grandcamp Maisy.

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There was also a quick trip to Bayeux – somewhere I never tire of visiting.

D-Day Bayeux tapestry Bayeux Bayeux Cathedral

April and May were spent working in the garden. I also took a guided tour around Regnéville which was delightful on a sunny day.

June involved trips to Omaha (yes, that was the third time already that year), Bayeux and a wonderful day out to St Malo. Read my in-depth article about the key sites in Bayeux.

Normandy American Cemetery Normandy American Cemetery

St Malo
St Malo ramparts

Saint-Malo

I also visited a partly restored castle in Pirou and had a wonderful morning exploring.

Pirou Pirou

The Marché Normand takes place in Gavray every July. The main street is blocked off and there are parades of tractors, cows, classic cars and people in traditional Normandy costumes. Dancing displays and music also entertain the crowds and the usual Saturday market is bigger than usual. It’s a lovely atmosphere.

Marché Normand in Gavray Marché Normand in Gavray

Later that month my family came over and stayed twice. We had our usual trip to Granville on a rather windy day.

Granville

August passed me by but as it’s peak gite season I would have been up to my ears in laundry I guess. I did manage a trip to Villedieu-les-Poêles to explore the courtyards where artisans such as coppersmiths and lacemakers worked.

September was full of history and heritage. I had a trip to a water mill near to Cherbourg and also the Chateau de Carneville.

Réthoville water mill Normandy history and heritage

Later that month was a heritage weekend when many places are open free to charge. I went to Hambye Abbey and then up towards Saint-Sauveur Le Vicomte to visit the castle and abbey. The following day I visited the Chateau at Gratot (near Coutances) and one of the churches in Coutances.

Photos of Normandy Photos of Normandy

Chateau Gratot St Sauveur Le Victomte

Abbey St Sauveur Le Vicomte Chateau Gratot

In October I visited Granville – both the high town and also had afternoon tea in the main town.

The first Sunday in the month from November through to March means that entry to the abbey at Mont Saint Michel is free. The weather was lovely and sunny and the tide was out so a perfect opportunity to take more photos of my favourite place. I’ve written about how to make the most of a visit to Mont-Saint-Michel here.

 

Mont-Saint-Michel ramparts
Mont-Saint-Michel ramparts
Salle des Chevaliers at Mont-Saint-Michel
Salle des Chevaliers at Mont-Saint-Michel

In December I went to see the son et lumière show on the exterior of Coutances Cathedral. It’s the first time this event has been put on and I really enjoyed it.

So, that’s been my year in Normandy in photos. I hope that my guests have enjoyed discovering Normandy as much as I have. As we approach the end of the year, I’d like to wish you the most amazing 2019. May it be peaceful, happy and healthy.

 

We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE

The D Day Landing Beaches in Normandy

D-Day

The Normandy D Day landing beaches will be at the top of many travel bucket lists for 2019. The 6th June 2019 will commemorate 75 years since D-Day took place. The video below gives an overview of the events and planning leading up to D-Day and what happened on the 6th June 1944.

There were five landing beaches – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. Utah and Omaha were tackled by American troops while the Canadians took Juno and British troops battled on Gold and Sword.

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Although the majority of the activity took places on these beaches, throughout Normandy there are museums, cemeteries, memorials, monuments and sites such as bunkers, batteries and bridges to visit.

This article looks at each of the beaches and the surrounding area in turn. Key sites are highlighted and photos as well as videos explain how to make the most of your time in more detail. There is a separate page for each of the beaches.

Visiting the D-Day sites is extremely poignant. For D Day enthusiasts and for first-time visitors, there’s something for everyone here as history comes to life.

For more D Day information visit this website.

 

We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE

A Visit To Caen Memorial Museum

Caen Memorial Museum

An Introduction to Caen Memorial Museum

The Caen Memorial Museum, Centre for History and Peace (Le Mémorial de Caen) is built on a blockhouse used by German troops during the Second World War. The bunker has recently been opened up as part of the museum. There’s a lot to see here and a minimum of half a day is recommended but to immerse yourself fully you can spend a full day here. The museum covers the events leading up to the  Second World War and how the conflict unfolded. There’s also a section on the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy. Visitors can also learn about other conflicts such as the Cold War and the Vietnam War. If you are visiting Normandy to explore some of the D-Day landing sites, the museum is a very good place to start.

The video below will give you a very good overview of what you can see and do during your visit.

You can download an app, purchase an audio guide or, alternatively,  just wander round watching films, reading display boards, looking at exhibits and photographs. History will come to life before you as you walk through the decades of conflict since the Second World War.

Practical Information

The museum is open 7 days a weeks although check opening times on the website. It closes for part of January and opening times differ throughout the year. From April through to September it’s open from 9am to 7pm. There’s plenty of free parking together with a restaurant, snack bar, gift shop as well as various places to sit throughout the museum. Information about the snack bar and restaurant is here. It costs 19,80€ for a single ticket but family tickets cost 51€. A family ticket allows 2 adults and at least one child (under 18) entry although there’s no limit on the number of children. If you want to see other Normandy sites such as Arromanches 360 circular cinema or Cité de la Mer in Cherbourg (a nautical and maritime museum), then there are packages available for joint tickets.

How To Get There

Caen Memorial Museum

The museum is on Esplanade Général Eisenhower, 14050 Caen

GPS N 49° 20′ 24″ – O 00° 37′ 16″

By car: coming from Paris on the A13 or from Rennes on the A84, take the Northbound ringroad (périphérique), exit n°7

By bus: no.2 from the city centre. Easy access for disabled people.

There is access as well as facilities for people with reduced mobility.

For more information visit the museum website.

A Review

The Caen Memorial Museum ranks as the number one activity in Caen on TripAdvisor with over 3,700 reviews. The review below is a typical visitor experience.

Caen memorial museum

La Pointe du Hoc – A D-Day Sacrifice

La Pointe du Hoc

La Pointe du Hoc is a headland in Saint-Pierre-du-Mont in the Calvados region of Normandy. It’s set between Omaha and Utah beaches and was a German fortified stronghold protecting 6 artillery guns (155mm) during WW2. Men from the United States 2nd Ranger Battalion were tasked with scaling the 100ft cliffs, disarming the guns and advancing inland. Their training for the cliff assault had taken place on the Isle of Wight in the UK.

Boards around the site tell the stories of some of the 225 soldiers who started this mission on 6 June. As you read what happened to them and learn about the challenges of the battle, you soon realise why only 90 were left after 2 days of heavy fighting. Although weather conditions had improved, by the time they reached the bottom of the cliffs two craft, supplies, stores and around half the men had already been lost.

La Pointe du Hoc

If you start your tour in the Visitor Centre you can pick up a map showing the various bunkers, casemates and gun emplacements. The information leaflet is here.

The film below can also be watched here; it’s called Stories from La Pointe du Hoc and is interviews with American veterans who fought the battle. It’s incredibly emotional and I sat blinking back the tears listening to their words.

I didn’t know much about Pointe du Hoc previously but as I walked around the site it became very real. The ground still bears the battle scars with craters stretching across the whole area. And the Ranger Monument of a granite dagger built on top of the observation bunker serves as a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice these men made. The cliffs that they scaled with rope ladders whilst under fire are sheer and you wonder how on earth they managed to get to the top. The focus of their mission was the artillery guns focussed on Omaha and Utah beaches. These had been removed several days earlier but the ranger troops advanced and found five of them hidden behind hedgerows. They destroyed them and were able to hold on fighting for two days until they were relieved by the 5th Ranger Battalion. Destroying such a key part of the Atlantic Wall contributed to the success of D-Day.

La Pointe du Hoc

The assault and capture of the site is featured in the film The Longest Day (1962). In 1979 the 13 hectare field was transferred to American control through the American Battle Monuments Commission. They are responsible for maintaining it, the security point and welcome desk at the Visitor Centre. Their website gives opening hours, a map of how to get there and safety information about keeping to the paths.

La Pointe du Hoc is an incredibly poignant D-D site to visit but an absolute privilege to learn about the boys and men who became heroes in 1944. For an overview of the site, the drone footage below shows the extent of the battlefield.

We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE

Normandy D-Day Commemorations

D-Day

The 6th June 2018 marks the 74th anniversary of D-Day and will see many D-Day commemorations taking place in various locations around Normandy.

This poem was written by Jodie Johnson in 1996 when she was 11. Simply beautiful.

WHO ARE THESE MEN?

Who are these men who march so proud, 

Who quietly weep, eyes closed, head bowed? 

These are the men who once were boys, 

Who missed out on youth and all its joys.

Who are these men with aged faces,

Who silently count the empty spaces? 

These are the men who gave their all,

Who fought for their country for freedom for all.

Who are these men with sorrowful look 

Who can still remember the lives that were took? 

These are the men who saw young men die, 

The price of peace is always high.

Who are these men who in the midst of pain, 

Whispered comfort to those they would not see again? 

These are the men whose hands held tomorrow, 

Who brought back our future with blood tears and sorrow.

Who are these men who promise to keep 

Alive in their hearts the ones God holds asleep? 

These are the men to whom I promise again: 

‘Veterans’, my friends – I will remember them!

I’ve been privileged to have visited a number of the D-Day sites to pay my respects to the fallen which is both emotional and poignant as history comes to life before your very eyes. The photos may not do that so if you can visit, I really do recommend it. The only way I can describe the atmosphere is a sense of enormous respect and gratitude for the sacrifices these soldiers made. You feel as if time stands still. For many on D-Day, it did – the clock stopped and they remain forever young.

This is the Bayeux War Cemetery in Bayeux and the final resting place of Commonwealth soldiers. On one side of the road is the cemetery and opposite is the memorial.

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I visited Utah beach on a cold sunny day in February. Read about it here

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The view on Utah beach is very different today.

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The Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer is an extremely emotional place to visit. You can read my account of it here.

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The Battle at La Pointe du Hoc contributed to Omaha Beach earning the name Bloody Omaha. I spent a couple of hours here at the Visitor Centre and explored the difficult terrain which faced the American troops. https://www.facebook.com/gavraygiterentals/posts/2131048640448673

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Omaha Beach and Les Braves sculpture is amazing. My account is here.

D-Day

The village of Sainte Mère-Église near to Utah Beach was the first town to be liberated. An effigy of a paratrooper and his parachute caught on the church steeple serves as a memorial. Nearby is the Airborne Museum. It is a very charming village and full of history.

Sainte-Mère-Église church in Normandy Sainte-Mère-Église church in Normandy

This week Normandy will be welcoming veterans, their families and friends for the D-Day commemorations. Lest we forget.

http://www.ddayfestival.com

D-Day Commemorations in Normandy

Normandy American Cemetery

D-Day is being commemorated in Normandy from 26 May until 10th June. The D-Day Festival is hosting a range of varied events around the landing beaches area. This year is the 12th edition of the event and marks the 74th anniversary of D-Day.

Sainte-Mère-Église church in Normandy Omaha Beach
In addition to the 2nd edition of the International WW2 film festival, there will be fun runs, story telling, concerts, picnics, parchute jumps, military vehicle parades and camp re-enactments. Veterans, families and friends will be attending the many events.

You can find more info here www.ddayfestival.com

The full programme of events can be found here

Here’s a brief look at the 2017 event

 

A Visit To The Normandy American Cemetery

Normandy American Cemetery

 The Normandy American Cemetery

My visit to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer on a sunny February day is one of the most memorable days I’ve had. I spent the day visiting the Omaha beach area and the cemetery was my last port of call. Even though I’d seen an aerial photo of the cemetery, had printed out a map and knew that there were 9,387 graves on a site of over 170 acres, it literally took my breath away. The enormity of all those white headstones neatly lined up in an orderly and regimental way really hit home. Those incredibly brave men and women remain soldiers and heroes forever in their final resting place on Normandy soil.

Introduction

The site is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission who also manage La Pointe du Hoc and access to both sites is free. There is plenty of parking. There are also free guided tours in both French and English (check www.abmc.gov for times) and the Visitor Centre has bilingual information. I got chatting to an English guide called Anthony who was really helpful and knowledgeable.

You can download an information leaflet about the cemetery which includes a map of the key places to visit.

The Visitor Centre

Alternatively, you can pick up a leaflet in the visitor centre which is located just next to the car park. It’s recommended that you go here first to put everything in context. However, I decided to leave the visitor centre until last. Most of the exhibits are on the lower ground floor including the theatre which shows an emotional film called ‘Letters’ in English with French subtitles every half hour.

Letters – a film telling the story of five American soldiers who lost their lives in WW2.

Other films run throughout the exhibition area on a continuous loop together with descriptive panels and displays of rations, medical equipment, uniforms and personal effects.

Normandy American Cemetery

The Memorial

I walked down a side path to access the main site and the first thing I saw was the amazing memorial area. It is dominated by a 22 foot bronze statue called ’The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves’. The sculpture looks towards the reflecting pool, the graves and the chapel. I arrived at lunchtime and the first thing that struck me was how quiet and peaceful the cemetery was. As I paused on the steps looking out towards the headstones, I felt as if a strong and courageous army stood before me. And as I wandered down the main path, gazing at the headstones on both sides, that feeling just grew. It seems strange to describe a cemetery as beautiful but it is a very fitting tribute to the fallen. The grounds are impeccably maintained and a feeling of calmness pervades as visitors pay their respects.

 

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I’ve been back subsequently and although busier, the same feeling of peace and tranquility enveloped the cemetery. A group of American visitors walked past me, many of them carrying a single rose. A poignant moment as each of them were lost in their own thoughts.

Locating A Grave

There are 10 plots of graves which are divided by a central mall. Each plot has a letter and each row is numbered enabling family and friends to locate the grave. Notable burials include:

  • Lesley J. McNair, U.S. Army general, one of the two highest-ranking Americans to be killed in action in World War II (plot F, row 28, grave 42)
  • Jimmie W. Monteith, Medal of Honor recipient (plot I, row 20, grave 12)
  • Two of the Niland brothers, Preston and Robert. The film Saving Private Ryan told their story (plot F, row 15, graves11 and 12)
  • Frank D. Peregory, Medal of Honor recipient (plot G, row 21, grave 7)
  • Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., son of President Theodore Roosevelt, Medal of Honor recipient (plot D, row 28, grave 45)
  • Quentin Roosevelt, son of President Theodore Roosevelt, aviator killed in action in World War I (plot D, row 28, grave 46)

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The circular limestone and granite chapel is halfway down the main mall. The ceiling mosaic depicts America blessing her departing sons, France expressing their gratitude for freedom and peace.

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At the far end of the cemetery are two statues representing America and France and which frame Vierville-sur-Mer’s church spire.

Next to the memorial is the Wall of the Missing upon which a further 1,557 names are inscribed for those who have no grave.

.Normandy American Cemetery

 

The cemetery overlooks Omaha Beach and an orientation table at the east end gives a panorama of the beach and the English Channel. The path leading down to the beach is currently out of bounds but it can be accessed via a road to the east of the cemetery. You’ll also find monuments to the 1st Infantry Division and the 5th Engineer Special Brigade here.

 

Normandy American Cemetery Normandy American Cemetery

This video gives an overview of the cemetery. The scale of it is just incredible.

If you get the chance to visit the Normandy American Cemetery, do go. Despite the terrible events of 1944, I really would recommend it. It was my opportunity to pay my respects to the many brave soldiers who gave up their tomorrows and futures for us all.

We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE