France - Normandy

On Tue 11th September 2012 we left for our short break to France by car.  The ferry crossing from Dover to Calais was 70 (35 each way) and we were booked on the 08.00 departure from Dover and return on the 17.15 ferry on Thursday.

The journey down to Dover was trouble free, we used to the M20 just remember to be on inside lane after passing through Dover, just before the port.  Everything here was hassle free i.e. no one checking passports and no queue at check-in booth.  The ferry crossing was supposed to have a swell because of earlier winds but it was actually very smooth and no one was unwell.  We had a continental breakfast on board which cost about 10

Annoyingly although we were one of the first to board the ship, our row was the last driving off  but hey, we are on holiday so don't worry. 

We drove until 2pm down the toll roads for about 4 hours (getting a chip in our windscreen on the way) and then stopped to eat the sandwiches we had made earlier, along with tea from a flask.  Tolls came to a total of nearly 20 (one way)

We then drove on to Honflue were we stopped to have a look around.  This is a pretty fishing port on the Seine (there was a seine cruise berthed and the passengers were having lunch.  It looked very civilised)  The buildings are very quaint and they make the most of the fact that the founder of Quebec came from here.

We then drove on, over the Pegasus bridge which was of such strategic importance in WW2 and came to Sword and Juneau and Gold beaches which were part of the d-day landings.  We looked at each one but did not take long as time was beating us and we planned to see Arromanches the following day. However we did get an idea of the size, could visualise how the landings happened and read the memorials.  The beaches were a great deal bigger than I imagined.

We then went on to Arromanches but drove straight to our hotel The La Rosiere which was just outside Arromanches.  This is Motel type accommodation and the rooms were neat clean and functional.  Meals are not normally served here but we had a hot snack as, unusually for us, we were not hungry.

The next day we went to Bayeux to see the Bayeux Tapestry. As all English school children know (well my generation did) this depicts events that led to the Battle of Hastings  which resulted in the successful invasion by William the Conqueror in 1066 and him becoming King of England. We parked on the outskirts and then walked and as we did not know where it is located followed signs we had noticed. Unfortunately they were for cars and although, as it happens, we were parked only about 400 meters away, the signs were meant for cars took us a long way out of our way because of one way streets.  We came across the Tourist office who pointed the way to the tapestry.  Unfortunately  we arrived just after a coach party and so had to wait 30 minutes before being able to view, but what a view it is. It is not high but it is about 60 metres long. Viewers are provided with an audio set and that explains each scene so well it is both educational and enjoyable and you realise you are looking at such an important bit of history.  In a word it is 'great'.  In addition there is a very interesting museum and a film show included in the good value price of EUR 7.80 pp.

We then had lunch which was OK although service was very slow.

In the afternoon we went to Arromanches.  All the D-day beaches have museums but we had decided to visit Arromanches Museum (Eur 9) as we knew it had lots about the Mulberry Harbour.   To think that in just a few days a port was floated across from UK, assembled and usable. 

  • Secure beach head (from Gold)

  • Clear the way out

  • sink 15 ships to create first breakwater

  • Sink & put together the concrete barriers floated acros from UK for the purposes

  • Place the causeways

  • Create landing Docks

  • Unload Tanks, supply lorries, bulldozers, amunitions, food, medical supplies and two million troops

  • Keep those two million men supplied with provisions (amo, medical, food)

It was a truly amazing project, and to think it was the only supply route for six months and the museum describes how all this was done with models, maps and film, and you can still see parts of the harbour in the bay.

We finally went to  Omaha Beach but it was already late and everything was closed.  We took in the situation, read the memorial and left for dinner, which we had at a restaurant which specialised in seafood in Bessant.  Very nice.

The next day we drove to a Bed and Breakfast we had booked in Vernon with a view of visiting Monets House and Gardens.  We drove along minor roads and arrived at the guest house at Vernon about 1pm.  The guest House comprised two large recently kitted out rooms in a building that was part of a cereal farm. The other room was occupied by two Americans who drove to Paris  each day (45 Mins).  It was delightful.  Dinner was a real problem. We walked around the centre of Vernon for a long time and could not find anywhere serving food at 6pm and no where we liked the look of. We then drove for 10 miles until we at last saw a small sign saying 'Pizza'. We followed the signs and ended up in a car park with a van selling pizzas!  This was not what we wanted and decided to drive back and skip the meal, only to come across a nice 'American style' drive in where we had a nice Pizza!

Monets Gardens were just a short drive away. Again the entrance fee was about 9 Euros pp. The flowers were just the same as we get in the UK but masses of them and they were huge.  Whilst the roses were past their best Dahlias over 6ft high, sun flowers even higher and many other variety of flowers were in full flower. The house was interesting and full of Japanese pictures.

The next day we drove home stopping at a French bar/restaurant where we had a very nice French meal.  We scooted around Calais to buy some cheap diesel and arrived at the port 15 minutes before latest check-in. Their we came to a long queue British  immigration check and that took 12 minutes. We then drove to the check in booths and each one had a queue of 2/3 cars.  We chose the shortest which was behind a van which had a problem.  20 minutes later the van finished checking in and we were then told check-in had closed for our departure. Lesson: don't go behind a van at the check-in booth.  We were put on the next ferry which was only 40 minutes later.

The day at Bayeux and Aramanches was excellent and commended.


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