Day 13 - Normandy Beaches
Sunday, June 19th, 2016
Today was a day filled with emotion as we embarked on our full day tour of the Normandy Beaches. Viking offers two options, the US tour and the Commonwealth Tour. Our first stop was in Bayeux where we saw a magnificent tapestry that chronicled the events leading to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The tapestry is 70 meters long and 50 cm wide. We each had an audio guide that explained what was happening in each of the scenes.
We continued to the beaches and stopped for lunch in Arromanches a seaside village on Gold Beach where you can also see the remains of the ingenious Mulberry Harbour, towed across the English Channel to facilitate the offloading of cargo for the D Day invasion. We continued to Juno Beach and the amazing Juno beach Centre. We watched a short video which left us all in tears as the reality of what happened on the beaches was made that much more real. At the end of the video it showed a lovely family walking the beach and talking about the events of that day in June 1944. As they are walking, superimposed on the screen are images of soldiers marching along and then the words on the screen say, “When you walk the beach, they walk with you.” There was not a dry eye as we headed out to walk the beach ourselves. We were so fortunate to have a lovely sunny and warm day to walk on what many referred to as “holy ground.”
Our next stop was the Canadian Cemetery, Beny-sur-Mer, where 2048 soldiers are buried. It is a peaceful and beautiful spot filled with flowers. We were each given a rose to place on a grave of our choice. Many of us looked for Nova Scotian soldiers and quietly pondered the sacrifice which had been made by so many who were so young.
Next we visited the Pegasus Museum and learned more about the importance of Pegasus Bridge which was taken by the British in order to prevent a German counterattack. I also learned about a dog named “Bing” who was a paratrooper and was given the animal version of the Victoria Cross.
Our last event of the day was a drive by the British Cemetery at Ranville, the first village liberated by the British.
It was a very full day, full of emotion, full of pride, full of memories. Of course it was also Father’s day and one couldn’t help thinking about all the fathers, sons, and brothers who never made it home or who came home very different from when they left.
Back on board the ship it was time for another lovely meal and then a few of us went up to the Cathedral where at 11:00 they do an amazing light show, projecting a series of images on the front of this gothic building, accompanied by music. The first show was quite modern while the second show included many of Claude Monet’s images as he did a series of paintings of the cathedral.