We’ve been longing to tour Normandy, France, for months, researching and planning, adding and removing sites to visit.
Our Normandy tour hit all the highlights for the D-Day sites…
and places we’ve studied about the Middle Ages.
I’ve been asked how accessible Normandy is for the elderly or someone with a walker or wheelchair.
We saw the Bayeux Tapestry and it’s a short little tour through the tapestry room and a nice museum upstairs. There are elevators. The Bayeux Cathedral is pretty too, right around the corner from the Tapestry.
Mont St. Michel has free shuttle buses to and from the visitors’ center, but the tour through the castle and town might be long and difficult.
The Omaha Beach and Utah Beach museums are pretty easy to maneuver, with benches for resting. The actual beaches are not far from parking areas and it’s worth a looksee and to just stand there in awe. The American cemetery is, of course, very well-kept and very easy to get around the paved pathways.
Pointe du Hoc is amazing. The visitors’ center has a good video. Behind the center are info plaques to read about the history and heroes. The grounds have rough paths and it’s a lot of walking, but there are good maps, so you could just see one bunker or get a view of it all. Take it slowly as you need.
We also went to Rouen to see the Joan of Arc church and fun new interactive museum. There was a parking garage right beside the church and marketplace, but the museum was down a pedestrian road. We didn’t make it to the Rouen Tower, but we saw it from the museum window.
Our Normandy Itinerary
Day 1: Grandcamp Maisie
We drove from home to our apartment-hotel in Grandcamp Maisie. It was a looooong road trip.
We cooked a dinner with marinated chicken from the cooler and walked along the beach before bedtime.
It was quite cold, but we loved exploring the tide pools and looking at the crabs!
Day 2: Bayeux and Utah Beach
We drove to Bayeux to see the tapestry and cathedral.
Here’s the entrance to the Bayeux Tapestry building.
Upstairs is neato little museum.
There’s a replica of a Viking church boat. They would take people across the fjords to church.
Also, a copy or replica of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
There’s a great little place to eat right on the canal: Moulin de la Galette.
In 1794, a liberty tree was planted on the cathedral grounds.
In the afternoon, we visited Utah Beach Museum and monuments.
See my post about the Normandy Memorial Sites.
It was one of the few sunny days of our trip. It was chilly but lovely.
The beach is beautiful now, but holds so much history.
It’s hard to imagine all the lives lost on this beach.
Day 3: Mont St. Michel
We drove to Mont St. Michel.
At the entrance of this medieval town is the ancient Burgher’s Guardroom now the Tourist Office.
After going through the Boulevard Gate and then the King’s Gate fortified with its portcullis, you will find the Grande Rue or main street with its museums, shops, and houses dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. The parish church consecrated to St.Pierre, the patron saint of fishermen, is a small edifice from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Mount consecrated to St. Michel in 708 was one of the first places of cult for the Archangel Michel with the Gargan’s Mount.
The abbey is open every day except the 1st of January, the 1st of may and the 25th of December.
2 May to 31 August: 9 am to 7 pm, last admission at 6 pm.
1 September to 30 April: 9:30 am to 6 pm, last admission at 5 pm
In case of high tide preventing access to Mont St. Michel, the opening time of the abbey can be changed. Pets not allowed.
- Adults: 9 €
- Reduced rate (18-25 years old which are non-European): 7 €
- People under 26 years old who are citizens of one the 27 countries of EU or are non-European permanent residents of France: FREE of charge
- Children less than 18 years (family visit): FREE of charge
There are free shuttle buses to/from the castle town.
The area surrounding the castle and the little village around the visitors’ center are pretty touristy. There are lots of little shops and restaurants. They only open during lunch and dinner time. We had to get a quick pastry at the bakery in town when we missed lunchtime. Don’t miss buying some Mere Poulard cookies from the touristy shops though! They’re amazing and we still wish we had some.
Our first glimpse of Mont St. Michel rising from the marshes:
My son loves models and we thought these showing the development of Mont St. Michel over the centuries were great.
Mass is sung at 12:15 every day except Mondays. The acoustics were amazing.
The church facade:
View of the tides:
The light in the cloister was beautiful and peaceful.
Three arches of the cloister are opened to the sea or to the outside. Those openings were the entryway to the chapter house that was never built. The columns, arranged in quincunx, were originally made of limestone from England but were later restored using puddingstone from Lucerne.
The cloister has in the middle a medieval garden recreated in 1966 by brother Bruno de Senneville, a Benedictine monk. The center is made of box tree surrounded by 13 Damascus roses. The squares of medicinal plants, aromatic herbs and flowers symbolize the daily needs of Middle age monks. In the middle of the box trees were monsters to remind that in the middle of any marvel evil could still be there.
The refectory. The little stair on the right is where the head monk would read during mealtimes.
The old windlass:
The crypt has massive pillars erected in 1446, holding up the foundation of the choir.
It was a long day. We had dinner in Grandcamp Maisie.
I had local oysters (the best I’ve ever eaten!) and a regional salad with Andouillette sausage, apples, and Camembert cheese. It was amazing!
Calvados is apple brandy and it was a great accompaniment to dessert.
Day 4: Rouen
We drove to Rouen to see the cathedral and Joan of Arc sites.
Rouen Cathedral is gorgeous:
Eternal flame where Joan was executed:
Joan of Arc church in marketplace:
The church is shaped like an overturned ship.
The new Joan of Arc museum and doorway to the old bishop’s palace.
We really enjoyed our day in Rouen.
Day 5: Normandy American Cemetery, Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc
We went to the Memorial Day service at the American Cemetery.
It was very emotional.
Normandy American Cemetery hosted its annual Memorial Day Ceremony on Sunday, May 29, 2016, at 10.30 am.
We got to stand right up at the railing!
|Master of Ceremonies||René Huard, AOMDA|
|Superintendent||Daniel L. Neese|
|Deputy Superintendent||Michael Coonce|
|The Marseillaise and the Star Spangled Banner|
|Welcoming Remarks||Daniel Neese|
|Opening Remarks||René Huard|
|Opening Prayers||Father Xavier Signargout, Diocese of Bayeaux and Lisieux|
Capt. Gary P. Weeden, Command Chaplain of U.S. European Command
Rabbi Meyer Malka, Jewish Community of Caen
|Addresses||Sara Harriger, U.S. Consul for Western France|
Patrick Thomines, Mayor of Coleville-sur-Mer
Laurent Fiscus, Prefect of Calvados Department
Lt. Gen. William B. Garrett, III, Deputy Commander of U.S. European Command
|Closing Prayer||Father Xavier Signargout, Diocese of Bayeaux and Lisieux|
|Laying of Wreaths|
|Taps-Raising of the Colors|
|Retiring of the Colors|
|Participation of Troops||5th Signal Command Color Guard, U.S. Army Europe|
Unit Garrison of Cherbourg, France
French Military Band of the Artillery of Rennes, France
9,387 Americans are buried at Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.
The Memorial faces the United States at its nearest point to the cemetery – between Eastport and Lubec, Maine.
The 22-foot bronze statue entitled The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves.
The reflecting pool and chapel:
The beaches from the orientation table:
We got to watch an interview with WWII Veteran Curtis Phillips.
My kids got to shake his hand and thank him for his service. This is something they will always remember!
We remember the fallen.
After the memorial service, we toured the Omaha Beach Museum and monuments.
There’s a good video in the museum and lots of static displays.
The Omaha Beach has a monument in the sand: Les Braves.
An airplane did flybys around Pointe du Hoc and Omaha Beach for Memorial weekend.
In the afternoon, we hiked around Pointe du Hoc.
I never learned about this in school!
Pointe du Hoc is a promontory with a 100 ft (30 m) cliff overlooking the English Channel on the coast of Normandy in northern France. During World War II it was the highest point between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. The German army fortified the area with concrete casemates and gun pits. On D-Day (6 June 1944) the United States Army Ranger Assault Group assaulted and captured Pointe du Hoc after scaling the cliffs.
Day 6: Home
We drove home. We had planned to visit Giverny, but the weather was terrible. It rained from Paris to the border. There was tragic flooding in Paris and Germany. It was a rough and wet and loooong drive home!
Our Normandy trip spanned many eras of history. We’ll remember it forever!