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Slovenia and Croatia

Lake Bled, Zadar and a week by the sea in Makarska

sunny 30 °C

After all the fun and excitement of Italy, where to be honest, I barely rested for longer than a day except for Reggio Emilia, and that was only because I felt like crap, my days in Slovenia and Croatia were meant to share one theme only. Relaxation!

My drive from Verona to Bled was via autostrada the entire way. I would have liked to take the scenic route but it would have taken forever, perhaps an extra 2-3 hours, and that's without traffic, so motorway was the better option. The weather changed not long after entering Slovenia, encountering my first major thunderstorm while driving, and the weather remained unpredictable the rest of the day.

Though I wanted to relax, my first day in Bled was to walk the lake, visit the castle, and do the other bits of touristy thing I had planned for. Though it wasn't a very warm day, it was disgustingly humid, a reminder of Italy, so I definitely earned a cold beer climbing to the castle overlooking the lake. Walking the shore of the lake provided some wonderful views, particularly of the small island in the middle, which I did visit later, catching a lift on one of the many little boats that make their way to and from the island. I did stop for the occasional beer and treated myself to a nice dinner. Prices were reasonable in Bled, much cheaper than Italy.

Second day in Bled was relaxation. Sure, I did walk the lake in the opposite direction, but made sure I took all day, stopping in nearly every little hamlet for a small beer, and the weather was much nicer, a little warmer but the humidity had disappeared. It was definitely very relaxing. For my last day, I decided to get in my car and have a wander of the surrounding region. First was a visit to Vintgar Gorge, which was spectacularly beautiful, though rather busy, no surprise considering the time of year. Ended up going for a drive into Triglav National Park, heading to the remains of a village an a monument to partisans of WWII. Finally, I drove back towards Bled and visited Iglica Waterfall. That wasn't particularly spectacular, but I did climb the nearby ladders, where I was provided with some awe-inspiring views of the lands surrounding Bled. Definitely worth the few minutes climb up and down.

Between Bled and Zadar, I did stop in Trieste for two nights / one day. Definitely worth a visit. The weather was great. The prices are reasonable. And there is actually plenty to see, particularly the fortress overlooking the city, and if you love architecture, you can see the different styles around as Trieste has belonged to both the Austrians and Italians in recent history.

The drive from Trieste to Zadar was quite easy. I was amused at the border, ready to show them all my car paperwork, licence etc. Nope, all they wanted to see was my passport, gave me a stamp, off I went. You read up about horror stories of long delays, yet I'm just waved on through. Still, could be worse...

My Airbnb in Zadar was a little out of town, so during the summer, it certainly got me sweating. Zadar old town (Stari Grad) is beautiful, though. Completely pedestrianised, it was once ringed by walls though much of those have disappeared. There are plenty of little alleys to wander down and get lost. Plenty to keep oneself amused for a day, though most people would head to Zadar for the water activities, as it was rather warm while I was there, and the beaches were definitely full. What I would say is that, in the years between visiting Croatia (I'm sure it's about five / six years), it's either more expensive than what it was, or the drop in value of the pound just made it seem that way. Still, I found an excellent pub in the old town, eventually meeting people in there who could speak some of the lingo at least.

Following the Croatian coastline south, I ended up in a little town called Makarska, which will be the longest stay of this journey, an entire week! Another Airbnb apartment to myself, it was actually at the top of a rather steep hill, so made getting home each night a pain. But it was barely a ten minute walk to the seaside, and turning left or right provided me with endless bars, cafes and restaurants to eat and drink at.

For the entire week, I did practically nothing except relax, may be a bit of walking, certainly hours spent on the beach, enjoying a beer or two. I did do a boat trip one day, to the islands of Hvar and Brac. It was definitely a highlight, considering they served raki by 9am, wine by 10am, and by the time the trip ended at 7pm, many were carrying sore heads back to their hotels and hostels. For the last three nights I was there, concerts were held in the main square, a small stage for tribute acts to perform. 1st night was AC/DC, 2nd night was U2 and the third night was Guns n Roses. The square filled up nicely each night, and there was a small bar that served very cheap beer. I did find a few cheap bars around Makarska, as it seemed that prices were kept reasonable, probably due to the competition. The place was packed with people but it was always a friendly atmosphere, even late at night after a warm day and people may have consumed a few drinks.

Considering I'd spent over two weeks through Slovenia, Italy and then Croatia, I have to admit that I probably didn't do as much as before, certainly Italy and southern France, and I'll admit, the constant heat was the cause. Walking around in the heat and humidity day after day is draining, and I know I've started to put on a little bit of the weight I'd lost as I have enjoyed my beer recently. Once it started to cool down in late September, I'll start doing the long walks I was doing before.

But that's for later. I was about to enter my first new country since San Marino.

Montenegro!

Posted by benjamin2981 07:38 Archived in Croatia Tagged beaches driving trieste castle drinking croatia seaside nightlife slovenia heat boat_trip lake_bled humidity tribute_bands Comments (0)

Southern France

From Toulouse to Nice (before heading into Italy...)

sunny 28 °C

Can I admit that I'm actually far too busy to regularly write a blog post? Only reason I'm writing this now is that I've just arrived in Pisa, needed something on my car seeing to, and as it's rather sweltering outside, I figured I'd stay in my air-conditioned Airbnb until heading out for dinner later. So I had a few spare minutes at least...

Anyway, my last post ended with my visit to Andorra. Still have some great memories of that place, and I thoroughly enjoyed my journey back into France. I took the old route, avoiding the tunnel, and had some great views passing over the top of the mountains. Going down the other side was quite amusing, particularly once I hit the border and the line of cars looking to enter Andorra, mostly French cars and people, looking for the cheap booze and fags on offer.

I was staying with a local in Toulouse but not through Airbnb, organising it through Booking.com. I hadn't been aware that was on offer and it is something I'll keep an eye out for later. Anyway, Michel was a lovely gentleman, spoke great English, and we enjoyed some good conversations, when I was about.

As I was only spend three nights / two days in Toulouse, I had plenty of time to wander and looking around. Being France, most museums were closed on Monday but I could still wander and take in the sights, the cathedral, basilica and other churches, while also just walking the streets. One thing I learned quickly is that Toulouse shared one thing in common with Bordeaux - the great pubs on offer! One pub I'd visited in Bordeaux was the Frog & Rosbif, and they had another pub in Toulouse. These sort of pubs are also good places to find fellow English speakers, and I eventually found myself chatting with an English RAF serviceman by the name of James. Top lad, and it was amusing to hear he was based only a few miles from where I used to and still live in the UK.

My second day was much like the first, though this time I visited a few museums, learning that Toulouse was once a Roman city by the name of Tolosa. Few Roman remains are left around the city, but the museum I visited was interesting, with quite a bit of information in English. Found museums can be very hit and miss regarding that, depending on the city you are in. I eventually ended up on the other side of the river, away from the centre, but to be honest, there wasn't much on offer. The one place I did want to visit was closed on Monday and Tuesday. Just my luck sometimes!

I can definitely recommend Toulouse as a place to visit. Plenty of places speak at least a little English, and as always, they appreciate if you at least try a little French.

On the way to Avignon, my second destination of three, I stopped at two places on the one. The first was rather unplanned until Michel suggested I really do stop there, a city by the name of Carcassone. I'm glad I did, as although I only spent maybe 90 minutes there, it was certainly an interesting old city, though absolutely teeming with tourists (yes, yes, I know I'm one of them!)

My second stop was planned, and had been on my itinerary from the moment I planned the whole thing. Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct still in great condition. Knowing they were onto a good thing, the French have built an entire park around it, with all sort of restaurants, exhibitions and a museum. Plus you can also take a towel and your swimmers and go for a drip in the river, if you're so inclined. Anyway, the place was as spectacular as I imagined, while the museum was interesting, giving plenty of information about the construction of the aqueduct, but also the history of the region itself, mentioning one city that I would be visiting later on.

Avignon is a lovely French city, one perhaps overlooked by many tourists, though that's not to say I didn't run into a lot of them! I was staying in another Airbnb, not far from the centre. The first day was, of course, wandering Avignon. First thing was the whole reason I was there. The Papal Palace. And, I'll admit to be... slightly disappointed. I'd read plenty of reviews, and while it wasn't awful, nearly all the walls were bare, though there were plenty of artefacts to see. The walls that were still painted, and a couple were magnificent, we weren't allowed to take photos of those. But the rest of the palace was brought to life by THE PAD! Given some headphones and it give the history of the palace and the popes who resided in it.

The second major attraction is the bridge. There's bugger all left of it standing now, but again, in addition to the bridge was a museum which gave plenty of history and the one amusing feature was the rumour about the bridge. Was it ever completely finished? And, if it was, what was it like? According to the museum, it was built, but collapsed centuries ago, and was probably a good idea poorly implemented.

Avignon is full of museums to see, and just wandering the old city can see yourself finding little cafes to sit and enjoy a beer or coffee, or perhaps a small shop or museum. I followed one of the trails on the map which took me through the medieval heart, the streets and paths where cars simply cannot go. Stopped for the occasional beer before hitting the pubs for happy hour. France do love their happy hours!

Next day was a trip to Nimes, another French town with strong Roman origins. The main attraction is, of course, the Arena. Around two thousand years old, it's fair to say perhaps half of it is the original as it had required plenty of work over time. But it's still spectacular, again an audioguide provided, giving history of the arena itself, but they also focused on the gladiatorial contests that once took part. I guess they found a lot of information about them so added that in. The arena is still open to this very day as it will host plenty of concerts during the summer.

Nimes is a gorgeous old city, the old town full of narrow streets, again inhibiting cars from going down most of them. The ruins of a couple of Roman temples are definite attractions, and if you don't mind walking up a steep hill, you can also climb the remains of a tower overlooking the entire city. Admittedly, I'm not a real fan of heights. If I feel completely 'safe', I'm okay, but the climb up the tower itself was narrow, and... well, let's just I didn't look down until I was at the very top! The climb was worth it, though. The view was outstanding.

Day three was another day trip, this time to Arles, another old town with Roman origins. Again, this had an arena, in roughly the same condition as Nimes. But Arles is perhaps more famous as the home of Vincent van Gogh. He only lived there for around a year, but the city takes pride in the fact one of the world's most famous artists once lived there. If you look at his Wikipedia page, his work while in Arles was prolific, but don't expect any museums in the city to have any of his work. Anything to do with van Gogh in the city is simply to entice tourists who don't know any better!

There is a fantastic archaeological museum worth checking out, just a little outside the centre (a 15 minute walk at most). The best exhibit there is of an old Roman ship, which laid buried under sediment in the nearby river for two millennia. Dug up and painstakingly restored, it now takes pride of place in a new part of the museum. Unfortunately, this new part is the only one that really provides English translations of all the exhibits. The other areas, while incredibly interesting, had next to no English translations. Slightly disappointing, but at least entry was free that day!

To be honest, I could have spent another couple of days in Avignon, as there is Orange and Aix-en-Provence nearby that are also interesting to visit. Perhaps another time...

Anyway, my third and final destination in southern France was Nice. Now while I had the idea of travelling the coast road instead of the autoroute, I knew, at this time of year and the day I was travelling, the traffic would be horrendous. So I took the probably quicker way. My Airbnb in Nice was another apartment, quite smaller than my one in Avignon, but I didn't plan on staying there too much during the day, though it was still quite the walk from the centre.

As always, day one would be spent in Nice, but let's be honest, you don't go to Nice to spend all day walking around. You go to stroll the promenade, perhaps wander the old town, definitely hit a beach and just... relax. So the morning and early afternoon was spent doing the 'touristy' things, particularly going up the nearby ruined castle / fort to take in the views. Spectacular! Other than that, it was a wander around the old town, but to be honest, it was far too hot to be walking kilometres around town, so I made sure to stop every so often for... something cold... perhaps with some alcohol in it...

Made a friend that night in another pub, this one with an Irish theme. Yes, yes, shoot me for being typical but all the bar staff spoke English. In fact, most were Irish or American, and one or two couldn't even speak French! Anyway, made a friend that night by the name of Grant, and he was a drinking buddy the next three nights.

Day two was a trip to Monaco. It just had to be done. After grabbing a map, not that I needed one for what I wanted to do first, I walked the track, taking my time, and an enormous number of photos were taken during my walk. Took perhaps a couple of hours, before heading up towards the palace, which provided even better views of the whole of Monaco. The final thing for me to visit was a museum full of cars owned by Prince Rainier (and probably owned by Prince Albert) now. Though called a museum, it's actually a private collection. Quite a few F1 cars, sports cars and normal cars... though I'm not sure you can call a few Rolls-Royce's 'normal' cars. It was a great collection, though, an obvious sign of the family wealth.

But Monaco wasn't as expensive as feared, at least when it came to food and drink. Never paid for more than €5 for a beer, and food was cheap as well. Just stay away from the harbour-front, look around for deals, and it could definitely be cheaper than Monaco. Wouldn't want to know how much a night in a hotel cost though. An Airbnb would probably be far too expensive too! (Doubt anyone would even offer, to be honest.)

My last day in southern France was one of relaxation. I stayed in Nice and did precisely nothing. Woke up, slowly walked into town, had a rather ordinary lunch (suckered in by one of those cheap three-course meals. Should have read TripAdvisor first!) before enjoying one or two cheap beers, before meeting my drinking buddy for a final night of revelry. In addition to him, we were joined by all sorts. Remember chatting with a Canadian fellow who'd just moved to Nice, and also an old American guy who was living life to the full now that he was retired and widowed. It was a long night, probably not the best idea considering I was leaving the next day, but it was well worth it.

The next day, I did need a couple of hours to feel right before I left. It was time for country number eight of the trip so far.

ITALY!

Posted by benjamin2981 08:26 Archived in France Tagged beaches road_trip walking beach palace palaces cathedral roman hot nice nightlife avignon arena monaco toulouse arles heat arenas nimes roman_history Comments (0)

Sevilla, Cadiz and Gilbraltar

Andalusia and the last time I'll be in an English speaking majority for... a few months!

sunny

Apologies for anyone following this, I've been on the road for over two weeks, didn't take my laptop, so I'll be writing the following just from photos taken and memories. I'll have another blog post up quite quickly, covering where I've just returned from. (I'm currently in a nice apartment in Granada...)

Anyway, my last post was regarding my quick adventure through Portugal. Thoroughly enjoyable, and it's somewhere I would like to spend more time in the future. Damn Schengen rules...

The drive from Sintra to Sevilla was the longest of the trip so far at 308 miles. That's just under 500 kilometres. Didn't do it all in one hit, though I only stopped for fuel and a quick drink before finishing the drive. Experienced the first really bad traffic of the trip so far. It sucked. I was delayed by a good half an hour, but that didn't particularly matter. My Airbnb wasn't exactly in the centre, though I knew that when booking it. Dos Hermanos is only a short metro ride away from the centre, and was convenient for me regarding my car, as there was ample parking. My hosts were fantastic as well. It was a husband and wife team. The husband didn't speak any English, though we managed to communicate through hand gestures, his wife spoke enough that we could communicate, and she was certainly very helpful regarding my stay.

My two days in Sevilla were spent pretty much just seeing all the sights possible. Of course, that meant the Plaza de Espana, the cathedral and the Alcazar, while I also participated in my first walking tour of the trip to get a better understanding, and also learn some tips from fellow travellers. I said it to people at the time, but Sevilla definitely goes into my top three beautiful cities, for the time being. The locals were friendly and accommodating, though it was also the first time I was surrounded by many fellow tourists. Sintra was busy, but Sevilla was something else. Crowds everywhere!

During my second evening, my Airbnb host organised an evening of flamenco. There are plenty of stories as to the origins of flamenco (is it actually Spanish or imported?) but that's an argument for another time. All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed the ninety minute show, as did the people I was sharing the table with. Dancers would also perform on the street for tips, one such couple performing as I waited in line for the cathedral.

The weather had certainly warmed up during my trip through Portugal, and by the time I arrived in Cadiz, summer had almost arrived. Sevilla had been quite warm, so I was pleased to be by the ocean at least, my Airbnb only a stones throw away from the seven kilometre long seafront. I could see it was still just out of season, though, as I was told later the beach would be full of sunbathers or swimmers at the height of summer. While I was there? Not deserted but not the crowds one would expect.

I did my second walking tour during my first day, as although I'd done a little research on Cadiz, it wasn't an extensive as other places. Our guide, Mario, was brilliant, with plenty of funny stories regarding the history of Cadiz, and he more than earned his tip. Cadiz isn't a particularly large city, and although geared towards tourists, proven by the fact four cruise ships arrived while I was there, I think most come for sand, sea and surf rather than culture. Still, I managed to occupy myself for two days, finding a number of bars to enjoy a drink and tapas. The Champions League semi-finals were on during my time there, and I found I believe the only Liverpool supporter in Cadiz during my first night! The second night, I was in a different bar sat next to some Dutch guys as they watched their team lose in the last minute. I'm fairly sure they would have been drinking all night...

Again, it was only a short two day / three night stay before moving on again, my next destination Gibraltar.

I had to park my car on the opposite side of the border, as driving in Gibraltar isn't easy, and parking is non-existent for non-residents. And as I was leaving Schengen, I didn't want to return until I had to. That meant ensuring I had everything I needed in my bag before crossing the frontier. (Thankfully, I didn't forget anything!)

My first night in Gibraltar, again at an Airbnb, was again by myself. My hostess, Marie, was fantastic, enjoying a long chat upon arrival as she shares a real love of travel too. I spent my first full day in Gibraltar not doing a hell of a lot as I was waiting for a friend to arrive. Ryan flew in later that night, and after settling in, we headed out for a catch up drink.

The next day, we caught the cable car to the top of the Rock, taking in some of the spectacular views from the viewing platforms. It was a clear, sunny and hot day, and it's true, you can see Africa clearly. We then spent a few hours walking down the Rock (as others were running or walking up it for a charity event), stopping at a few sights along the way. One was an old battery, the gun still in place, which did give the best view of Africa. There were also some old tunnels, from various sieges and the two wars, a few memorials dedicated to various services, and also the remains of a Moorish castle from centuries ago. By the time we arrived at the bottom, we were both knackered so, after a wash back at the Airbnb, headed out from some dinner and drinks.

That was Saturday. On Sunday, we planned to do as little possible. It would be my first day of doing practically nothing since leaving, and I aimed to take advantage of it. The best idea was to head to the biggest sports bar in Gibraltar to watch the Formula One then the last day of the Premier League. The place was crowded, as expected, downing a few ciders in the sun. Once that was over, we had a bite to eat before heading back to shower, then returned to the very same place!

And that was the end of the European adventure, part one. On the Monday, we bid farewell to Gibraltar, loading up my car for the short drive to Tarifa. After parking up, we ended up having a rather torrid day. Firstly, we were told the ferry was delayed, unsure of when it would be sailing, and we were advised to head to Algeciras later the same day (having waited until noon for news!) We caught the bus there, only to be told upon arrival that ferries were now sailing for Tangier from Tarifa. So we had to hop a second bus back to Tarifa, eventually boarding the ferry around 5pm.

It would be a ninety minute sailing to Morocco, which will be covered in the next post.

Posted by benjamin2981 08:15 Archived in Spain Tagged beaches alcazar road_trip walking driving cadiz cathedral drinking old_city ferry old_town sevilla gibraltar flamenco the_rock Comments (0)

Day Four, Normandy - April 4, 2019

Bayeux to Courseulles-sur-Mer / Ranville / Caen - 66.3 miles 9433 steps (didn't make the 10k!)

After another hearty breakfast of deux croissants and pineapple (ananas) juice, it was time to hit the road, this time heading north-east / east of Bayeux.

The first stop was the seaside town of Courseulles-sur-Mer, the reason for visiting being the Centre Juno Beach. It is the only Canadian museum of the D-Day beaches that line Normandy, and as it was opened only fifteen or so years ago, it certainly feels fresher than some of the others I’ve visited. It was also the first time I had a guided tour, a young woman by the name of Eva, who admitted at the end it was her first tour in English. As there were only three of us, I’m sure she probably found it easier than a large group! All the guides are French-Canadian and bilingual, though most speak French first.

It was an impressive site, with the centre having discovered and dug out an entire German bunker. The museum itself was all about Canada before and during the war, while the final room spoke of the immigrants who made up a large percentage of Canadian citizenry. There are subtle differences between how each of the major nations, who made up the majority of D-Day forces, remember the war.

I had a rather amusing drive between the above and below, as my sat-nav took me on a rather long adventure, driving the back roads of Normandy. I ended up passing through some lovely French villages, and the scenery was stunning, though I did wonder where I was going. I asked one of the girls behind the counter of the next museum, and she admitted with no direct route, it probably wasn’t that bad. And as the bridge towards the museum was being repaired, I ended up on a long detour anyway.

One of the museums I’d pinpointed definitely not missing was Musee Memorial Pegasus, for two reasons. One, it is devoted to the 6th British Airborne Division, otherwise known as the ‘Red Devils’, due to the red beret each member wears. Two, I’d recently finished reading the autobiography of Colonel Hans von Luck, a Wehrmacht officer, who described his version of events regarding the taking of Pegasus Bridge.

The best bit, apart from watching a younger looking Prince Charles introduce a video of the events around the bridge, was to see the actual bridge itself, which now resides just outside the museum. The bridge crossing the river is but a replica, the museum being given the original. In addition to that was a replica of a Horsa glider, little wonder none survived the war, as they were made out of wood and all were eventually destroyed.

Having spent a day and a half touring D-Day museums, I thought I’d look at something new, so after consulting my guide, I thought I’d visit the Abbaye aux Dames in Cannes. Unfortunately, this was the first minor disappointment of the trip, and perhaps a sign of something I would have to keep in mind for future reference.

Could I find parking in Caen? Could I f*&%! Parking spot? Not a chance, and I know enough that anything in blue means paid or something similar. And then there is every other bit of pavement possible being used as a parking spot. And, I’ll be honest, driving a car with a big ‘GB’ sticker on the back is just asking for trouble from parking officers. I must have driven around for a good ten minutes, got lost more than once, before I gave up. Maybe some other time…

So I headed back to Bayeux, the heavens deciding to open as I drove, which thankfully cleaned my windscreen, left in a bit of a state after Monday’s drive from Calais.

Tomorrow is Mont-Saint-Michel.

POSTSCRIPT

Headed back into Bayeux for my last night in town. After spending three nights in Bayeux, I’ll be honest and admit it’s not the nightlife you come to the city for. But I still found a lively pub, the same as last night, and I had a good chat with the girl behind the bar about all matters France. Her English was perfect compared to the few words and phrases of French I know!

Couldn’t stay out too late as it’s an early rise on Friday. Ninety minute drive to Mont-Saint-Michel, who knows how long I’ll spend there, then it’s a short drive (hopefully) to Fougeres, where I originally planned only spending the night, but after a little research, I figured a second night wouldn’t do me any harm.

Posted by benjamin2981 08:53 Archived in France Tagged beaches museums normandy d-day pegasus_bridge Comments (0)

Day Three, Normandy - April 3rd 2019

Bayeux to Arromanches / Longues-sur-Mer / Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer / Cricqueville-en-Bessin/ La Cambe - 57.25 miles 17640 steps too!

It was a cold, windswept day in Normandy… Sounds like the start to a novel! But when I walked out of my little house, the grey clouds suggested I would be in for a miserable day. Thankfully, though there was the occasional spitting of rain, the sun did shine later, though I still needed my hat due to the cold winds off the English Channel.

My first stop was the small coastal town of Arromanches. For those who don’t know their D-Day history, this was the site of Gold Beach, where the British Army landed on the 6th June, 1944. It’s already obvious I’m slightly out of season, as most shops appear closed up for the time being, but the Musee du Debarquement was open and quite busy, full of school kids from the looks of it. There was a plethora of information available and numerous artefacts to look at or take photos of, which of course I did. At the end was a short film about the Mulberry Harbour, which the British had to build to get supplies ashore. Real feat of engineering that.

And, it must be said, Winston Churchill is a VERY popular man in these parts. All manner of streets named after him in both Bayeux and Arromanches.

My second stop in Arromanches, after a walk up quite a hill, and which provided some picturesque views, was the 360 cinema circulaire. Nine screens, with no narration, only the occasional voice of Churchill, FDR, Eisenhower or de Gaulle, while the screens showed what happened on D-Day then during the Battle of Normandy. Quite the experience and well worth the entrance fee.

Though Arromanches did look lovely, the weather wasn’t great and, with everything mostly closed, I moved on to my next stop. A short drive to Longues-sur-Mer, which houses the remnants of the coastal defence battery installed by the Germans as their ‘Atlantic Wall’. The great concrete structures are still standing, mostly, though the guns within have long since rusted and would have been made safe long ago. Right on the coast wall was a machine gun emplacement, easy to imagine machine guns opening up on approaching landing craft. Sobering…

My aim was to eventually do all five beaches, but I was already thinking if I’d been in one museum, I was probably going to see the same stories, just in different ways. However, one museum I couldn’t miss was the Musee Memorial D’Omaha Beach. For those who don’t know, this was the bloodiest landing on D-Day. There was a fantastic collection of artefacts, both American and German, with a film at the end that provided a lot of detail about what the men went through, including the Rangers, who managed to take their objective despite numerous calamities further up the coast.

A quick drive down to Omaha Beach itself, and anything from D-Day would have long since been taken away. There is now a memorial to the fallen there, with the flags of the countries of those who participated in the landings on Omaha and elsewhere. Again, it’s out of season as I’m sure, during the summer, the place would have been much busier.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned Colleville-sur-Mer, or the American cemetery, I’ll explain that below.

Though I’d heard of the Rangers, the story of Pointe du Hoc grabbed my attention, so after consulting my Normandy guide, I drove the few miles down the coast to Cricqueville-en-Bessin. If you’re interest in walking desolate coastline and being frozen on an April afternoon, I can heartily recommend it! The story of the 2nd Ranger Battalion is something everything should learn. Utterly brave bastards, one and all, and there are many remnants of the battle itself. The enormous shell-holes that dot the landscape are a testament to the ferocity of battle.

Again, there were plenty of schoolkids around, and I found myself listening in to one of the teachers as he gave a lecture on what happened. He met my eyes as he spoke and just nodded at me! You’re never too young to learn things.

Back in my car, I had a decision to make. Head back east towards Colleville, or head somewhere I figured many wouldn’t go. I chose the latter, keying in a town call La Cambe into my sat-nav.

It is home to the Cimetiere Militaire Allemand, or the Germany Military Cemetery.

Depressing is the word I would use to describe it. I’m sure on a spring or summer day, when the trees are in full bloom, it would probably look rather nice, but on a grey April afternoon, it’s just sad. And unlike the Bayeux War Cemetery, which does appear to be loved and cared for constantly, the German cemetery, though cared for, is starkly different. There were volunteers cutting grass while I was there, but unlike the Commonwealth or American War Graves Commissions, the German graves do not have government support, it’s all voluntary. Understandable, I guess, but most of the names of the young men interred there have probably been forgotten.

Even the graves themselves lack the character of the Commonwealth and American. It’s not a real surprise, the Germans were the invaders, after all, and lost the war. But, once again, it was hard to avoid the ages. Most were 18, 19, maybe 23 at most. There were a few older, but they were the officers etc. The guide I have states nearly 21,300 German soldiers lie in that one cemetery, and there are six cemeteries like that in Normandy alone.

It was a rather depressing way to end the day, so I drove back to Bayeux, picked up some croissants and juice from the local Carrefour for breakfast, and I’m about to head into Bayeux itself for a drink and a meal. One more day around Bayeux, probably heading east on the 4th towards Ranville and perhaps Caen, as I want to see the Pegasus bridge, before I head to Mont-Saint-Michel on Friday.

POSTSCRIPT

Enjoyed dinner and a trio of drinks in Bayeux, little pub named Le Conquerant. It had decent reviews on Tripadvisor, so gave it a shot. All up, less than €20, so a bargain, and I think it’s probably one of the few places open late on a Wednesday. I don’t think you come to Bayeux for the nightlife, not that I aim on being out late while I’m here. Being sensible as I’m up early the next two mornings…

Posted by benjamin2981 08:45 Archived in France Tagged beaches museums normandy d-day Comments (0)

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