Actual Date: March 14th, 2012
Our coach picked us up at eight o’clock and we started the day that I felt was the true purpose of this trip. At the Pointe du Hoc, the ground was completely covered in bomb craters preserved from WWII, now covered in a thick sheet of grass from the decades that have passed. Several fortifications the Nazis used to defend themselves were still preserved. We climbed down into the bunkers, and it was hard to imagine that men once hid inside them, poking their weapons out from the small openings and anticipating their next shot. From the spot, we could look down the cliff and see the exact beach where thousands of young men had lost their lives. It was so surreal to imagine that a place of such serenity and calmness was once overcome with the screams of bombs and bullets, and its sea water covered with blood and vomit.
It was overcast and slightly gloomy when we arrived at our next stop at the American cemetery, which wasn’t far from the beach. It was an endless field of repetitious pattern formed by the same smooth white crucifix tombstones. The size was so large we could only walk through a fraction of it, and it was overwhelming to think that every tombstone represented a soldier who died too young. None of us wanted to say it, but we were definitely affected and holding back emotions while we walked through the vast field.
Then we moved on to Arromanches-Les-Bain and visited the exhibition of the Mulberry Harbours built by the Allied troops as a part of the D-day invasions. The guide pointed on the map with a long wooden stick as she spoke in her heavy French accent.The exhibition had strange models of the temporary harbor that hissed and buzzed as the water simulators moved. We then stood in a small theater-like room where lights and soundtracks were used to illustrate the story. All in all the museum was like nothing I’d ever seen before and used a lot of ametuer and traditional techniques for their exhibition, but I feel they were successful in getting their message across.
Arromaches seemed like a small and unpopulated community. All the shops and restaurants seemed to be open solely for the purpose of tourists. The street was narrow and seldom had vehicles. I ordered a chocolate crepe in French all by myself and was very proud of it. More tourists started swarming into this town after we arrived, and it became harder to find a place to eat as lined started forming everywhere. We walked a little further inside and found a nice small place and ordered paninis. The lady pulled out the ingredients and grilled it right in front of us as she asked Rachel in French about where we were from. We walked around while eating our paninis.
We then moved on to the British Cemetery that honored all of those of European forces who sacrificed their lives for the war. Under the names on the tombstones, messages were left by their families and loved ones. The one that got to me the most was a message that wrote,
Despite its much smaller scale in comparison to the American cemetery, we all agreed that it was definitely more personal and emotional due to the messages. The amount of “Unnamed Soldiers” who were “known only to God” also seemed a lot more common. The journalists memorial was of walking distance to the British cemetery, and we passed by a lonesome stone sitting on the side of the road that commemorated journalist Robert Capa. I didn’t understand why it was so isolated.
The journalists memorial was a pathway with stones on the side that carved the names of those who died in action, organized by chronology. We all crowded around the one of 1944, where Ernie Pyle’s name laid. Some years there were none, while some had a whole plaque filled with names. We noticed the ones in the 60s had especially large amount of Vietnamese names. None of us have ever learned much about the Vietnamese journalists and it was interesting to see.
After we were released, we were determined not to just stay in our hotel room and decided to ride the cable cars into the downtown of Caen. The tickets were only around two Euros for one way. it was the first time I’ve ever ridden in a cable car. It was clean and a really great system.
We got off at the stop that had the most transferring routes, assuming that it was the city center. Immediately we were greeted by a castle-like church right by the stop. It was absolutely massive and on top of a hill. I couldn’t believe all these people walking around were not as impressed by it. The whole town was very clean with rarely any cars present. We also noticed that we rarely saw any old people. The most common pedestrians were all young and beautiful people, a lot of them publicly displaying affection like there’s no tomorrow.
We walked into the town as the sun was setting. Shops were all in the process of closing, so we decided to just find a nice restaurant. We walked around for almost an hour, only seeing pubs and bars packed with young French people. Finally, we found a Pizzeria in a narrow alley that was still open. It was a nice and fancy restaurant, yet I was still able to order a Maguerita Pizza for just 7.50 Euros. The waiter was very friendly, as all waiters we’ve encountered have been since we’ve arrived in France.
Deciding that Caen was probably not somewhere with a hopping nightlife, we decided to invest in some sleep and rested early.