Tuesday, January 12, 1999

D-Day Beaches

Bayeux, France
My hotel key is one of the old school kind, like what you would use in a cabinet. I woke up at 9:30 am, out at 10:30. A brief hailstorm on my way to see the Bayeux Tapestry. Lots of viking-norman stuff at Bayeux. The skies are bright, yet stormy. There is a St-Exupere something nearby the Eisenhower monument. I'm the only one in this museum. Kind of odd, but then again, it's not a hugely popular town unless you want to invade across the Channel. (The tapestry was made for the French 'winners' by the English 'losers'.) Bayeux was the first town liberated in WWII, also not damaged. I was joined by two textile people from Westport, CT in the tapestry room. I could almost read the Latin story. The Bayeux Cathedral looks to have been built in 1077. The stormy weather has made it cold inside, and the gargoyle drainspouts are spitting at me.

The sun just came out, but the sky is still gray/black. A bike mailman just rode by. Toured with two Aussies and two Americans... one of whom was a brother of  another MIT classmate who is friends with some of my friends at MIT. But I digress. Omaha Beach is amazing.
Omaha Beach, Looking Down
It's cold and windy, with about 100 feet of breakers. The hills and bunkers are intimidating. It's rather soothing, yet surreal. On the way up the hill, the sun was peeking through the clouds directly about the Big Red One monument.
Big Red One D-Day Memorial
The cemetery was also inspiring. "Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God."  
Omaha Beach Cemetery

We then went on to Pointe du Hoc, which has been preserved as a battlefield. The bunkers were heaps of concrete and steel, and the crater holes marred the area. You can see in the picture below how high the cliffs that the Rangers had to climb were (in the background, by the horizon), and imagine it taking three days of fighting to get from the cliff edge to where I'm standing.
Pointe du Hoc
We then went to Gold Beach and Longues Sur Mer and saw how different the landing zones were. Gold=flat, Omaha=hills.  
Omaha Beach, Low Tide
I think the casualties were ten times higher at Omaha. We also saw what's left of the artificial harbor off the coast of Gold Beach. During the invasion, they had docks and stuff to drive trucks out on to unload the ships. It was used well after D-Day too, to supply the front lines.

Paris, France
Caught the 1722 to Caen, switched to a nonstop to Paris. Arrived at 1937. Hopped on the Metro, hit the ticket counter. So I'm in Paris now. I went to get a ticket on the Eurostar...the next one is tomorrow morning...nine hours away. I got the ticket and again went to McDonald's. Hey, it's cheap, nearby, relatively safe, and no one seems to mind if I have my pack on. Which is kinda funny since as I was walking down the stairway of McD's, I must have missed a step or my foot caught somewhere, but next thing I know I'm, on my knees staring at a support column at the base of the staircase. D'oh. So now I'm back at Gare du Nord, sitting in a reasonably comfortable waiting room, on modern benches made of steel. My English skills have dramatically decreased since this trip began. But I'm also looking forward to using them again.

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