Sunday 19th June
Time to leave Mont Saint Michel and begin heading home.
First target of the day was Sainte-Mère-Église but we happened upon the D-day experience near Carentan so decided to pay a visit. It was on a vital cross-roads which became know as Dead-Mans Corner. There was a lot of content to the museum including artefacts from famous American servicemen. There was even a paratrooper experience where you sit in the back of an aeroplane while it bounces around and simulates a crash-landing. All in all, very good from an American viewpoint.
Next stop Sainte-Mère-Église
If you’ve seen the film “The Longest Day” about the D-Day landings, there a section where the American paratroopers land in a village and one of them gets stuck on the church spire. That was here.
There’s a large American Airborne museum which we decided to skip as we’d just done one museum.
Next stop on our D-day pilgrimage was Utah beach. I visited here four years ago but didn’t go into the museum as I had the dogs. Time to do that this time.
If you’re wondering where we are, here’s a map of the American landings.
The weather is definitely changing now! It was blowing old boots and rattling the roof of the museum.
It was getting late after visiting the museums today and we didn’t have any plans made for a place to stay tonight. Searchforsites to the rescue and we found a free aire at Isigny-sur-Mer and we parked up next to the river. We wandered into the village and found a pizza restaurant still open.
A free night at Isigny-sur-Mer, no facilities but there is a service point and a Carrefour along the road. Nice and quiet with only a couple of cars passing. Lots of other vans there too.
Monday 20th June
Another busy D-Day today.
First stop along the coast was Pointe du Hoc. A German gun emplacement that needed to be destroyed to enable D-Day to happen as the guns here could reach both Utah and Omaha beaches.
Pointe du Hoc is an American war memorial, so no dogs (hence why I didn’t stop last time) and security guards to check you as you enter the visitors centre. It is free to visit though and there’s a specific car park for over-height vehicles.
Once we left Pointe du Hoc, we continued along the coast to Vierville-sur-Mer and the start of Omaha beach. There’s a small car park here and a couple of memorials.
We continued along the coast road whilst we could to the main Omaha Beach memorial at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer. Unfortunately since my last visit there are now height barriers on the main car parks so I dropped Andrew off to take a look and I parked up a bit further down the road.
Further along the coast is the American Normandy cemetery. The last time I tried to visit here, Eddie (my old Beagle) howled when I left the van, so I decided not to go in.
Final resting place of about nine thousand and a large visitor centre, it’s well worth a visit (and it’s free). It reminded my of the large British cemeteries like Tyne Cot.
There are a couple of famous people buried here including Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt III, eldest son of president Theodore Roosevelt and two of the Niland brother whose story inspired Saving Private Ryan.
Next beach on our tour is Gold beach and the start of the British (and Canadian, French etc) landings.
We ended today at the Longues-sur-mer battery. The parking area has changed a lot since I last visited. There’s now a proper car park, a larger visitor centre and it looks like the motorhome parking area on the cliff edge is closed. It’s amazing to see the guns still in position, looking out over the channel.
We now took a slightly different route and headed south to Bayeux for the afternoon and night to see the tapestry.
We stayed at Camping Edges of Aure which was €18.80 with ACSI. I stayed here four years ago so knew what to expect. There’s a very large modern sanitary block and a swimming pool next door that campers can use. We were pitched next to the road, but I didn’t notice it during the night.
Less than 15 minutes walk from the site is the city centre. We grabbed lunch from the Carrefour City near the river and found the Tapestry museum. The €11 entry fee includes an audio guide which you listen to as you follow the numbers and the story on the tapestry. No photos here as I was a good boy and followed what the sign said, but if you don’t know what the Bayeux Tapestry is, read here.
We then looked around the Cathedral and old town, stopping for a quick refreshment, then back along the river to the campsite.
Tuesday 21st June
First stop this morning was the Bayeaux War Cemetery. A mix of all nationalities (including German) in a well kept cemetery. There’s even a little sarcasm on the memorial where the inscription reads “Nos a Gulielmo victi victoris patriam liberavimus” which translates to “We, once conquered by William, have now set free the conqueror’s native land.”
Back to the coast now and to Arromanches-les-Bains. This was the site of the Mulberry harbour, built by the allies to allow them to offload equipment to help with Operation Overlord. What must have been an incredible sight in 1944 is still partially visible today.
We parked at the top of the hill, next to the 360 cinema. A €10 blanket charge for motorhomes is a bit steep but I think it is for 24 hours so you could stay overnight if you wish. (I think!)
Before heading down to the town we looked at the memorials and went into the 360 cinema which shows scenes from both D-Day and the war in general.
Its quite a steep walk down to the town and it looks like the shuttle buses are not currently running so it’s a bit of a slog back up the hill.
After walking around the town we had lunch back at the motorhome and I managed to fly the drone over the cliff tops.
We had a quick stop at Gold beach at Asnelles before carrying on to the new British Normandy memorial near Ver Sur Mer. An amazing new memorial to those who gave their lives on the beaches we were looking at. You do have to pay for parking here, it goes towards the upkeep of the memorial.
We followed the road past Juno and Sword beaches to Ouistreham. There’s not so much to see on these two beaches if you’ve already visited other museums. If you’re following the beaches in the opposite order, you might want to visit the Musée du Mur de l’Atlantique in a preserved bunker in Ouistreham.
We chose to carry on to Pegasus Bridge and the memorial museum located there.
This museum is more focused on the glider landing troops and how they needed to destroy some bridges but protect some to both stop the German reinforcements arriving but allow the allies to move out from the landing sites.
I suggested to my brother that he might like to visit Honfleur as I’d stayed here on my last visit, so we headed there and planned to stay at the campsite in the town. Sadly when we arrived the site was full. We drove to the aire which was also full (and I’ve never liked the look of!).
Searchforsites came to the rescue again and we found a free aire about 2 miles away at La Rivière-Saint-Sauveur. A nice little park-up under the motorway, which we couldn’t hear from the motorhome. There’s a paid motorhome service point but no other facilities.
We got the bikes out and cycled back to Honfleur to find there was a music festival on and very busy considering it was a Tuesday evening.
Wednesday 22nd June
Andrew requested a rest day as we’d had a busy few days and in one of the brochures we’d picked up somewhere, he found out about Saint Valery sur Somme so we headed in that direction.
We found a couple of campsites in the area but all seemed to be full, so we headed at bit further up the coast to to have a look at Pointe du Hourdel and the seals.
Whilst there I had a look at campsites slightly out of the area and found one on the opposite side of the bay, near a large lake, and it had a pool! I booked it online, foregoing the ACSI saving as we envisaged it might be busy too.
We arrived at the campsite, Flower Camping Les Aubépines to be told that we were very lucky and a good job we booked as they were turning others away.
We stayed at Flower Camping Les Aubépines for two nights for €50. Nice facilities, a pool, restaurant, bar and shop. Quiet place a little away from anywhere.
We had an afternoon of doing very little.
Thursday 23rd June
As we drove through Saint Valery the day before we saw a train and Andrew found that it ran around the bay. We decided to cycle down to Le Crotoy and get the train round to Saint Valery. €15 each for a return ticket and one hour each way on a steam train. We didn’t realise but we could have taken the bikes on the train too.
We had 2.5 hours to spend at Saint Valery before the return train. We got a sandwich and a cake at a bakery, and a beer at one of the road-side bars. It’s a nice quaint town which turned out to be where William the Conqueror left from when he invaded Britain. A tie-in with our visit to Bayeux.
A nice day out, we arrived back at the campsite late afternoon.
Friday 24th June
After my last visit to France four years earlier I found out about a place called La Coupole near to St Omer which was a launch site for v2 rockets during the war. One of our planned places to visit, and close to Calais, it was our first stop today. Very interesting and well worth a visit.
We were a bit worried about finding a campsite for the night with how busy it seemed to be in the area. We decided to try one that I’ve stayed at a couple of times in the past, Camping La Bien Assise at Guines. Lucky they had space for us as it’s a very nice site and gets lots of good reviews.
We paid €21.90 ACSI rate for one night at Camping La Bien Assise. There are a few sanitation blocks on the site plus a swimming pool, bar, take-away, shop and restaurant. I think the normal rate is more like €38 per night!
As it was our last night in France, whilst checking in, I made a reservation at the onsite restaurant. It’s a very nice restaurant, and probably the cheapest beer we had the whole trip! The bill came to €69.60 for two set menus and two beers each.
Saturday 25th June
We weren’t booked on the ferry until 5.20pm so we knew we had a few hours to kill before we went shopping so we headed over to Cap Griz Nez, about the closest point to England without getting your feet wet!
After a wander around looking at the wildlife and scenery we headed off to Cite Europe and our final shop.
We grabbed a trolley each and filled them with cidre, beer, wine, crepe and other French goodies. Just remember to check under the motorhome before you leave! You don’t want to find unwanted guests at the ferry port.
After a couple of hours shopping, we drove to the port via Calais town and parked near to the main port and had a stroll into Place d’Armes for a coffee for me and a beer for Andrew.
Earlier in the day I’d received a text from Irish Ferries to say there were long delays at the port so we planned to be there around 3pm. When we did arrive, there were no queues at check-in and the lady there put us on the earlier ferry at 4.25pm. We arrived home in Littlehampton at 7.20pm.