The Normandy Beaches, because of their significance during World War II and their connections, as a result, to the many descendants of soldiers from that era, present a moving experience for the visitor. It is interesting to drive along the roads parallel to the beaches, stopping at various towns or gaining access to the water to see some of the remnants of the campaign which are still visible.
Omaha Beach, near the town of Colleville is probably the most popular tourist stop, since this was the main location used by American troops, and has been much documented in a number of movies. Walk down to the beach to get an idea of how intimidating it must have been for the soldiers to try to land on this strip of sand with little or no cover and ascend to the distant ridge, heavily fortified with German machine
Then travel to the American Cemetery to be overwhelmed with the number of graves of servicemen who died in the days around D-Day. There are 9,387 Americans buried here and this number represents only about 40% of the actual casualties. It is a very sobering experience. Wander awhile amongst the graves and visit the memorial which commemorates their sacrifice.
A great base of operations for an exploration of this area is the city of Caen, which, besides offering accommodations and numerous restaurants for visitors, also has several attractions worth a short visit. These include the Chateau Ducal, the castle-palace of William the Conqueror, which was constructed around 1060 AD, the Men’s Abbey, and the Ladies’ Abbey.
Between Caen and the Normandy Beaches is the lovely town of Bayeaux, which is world-famous for its Bayeaux Tapestry, an 85 meter (250 foot) long depiction of the events leading up to and including the Battle of Hastings, which took place in 1066 AD, in England, and forever changed the history of Europe and the Western World.
While in Normandy, make an excursion eastward to the coastal town of Honfleur, France. This town has gained a reputation as an artist colony due to the work of a number of Impressionists, particularly Claude Monet. It is located on the northern shore of France, in the very eastern part of Normandy. It is a charming, picturesque fishing village with a lovely harbor and attractive buildings along the water, narrow, cobbled streets with many shops and restaurants. The most important attraction besides the village itself is the Church of St Catherine, the oldest, surviving wooden church in France.