Cycling to Omaha: D-day Beaches

This weekend was full of activity. We had to visit Disneyland on Saturday, so could do only day trips on Friday and Sunday. We went to Alps on Friday, and saved the Sunday for a tryst with history – the D-Day beaches of Normandy. These were beaches where the allied forces landed on June 6 1944 and swept the battle from Germany.
Our original plan was to cover at least 3-4 of all the seven beaches – I know it was a little too ambitious to begin with, but some scavenging on the net had convinced me that we could do it. Apparently it was possible to take car rentals from Bayeux / Caen and/or Busverts buses from Bayeux to the beaches. We had gone prepared for either. And we found none! But more on that shall come later. We took a 9 o’ clock train from Paris to Bayeux, which is the closest station to Arromanches and Omaha. When we landed in Bayeux at 11:15, and as we got down, the town gave us a deserted stare. There were no signboards – except one advertising the taxis to the D-day beaches and they looked expensive and time bound. There was no soul to ask questions from either.
So we started walking, very soon hit a shop near a petrol station and asked the lady at the counter who sweetly told us that Bayeux just goes ‘off’ on a Sunday! There were no car rentals, no buses and pretty much anything else! Luckily she gave us a map of the town and we located the tourist office (which surprisingly was open in that sleepy Sunday town). There was also a cycle rental near the tourist office, and we decided to take the cycles to Omaha and the American cemetery. It was 18 km to the cemetery and the beach was a good 4 km from there.
In 8 kms of cycling we hit the first sight of sea. It was beautiful. It was a port called Port -en Bessin Huppain. We stopped there for half an hour or so and then moved on towards Colleville – the village of the bloody site. This ride was a little tougher (because most of it was uphill), and we reached the village in around 1 hour 25 minute, and wasted a lot of time in a hearty meal  After all we hadn’t had anything to eat since the morning and the food was delicious. It is a Ranch place very close to the cemetery.
We then moved to the cemetery which is very well kept and overlooks the sea. The site was the closest the allied forces’ advent had come to failure on D-Day. The Omaha beach was easy to defend because of its topography and Germans put up a brave front. America lost a lot of soldiers. (close to 10,000) and the cemetery has been made to honor those who died.
There were many American tourists at the site – perhaps as a mark of patriotism and to pay homage to their own soldiers.
We then moved towards the beach and made a mistake. There are actually two ways to reach the beach. One from the Saint Honorine des Pertes side, which is between Bayeux and the cemetery. And the other is Vierville sur mer– which is further away and from where we entered. So it just meant a lot of cycling for us – clubbed with the fact that we had a time constraint. We had a train to catch and cycles were to be returned before that. So we barely managed to stay on the beach. We didn’t even site the German bunkers which have still been maintained. However we did see a few memorials which are grand and overlook the sea in an almost proud fashion.
We cycled back – on a very busy and very very fast highway. We later realized that we should have taken an alternate route, because the highway is risky. But it never occurred to us to ask someone. Well, there is a fun in exploring without too much guidance.
So that ended the trip – it was rushed and we saw only one site. So if you want to cover all the beaches, cycling is perhaps not the best way. But for one, it is amazing. You get to cycle around the sea, and the air is toxic and lovely. Though keep in mind that even in October, it gets pretty chilly at the nights and I was almost in shivers when we reached the station. And it’s a long journey with not a lot of eateries on the way (esp on Sundays). So do pack a nice lunch if you decide to cycle.


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