Travel Europe

11-04-2009
Photographic Tour of Normandy D - Day Beaches

"The tour begins early June in Honsfluer, France where the Seine River greets the English Channel. 19th century artist Eugene Boudin lived and painted here."

By: Tom Ellerbe
The tour begins early June in Honsfluer, France where the Seine River greets the English Channel. 19th century artist Eugene Boudin lived and painted here. Claude Monet and other gifted artist were attracted to this charming little hamlet. Honfluer escaped the bombs of World War II and today offers a romantic seaport harbor.

The sun was disappearing as I entered the harbor area...I managed to capture a few nice photos of this exciting little village. The small harbor area was preparing for a busy Saturday evening and many charming restaurants and shops sparkled with lights. My fully automated Kodak 850 (5.1 MP) 12X Zoom, Compact Digital Camera worked well with the night scene mode. I did however take most of the photos of this village in the early morning hours the next day.

Early June weather in Normandy can be cold, windy and unpredictable. The 75 miles of Atlantic coast north of Bayeux, from Ste. Marie-du-Mont to Oistreham, is littered with WWII museums, monuments, cemeteries, and battle remains left in tribute to the courage of the British, Canadian, and American armies who successfully carried out the largest military operation in history.

A "point and shoot" camera is convenient and handy especially when you are trying to take photos and keep warm as the sharp wind crosses the beaches. The cold windy Normandy beaches were vacant in the early morning and did present some composition challenges for me, but I was able to select some locations that captured the shoreline with all the displayed Allied Flags.

Many original German fortified bunkers remain intact today as they guard the Northern coast of Normandy. There are museums with displays showing generator rooms, machine gun emplacements, ammunition and arms store, telephone operation rooms etc. The design and fortification of these emplacements took place over a three year span prior to the actual invasion. The most elaborate (5 level) bunker is located near the village of Ouistreham which is just outside of Caen.

Many historical memorials are located along the historic locations. One of the best and most significant is the "Le Memorial de Caen" ....Caen, the modern capital of lower Normandy has dedicated a large piece of land... very impressive architectural symbol...officially named "History" to understand the war (Le Memorial de Caen: L'histoire pour comprendre le monde).

In the main entrance a British Fighter Bomber "Typhoon" is mounted above the visitors' entrance. The museum is brilliant, well displayed and a real tribute to the sacrifices by so many. The lighting in the memorial was not great but I was able to capture some nice displays around the entrance of the museum.

The American Cemetery and Memorial located at Vierville-sur-Mer...overlooking "Omaha Beach"...the site of the over-whelming challenge the American forces faced. Try to imagine landing in a small flat-bottomed boat, shoulder to shoulder with other soldiers, all of you weighed down with wet, heavy packs and guns. The boat door opens and you run for your life through water and sand into this open beach while Germans fire on you at will from above. Twelve hundred American soldiers died on this beach the first day alone. This magnificent facility features "The Memorial...The Garden of Missing...The Visitors Center." The Visitor Center begins with a short film clip of General Eisenhower discussing his decision to land on June 6th. There are 10 sections of grave sites divided alphabetically as one can search on a computer and find their loved one and know exactly which area to search as our men and women lie beneath precisely aligned headstones of white lasa marble, Latin crosses and Stars of David. Trees, shrubs and roses highlight the grave plots. Beds of polyanthus roses trim the garden of the missing, while a variety of trees grace the lawn areas.

The sun along the Normandy beaches disappears in June around 9:30 pm, so most of my photos were taken after 6 pm. The sun was low in the West and the beaches faced north so the results were very nice...I captured some magnificent photos of the precisely aligned headstones with the blue ocean and Omaha beach in the background.

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