Did I mention that it has rained every day on our trip through northwest France?Today, the deluge continues. And the rain provided the perfect atmosphere, setting the emotional tone for our visit to Omaha Beach.
It was cold, wet and silent as we left the highway from Caen and drove past narrow lanes lined with stone houses which suddenly opened up to the expanse of Omaha Beach. This was one of two beaches that U.S. forces landed on in a coordinated assault on six beaches by Allied troops . In all, 156,000 soldiers all landed on June 6, 1944. The deadliest landing was at Omaha Beach, where over 6000 young Americans died on this cold, wet beach that day as they arrived by land, sea and air to help liberate France from the Nazis.
There is a beautiful sculpture on the beach commemorating the allied assault . We shot many photos and I tried to narrate a brief video with my voice choking with raw emotion. D Day was an incredible act of daring, imagination, cooperation and bravery. On this blustery, wet, grey day, we could visualize the awful welcome these brave souls faced.
We left the soggy beach and headed further down the road to the American Cemetery in Collineville Sur Mer. It was still raining hard as I pushed my guy in a loaner wheelchair from the visitor center to the huge graveyard. It was raining & blowing so hard that both our umbrellas collapsed.
Still we stayed awhile, getting wet and taking pictures of row after row of white crosses and a few Jewish stars. It was less a Cemetery than a meadow of memory to those who gave their lives. I started to say the Kaddish prayer for the dead but couldn’t remember all the words so I humbly faked it as our Rabbi Stan taught us: God doesn’t care about the words, just the intention. And we said a shehechiyanu for good measure as we were grateful to have reached this day and this season in our lives.
Afterward, we spent some time in the visitor center watching films and displays about individual soldiers and their lives at home before the war cut them short. We also learned so much about the unbelievably complex and comprehensive strategy of the D Day assault. I need to read a book about this some day.
After a quick “chez auto” picnic of fruit, bread and other leftovers from breakfast stashed in our car, we drove the hour back to Caen, returning to the land of the living and to more sybaritic vacation experiences such as:
-Picking up our nice clean laundry from the kindly but non- English speaking lady in the local laverie with whom I mimed our laundry needs.
-My guy consuming 9 fresh oysters for 9 euros from an oysters only joint at a place across the dock from our Mercure hotel.
-Consuming fresh grilled fish and lamb at the basque place next door to that and
– finishing with homemade ice cream and cheesecake at the place next to that!
– and completing our food extravaganza with an 8 year old Calvados brandy for the husband and vanilla Calvados for me at our hotel bar. Calvados and cider are local specials because “Normandy has good apples and bad wine,” according to our bartender!
We are off to Mt St. Michel next and then on to Brittany with my tall grey man with the one bad foot (and a bellyfull of oysters with the promise of more to come!)