Saturday, 19 May 2012


An almost flat calm crossing of the English Channel. Had a drink in the bar after boarding and then we retired to our tiny windowless cabin with bunks and an ensuite. An hour before arrival at Ouistreham just north of Caen we were woken by piped music. First down to the car deck we were ready to disembark as soon as the doors opened and as we were the first vehicle to board the night before we had an unobstructed departure. To our surprise we exited into sunshine and a cloudless sky but it was quite cold.

After a false start in the wrong direction we headed west along the Normandy coast to have a look at the D Day beaches where the allied forces landed on 6 June 1944 to free Europe from German occupation in WWII. We stopped in several of the scenic little towns and read the memorials to the battalions that had landed on each beach. In Arromanches-les-Bains we had a coffee and some breakfast and had fun dodging the town parking inspector who had locked us into a carpark at 9.00 am when free parking expired. He seemed to be keeping a close eye on us but when he wasn't watching for 10 seconds we nipped out through a pedestrian exit and sped off.

Further along the coast at Omaha Beach we spent a couple of hours at the American Cemetry and Memorial which covers 172.5 acres and has 9,387 graves representing only 40% of the Americans who died there. The families of the other 60% opted to have their remains sent home. There's a very interesting visitor centre with lots of information and videos about the preparation for, and implementation of, the landings. The crosses in the photo aren't really leaning - that's what happens when I take photos without my glasses on!

By this time it was clouding over and looking like rain so headed for Alencon, north of Le Mans, where we had prebooked a room for the night. Along the way we bought a sandwich each and put our waterproofs on.

Arrived in the rain at the HotelF1 and discovered why that class of Accor hotel costs only 30 euros (about $40) per night for up to 3 people. The room has a queen size bed with a single bunk over it, a handbasin and TV. The bathrooms are shared though numerous. There are no staff on duty, you have to swipe the credit card you used to make the booking and the machine gives you a printout with your room number and access code to get in the doors. No food available but we spotted a restaurant a 10 minute walk away so we'll brave the rain a bit later and try it out.

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