The Weekly Getaway: regional France experience, off the beaten path around Normandy
I’ve always felt a special kind of connection with France, which is why I’ve been visiting and exploring this country over and over again. France has put a spell on me from the moment I laid my eyes on its vibrant cities and beautiful scenic landscape. The reason why this country holds such sway over me is because it has been part of my family heritage for as long as I can remember.
So, my visits to France have never been just another travel experience – not that each and every one of them wasn’t memorable. Every trip to this land that breathes with a romantic beauty has been spiritual, moving and, most importantly, personal.
Over the years, I’ve seen many different sides of France. I went barge cruising along its charming canals, strolled among aromatic vineyards and experienced the authentic vibe of French metropolises. This time, I decided to explore its historical side, the one that has many brave and sad stories to tell. Thus, I embarked on my journey dedicated to WWI and WW2 battlefields and sites.
D-Day landing beaches in Normandy
Not only is Normandy one of the most beautiful regions in France, but it’s also home to numerous iconic D-Day Landings, so it was an inevitable stop in my exploration of historical France. As the largest military operation in history, D-Day, that happened on 6th June 1944, has eventually led to the end of the Second World War. I was standing on the beaches where an army of 150,000 soldiers landed, many of which have fallen fighting against the Third Reich.
As I gazed at the coastline of Normandy and listened to the sound of waves, I was consumed by feelings of admiration and sadness. Every battlefield beach I visited breathed with an atmosphere of solemnity that gave them a sublime character. At the Pointe du Hoc, I admired the high dramatic cliffs, while Omaha Beach, also known as The Beach of Blood, completely moved and left me with the feeling of awe. This historic beach bears this nickname because it saw the greatest number of casualties. You simply cannot visit this site without feeling the pain of WWII soldiers, which has given my entire experience a spiritual quality. As I slowly moved among the white marble headstones at the Colleville cemetery, I silently expressed gratitude to the soldiers who gave their lives defending our freedom.
The Somme battlefields
The gentle landscape and calm flow of the River Somme were once the locations of the historic battles of the Somme. The entire region of Picardy features a lovely rural landscape that seemed somehow transcendent. I could feel the traces of history that filled the air and left the scenic landscape of the Somme with a riveting story. I do come from a different age, but I consider the happenings of WWI and WWII a part of my own history, which is why my entire trip was highly emotional.
On my trip down memory lane, I tried to remember every single detail as an attempt to eternalise my trip. Since there’s a range of the Somme battlefield tours, I had no problems finding the one that would meet my needs. I joined a smaller group so that I wouldn’t be disturbed by the hordes of tourists. I immersed myself in history by visiting the Historical Museum in Péronne and the Baron’s crash site, and discovering the villages of La Boisselle, Péronne and Villers-Bretonneux, all carrying their scars of the Great War. As I visited numerous historical sites, memorials and cemeteries, I solemnly admired each and every one of these embodiments of our grave history.
France is the land of an authentic beauty, mysterious romance, beautiful scenic landscapes and numerous historic sites. And as I experienced yet another fascinating side of France, I try to keep in my memory every trace of history worth remembering.
- The 38th Division Memorial – the magnificent statue of the Welsh dragon overlooking Mametz Wood was built as a memorial to the 38th Welsh Division.
- The Ulster Tower – this replica of the traditional Irish tower is another memorial built in honour of the 36th Ulster Division.
- Historial de la Grande Guerre – hidden behind the walls of an old castle, this museum features both fascinating exhibitions, a cinema and a lovely cafeteria.
- The Caen Memorial Museum – located a bit further from the beaches, this museum is certainly worth the visit because you’ll gain a deep insight into history.
- Chateau La Cheneviere – not only is this hotel in the vicinity of numerous historical sites in the region, but it also features a private cottage on the hotel grounds where you can have more privacy and enjoy your stay.
- Hotel d’Argouges – located in Bayeux, this cosy and peaceful hotel features traditional décor and an intimate lounge area where you can sip a glass of fine French wine.
- Château de Noyelles en Baie de Somme – this authentic 19th-century château is nestled in the village of Noyelles. It features a sophisticated design and a landscape of lawns, orchards and rose beds.
- Le Val D'Ancre – this unimposing restaurant features lovely décor and superb food. At affordable prices, you can have a delicious dish of lamb with mushroom stew, or try some of the best French cheeses.
- L'Auberge Fleurie – The excellent service, pleasant atmosphere and superb food at L'Auberge Fleurie will simply charm you. The menu features extraordinary specialities, such as duck foie gras and petit crème brulee.
- Le Botaniste – This restaurant pays attention to both preparation and presentation of their food, offering an extravagant gastronomic experience. You simply must try the Cube, a dessert made of chocolate, green tea ice-cream and mocha.
- La Sapiniere – this lovely restaurant is located on the seaside, just behind the beach dunes. It features a great selection of fresh salads, delicious seafood and a pleasant ambience.
Cover photo by Aurélien / Source: Pixabay