We rented a car and drove from Paris to Rouen. It was absolutely terrifying driving in the city, but we made it out alive. Rouen is only an hour and a half drive from Paris, and it’s the most enchanting little town.
We spent the first night wandering around. Somehow, we always end up staying in the sketchiest part of town. Another thing that sucks about travelling mid November is that they start decorating for Christmas and setting up the markets, but they’re not actually open yet.
The streets were beautiful with wood houses, cute bakeries, and tons of boutiques with nice clothes and jewelry.
I think I could live here. It’s not a far drive from Paris, and has everything you could need. It’s not too busy but also not a ghost town. It looks like the type of town fairytales were written about. We weren’t sure if it was worth the hassle of renting a car to come here, but I’m so glad we did. The vanilla tart pictured above is also one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. On our last day we went back in search of the tart but the bakery was already closed. Sad was an understatement.
On the second day, we drove up to the beaches of Normandy, and that was one of the most eye opening days I’ve experienced. These beautiful beaches are where the Allies finally gained foothold in France on June 6th, 1944. The beaches are littered with museums, monuments, cemeteries, and battle remains from D-Day. This area of France is absolutely gorgeous. The beaches go on forever; these little towns surrounding them look like they thrive in the summer with carousels and ice cream stands, but nearly 20,000 people died on these beaches.
We got off to an early start and drove to Sword beach first. This was probably the shortest stop of the day.
Juno beach was next. Taking Juno was the responsibility of the Canadian Army- their WWII museum is here.
Gold beach still has the remains of the artificial dock they built after taking the beach.
We kept driving and reached Omaha Beach. This is where the US memorial and cemetery is; we spent quite a bit of time here.
Between Omaha and Utah is Pointe du Hoc. It’s the highest point between the two beaches. Here, there are craters in the ground from bombs, bunkers, and the Ranger Monument. US Army Rangers scaled the 100-foot cliffs and seized the German artillery pieces that could have fired on the American landing troops at Omaha and Utah beaches.
The most eye opening part of this day for me was the US cemetery. All of these white crosses seemed to go on forever- and they were only US men, killed only on D-Day and the days following.
If you have extra time in Paris, you should definitely consider going here. Normandy is more than WWII history. It’s rich in French culture, art, and the region has over 30 Michelin-starred chefs. There are lots of other things to see, but exploring this area filled with history was both powerful and heartbreaking.
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