Friday, 2 August 2013


By Mark

After riding around the Arc de Triomphe we turned and headed north west for Normandy. This was to be the last leg of our mainland European tour before heading to the UK. We were both happy to leave Paris and were looking forward to a few days on the north coast of France and leaving the big smoke behind.

Our ride out of Paris was easy and it was nice to be back in the countryside once again. With our eyes set on Grandcamp Maisy we were intrigued by this part of the country. Knowing only a little about it, sadly mainly from the movie Saving Private Ryan I was wanting to know more. I never paid enough attention in my history lessons in school but as I travel I am increasingly captivated in what out forefathers have done in order for us to be able to live such a free life today and when we find ourselves in a continent which is so rich in history how could I not be fascinated.

We spent the night in Grandcamp Maisy, on the western fringe of where the D-day landings took place. The following day was spent travelling along the coastline towards the port town of Le Havre stopping in at numerous beaches to learn more about what happened here, including stopping at the American war cemetery which is home to over 9000 graves, a beautiful resting place by the seaside for the people who gave their all for our freedom. At the entrance we had to go through a security checkpoint just like in an airport which I thought was a little excessive.

D-day started in the early hours of June 6th 1944. Over 156,115 British, American and Canadian troops landed on the many beaches along the Normandy coastline taking the Germans by surprise who had been expecting them to arrive on the Calais coast which was well planned by the British over a period of months leaking information for the Germans to expect them there in Calais. So it was a surprise to them but this does not mean that there was not huge losses of life, estimates are around 9000 casualties with some 3000 fatalities.

We didn't travel too far that day as we spent so much time checking out the D-day beaches so we found ourselves in the early evening trying to find a bush camp but failed - with the higher population in the north there are not much forest land but more farming land so we had to settle on another caravan park just near Le Havre. The following day we hit the road for Calais as we had planned to get a ferry to Dover and head for London. Along the way we stopped in for lunch in a hideous beach town resort. All we wanted was some shade, food and a place to relax and get out of the sun for a while. What we rode into was an overcrowded tourist beach town with the most amount of people I have ever seen on a beach ever. It was one of the ugliest beaches and I could not understand the attraction, I think I am just very spoilt because of the beaches we have back home in Australia. I disliked it so much that I can't even remember the name of the place so cannot warn you where not to go!

We arrived in Calais where we found ourselves in another camp site for the night. We headed straight for the port to buy our ferry tickets as we had trouble buying them online and had been told buying them on the day of travel that the price would be double. With that sorted we headed back to the beach to watch the sunset for the last time in Europe. It was kind of sad sitting there reminiscing of our travels through mainland Europe. We had met so many great people, seen so many fantastic places and traveled in all sorts of crazy weather and we both had this feeling inside that we just did not want to leave. I had no chance however because my days were limited in the Schengen region and if I was to overstay, there was a good chance that I would be rejected entry into the UK and that would subsequently throw our travel plans completely out. I had to get my head into the right place and think of the many great places that lay ahead. No matter what we would be on that ferry.

The next morning we awoke to a lovely calm day for our ferry crossing. Approaching our first formal border crossing in a long time I was feeling a little uneasy as I had heard from a few friends that I could get some troubles by the UK immigration offices. Not having any travel plans to leave the country is always a problem but after being asked MANY questions with a few of them being asked repeatedly, possibly to catch me, I did manage to get through and headed straight for the ferry. It was smooth sailing for 1.5 hour and in no time we had the white cliffs of Dover in sight. It was a beautiful sight and with the previous night's melancholic feelings behind me it was a sense of relief that for the first time in a very long time we would be in an English speaking country again. London, here we come.

The beautiful Normandy coastline

Me in a massive bomb crater

Pointe du Hoc

The boats that transported the allied soldiers to the D-day beaches

We met four guys from UK on their mint Lambretta's 

The American Cemetery

What's left of the Atlantic Wall

Enjoying my last piece of French patisserie, it was good!

Watching the busy ferry traffic as the sun goes down over the English Channel

Waiting to board the ferry

Approaching Dover

The white cliffs of Dover

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