En route home to the Netherlands after three weeks working in Spain and France, and speaking at the TBEX Travel Bloggers Conference, we detoured and drove through the Normandy area for the day. After battling crowds at Mont St. Michel in the morning, I wasn’t all that surprised to see a crowd of people at the American War Cemetery and Memorial, even just an hour before closing.
This was my first time in the area and seeing any of the coastline. You learn about D-Day in school, but standing at such an important part of war history was humbling. I wish I had more time as I would’ve liked to walk down to the beaches and see some of the memorial markers.
You enter the main areas of the cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, where the bulk of the D-Day events took place. There is an orientation legend showing all the landing beaches as well, which was very helpful as it’s easier to imagine as you look down the coastline.
The cemetery grounds are massive. If you really want to explore, allot more than the 1.5 hours I had. For those really interested in American WWII history, consider booking an American Battlefields Tour in Normandy itself.
The memorial for American soldiers is a semi-circular dome with loggia at each end containing maps and narratives on the military operations. At the center sits the “Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves” statue.
While seeing the beaches and the legend detailing where each beach landing took place, the sheer mass scale of World War II is better understood on the large wall monuments at the Normandy American War Cemetery. The “Landings and Development of the Beach” section had scaffolding all over it as work is taking place there as well, but you can still get an idea of how massive the D-Day invasion was.
The one benefit arriving late in the afternoon was the ability to watch both flag lowering ceremonies as they played Taps. Sadly, there is a lot of work going on at the cemetery so the unsightly orange fences to keep people off the grass were unavoidable in photos during the flag ceremony.
There is the Normandy Visitors Center when you first arrive as well, but we didn’t have enough time to see everything plus stand in line to get inside the Visitors Center this time around. The center opened in 2007, on the 63rd Anniversary of D-Day.
Open Daily, except December 25 and January 1
Operating Hours: 9am-6pm April 15 – Sept 15; 9am – 5pm the rest of the year