So we've now been back home for a little over a week! And in many ways it is good to be home, although i'd be lying if i said that i did not miss waking up, climbing out of my sleeping bag, unzipping the tent door and being greeted by a different view, morning after morning...
Anyway, enough moping, last time i left you we were heading North to Normandy, but before we hit the road, we packed up, left the campsite and decided to have a wander around the smallish town of Fresnay-Sur-Sarthe. We were told by the slightly over-enthusiastic campsite rep that there was a market on in the town today. Well upon arrival the market was pants, selling all the sorts of clothes that were made 20 years ago, and weren't even fashionable then! Things got better though, as we stumbled into the medieval part of the town and came across a rather pretty castle, built in the 10th century under the reign of King Charles the bald (No, really!). It was built mainly for the protection of the river crossing you see in the photos.
Pretty church from the same era, else where in the town:
We then left Fresnay-sur-Sarthe and headed north, with the GPS set for Caen, it was around 200 miles and as it was getting later in the day, we splashed out on autoroutes. Nearing Caen, the GPS was re-set for Grandcamp-Maisy, having found a campsite just down the road from there. Arriving at camping Pont-du-Hable, it didn't take long for me to decide that this was one of my favourite sites of the trip. It was right on the sea, with direct access to the beach, really simple, and cheap! If you know that stretch of coastline, it's around 5 miles from Omaha beach, and a few minutes drive from Grandcamp-Maisy.
We then headed to the memorial center at Omaha beach, this houses the memorial museum (Which is free and well worth a visit!) as well as acting as an entrance to the American cemetery. The museum is really interesting, with the more you read the more your left to think about. You do a lot of thinking at these places.
Most touching to me were the cross you see in the foreground of the photo below, they are inscribed "Here rests in honored glory, a comrade in arms, known but to god." There are 307 of them crosses within the memorial grounds.
Omaha beach, with the peace, tranquility and almost surreal beauty of the place now, it's hard to imagine the extreme difference compared to 69 years ago.
The next day we headed away from the Normandy coastline, but before we did we headed into the nearby town of Arromanches-les-Bains. Situated around 16 miles North-East of Caen, it was considered by the allies (along with Omaha beach) an ideal place to erect a harbour for supplies to be offloaded for there continued liberation of France and the rest of Europe. Thus Port Winston was born. Below is what remains of Port Winston at Arromanches, with most of it now underwater.
Arromanches is a cool town though, with plenty of reminders of what went on all them years ago littered around the town. Plus i found a Mini!
An hour or so later we arrived at Camping-Sainte-Claire, originally we had only planned to stay for the night before heading to Calais to catch the ferry the next morning. However, on arrival, i realised i'd made a wee error in planning, we'd arrived a day early, and that in fact the ferry wasn't the next morning, but the morning after. Bugger. Aaah well, the campsite was surprising nice actually, and i'd recommend it to anyone wanting a stop over for a day or two either on the way up or the way down. Only a couple of hours from Calais as well!
The next day we spent a few hours wandering around the local town and driving around the area, unfortunately neither of which was that interesting, so we headed back to the campsite and spent rest of the day chilling at the site, reading, re-packing and sorting out the car for the ferry. That afternoon we met a cyclist, Richard, who the next day was catching the ferry from Dieppe, returning home after his own adventure. He'd spent the last two months cycling around France, covering over 2000km, pretty impressive by any stretch! The three of us spent the rest of the evening chatting and sharing stories, putting the world to rights, and depleting what remained of my supply of Heineken. Take a look at Richards site for more details of his trip: www.richardsevents.co.uk
Thanks to him for the below photo of our wee Mini!:
The next day we got up leisurely, made breakfast and slowly began to pack up the car for the last time. We said our goodbyes to Richard, promising to stay in touch as ever with nearly everyone we've met before hitting the road for the last 175km to Calais.
The mood in the car that morning and indeed for the rest of the day was different to how it had been before. Han was probably looking forward to being home more than i was. And whilst i was looking forward to seeing friends and family, a bed, and having a proper garage to work on the car! I was more than a little dissapointed that it was all coming to an end. This was the final leg, and despite the fact that we'd all but run out of money, and had been away for a wee over a month, i wasn't really ready to come home yet.
We arrived at the ferry terminal early, and managed to get on an earlier ferry. Used up the last of our Euros on food and duty free and before we knew it , we were docking at Dover.
Flying (well relatively speaking!) up the M2 and A2 towards home, it dawned on me that tonight i'd be putting Timmy away in the garage and he wouldn't have to be travelling to some unknown place the day after. We wouldn't have to be bodging together broken radiator mounts or adjusting tired tie-rods. Nor would i have to be putting up a tent and inflating a bed to sleep on. And to be honest, whilst that may sound good to most people, after a week of being back. I bloody miss it.
Now just to decide where to go next...
Thanks for reading, peace.