Saturday, July 16, 2011

D-Day Beaches Trip - Part 1

After a bit of down time dad and I finally got away again to do our second war sites trip. This one was the one dad had been talking about doing for months before I even arrived in Europe so we had to make sure it went well and took 4 days to make sure we had time to see all we wanted. Of course if you give me free reign with an itinerary in a region then I'm going to pack in everything possible and we had 4 long busy days full of "surprise" destinations.
Our trip started at 6:30pm on Sunday, our first destination, Bruges, Belgium.
Bruges is the most popular tourist town in Belgium. Normally that sort of thing would really turn me off but it is a really pretty town. It's power and influence peaked in the 14th century and then died pretty much right after its link to the ocean silted up. It's very well preserved, has nice architecture and what's best is that it's got a moat ring around the old town and a swan-filled canal system still in use, particularly by little tour cruises. Very picturesque! We arrived just before dark, checked into a hotel and then ran around the old town in the dark. There was a small concert going on in front of the town hall and this was to be a recurring theme throughout our trip, central squares full of festivities resulting in blocked photo opportunities or closed roads making it much harder to navigate around. We also ran around Bruges again the next morning to see things in the light of day. I think we both enjoyed the night more as there were much fewer people about. I definitely enjoyed the place though and really do prefer these smaller towns to the big capitals.


The famous Bruges Belfry.

After the morning in Bruges we had to start getting serious about our war sites so drove first to Dunkirk and then to Calais. Dunkirk was of course the site of the largest military evacuation ever when 300,000 troops were evacuated off the beaches over a month at the beginning of WW2. Nearby Calais is the closest point to the UK and a port that everyone always seems to want to control. I hadn't realized that it was English territory for 200 years from the 1300's to 1500's. We went down to the beach at both places and kept moving on. There are some small museums, monuments, belfries and cemetaries but they were either closed or low on our priority list.

Town hall of Calais.

Beaches of Calais.

We continued west along the coast. It's a pretty landscape but unfortunately the day was too hazy to give us any view of the British coast from the various lookout points along the way.

The coast near Calais from Pointe Blanc Nez.

We finished our day in Rouen, a city further south and notable for it's crooked and leaning half-timbered houses which reminded me of York. There is also a monument to Joan of Arc who was burned to the stake as a heretic there in 1431 and is now considered a saint. Rouen currently has the tallest cathedral in France as well at 151m. It was the tallest building in the world for a few years until the Cologne cathedral was completed (which we saw at the end of the last trip).




At 8:13 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

great job on the blog and the photos! now we know that even with a broken lcd - you still have the skills in taking good pictures! i thoroughly enjoyed this one!



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