The American Cemetery at Omaha Beach is outside of Colleville-sur-Mer but a good base for visiting is the nearby city of Caen. You can combine the visit to the Cemetery with a visit to the Caen Peace Memorial and nearby Pegasus Bridge with the small museum and river walk there. It's a pretty intense day. If you don't have a car, there are tours available to various WWII sites and you can choose one to suit your time and your budget. Check at the local tourist office for prices and schedules. If you have a car, it would be more pleasant to stay at Bayeux and visit the WWII sites from there. Bayeux is a charming smaller town with an excellent market, historic cathedral and, most famous, the Bayeux Tapestry. Official Caen Web Site with D-Day Tours
This is a very intense experience although in the end, we found it very peaceful. I think one should visit if for no other reason than to remain aware of the cost of war.
There are cemeteries for all the countries who fought in that area and you may want to visit some of them too. We stayed near a Canadian Cemetery south of Caen and it was very peaceful and lovely there.
I've created a Colleville-sur-Mer page on Virtual Tourist that you can also check. Here's the link for you to cut and paste. http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/7ba16/1f5b5/
The Benouville-Pegusus Bridge is a must-see if you are visiting World War II sites. Pegasus, the flying horse, was the emblem of the 6th British Airborne Division and they captured the bridge on June 6, 1944 thus maintaining a vital transportation link for the Allies.
It's a drawbridge and it's fun to see it go up and down. It is also on the beautiful river Orne. It is a very peaceful place today and you wll see ducks swimming on the river and men fishing there.
There is a Memorial on one side of the river that is worth a visit. It is not open in January. Check the web site listed below for hours at other times. Official Web Site of Pegasus Bridge
See other photos by clicking on the photograph
When you get your ticket, take the option for full lunch in the restaurant. The museum is large and emotionally draining (all that war and violence) so you need a break and the food is excellent.
You start down a curving ramp . . . descending into the horrors of war symbolically, starting with the ending of World War I, the Great Depression and “The Failure of Peace.”
You progress through “France in the Dark Years” including both collaboration and resistance. There is a stirring film on the Battle of Britain. This is followed by “World War–Total War” including a film on the siege of Stalingrad.
Next you go to the theater for “The Battle of Normandy.” The huge screen is split with Allied footage on the left and Axis footage on the right. After that, you go on to another theater for a film about D Day and then are returned to the exhibits. The Hall of Peace is next and had exhibits from many different cultures defining peace. Official Web Site of Caen
There are two major abbeys in Caen, one is L'Abbaye-aux-Dames and the other one is (you guessed it) L'Abbaye-aux-Hommes. The Abbey of Saint-Étienne is usually called the Abbey of Men. The two abbeys were built by William the Conqueror and his wife Mathilda. Official Web site of L'Abbaye-aux-Hommes]
This tip, however, is about the Abbey for Women and there is one special characteristic of it that draws you. You walk out of L'Abbaye-aux-Dames into a beautiful park with lovely views over the city of Caen. If you've been sightseeing all day, it's also a great place to find a park bench and enjoy watching everyone enjoying their park. Highly recommended. Official Web Site of Basse Normandie
Directly across the street from the chateau is Eglise St. Pierre. It has a slightly curved apse so is particularly interesting. We had seen this in Quimper in Bretagne but it is very eye-catching when you first see it. Official Web Site of Eglise St. Pierre
Here is my journal entry for the church:
"A very friendly docent gave us the cathedral history in French, but spoke slowly so we could understand her. We walked through the cathedral, enjoying it . . . curved apse, shades of Quimper! As we completed our tour, the sun came out and lighted the stained glass windows so the whole church glowed."
The tower was destroyed during World War II but has been beautifully restored. You will get your best photos from the chateau across the street and up the hill. Great view!
The botanical garden of Caen (Jardin botanique de Caen) is built on a terrain of an old stone quarry Caen. One side extraction is still visible. In the lower part is about 5,000 square meters big and hosts flora (1,000 species) typical to Normandy. There is also a medicinal garden with 600 plants; horticultural collections (700 varieties); trees, shrubs and conifers (500 species). The greenhouses and an orangery contain 1500 different plant species, including a banana, a coffee, a vanilla, a camphor, citrus, orchids, cacti, and the giant water lily from South America, Victoria cruziana.
The upper part of the gardens consists of a public park known for its mosaic cultures (including the famous butterfly emblem garden) and some remarkable trees such as Sophora japonica, dating from 1750, which is 10m high and 4.60 m in circumference; Sequoiadendron giganteum (from 1890, 35 m high), and Cryptomeria japonica (from 1870, 20 m high).
Beyond the garden's scientific (conservation, introduction, re-introduction of plant species), educational and cultural mission, the botanical garden provides a place to relax for children and families. There is a playground at the furthers concern of the upper part.
Guided tours for groups on request.
A disable parking space at the entrance of the park
Public Toilets accessible for people with disabilities
Wheelchairs available for use free of charge
The botanical garden is home to the city's green. It is the origin of "service gardens and plantations," the current "management of the environment and of life." It was created by Jean-Baptiste Callard Ducquerie who in 1689, brought together numerous plants in the garden. In 1803, after the French Revolution, the botanical garden became municipal, and grew by 3.5 hectares. Two large greenhouses were built in 1860, and an orangery was added later. The Botanical Institute was built in 1891. In the small adjacent greenhouse Noël Bernard , Normandian botanist, discovered the phenomenon of symbiosis with fungi of orchids.
the 1944 bombing destroyed the garden. Louis Bouket, director, undertook the restoration and reconstruction of buildings with the exception of the floor of the Orangerie. New exhibition greenhouses, dedicated to exotic plants, were reconstructed in 1988.
The award-winning plant collections
- Peperomia Conservatoire National in 1995, awarded by the French Conservatory of specialized plant collections (Association of the French Conservatory of Specialised Vegetable Collections CCVS).
- Approved "Botanical Garden of France" in 1997 by the Association of Botanical Gardens of France and francophone countries
- The Board of Directors of the CCVS awarded the label 'National Collection' to the garden's collections of Peperomia, and Rhipsalis Cryptanthus in 2002,.
Greenhouses are open every day from 1pm to 5pm. The garden itself is open daily. Free entry.
This museum is located in the heart of the Caen Castle (the medieval castle built by William the Conqueror) in a modern building. The museum has a selection of paintings from the 15th to 20th centuries. Lots of early arts is rather religious in kind. The museum is in fact one of the most important regional French museums, displaying a notable collection of French, Italian, Flemish and Dutch paintings originating from the 16th and 17th centuries, including Cosme Tura, Perugino, Veronese, Tintoretto, Guercino, Giordano, Poussin, Champaigne Rubens, Ruysdael.
The 18th century is represented through French and Italian portraits and landscapes (eg Rigaud, Headlands, Boucher, Lancret, Tiepolo) while the 19th century unfolds around romantic and realistic paintings by Géricault, Delacroix, Courbet and the Corot and the Barbizon landscapes. The Normandian landscape has functioned as inspiration for Monet (eg Etretat. La Manneporte, reflets sur l'eau (1885))., Boudin, Lebourg, Vuillard, Bonnard, Marquet, and Dufy.
The 20th century is characterised by French Cubism while contemporary period unfolds around themes such as allegory, space and light (Balthus, Joan Mitchell, Vieira da Silva, Rebeyrolle Debré, Pincemin, Sicilia, Neumann, and Barcelò). Some of this more contemporary stuff is rather disturbing, rather than pleasing and attractive to look at.
There is also an exceptional collection more than 50,000 prints owned by Mancel Foundation, presented in part in the temporary exhibitions (Callot, Dürer, Rembrandt, Tiepolo, Piranesi). Every year, the museum has a number of temporary exhibitions, which are sometimes displaying old art and contemporary painting, drawing, printmaking, photography.
The museum is open daily from 9.30am to 6pm, except Tuesday and Bank holidays. There is also a small (and rather uninteresting) sculpture park outdoors which is always accessible for public when the castle grounds are open.
There's the Castle, Built around 1060 by William the Conqueror to house his residential palace. One of the biggist in Europe. Became a millitary barracks.
Ramparts. Through the years have been repaired soooo many times and messed about with. Things move and get lost through time. But the dry moat still remains in the same place.
Let's not make ourselves guilty of discrimination. When one visits the Abbaye des Hommes (Men's Abbey), then also visit the Abbaye des Dames (Women's Abbey). On the other side of the city centre, a beautiful abbey is next to an even more beautiful church, the Sainte-Trinity. Here too the interior should be not left aside, however this time because often interesting expositions are held in the abbey.
Every abbey has it's church. In Caen the Abbaye des hommes (Men's abbey) has it's highlight in the Saint-Etienne, with it's towers rising high above the roofs of the houses in Caen. I just had to seperately mention this most extravagant part of the abbey in this tip.