“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” – some inspirational meme on Facebook.
Oh, God. I certainly hope not. Because our journey to Normandy from Brussels bordered on torture. Brussels = nice. Normandy = nice. Journey ≠ nice. Things we learned:
- France has tolls. All the tolls. How much does each toll cost? You never know! It’s a surprise! Sometimes €3, sometimes €15! If you guess correctly you still have to pay.
- Take the proper exit. If you miss your exit there may not be another one for an hour (I’m not exaggerating) which means that you just added two hours to your trip. Yay!
- Bring food. There were very few places to stop in this part of France.
- Bring money for bathrooms at rest stops (we already knew this one because you pay for bathrooms in Germany too, but I figured to throw it in just in case you were not aware).
- Add an hour to anything Google Maps tells you. There’s always traffic somewhere. It was supposed to take five hours to get to Normandy. Add the hour and it’s six. Add the two hour detour and it’s now eight.
- Eight hours is too long for kids to be in a car.
Can we invent teleportation already? Or maybe the wizards can let us muggles in on their portkey travel. #nerdalert
Despite our not-so-fun day in the car, we did eventually make it to Normandy. While there we stayed at a campsite right across the street from the beach and it was awesome! They had bounce houses, a pool, a petting zoo, an arcade, pizzeria, nice showers and bathrooms, playground and of course you could just walk across the street to the beach!
Our first night there we pitched our tent, started dinner and explored the camp site. When I planned on camping I think I had imagined something a little more rustic than you get at European camp sites. All the camp sites we stayed at had some sort of restaurant or small convenient store. I had packed a cooler of camping food and brought a camp stove, but I really wish I would have just skipped all of that and got food locally. Even if the convenient store didn’t have what I wanted, we drove, and so we easily could have taken our car and gone into a town to a grocery store or a restaurant to eat. It would have saved us a lot of space in the car and time trying to cook food and wash dishes.
The other thing that we learned pretty quickly was that we should have tested our equipment ahead of time. As it turned out, our battery operated pump for our air mattress did not work. This meant we had to use a lot of lung power every time we moved camp sites. Perhaps if I weren’t pregnant at this time, or it we hadn’t just driven eight hours this might not have frustrated us so much, but as things were it made my husband and I very grumpy.
Once we realized and got over our mistakes, we really enjoyed Normandy. The kids had a blast at the campsite and the sea breezes kept it from being too hot. I love the ocean and, even though it was to windy and chilly to swim, listening to the waves and watching our kids run around on the beach as the sun set over the water is an experience that is hard to beat.
Our second and only full day in Normandy we went to go see Omaha beach and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. The whole coastline is speckled with memorials and monuments to those who fought on the beaches. It seems so peaceful and beautiful and without these large reminders jutting up out of the sandy shores, I’m sure it would be easy to just forget what happened in this location during WWII.
The American Cemetery contains the graves of men from the American Armed Forces, most of whom lost their lives on D-Day. It is a beautiful and somber place. There is a small museum which reviews WWII history and outlines the D-Day invasions. It really was worth the trip although I think this may have been better if our children were a little older as it was really hard for them to be quiet and respectful. After touring the historic sites we drove around and admired some of the small villages along the coast and made our way back to our campsite so the kids could play.
On our third day in Normandy we packed up and headed out toward Paris to go to Euro Disney. If we had more time in Normandy I would have loved to take a trip to Mont St. Michel. Oh well, now I have an excuse to go back again sometime!
Have you been to Normandy? What are your must sees in Northern France? Let me know in the comments below!