As the gorgeous Miroir D’eau faded into the distance in our rearview mirror, Normandy was soon ahead of me.
I’ve totally skipped the part where I stopped in Nantes overnight in the above sentence, but to be honest except for eating way too much steak, finding a cool hippo cocktail stirrer and buying five boxes of Milka chocolate brownies (no I’m not joking) Nantes was pretty uneventful, and so onto Normandy I rode.
Normandy was the last stop on my French motorbike trip (minus the ferry port I went to afterwards to get home) and after riding through the picture-perfect villages with buildings synonymous with those you’d find in story books, I soon found myself in front of Omaha beach.
The exhaustion of a week spent riding from North to South and back North again had caught up with me so today was a day of taking it slow. After parking up the bike, wriggling off a few layers and then realising it was hella-cold and putting said layers back on, I walked towards the seafront, along the concrete edge and sat down on a patch of pathway where sand had blown over the barriers and settled, and stared out to sea.
Looking out and knowing that this, now sombre and peaceful, beach was once a part of history’s largest seaborne invasion was sobering. Knowing that where I sat was once the location of the invasions most intense battles was heartbreaking, and despite the beach laying virtually empty on the day we were there, you could almost hear the echoes of horror radiating through people’s minds as they thought back to the event that took place just 73 years ago.
As the wind blew through my hair and carried the sand into my crappy sandwich, I couldn’t help but reflect on how far we have come and appreciate all that I am able to do, when so many didn’t get to live through the days gone by.
Shortly after, I noticed that there was an array of vintage vehicles and planes passing by. Being naturally curious, I followed a convoy of vehicles to investigate.
It turns out that there was an event happening just a short distance away.
Every year, since 2007, for the anniversary of the allied landings of the 6th June 1944, D-day Festival Normandy has been offering an array of events where the tourist offices of the D-Day Landing Beaches showcase their areas at their best, and I was there on the weekend before the main event, but when the celebrations were taking place.
I didn’t attend the festivities, but I did take a stroll around the grounds to get a closer look at the vehicles. Partly because vintage vehicles are so visually appealling, but also because my crappy sand-wich (literally) had left me feeling rather peckish and I spied an ice-cream stand on the way in.
After purchasing a Lion Ice-cream at well above market value, I took a stroll around to get a closer look at the vehicles and take it all in. Everybody was dressed in full uniform. Veterans and soldiers alike conversed around the tables. Vintage packaging lay inside camp tents, and I just stood there watching it all, taking it in that an event which caused so much death, has became a place where people unite to celebrate life.
I hate war, and there will never be enough words to thank those who gave their lives so that we could live ours, but we can honour the sacrifice they made by ensuring that we live every second to the fullest <3