Weather cool and bright, a fair wind and clouds blowing briskly. After breakfast set off for Coutances which we reached at about 10.15 and did some shopping – super food shops there and quite difficult to make a choice. Bought some cooked veal and cooked pork and a quiche lorraine at a charcuterie, then went on to the abbey. This was really beautiful, pale stone, Gothic, very light and airy with an octagonal tower and some lovely glass. None of the nasty oppressive darkness you often get, and the whole atmosphere was just right. Somehow it had escaped the bombing, though they obviously lost some glass.
Afterwards bought stamps and some Normandy stickers and located the fish market – an oval building full of delicious smells and equally delicious fish. Bought 15 fresh sardines and some prawns, much of the food quality fish is a terrifying price. Also got a kilo of peaches. We liked Coutances – it is a very attractive little hill top town, dominated by the great abbey.
Drove on to Lessay, a small place with a Romanesque Abbey, very plain and solid in pale golden stone, with great square pillars and windows of pale modern glass in interlacing patterns. The children thought it too plain but thought it was lovely. Did some more shopping and then drove on to Carteret, a little port where the boats for Jersey leave. Bought some frites and then parked ourselves on an enormous golden beach overlooking Jersey which must have been about 5 miles off. Only drawback was the strong wind which blew a lot of sand about. The cooked meats were delicious, and the quiche, and we managed to open our bottle of wine by pushing the cork in (not having our corkscrew!). Finished up with juicy peaches. Gareth collected some shells including some little cowries.
Went on to Cherbourg and finally located the museum up on the Fort du Roule overlooking the town. This was a German defence, captured by the Americans and now full of interesting exhibits. Lots of maps showing the D-Day landings and German retreat, and a great many guns, flags, uniforms, photos, etc. All of us found it fascinating, there was so much to look at. Down in the French room there was an urn of ashes from the concentration camps, a very sobering reminder; children were quite subdued.
Down the hairpin bends and on to Barfleur, a fishing village on the east of the peninsula and very pretty. Then on down the sandy coast to St Vaast la Hougue, another oyster centre, and on to Utah Beach. This is an immense beach with sand dunes backing it, and the museum is at the southern end in a former German blockhouse. Around it are tanks, guns, landing craft, etc. ecstasy from the boys! Fortunately the museum was open till 7pm (it was then 6.0) so in we went. Again lots of maps, guns, photos telling the story – over 800,000 men were landed here as it went on being the main arrival and departure point after the first landings, and was used a great deal in connection with Cherbourg. Saw a film with narration by a German soldier who had been on duty in the blockhouse, and an American who had been amongst the first to land. The went up into the actual blockhouse and saw several dioramas of the landings – it must have been a tremendous operation, with the sand, the flooded marshes behind, and the vast numbers involved. Saw the war memorial, and then drove on along the Liberation route to Carentan. From here we went home via Coutances.
Cooked the fresh sardines in butter, parsley and lemon juice, had a bottle of white wine and a tomato salad with them and enjoyed the result very much. Another late meal of course, but enjoyed all the more when we got it! Went to bed fairly exhausted after a very interesting day.