Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

jleonard
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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:59 am

We also visited Arromanche during the trip.... a neat story that.

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Basically during the planning leading up to D day, it was realized that the landings would need enormous material support (food, ammunition, vehicles, etc). Capturing some of the heavily fortified harbours was likely to be a lengthy process (and they might not be functional immediately even after capture) - so the allieds did things.... a little differently.

They built a portable harbour.

They built floating units - out of concrete - complete with cranes, antiaircraft, docking faciltities, etc.... and towed the entire thing across the channel to arromanche.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLMJM_vBtuM

They went from a section of beach to a full fledged harbour with hundreds of ships coming and going in something like 48 hours. (Harbours often take years to build normally.)

Even now, much of the breakwater and several sections of the harbour units are still visible. You can also find out some of the story about the whole thing in the museum there. (Though it is just a wee bit.... touristy.)

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There's even a carousel... and almost a "D-day carnival" atmosphere..... a bit surreal really.

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jleonard
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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:59 am

The last thing I'll mention.... the farmers market in Bayeaux. Many of the villages and towns in France have markets (just as we do, but they do it better if you ask me.)

The food at the market still makes me hungry every time I think of it....

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Mind you, some of the food was a little too fresh for me....

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I also picked up a few other items.... they had everything from product to paintball gear. Knives, jewellery, shoes, belts.. it really was quite a lot to see.

jleonard
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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:00 am

We also visited the Juno beach centre.... a museum built where the canadians landed on D day. (The french government ceded the land to Canada for the centre.)

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We visited a German bunker used for communications and coordination at the centre (they do tours.)

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This is inside... looking up at where the perescope used to be (to survey the beach without risking the soldier inside the bunker)

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The pilots were there for another ceremony (the press even showed up for this one, and speeches were given.) They'd (last trip) donated a typhoon model to the centre, and this was partly in recognition of that.

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jleonard
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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:00 am

Ok... finally... last little bit of this report.

We visited the Pegasus Bridge museum while in Normandy.

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This was a bridge that was considered vital to be captured - intact - on D day. The plan was for troops to capture it, and hold it until forces from the beach landings could come up and reinforce.
(Some of you may remember the movie "The Longest Day" which includes scenes involving this bridge.)

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For the troops landing here it wouldn't be a parachute drop. Nor a beach landing. Instead, they'd be landing in wood and canvas gliders... one use vehicles, basically designed to crash land.
(Here's the inside of a fuselage section of an original glider)

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Personally, I don't know how enthusiastic I would be about getting into an aircraft built largely by carpenters, then towed across the channel, then crash landed into a field.

They did manage to capture the bridge intact - apparently catching the local german guards asleep in their beds. (Fortunately, as the bridge was mined with explosives.) Today the original bridge has been moved to the museum, and a larger one (though deliberately built in the same style, in honour of these events.)

We got the "VIP" tour, with the pilots and my grandmother (and us as part of the "entourage") getting to sit inside the glider replica.

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jleonard
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Re: Between Earth and Sky: Riding through Provence, France

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:01 am

So thats it... the trip report (ever so slowly posted I know) is done.

For final thoughts... the trip was more than just a vacation.

It was a trip into family history.... standing in places where my grandfathers had walked in harm's way.

It was a chance to eat bread and olive oil.... in an olive grove which had been farmed continously for hundreds of years.

It was an opportunity to walk among Roman ruins.... medieval castles.... and feel the weight of history.

We'll definitely be back there someday. I'm not even sure we entirely left.

Oh and just to be appropriate.....

FIN

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