Travels

Bayeux and beyond.

Wednesday 29 May 2109

Quite a day, and busier than planned.

Bayeux is about half an hour from Caen and twenty minutes from the coast. Unlike Caen, which took a month to liberate and was significantly damaged, Bayeux was liberated in days, with very little resistance. As such, it’s as it was, a small town with narrow streets.

Obviously, you don’t visit Bayeux without visiting the cathedral.

It dominates the small town, the union flags flying in readiness for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Inside, it looks like a cathedral.

Of course, you don’t visit Bayeux without visiting the museum and art gallery. Set in the former bishop’s palace,

it has had a modern refurbishment.

All very nicely presented. Bayeux is famous for its lace. The collection was just a bit dull for my taste.

One wouldn’t go to Bayeux without visiting the cemetery.

Although Bayeux saw little action, it was the first French town of any size to be liberated. Many died in fighting nearby, and others of their wounds in hospitals in the area. It has over 4000 graves and is the biggest WW2 cemetery on French soil.

An inscription on the memorial translates as, “Once conquered by William, today we liberate the Conqueror’s native land.”

I returned to the van for lunch and rather than stay the night, having seen all I wanted to see, I headed to the coast, and Longues-sur-mer. There on the cliffs stand the only German gun battery that has been preserved intact,

four guns and their command post.

They overlook Gold beach, the middle of the five D-Day beaches and the second British beach, the other being Sword.

From the cliffs can be seen the remains of the Mulberry port, the concrete pontoons put in place in the days after D-Day to keep the invasion going with equipment and supplies until the continental ports were captured.

They arc around the bay, and some stand on the beach of the town of Arromanches-les-Bains.

In 100 days, 220,000 men, 39,000 vehicles and 530,000 tons of supplies were landed. The town’s main industry is now D-Day.

I’m parked on the cliffs with a dozen or more other vans overlooking the sea.

It’s turned a bit drizzly but not a bad end to a busy day.

And, of course, I didn’t visit Bayeux without seeing the tapestry. It’s fantastic. 70 metres long and about 50cm wide, it took about 20 minutes to see the whole thing. It’s cleverly presented. You are given an audio guide as you go in. It takes you through the 70 or so scenes at a pace that gives plenty of time to examine each scene but which keeps the audience moving. Nicely done.

It’s a chronological strip telling the history of William’s road to the crown of England. It’s amazing that it has survived almost a thousand years, it has been used and abused. See Wikipedia.

I was surprised to read that it might be loaned to the UK in 2020 given that it’s so precious and fragile, and is the biggest draw to Bayeux. I can’t see it happening, but it’s worth seeing if it does.

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