Guest post by sl171302
Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.
We started out our trip from a friend’s house located in Krofdorf-Gleiberg, north of Frankfurt am Main, Germany. We had about 4.5 days to make our way over to Normandie and back through Brussels. We had rented a car, so we could leave at our leisure.
Day 1: Normandie, France
- Pont de Normandie
- Omaha Beach
- Normandy American Cemetery
Our first stop on the route was in Belgium, but was for petrol, so not a major stop…just wanted to point out a couple of things:
Gas is expensive in Europe, be prepared. But – it’s still not as expensive as the train can sometimes be; consider the possibilities of venturing off the beaten track
We were able to pick up some delicious sour beer (rare to find in the States, and also, not as a to-go beverage), and a quick, cheap lunch of sandwiches, chips and tea/soda at the gas station
Our second stop wasn’t really a stop; it was more of a sight along the way. We made our way across the A29 through northern France – which most major roadways are toll roads, so bring cash as the coin lines through the toll booths go quicker than the few booths that accept card. Be sure to bring a cc that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, or stops like the toll booths will add up quickly!
We made our way to Honfleur, France and were greeted with an amazing view of Pont de Normadie as we crossed the delta of the Seine river. Even though it was early afternoon, it was very foggy and Pont de Normandie rose before us seemingly out of the clouds as we crossed it!
On our third stop to Omaha Beach – we realized there isn’t much to see at this D-Day site: a small museum, monument and commemorative sculpture in the sand. It’s best to set up a private tour (which we did not do) if you are interested in learning and experiencing the major historical points of interest along the beach.
Our fourth stop to the American Cemetery was an incredible and moving site to see. Nearly 10,000 white marble crosses and Stars of David mark the ultimate sacrifices of our soldiers. Even more touching was witnessing taps at the end of the day as they removed the US Flag.
We found a B&B in Bayeux for a reasonable rate (60 EUR for a double, private bath, shared kitchen) and would recommend them: Aggarthi B&B http://www.bandbbayeux.com/ Bayeux is a beautiful city, is very walkable and has some amazing restaurants. We wish we could have spent more than just our evenings there.
Day 2: Normandie, France
- Mont Saint-Michel
- Pointe du Hoc
- L’Angle Saint Laurent
We left Bayeux in the morning after getting detailed route directions from the B&B owner.
The island and town of Mont-St-Michel is a World Heritage Site and is well worth the trip and trouble to see. They have taken great efforts to preserve the site as an island, so park in the marked lots (paid) and take the bush (free) across the causeway. Allow at least a half-day here and bring your lunch/drink if at all possible, restaurants on the island are EXPENSIVE. We didn’t take the time to go into Mont Saint Michel abbey – although I wish we could have. I recommend bringing your camera, a notebook and your walking shoes. It’s such a great wandering town, so be prepared to get lost – in your own thoughts.
We stopped at Saint-Mére-Eglise for a quick lunch. We were informed the Airborne Museum located there was pretty amazing. But since we were short on daylight decided to skip the museum.
Pointe du Hoc was, by-far, the highlight of our trip. Without overloading you with history, I’ll summarize: this was where the Army Rangers were sent on D-Day as it was the most critical point along the Normandie coast for the American soldiers to take since it had visibility towards both the east (towards Omaha Beach) and west (towards Utah Beach). The grounds here are meant for exploring with small placards and signage throughout. The feeling and site here are incredible. We even met a 98 year-old British Soldier who stormed Gold Beach all those years ago. It was his first time back and had some advice only age and experience can give – we asked him how he was doing today, if it was hard for him. He said to us: “Today? Today is a bonus day. Every day since D-Day has been a bonus day.”
We stayed again in Bayeux and had the most amazing meal at L’Angle Saint Laurent (http://www.langlesaintlaurent.com/). The waitress spoke English, was patient with us and served us one of the best meals of our lives.
Day 3: Domaine Familial Louis Dupont, France
We departed from Bayeux and headed west towards Brussels. We drove through the Route de Cidre hoping to try some of France’s best apple & pear ciders and calvados.
We didn’t plan on having lunch right away – it’s just that all French stores/cider mills/wineries/etc. close from 12:00-2:00pm for lunch, without fail. So we had to find something to do.
Le Domaine Dupont was a phenomenal cider mill with a very friendly tasting room staff. We were served by the owner’s son who was pleasant, spoke great English and encouraged us to try their varying vintages of cider and calvados – even though he knew we weren’t able to buy much due to travel and weight restrictions. He also encouraged us to have a look at their cider press and operation since they were nearing the end of their harvest, but were still hard at work. Great place: http://www.calvados-dupont.com/ and even better – we discovered we can buy 2 of their varieties at our local Whole Foods.
Since it was late, we went straight to the hotel in Brussels, checked-in and then went in search of food. We found a great, albeit expensive, pub with local food and the biggest beer selection we could ask for!
Day 4: Belgium
- Brasserie Cantillon
We explored Brussels a little before heading out of the city to meet up with some friends.
Cantillon is an unassuming brewery, located in a sketchy part of town, but don’t let that deter you. The old family-run brewery pumps out some of the best wild fermented sour beers in the world – which is mostly due to their unique location that contributes to the open-air wild fermentation. When visiting this brewery, forget everything you know about traditional beer – sour beers are tart and refreshing so even non-beer drinkers may like it. We paid about 7 EUR each for a self-guided tour with a brochure to explain (several languages available). Advance group tours are the only other kind offered. We pretty much had free reign throughout to explore. The price also includes a couple of tastings too. Afterwards you have the option to purchase bottles http://www.cantillon.be/br/3_1
Atomium is a strange museum in the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. We didn’t go inside; we just explored around and sat on a bench to eat our lunch. Even the Belgians didn’t recommend going inside, they said the museum is a tribute to how it was constructed rather than anything science-related.
We met up with some friends who live in Hasselt. We stayed at a hotel downtown and were able to walk wherever we needed to go. We had a great dinner at a friendly restaurant where the waiters spoke English – and if they didn’t – they still tried to be helpful. Great food, wine and wonderful company, couldn’t have asked for a better evening.
Day 5: Drive back to Krofdorf-Gleiberg, Germany
First and last stop. It took us about 3 hours to make our way from Hasselt back to Krofdorf-Gleiberg. The scenery was beautiful.
Traveled in November 2015