So Monday was my first day on the road. I drove from Paris to Caen. The highways here are excellent! The speed limit is 130 km/h which is nice ultimately too fast for the KLR as it burns oil quite quickly at those RPM’s and the vibration of the thumper is quite annoying. The commute goes well with only one minor incident. I was scooting along at 120 km/h in traffic when all of a sudden I see something blue fly up from under the car in front of me. Being surrounded by traffic I have nowhere to go so I will bare the impact of this road debris. As I approach it I realize it is a road sign (I can see the lettering but couldn’t tell you where.) The sign hits the front light and fairing and works its way up my right arm and helmet. Thankfully it is a corrugated plastic sign and not metal so there is no damage to the bike or myself.
On the way in to Caen I divert to take a trip to Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetary where the fiancé of my great aunt is buried.
Tuesday I go to a sporting good store to try and find 1L liquid camping fuel bottles but they don’t carry them (or at least not as far as my Franglais can discern) so I end up with water bottles to replace my oil containers that despite being empty have been confiscated by Air Canada as dangerous goods for shipment. Armed with my new “oil” bottles I head over to Carrefour, which I’ve been lead to believe is like Walmart to buy oil. No luck, fortunately I meet a motorcyclist out front who points me in the direction of Mary Moto. It is a large complex of Motorcycle dealerships that has all sorts of bike brands. I find the Kawasaki dealership and manage to Franglais myself some oil and chain lube which I also needed.
On my way to the motorcycle shop I go into the historic centre of Caen to see Chateau du Caen which William the Conqueror built. It is massive an hard to take a picture that encompasses that.
After running around I head toward the beaches. The first one (and also as a Canadian, the most relevant) is Juno. I find out the 16:30 tours don’t run in September so I will have to come back the next day. Given this information I decide I will spend the rest of the afternoon riding the coast and around the countryside.
From Juno beach I head west along the coast. At one point I pass a cyclist and notice him waving wildly afterwards. I think to myself I didn’t pass that close what are you upset about. I pull off at the cliff above Arromanches to view what remains of the Mulberry Harbour. The Mulberry harbour was used to bring men and materials in to support the invasion of Normandy as no natural harbours were captured on D-Day.
After taking pictures and heading back to the bike, the bicyclist has now caught up to me where he explains that he saw my license plate and knew he had to talk to me as he is also from Vancouver. He was bicycling from Brest to Caen and almost at the end of his trip.
I spend the rest of the afternoon riding through the rolling farmland of Normandy. The land isn’t laid out in a grid system so the roads wind there way through the land. Even the farm access roads are paved and have a speed limit of 90km/h, they are nice to travel on as there is little traffic other than the odd tractor.
On Wednesday I went to Pointe-du-Hoc and investigated what remains of the German gun emplacement. This is one of the best preserved sites in Normandy. Unlike elsewhere it has not had the bomb craters filled and looks very similar to how it would have on June 6, 1944.
on D-Day U.S. Army Rangers scaled the cliffs here to take out the gun emplacements. The guns were not in their hardened emplacements yet so the emplacements were only damaged by the naval bombardment not subsequent fighting so they are in decent condition.
The guns were later found and destroyed in the forest.
After Pointe-du-Hoc, I visited the Overlord Museum. It has the best collection of equipment from World War II of the museums I went to.
I then went to Juno Beach Centre which focuses on the Canadian involvement in World War II. They have dug two bunkers out from the dune (HQ and an Observation Post) and I took a tour of them at the same time.
Cramming as much into this day as possible I visit the Radar Museum last. While it is a small museum they have a number of interesting taped interviews with locals who were there during D-Day and there experiences during the occupation and liberation of Normandy.
On Wednesday I go to the Memorial Museum in Caen. It primarily contains artifacts from World War II in general but also has exhibits on the Cold War as it focuses on using history as tool to prevent violence in the future.