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It's no exaggeration to say that Europe is home to hundreds of destinations that have the power to dazzle you and thousands more must-see sights that can move you. Going to cities like Paris, Rome and London. Seeing bucolic regions like Tuscany & Provence or the The Alps. Laying your eyes on landmarks like the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, the Acropolis, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Stonehenge, the Berlin Wall and La Sagrada Familia. They are just the tiniest tip of the iceberg of European experiences that have the power to stir emotion and leave a lasting impression on you, but you'd need a lifetime to see them all, so you have to pick and choose when deciding on where to go and what to see in Europe. There's one place that sits in a category of its own that everyone should see once in their lifetime: Normandy, France.
(Photo Credit: Collette Vacations)
The acts of courage that took place on the beaches there in June of 1944 forever changed the course of history. In fact, if it wasn't for the heroes who landed here to begin the liberation of Europe from fascism during World War II, who knows if any of us would even be sitting here today with the freedom to take a European vacation. As we commemorate the 79th anniversary of D-Day this June 6, take a moment to think of what it must have been like to storm the beach on that morning knowing there was a very real chance you had just seen your last sunrise. Then, make plans to get to Normandy on your next trip to Europe to pay your respects. Walk on the landing beaches of Omaha, Utah, Sword, Juno and Gold, which all have a unique story to tell (Omaha and Utah were the primary landing spots for American troops). Pause at the moving memorials on the sand and contemplate what that beach must have looked like that particular morning and contrast it to the serene scenes before you. Visit the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach and see where nearly 10,000 troops have been laid to rest. Walk among the stark white gravestones and contemplate their collective sacrifice. Stroll along Pointe du Hoc overlooking both Omaha and Utah beaches where German gun batteries once rang out with fire but now sit eerily quiet. Experience the Caen Memorial Museum to learn about all aspects of the war, from its causes to its conclusion. Or see the countless other memorials and sights with connections to D-Day and the subsequent Battle of Normandy.
The beaches at Normandy were the site of the Allies' D-Day landing 75 years ago. (Photo Credit: Collette Vacations)
It doesn't really matter exactly what you do & see, just go to Normandy and give thanks in person to the people who sacrificed so much for the victory effort that led to our comparatively comfortable and prosperous modern world. Full discolsure, I haven’t made it to Normandy yet, but I promise you I'll make it there one day though and I implore you to join me in putting it near the top of your European bucket list, too. And there's no better time than now to start planning as the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2024 would be the perfect excuse to make the trip. And you never know, you still may have time to personally say thank you to some veterans of the D-Day Landings who often attend anniversary ceremonies, but are certainly running short as most are now in their late 90s.
Born in the USA but now based in England, Scott has been writing about travel for over 10 years. He specializes in Europe, rail...
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