France May 2014: Pt 6 D Day and the Normandy beaches

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up in the free aire at Arromanches Les Bains. We’re parked up alongside over 20 hired motorhomes that seem to belong to the BBC however they are unoccupied, infact – nosey pants here had a good look through the window of one (or five!!) earlier and the beds aren’t even made up? We’ve been told by the tourist office that the aire is closed until 10th June, but bearing in mind we’d already driven onto it, parked, had lunch and a wander by the time we found this out, plus there are 3 other non BBC vans here, we’ve decided to be brave and stick it out here. The security van has just done a round and seems happy for us to be here so that’s good enough for us! 20140529-214315-78195771.jpg
There’s not much breathing room in the spaces here, but it is free!

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Our neighbours- 20 odd hired motorhomes belonging to the BBC – although no one seems to be staying in them!!

Today we had a contemplative but pleasant drive along the Normandy coast, passing the pretty Courseuilles sur Mer, Deuville and Trouville. We’ve done this tour before ( read here ) but never made it Site Hillman, so that was our first stop today.

Site Hillman was given the code name HILLMAN by the Allies, and consisted of 18 concrete bunkers buried 4m deep and linked by tunnels. It was surrounded by minefields and barbed wire, and was defended by guns, machine guns, and armoured gun posts. On 6th June, the 1st Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment captured Hillman and the bunkers seem to have been untouched since.

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the entrance to Site Hillman

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It’s free to visit Hillman, and is very interesting, if not eerie! There are info boards dotted about – I’d highly recommend it as a place to visit

After our Hillman visit, we carried on to Arromanches as we were concerned that there are only 19 spaces on the aire there and didn’t want to not get a space! As it happened, we bagged the last space, so celebrated with lunch and a stubby. By this time, I’d noticed all the other motorhomes had BBC signs on the dashboard, and were infact hire vans, but we put it down to prep for all the coverage from here next week. Still not sure why they are in motorhomes and not hotels though!!

We got soaked on our initial walk into town, and had to retreat back to Bluebell for our waterproofs. It was then that we noticed the no access sign blocking the aire. This definitely wasn’t there when we drove in as we wouldn’t have been able to get by it. Still undetered, and suitably dressed in waterproofs, of course the sun came out as we returned into town. Nosey Norris aka me, went I to ask about the aire at the tourist office, where I was told it was closed til 10th June! :-/ I decided to keep quiet that we were infact parked in the aire and we carried on up to Port Winston via the free shuttle train!

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Soldiers patrolling the beach here at Arromanches – one of the anniversary events

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the view of Arromanches from the 360 degree cinema

After a good look around and soak up of the very busy atmosphere, plus a purchase of a couple of new stickers, we opted for crepes and a vin rouge which was delicious and then headed back to Bluebell. We’ve got an excellent internet Fon signal here thanks to motorhome wifi. After dinner we enjoyed an evening stroll into the town, which was more enjoyable as it was far less busy than earlier today. As much as we’ve enjoyed revisiting, the huge crowds were off putting- but seeing as this is one of the key sites of the Landing beaches, a week before D Day it’s hardly surprising.

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Next week, we’ve heard there is lots planned for the D Day anniversary itself- Chris Evans brings his Breakfast show here on Friday morning, there is a big concert and even a Prince William and Kate will be here. So no doubt they are already beginning the preparations and tightening security.

Once the anniversary celebrations are over, be sure to visit Arromanches if you haven’t already- seeing the remains of the landing platforms in the sea is really a humbling sight.

One final thought for tonight…

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Until next time
Lx

France, May 2014 PT 5 Honfluer

Wednesday:

Bluebell the motorhome feels like the poor country cousin! She’s parked up in the official motorhome aire at our beloved Honfleur, along with over 240 other motorhomes. It’s like the forecourt of Brownhills!! There are motorhomes in all different shapes and sizes here, occupying the 240 official spaces, and seeping out into the surrounding lane and squashed into corners. We’re fairly confident that we could leave our door wide open and not get burgled (although don’t think we will try!) there are some SERIOUSLY swish vans here, including my personal favourite- a very fancy looking RV with 4 pop out sides, smart car garage and the front looks like an articulated lorry front, rather than a bus! Seriously cool, and worth a fortune I would guess!!

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a jam packed aire!

This is our 4th visit to Honfleur (you can read about the others here, here and here) and we think the €10 for 24 hrs overnight parking including services and electric is worth every single penny. Clearly other people share our thoughts as we’ve never seen this aire so busy! The aire is situated 5 mins walk away from the picture perfect harbour, that is lined with tall historical buildings, all painted in different colours, and overlooking the sailing boats moored in the small square harbour. There are oodles of restaurants, art galleries, regional produce shops and cafés dotted along the way, all of which we’ve enjoyed before, and I am sure we will do so again next time- however today we chose a happy stroll through town for a couple of hours in the drizzle, nosing in gallery windows picking out the paintings we would buy if we were rich, and enjoying the atmosphere of everyone else spending their money! We’re not being tight – but we are being careful with pennies this time round with our wedding this time next year. 🙂

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gorgeous harbour here at Honfleur

One expense we did sort today was Jazz’s return to England vets trip. This time last year we stopped here to sort the same thing out, and our visit to Honfleur was with the same intention this time. You can easily travel to France with your dog(s) now, providing they have had their rabies jab and have their own pet passport. To re enter the UK you need to take your pet to a vet 5 days – 24 hrs before you intend on travelling home, and the vet will administer the pooch with a tapeworm tablet or injection, stamp their passport and charge you a princely sum for the privilege. Today we admit, we got stung €43- however in the end we outweighed the convenience with trying to find the best deal- the vet could see Jazz there and then, so we didn’t need to make an appointment for a future time/day, plus the vet was opposite the aire so we didn’t need to move Bluebell to get Jazz there. Also the vet spoke very good English- I am capable of making an appointment in French and some basic conversation during the appointment itself, but obviously if the vet speaks English it does make the whole experience slightly more stress free. 🙂

One other note for today- we’ve been very impressed with our Motorhome Wifi and Fon set up so far on this trip. It’s the first time we’ve tried it in France, and I was curious as I had read some conflicting reviews of its performance in France. We’ve only dug it out 3 times, but every time we’ve found an SFR PUBLIC WIFI FON within range and therefore entered our FON login and hey presto, we’re online! This has saved us some pennies (again, don’t mean to sound tight!) as usually we’re forced (!!) to drink in bars after a couple of days just to check emails (being self employed, as much as we’d like to switch of for 10 days in reality we can’t)

So there we have our day, money saving but soaking up the atmosphere none the less and having a really great time. Tomorrow we’re continuing south or is it west?! towards the WW2 landing beaches.

If you’ve never travelled to Honfleur before, be it in a motorhome or not, we would seriously seriously recommend coming here. It’s a beautiful place, and if you worked your ferry/tunnel crossings wisely, we think you could make it here on a long weekend trip easy peasy. It’s 3.5 hours from Calais on the payage. What are you waiting for?

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Until next time

Lx