Blue skies and sunshine provided us a perfect day on our trip to Katwijk. A popular seaside destination for Dutchies looking for sand between their toes and a dip in the sea. Unlike Scheveningen, which is very touristic within the summer period, Katwijk has the neighbourly feeling of only Dutchies and locals.
Our long weekend was rather spontaneously booked 2/3 weeks before we went. I first wanted to surprise my partner to visit there as he’s wanted to go for a long time to visit all the museums and learn more of the history of WW2. Well, I tried keeping it a surprise until he borrowed my laptop that had open my Trip Advisor account showing places to visit!! However it was good that he found out really, as we could both plan exactly what we want to see and do.
We reserved a car from Europcar, booked the beautiful Le Clos Saint Jean B&B and had a full list of museums, memorials and places to walk planned for our weekend. Driving from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Bayeux, France took us roughly 6.5 hours, not including our lunch stop, but it was a good drive with only one traffic jam of 30mins.
We arrived by the late afternoon, greeted by an amazing couple who had been running the B&B only for 3 months. They recommended that we walk along from the little stoney beach thats only 400m from the B&B to Omaha beach while the tide is out, and back along the bike path at the top of the cliff. It was a lovely 1 hour walk to do before settling in for the evening. It was cool and uncool at the same time to walk there, knowing so many people, most younger than us, had died there.
Check out the links below of how our itinerary filled our long weekend!
Day One – 360 Museum, D-Day Museum De Debarquement, Pegasus Bridge museum & Arromanche.
Day Two – Pointe Du Hoc, La Combe German Cemetery, American Cemetery & Memorial, the Overlord Museum & Bayeux.
Day Three – The Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, British War Cemetery, Bayeux Tapestry Museum, 1944 Radar Museum & the Longues-sur-Mer battery.
Day Four – Leaving the B&B to drive back home via the Fortress of Mimoyecques & La Coupole.
An early checkout at the B&B meant that we had a good head start on getting back to the Netherlands with plenty of time before needing to check the rented car back in. We decided to drive towards Calais as we had discovered some hidden underground places to visit. They are classed as ‘dark tourism’ so we were interested! It was 3 hours into our 6 hour drive so a great time to stop and stretch our legs too!
Luckily with no traffic on the motorway and a little detour through the Caps et Marais d’Opale Natural Regional Park we arrived at our first destination of the day, the Fortress of Mimoyecques, once an underground world of workers that was the launch base of V-2 Rockets, which would of been sent to bomb London, UK. From the sunny 28°c outside we explored the 10°c tunnels inside. It was cold, dark and a little creepy, since we were the only ones in it for a while! Though very interesting to see what was planned here during the war, and how they managed to keep it a secret for so long from spying enemy planes. Well worth a read on the link and a visit if you are in the area!
The second destination was something a little similar, with underground tunnels and the perfect hideout for the R&D and manufacturing process of rockets, which again of would been used against London, UK if they weren’t stopped in time. Hidden under a concrete dome is the La Coupole. You follow the cold tunnels through to the lift, which takes you to the main part of the museum under the dome. Here you have two really interesting videos about the V2 rockets and how people were treated who worked and lived in the tunnels. You are provided with so much information via the audio headset, so it’s understandable to hear about the history as you look at the recovered artefacts . It’s a place you can spend the whole afternoon at. Definitely recommended to visit!
Our visit to Normandy was short but packed with knowledge! We recommend the Le Clos Saint Jean to stay if you have a car as it is perfect location to travel to and from for visiting the northern coast between Carentan and Cabourg. The rooms are a good size (we had one with private bathroom) and the served breakfasts are delicious. They included fresh bread and cheeses, different fruit salads, jams and fresh juices made straight from their garden. My favourite was their homemade brioche bread with freshly crushed raspberries to pour the juice over the top, delicious! Good luck to the owners Caroline and her husband who only started running it in late 2016.
Click here to go back to the start of our Normandy trip!
Bayeux was at the top of our list on the third day, visiting the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, however after visiting all the other museums it felt a little double reading similar stories and the same photographs. It was all beautifully displayed and the video really put everything together, so we felt it was still worth the visit!
The third cemetery we visited was the British War Cemetery, close to the Bayeux memorial museum. Each grave was also perfectly lined up as the American cemetery, but with flowers surrounding them. I found it more touching to see and walk around, maybe because I knew they were British like I had a connection. Poppy wreaths were still on the memorial monument since the 72nd Anniversary was only a month and a half before we visited.
After some lunch we visited the Bayeux Tapestry Museum, something that I remembered visiting when I was younger. The 70 meter long cloth embroidered with the story of William the Conqueror and the October 14th, 1066 Battle of Hastings. I really enjoyed this museum visit and really appreciate seeing how much time and effort has gone into telling each chapter of the story in embroidery.
Taking a detour back to our B&B for a pause we stopped at a little 1944 Radar Museum that we found on the way as it was rather off track from the main roads. The museum had a collection of different radars and antennas that were used by the Germans for things like detecting the enemies, as well as a bunker that you can enter that is three levels deep. The bunker explained perfectly what each room would of been used for, and had a mock up of what the sleeping area would of been like. The radar below, called the Würzburg, is one of the three surviving Würzburgs in the world. Unfortunately this one had broken away from the base.
Lastly before dinner we stopped at the Longues-sur-Mer battery, an open area with four bunkers in a row that had 4 navy guns, two that had been bombed to pieces and two that had not been hit from the bombings. They were placed strategically to see the coast for oncoming ships.
Check out Day Four here!
The cloudy morning turned to sunshine as we had reached our first destination of the day, Pointe Du Hoc. Free to get in we walked past through to the viewpoints of the bunkers and monument. Amazing to see the view and how far along the coast you can see, how the Germans positioned themselves during the war. Here you could also experience the damaged bunkers (could go in a few) and the massive holes in the ground left behind from the bombs.
We took the drive from Pointe Du Hoc to Carentan, in search of a place for lunch and our next destination the La Combe German Cemetery. It wasn’t very advertised with road signs so we had to use the sat nav and address, obviously not a place the French like to advertise. How strange it was to be walking among 22,000 graves of German soldiers, many of them aged between 16 to 22. Most graves consisted of two people, with too many that were unknown with no name.
Keeping other cemeteries in mind, we headed next to the American Cemetery & Memorial, which was the complete opposite of the German cemetery. This place seemed the busiest out of all of our chosen museums and places we visited during the weekend. The American cemetery is close to Omaha beach where most American soldiers lost their lives. The cemetery is filled with perfectly lined white crosses with one grave per soldier. It was all very touching with different graves having flowers placed in respect.
The last museum on our list was the Overlord Museum. Greeted with original tanks situated outside we went in and looked at the big collection of items from June 6th, 1944. There was some interesting personal items and stories of witnesses and soldiers throughout the museum and compelling to see items like a tank full of bullet holes.
We finished the day with a dinner in Bayeux followed by a long walk around the beautiful city. Couldn’t resist a nutella pancake for pudding too!
Check out Day Three here!