Sunday, 29 May 2011

60 Disneyland and Normandy

Tuesday 17th
Today was a very long 500km drive to just outside Paris where we stopped in an Aires near to Disneyland.
Wednesday 18th
An early start and we drove the 20km to Disneyland. We found an area to park motorhomes up at the park and jumped on the travelator into the centre of the park. Disney land is now divided into two parks. One is the conventional wonderland type bit and the other, newer bit is dedicated to the movie side of things. We visited the movie bit first.
Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse
 The first thing we went on was “The Hollywood Tower Hotel”. In this the scenario is the lift system malfunctioning in the hotel and visitors sit in groups of about 15 and get thrown about as if in a possessed lift. There was a warning about losing breakfast and it was not without foundation. It was brilliant. 
The “Tower”
 Then we went on a wander around and saw some special effects vehicles and the like.
The drilling buggy in “Armageddon”. It has a Humvee chassis at its core.

Karen singing in the rain...
A petrol tanker exploding in “Earthquake”.

Then the flood came and put the tanker out.
A London scene from “Dinotopia”. We’ve not seen this one.

We then moved on to the main wonderland park.
The parade.

“WALL-E” from the film of the same name.

The “Pirates” section was my favourite.

Fantastic...The Galleon.

We wandered around for a couple more hours and stopped for a bit of grub in the pirates restaurant. It was crap, I had swordfish, expecting something that might resemble that it had once swam the seven seas, unfortunately it was more like it was the skin of a beast that spent all its life eating grass and destroying the ozone layer.
With our legs giving out we headed back to Lizzy and set off for a 400km drive to Arromanches and the D-Day landing beaches. We arrived very late and knackered and parked up in a car park above Arromanches, overlooking the famous Mulberry Hartbour.

Thursday 19th
The next day we were awoken by the car park attendant who wanted 5 euros and a punch in the head for disturbing our slumber. Lucky guy only got the 5 euros.
We sorted ourselves out and walked down the hill and into the village of Arromanches. It was very pretty with French and British flags lining the streets. It was obvious that they liked us here.
Arromanches and the bay with the Mulberrys

French and British flags everywhere.

For our younger followers; Towards the end of World War 2, the Germans occupied all of Europe except Britain and were expecting some sort of invasion from Britain. They expected the port areas to be attacked due to the severe and unpredictable weather in the English Channel.
Sir Winston Churchill, the then Prime Minister, instructed a very clever British engineer to design a method of making a floating harbour that could be towed to Normandy, sank in place and allow the British and her allies to re-enter Europe in the safety of calmer waters. 
In the early hours of the 6th of June 1944, hundreds of paratroopers and gliders full of troops were flown to Normandy, just outside Caen. They met there serious resistance from the Germans but eventually won and took a strategically important bridge that has now been named “Pegasus Bridge” after the British soldiers cap badge. This allowed the soldiers that landed hours after to be protected from a German counter attack. This landing was conducted under very dire circumstances and many thousands of soldiers died on both sides. The allies eventually overcame the Germans and when the beaches were secure, the Mulberrys were bought in, a harbour was formed and the rest of the invasion force and all its supplies and tanks were able to enter and liberate the Normandy area of France. This was the turning point of the WW2 and we are greatly indebted to the soldiers involved. A year later the allied forces had retaken Europe, Hitler and his German army were overthrown and the Allies had won the war. This was the cost of our current freedom.
The initial beach invasion.

A landing craft. Many soldiers were killed before they even got off.

An overview model of the harbour and the supply train.

A model of one of the Mulberrys before being sunk in place.

A CET (combat engineer tractor) and portable bridge used by the Royal Engineers to facilitate the initial landings. Both my father, Joe, and I were in the Royal Engineers. Dad having served in Italy and North Africa during the war, to the best of my knowledge. He would not talk much about it.

Once leaving Arromanches we visited the American War cemetery where we saw a large depiction of the re-taking of France following D-Day.
The push to retake France.

W then drove to Bayaux, the town where the Bayaux tapestry is housed (this is a 224 foot long tapestry depicting the Norman conquest of Britain, it dates back to 1476AD.) There we visited the British cemetery. This was a lot more emotional for us, especially when I saw the graves of ex Royal Engineers.

An unknown Engineer corporal.
We were very respectful of our enemy and they are buried in the same graveyard.

An unknown German soldier. “Ein Deutscher Soldat”

We then drove Caen where we had previously spotted a Vet on the way through. Leon had a thermometer shoved up his bum and as usual there was not one murmur, apart from the heart one that the vet found. He was then anti-wormed and anti-ticked and we were on our way to Pegasus Bridge just up the road.
When we got there the bridge was up, very rare as we understand.

Pegasus Bridge in the UP position.

A statue of Brigadier James Hill DSO MC. Follow the link below to the life story of an extraordinary man.

A full size model of one of the gliders.
The original bridge, now placed off to the side.

A Royal Engineers Bailey Bridge. We (my Army mates and I) used to build these in the rain and dark in a few hours....memories...

We then set off for Dunkirk, having (due to the vet) to leave for the UK between 24 and 48 hours. I told the sat nav to take us to Dunkirk avoiding the toll roads. I did not tell it to avoid ferries and to our surprise we were taken straight to the rivers edge without hardly any money and straight into a queue for the ferry that we could not turn around in. Fortunately, we realised, once on the river that it was free...phew...

Crossing the river Siene

The Sun was starting to set as we arrived at the Somme and we pulled into an Aries that had very accommodating, individual parking/picnic areas for motorhomes...luverly.

The Sun setting over the Somme.
Again for the younger followers. The Somme is an area of France (around the river Somme) where one of the worst and longest battles between the English/French and the Germans took place, this time, during the First World War (WW1 or “The Great War”). See link below for more info.

Friday 20th
Following the end of WW1 the area of the worst battles became overgrown with wild poppies and this became the emblem of, the remembrance of our war dead for both world wars that we wear on Armistice day, the 11th of November every year. The poppy was chosen to represent the blood spilled by some 1.5 million casualties of the Battle of the Somme. When we saw these we had to take some sombre photos.

We arrived at Dunkirk at about noon but they would not let us get our boarding card until exactly 24 hours had passed since Leon had his passport stamped by the vet. Oh well !

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