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In this episode of the podcast with my guest Terri Brault, we discuss Canadian WW2 Normandy sites you can visit. Canadian forces were heavily involved in the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, which marked the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.
The Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, along with the 2nd Armoured Brigade, landed at Juno Beach, a stretch of coast located between Sword and Gold beaches. Facing heavily fortified German defenses, they experienced fierce resistance, but their courage and determination saw them overcome these formidable obstacles. By the end of the day, Canadian forces had penetrated deeper into France than any other Allied force, a testament to their discipline and valor.
Canadian troops also played a significant role in the subsequent Battle of Normandy, a grueling two-month campaign to liberate the region from German occupation. They were central to Operation Totalize, an offensive designed to break through German defenses south of Caen, a strategic city that witnessed some of the war's bloodiest conflicts.
Moreover, Canadian soldiers were victims of one of the war's most infamous atrocities at the Abbaye d'Ardenne, where 20 prisoners of war were executed by the 12th SS Panzer Division, a crime later prosecuted as a war crime.
Today, the Canadian War Cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer, where about 2,000 soldiers are laid to rest, serves as a somber reminder of the ultimate sacrifice these brave men made in the pursuit of freedom and peace.
Their bravery, tenacity, and sacrifice significantly contributed to the successful Normandy campaign, marking a pivotal turn in the course of World War II. Their legacy lives on in the form of numerous memorials, museums, and preserved historical sites in Normandy, and their heroic efforts continue to be honored and remembered by both Canadians and the international community. Let's talk about the places in Normandy you can visit to honor their sacrifice and valor.
3.5 days visiting Canadian WW2 Normandy Sites
The first thing they did was to visit the Museum of the Battle of Normandy in Bayeux. They spent several hours there because it was so interesting.
Longues-sur-Mer: this is the remnant of the German gun batteries.
Arromanches: it was low tide so they could walk all the way to what is left of the artificial harbor. Arromanches is a good place to have lunch.
Juno Beach: this is the main Canadian landing beach. It is between Sword and Gold and is about 80 kilometers long.
Don't miss the Juno Beach Center at Courseulles-sur-Mer. That is the main Canadian WW2 Museum in Normandy. This is where Canadian military and dignitaries go for the major celebrations of D-Day. When visiting the Juno Beach Center they can take you to see another German Bunker.
Go to Canada House in Bernières-sur-Mer. The house is right on the beach and was occupied by German soldiers on D-Day and there's film footage of Canadian soldiers taking the house. The French people who own this house didn't know it was so significant to Canadians until a lot of Canadian veterans showed up on the 40th anniversary of D-Day and explained what happened there. They have turned the house into a small museum now.
The Canadian War Cemetery is at Beny-sur-Mer. This is the biggest cemetery with the graves of Canadian soldiers. This is the main cemetery for Canadian soldiers who died on D-Day and during the battle for Caen. There are about 2000 soldiers buried there.
Abbaye d'Ardenne: a group of Canadians were at the Abbaye and were executed by the SS and weren't discovered for some time. There is a lovely memorial there today.
Chateau de Cruelly where Churchill, King Georges and Charles de Gaulle went and where journalists from North America broadcasted from soon after D-Day.
The Caen Memorial Museum is not to be missed because it has life-size replicas of a Typhoon plane and so many great exhibits that they ended up spending most of one day there. This museum emphasizes peace and the impact of the war on the people of Normandy.
Most enjoyable visits for Terri and Paul
- Going to the Orangerie and then to Giverny to see Monet's art and the inspiration for his art.
- Terri doesn't love to drive but admits that for Normandy you need a car. And they didn't even get a speeding ticket on this trip!
- First stop in Normandy was Rouen, where they wanted to see the Cathedral that also has a connection to Monet since he painted that Cathedral so many times.
- Visit to Honfleur which is beautiful and also has a special significance to Canadians since that's where Samuel de Champlain sailed out of on his many voyages to New France. Honfleur also has a wonderful wooden church that's not to be missed.
- Bayeux as a city and the Bayeux Tapestry. They also really enjoyed an exhibit by Canadian artists David Hockney above the Bayeux Tapestry.
- Mont-Saint-Michel was great even though it was the only bad weather day they exerienced. They took the VoiceMap tour of the Abbey and wished they had also walked out into the bay at low tide.
- They stopped in Ducey on the way to Chartres because they needed gas. It's really close to the Mont and is a lovely town with a neat Cathedral and the Château des Montgommery that they wish they had time for. You'll never run out of things to do in France even if all you do is stop somewhere random and look around!
- Road trips through France are really pleasant because there are always things to discover if you're not rushing from place to place.
- Getting the Orange Travel Sim Card was a great deal for them because international cell service in Canada is expensive. And if you top it up occasionally you get to keep your number.
Accommodations Recommended in this Episode
For restaurant recommendations, review the Guest Notes by clicking on the blue button below.
Hôtel des Arènes on Rue Monge: Great hotel, affordable, and great location. Typical small Parisian rooms, but with a great breakfast with the best croissants I ate over the course of our trip. We asked for a room overlooking over the Arènes de Lutèce, and enjoyed watching children play football and neighbours playing boule. Because it closes at night, our room was quiet.
Hôtel Mercure Roen Cathédrale: It was also centrally located. We had a top floor room with windows that opened and a view over Rouen. We could see the spire of the cathedral and hear the bells. The room was great, breakfast great, staff great, everything was great!
Bayeux - We rented a 1-bedroom ground floor site through Immolidays that we found on booking.com. It near one end of the main street (rue St. Patrice), and a great location close to shops, the market, and a free parking lot. The apartment was clean, cute, and had a private walled backyard where we enjoyed a glass of cidre at the end of a long day visiting D-Day sites.
Mont St. Michel, Mercure Mont St. Michel - We followed your recommendation and stayed at the Mercure and it was great. For some reason, only one of us could use the wifi so I was without connectivity for that one night. The room was great, breakfast was great, and it was so conveniently located right where the shuttle to stops.
Chartres - Le Parvis, which is an historic hotel adjacent to the Cathedral. It was fantastic! Great location, the staff were super friendly, the breakfast was amazing, and we enjoyed a nice lunch outside on the terrace. Our room was large and comfortable, nicely decorated and it had a bizarre shower with a myriad of settings for water and lights, which the hotel seems very proud of!
Paris - Hotel Les Jardins du Luxembourg, which was amazing and I’m staying there again when I’m next in Paris. It is in a great location in the 6th arrondissement on rue Royer Collard (a dead-end street just off of boulevard St. Michel) near the Luxembourg gardens, Luxembourg metro stop, and the Pantheon. Our room was on to the top floor where it was quieter and I could even see the tip of the Eiffel Tower. The staff went above and beyond for us, including helping me with my Bootcamp application!
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