Atop Omaha Beach, one of the five D-Day landing beaches, stands the Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial. Situated at Colleville Sure Mer, this cemetery contains 9,387 gravestones and is visited by more than one million people each year. Each gravestone is for an American Solider who died on Ohama Beach on D-Day.
The Normandy American Cemetery really does bring the enormity of the scale of D-Day to life. There are signs to ask people not to shout, run and so on displayed around the grounds but the atmosphere is such that Kitty and Oscar just knew that this is a quiet place, a place to think.
'There are so many people buried here mummy, it looks pretty but feels very sad' said Kitty.
She then started asking questions about the fighting, why so many people died and her father stepped in to answer. I am a firm believer that children should visit cemeteries, it's a catalyst for conversation about some of the saddest moments of life, past, present and most importantly future. By talking factually and emotionally about death and passing with children you equip them to be more mentally prepared to cope with future passings, from grandparents to pets.
War is something taught about in History lessons in school, but there's real value in looking back with your children to keep the lessons learnt by the past fresh and alive in future generations.
From the cemetery there is a walk down to the beach. A winding path, and whilst it's well maintained there are 100 steps along the way, interspersed and deep, but steps nevertheless, worth bearing in mind if you are travelling with a person of limited mobility, wheelchair or pram. There are benches along the walk down should one need a rest.
Walking out onto the beach is a pretty emotive experience, especially having walked around the cemetery.
Mixed emotions of the beauty of the wide beach, the view and the history, knowing so many men died here. It felt all the more dramatic seeing a storm rolling in.
We left the beach to walk back up to the cemetery and car park and the heavens opened on us. Soaked through we reached the car, it had been a great experience, emotional in a good way. I'm so glad we visited whilst in Normandy and I would recommend it to visit whether you are travelling with or without family.
Where: Normandy American Cemetery, American Cemetery ,14710 Colleville-sur-Mer, France
Opening times: 9 am to 6 pm from April 15 to September 15th, 9am to 5pm the rest of the year. Closed on December 5th and January 1st.
Travelling to Normandy from the UK: We used and recommend Brittany Ferries
Staying in Normandy: We used and recommend Eco-Gites of Lenault