Saturday, April 7, 2018

Ouistreham

Second World War buffs know about Ouistreham. It's a small town at the mouth of the Orne river on the English Channel, the port of Caen, the main city 14 kilometers inland. You cross the Pegasus Bridge to get here. The movie "The Longest Day" is supposedly about the liberation, here, but they didn't shoot it here, so the geography is wrong and so are some of the events.
Notice the thick columns
I'm in Ouistreham for the day because we are celebrating Carrie's life, today. I got here yesterday afternoon and walked into town to see what there was to see. Ouistreham is very small. There's a church, which used to be an abbey, called Saint Samson. It was built in the 12th century, Romanesque architecture and since I'm still reading the Cadfael books, it's good to see the architecture of the time -- mid-twelveth century. Of course all of the windows in the church are modern, but there are few of stained glass windows. There's one in particular which is a commemoration of the British liberation.  


Ouistreham was the eastern extremity of Sword Beach. It's not where they landed, but rather where there was (is, now a museum) six-storey German bunker. If you think that bunkers are small enterred structures along the beach, well, this one and others like it along the Atlantic front were enormous, six stories high and when you get to the top, you have a panoramic view of the beach. On D-Day, I'm sure they had a clear view. Now, there are so many houses and trees, you don't even see the beach right in front. The Germans had razed the whole seafront by 1942. There was a casino not far and it was razed in 1942, but somehow, in the movie, The Longest Day, it was decided to show its destruction on D-Day. I visited this bunker today and it's interesting -- not as interesting as that Arromanches museum, thought. It's in pretty bad condition at almost 80 years. I don't know if it will have a natural death when the iron reinforcements finally give way, or if they'll end up taking it down. It was not captured on D-Day, but rather on June 9th, as the troops progressed towards Caen
Now the beach is for sports. There's lots of wind on the beach for "sailing". I have no idea how far out the sea was. I didn't go that far.

From the port to the church

We took a boat out to international waters to disperse Carrie's ashes. It was a moving moment. There were so many of us that the boat had to make three trips out. I was in the first group. There are always moments of sadness at these celebrations of life but those moments are offset by the happiness of seeing old friends and some friends that we just recognize from our hospital visits. We're going out to dinner later this evening. I'm sure we'll have a celebration!


As we were coming back to port the ferry from Portsmouth caught up to us. The hotel I'm staying at is right across the street from the ferry terminal.

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