Buses took AFW ELITE tour members to the seaside city of St. Malo. The fortress of the city was impressive. Tour guides lead us through the narrow streets, fortifications and seawalls of this city that for a long time fought for and had independence from both Britain and even France. In addition, Chateaubriand, a famous and delicious meat is being credited with being named due to a famous author who frequented this city. It was here that we learned more of the influence and its impact on the inhabitants of this coastline as well as the effect the dramatic falling and rising tides of the English Channel, which are some of the most dramatic in the world, have on this area. After touring, lunch was enjoyed at a seaside restaurant with a view overlooking the Channel.
From there we departed to one of the most dramatic sites and pieces of architecture in the world – the monetary known as Mont St. Michel. On a small island that at high tide is surrounded by waters now stands an enormous structure that is a tribute to St. Michael. This church and Benedictine monk monastery was stunning in its sheer magnitude. It absolutely befuddles the mind as to how this enormous building could have need built centuries ago. Views from atop the monastery were incredible. It was an absolute marvel and there is simply too much information to pass along. Afterwards various people enjoyed shopping and eating snacks in the small shops of the village that follows below.
The tour group departed on another early departure for what turned out to be our most impactful day to date. Outstanding tour guides took us through the influential historical sites of what is one of the most influential days in the history of mankind. The greatest invasion of all time took place on June 6, 1944 when Allied forces crossed the English Channel and made headway on the beaches of Normandy. As we learned, this area became the gateway for the liberation of Europe and for the return of its inhabitants to freedom and liberty.
Our first stop was at the Point du Hoc, which was the location that Elite US Army Rangers scaled seaside cliffs to secure a vital area and destroy massive German guns that could severely hamper the invasion efforts. We were stunned by the site and sheer size of the craters left by bombs sent from Allied ships miles offshore. As was described it was as if US forces were firing Volkswagen Beetles from the skies on to the German positions. This location was the one spot that was not renovated after the war and the sight of the devastated bomb shelters, pillboxes and even the intact pillbox that had the charred ceilings and smell from being hit by flame guns left a quieting and sobering feeling.
We also moved to the actual location of Omaha beach that was the site of the US invasion forces. The tour guides, who were outstanding, painted a dramatic picture of the assault and conditions US infantrymen faced. It is hard to fathom at this time. Finally, we moved on to the US Cemetery in Normandy where one of the team members brought out an American flag that was a part of his father’s military history. We then walked the perfectly laid rows of crosses for those who gave their lives in the name of the freedom we enjoy daily. It makes one extremely appreciative of their sacrifice.
We then proceeded to the neighboring town of Bayeux. The dramatic physical scars of WWII largely spared this town so it had an authentic French feel with old architecture and another majestic church. Best of all the inner city market was lined with crepe shops, pizzerias and restaurants that were a welcome site.
This afternoon family members will visit the famous Memorial museum dedicated to WWII in Caen while the players ready for a mixed practice with the American Football Club in Normandy, the Caen Conquistidors. Parents will join in the view the second half of practice. Time to sharpen up for Saturday!