A small city with a huge history, Cherbourg in Normandy has more to offer than you might think. Its rolling hills and lush green valleys belies the violence and bloodshed that linger to the history of this region of France.
A short hop-over from the Southern English coast, Cherbourg is a Northern port city in the French department of Manche. It can be reached by ferry from the English ports of Poole and Portsmouth, and also from Saint Helier on Jersey - the Channel Islands are very close neighbours of the city.
Cherbourg is a location seeped in history and at the heart of several key historical events over the last few centuries. It is famous for being the penultimate stop for the doomed RMS Titanic, arriving here on April 10th 1912 before heading for Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland. For those of you who, like us, are interested in your Titanic or maritime history, this is the place for you. But more about that later!
The Roman Empire took hold of this area in 58 BC, after which followed five hundred years of peaceful rule. By 911 AD the empire had collapsed and the Viking leader Rollo signed a treaty to become the first Duke of Normandy. A direct descendant of the first Normans was William the Conqueror, who united French and English lands in 1066 when he defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Subsequent centuries were anything but peaceful, with 130 years of intermittent fighting between England and France. Things were finally settled in 1453 with the Battle of Castillon, returning Normandy to French rule.
Another historical link to the area is the D-Day Beach landings in 1944 during the Second World War. The coastline of this area of France was the key location for the Allied forces to land their troops, tanks, crafts and boats as part of the final push to regain land and liberate Nazi occupied Europe. In total along this coastline are the five Allied landing beaches; Utah and Omaha (the American beaches), Gold and Sword (the British beaches) and Juno (the Canadian beach). There were more than 50,000 vehicles, 11,000 planes and over 5,000 ships and landing craft involved in Operation Neptune, as was its codename. Many soldiers were killed or injured from both sides of the fighting, and there are many different cemeteries to visit in the region, commemorating all the different nationalities involved.
We visited Cherbourg as our first port of call on a 7 day cruise. It was strange to arrive at our first port only one day after leaving Southampton; we usually expect at least a couple of days at sea after departure! The weather was changeable on the day we visited; it was April and the temperature ranged from 10 to 20 degrees over the week. The day felt particularly cold in Cherbourg but that was due mainly to the intermittent rain and brisk winds throughout the day.
As we hadn’t been before, we were keen to explore a new place but it wasn’t a location that we were particularly excited about. So with that in mind, we were absolutely blown away with how the day panned out for us. In fact, whilst we visited 21 different ports and locations over 2018, for the rest of the year, it was always Cherbourg that we were recommending to people as a place to consider visiting, due to its lesser-known status.
Our day in the region was to be a busy one. We had booked a half-day excursion to visit the sites of the D-Day landings, which we arranged via the cruise company. This would take us early in the morning by coach the 23 miles (37km) to Sainte Mère Église which was to be our first stop off. After an hour and a half here, we then moved onto the American landing beach, Utah, about 15 minutes back towards the coast. An hour later and we were on our way to the final destinations of our morning, the Azeville and Crisbecq Batteries, around another 15 minute drive away.
Upon arrival back at port, we still had a good 3 hours before we needed to be back aboard the ship. Luckily, we had one of the best rated tourist attractions in Cherbourg right next to our quayside, the Cité de la Mer. This immersive and interactive maritime museum and aquarium is home to Europe's deepest column of water and the country's first nuclear submarine. It was also the penultimate port of Titanic on its maiden voyage, the subject of which features as one of the key exhibitions here. A swift hot chocolate to get some feeling back into our fingers and we were ready to get exploring!
Sainte Mère Église is a typical French village which became a famous location as part of the D-Day campaign. On 6th June 1944 US paratroopers landed here as part of the Allied Invasion, but on the same night there was a local fire in the town. Unfortunately, both locals and German soldiers were out in the town square helping to extinguish the fire, and the secret cover of the parachutists arriving was revealed with devastating consequences. The US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions suffered huge, unanticipated losses upon their landing.
Heroically, those who survived the onslaught of enemy fire were able to liberate the village, making it one of the first to be so. The bullet holes in the church are yet another reminder of the reality of combat and conflict, set against the everyday lives of civilians in an occupied land. Make sure you have a walk around its walls and see them for yourself. It helped us to feel the enormity of this small village in a larger sequence of events, as well as to imagine the contrast of sadness for the loss of life, against the joy experienced by those being liberated.
Sainte Mère Église holds annual commemorations in tribute to the liberators and there are marks of gratitude throughout the town. Many plaques and monuments have been erected in honour of the Allied Troops, such as the zero milestone opposite the Town Hall, which symbolises the starting point of the path to freedom.
The most famous story from this night was that of paratrooper John Steele, whose parachute got caught on the spire of the church and was suspended there for two hours pretending to be dead. He had been shot in the foot, and although he had tried to cut himself free, he dropped his knife and was left stranded. He played dead in the hope this would increase his chance of survival. Later captured by the Germans and taken prisoner, he managed to escape and re-join his division to push further in-land, breaking through more enemy defences.
A constant monument to this bravery is visible in the village square, with a life-size mannequin and parachute hung from the very same steeple of the church. This incredible story is also depicted in the film The Longest Day (1962) and if you are planning on visiting the Normandy coast, particularly the American beaches, it is highly recommended you watch the film before you go. It will really help you to visualise the events that took place there.
Although he was injured, John Steele survived the campaign and continued in active service. After the war, Steele was awarded the Bronze Star for valour and the Purple Heart for being wounded in combat. He returned to France throughout the rest of his life, becoming an honorary Sainte Mère Église citizen and even having the local tavern named in his honour. In 2003, he was immortalised further by appearing in the first Call of Duty computer game.
The Airborne Museum is located in the heart of the village of Sainte Mère Église and is made up of 4 buildings, including one built in the shape of an open parachute. There are exhibitions linked to the French Resistance, a cinema, artefacts and uniforms belonging to soldiers involved in the action. Here you will have the opportunity to understand D-Day from the Allies preparations over in England, to the battles for liberation which happened right at your feet. Entry into the museum is a little bit expensive at €17 per person (as of 2018) but if you are here it needs to be done!
The museum is only a few miles away from the American landing beaches, Utah and Omaha, and is Europe’s largest museum dedicated to the 82nd and 101st American airborne paratroopers. Growing in popularity, it is expanding and developing year on year. Recently adding on new buildings, the museum has also introduced an interactive Smartphone and tablet app where videos and images can be overlaid in augmented reality. This makes the experience even more realistic and poignant, whilst helping you to put actual locations together with true, moving stories.
It is also worth mentioning at this point the Airborne museum’s website. It is a fantastic starting point to get an idea of what the place has to offer. With 360 degree tours of each building, video clips and plenty of written information, in several languages, we would recommend a quick visit before you go.
The first building at the Airborne Museum is dedicated to the WACO CG-4A glider. These motor-less gliders were able to deliver troops, ammunition and supplies discreetly under the noses of the Germans. In total, 13,900 were used by the Allies in World War II courtesy of the United States Air Force. This is a unique experience as it is the only WACO glider to be on display in France, surprising when it played such a vital role in the liberation of the country. With less than 30 now surviving, seeing one is a rarity.
The most noteworthy building is the one which houses the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, also known as a Dakota - it looms massively above your head as you approach. This huge plane had a dual purpose - to drop paratroopers but also to tow the glider planes that were delivering supplies and reinforcements to the troops. There is a viewing platform above the plane that you can climb up to. From here you really get a feeling of the dimensions of the aircraft - we felt tiny in comparison!
In the Operation Neptune building you will be able to walk through a timeline of events, punctuated by scene-setting mannequins, props and a Piper Cub aircraft. Operation Neptune was the code name for the first assault phase of the D-Day operations (Operation Overlord). At the end of this experience, you are able to view a film in the cinema area, sharing memories and experiences from veterans themselves - a powerful and thought provoking final memory as you leave the museum.
Utah Beach is a surprisingly peaceful location despite its former activity. The beach itself is easily accessible. On the approach to the site by the roadside, there are constant reminders of the loss of life here with markers and monuments to fallen heroes. There is ample parking and access to the whole site of the beach with tanks, bunkers and sculptures all around the area for you to look at for free and as part of the whole experience.
There is a small, but extensive, gift shop where you can buy souvenirs as well as informational texts. La Roosevelt Café is also located here, with mannequins of American Soldiers as part of the clientele to give it an all American vibe! In this area of France you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the States as there are stars and stripes everywhere as a constant reminder of the thanks and gratitude locals feel towards the American forces for their help in liberation.
As this beach is one of the two American landing beaches, all of the monuments are dedicated to the USA - bear this in mind if you are wishing to visit particular memorials and conduct some research. The beach itself is quite unspoilt, peaceful and beautiful in contrast to its history, making a place for quiet reflection and contemplation. To see the memorials you will need to explore the dunes and areas just behind the beach, but be aware that there is rough ground and not all areas may be easy to navigate if you have mobility restrictions.
There is a large museum located at Utah beach which we did not get the time to visit; there are many positive reviews about this both locally and online. If you have the time we would recommend a visit as we would have loved to if we had had the time. In here you will get the opportunity to see one of only six remaining B26 bombers, watch an award winning documentary film 'Victory in the Sand' and see an LVT Water Buffalo.
Azeville is a German bunker fortification built between 1941 and 1944. Situated just 3 miles from the French coast, the location of this battery was chosen due to its vantage point of the coastline. The threat of an Allied invasion from the English Channel was constant and the more quiet, rural surroundings made it an inconspicuous location for building a series of defence systems.
All four of the original blockhouses remain intact and you are able to walk around them and get a sense of the living conditions of the 170 German soldiers who would have lived and worked here. Whilst the building work is impressive, you get a strong feeling for the harsh life that these men would have had to experience during these years. The accompanying audio guide helps tourists to understand both the construction and function of each of the buildings, tunnels (350 metres of them!) and living quarters.
In the first building you arrive at, there is a short documentary video which interviews locals who were involved in the building process. Many of these local workers were requisitioned by the Nazis who had the choice of helping in the battery's construction or being sent away to labour camps. During the video, you will hear stories of these locals taking part in sabotage and delay tactics, giving you a different perspective on life in the area. We found it heartening to hear tales of how those who were living in occupied lands were able to have their own small victories! Moving through the empty concrete structures, you are constantly being surprised. The audio guide helps you to navigate through all of the corridors and rooms, but there are opportunities to ascend back up to ground level at various points. These moments are quite surreal as you are aware of the building work underneath your very own feet but visually you could be stood in an empty field. It certainly left a lasting impression on us.
Located 4 miles to the North East from Sainte Mère Église, Azeville Battery was one of the first buildings of the Atlantic Wall in France. This was an extensive system of coastal defences and fortifications built by Nazi Germany along the coast of continental Europe and Scandinavia as a defence against an anticipated Allied invasion. The battery was first attacked by American paratroopers on the night of the D-Day landings, but despite their advances that night, the battery was heavily defended and the Americans were forced to find another way to attack.
The following day a United States Navy ship, the USS Nevada, bombarded the battery from a distance of more than 20 km away, with two of their 14 inch shells making a direct hit. The first caused the damage still visible on the exterior wall, whilst the second shell entered through the gun window. This shell did not explode, but inside killed the gun crew of five men, before entering the plotting room also killing further crew members in here. The shell then continued through the metal machine gun portal, hitting the exterior wall in two places. All the men in this casemate were killed either by concrete shards or by the violent shockwave caused by the shell. The resulting damage of this attack and penetration of the reinforced steel structure can still be seen today. It is a stark reminder of the purpose of this building and the huge loss of life that occurred all along this coastline.
One of the surprising things that have remained intact at this battery are the murals and camouflage paintings on many of the rooms. The walls that were above ground were painted to look like French farmhouses surrounded by trees and shrubbery. This would hopefully throw the enemy's reconnaissance off the scent! When looking at the buildings, it takes a few moments for you to take in what you are looking at due to the clever disguise that the structures have taken on.
Crisbecq Battery (often referred to as Marcouf Battery) was a Second World War artillery battery located near the village of Saint Marcouf in France. Two possible locations for the battery were considered by the Germans, but it was the second position, above the hamlet of Crisbecq, that was eventually selected due to its altitude and distance from the shore. At just 2800 metres (9,187 feet) inland, the site gave fantastic visibility of the coastline in both directions. With this coastline being the key target for a possible Allied invasion, protection of this area was critical. The battery became one of Nazi Germany's key defences and was one of the largest in their coastal fortifications in Western Europe.
Construction of the battery began in the summer of 1941, overseen by the Third Reich civil and military engineering group, which installed its command post in the nearby castle of Germiny in Saint-Marcouf. Russian and Polish prisoners of war were forced to work on construction and were housed in wooden barracks near Sortosville, some 7 and a half miles (12km) away. Work on the battery was completed in three phases, with the base becoming operational within a short timescale. The second phase concerned shelters and munitions dumps. Later, in 1943, the workforce was augmented by hired workers from France to accelerate the speed of construction, as work started on the bunkers and dug-outs for the troops.
Initially, the main armament consisted of three Czech 21cm Kanone 39 canons, heavy guns which delivered a highly explosive shell. They were housed in heavily fortified casemates up to 3 meters (10 feet) thick of reinforced concrete. The Battery, with a range of between 27 and 33 kilometers (17 to 21 miles), could cover the beaches between Saint Vaast la Hougue and Pointe du Hoc, some 30 miles of coastline! Prior to the invasion of Normandy, the battery was subject to frequent aerial bombardments but it was still operational on D-Day.
You are able to see an impressive amount of the exterior buildings at Crisbecq Battery and the in-situ guns from the roadside. If like us, you are on a limited timescale, it is possible to park outside of the site and view the main battery without entering. From there are still some good photo opportunities but if you have the time or inclination there are two museums based here to visit.
The museum at Crisbecq Battery takes you around the 22 blockhaus site which is connected by 1km of trenches across the 8 acre plot. The restoration that has been undertaken here is impressive, baring in mind that for decades it had been left in a state of disrepair. Extensive work was needed to fix the years of mud and water that had taken over the structure after the Nazis left. Carefully returned to its former glory, you will now be able to see reconstructions of bunkers, including original kits and supplies. An audio guide or a map is available to use, helping you navigate your way around the museum, trenches and buildings.
A stone's-throw away from this battery is also the Marcouf 44 Museum, which is almost directly across the road. This was the command post for the area and is the site from which the Allied invasion was first spotted from the coast. The recommended visit time here is 45 minutes, but as there is a picnic area and a small refreshments kiosk, you may be able to extend your visit. From online research we have done, reports claims that the owner spent every weekend digging through the rubble to unearth this piece of history!
Both sites combined help to create a sobering visit as you are able to understand the nature of these buildings of war. Whilst you are able to get an impression of the conflict that took place through film and television, it's not until you arrive at a place such as Crisbecq that you are reminded of the harsh realities of war; the lives that were lost, the countryside that was torn apart and the civilians who were subjected to this terrible existence.
If you have more time in this region then why not visit Mont St Michel known as ‘The Wonder of the West’. It is a breathtaking image – a solitary island housing a medieval monastery that was once the place of pilgrimages. Not only is this an architectural curiosity (which to us has a look of Disneyland’s castle about it) but the tides and waves here are also said to be quite spectacular to see.
Only a short distance away from Cherbourg is Bayeux, home to the famous Bayeux Tapestry, which illustrates the famous Norman Conquest of Britain. It is a unique insight into life one thousand years ago, telling the story like a ancient film script. It depicts what was happening in such fine detail that historians have been using this 'document' to gain knowledge about life in these times.
Located directly next to the port in Cherbourg, the City of the Sea Museum has something for everyone. At first we were a little reluctant to pay the €18 per person entry fee due to the building looking sparse and small from the entrance. We were so wrong! If you plan to visit here, we would recommend you allow the majority of a day. We had two hours and barely scratched the surface of what the museum had to offer. There are lots of exhibitions that we literally had to run through to say we had seen them. We could have experienced so much more, if we had had the time.
The museum is split over five main sections and buildings; Titanic: Return to Cherbourg, Le Redoutable Submarine, The Aquariums, The Great Gallery and Walking into the Depths Immersive Reality Experience. We didn’t manage to do the Walking into the Depths experience as we had to book a 50 minute slot to complete it and didn't fully get to experience The Great Gallery either. However, the parts that we did see were memorable to say the least!
The Aquariums are a mixture of sealife, with information about underwater exploration, research and archaeology. There are seventeen aquarium tanks including the central focus of the exhibit which is a long 11m column tank - the deepest column of water in Europe in fact! There are a total of 1200 fish, and with a new exhibition being introduced, that number is surely set to rise.
There are interactive activities here too including a pretty cool underwater camera that you can use to explore rock pools filled with living creatures. With places which allow you to touch sea life, this aquarium is a bit different to others that we have visited.
The underwater expeditions area has lots of different submersibles, many artefacts and information about the finds that have been discovered through deep-sea exploration and how such feats and challenges of this type of exploration are overcome using technological advances.
After leaving Southampton on April 10th 1912, RMS Titanic arrived in Cherbourg in the early evening at 6pm, dropping her anchor half an hour later. She was two and a half hours later than expected, mainly due to a slight accident as she left Southampton. Her water displacement caused a nearby boat, SS City of New York, to snap its mooring lines and almost collide with the new vessel. Not the best of starts!
Upon arriving in Cherbourg, two tender boats, the SS Normadic and SS Traffic, conveyed the passengers from land to the boat. At this time Cherbourg was the world’s largest artificial harbour but lacked the docking facilities to be able to cope with the colossal proportions of this legendary liner. Of the 281 passengers that boarded here 151 were first class, 28 second class and 102 in third class, the latter most likely to have been emigrants travelling to start a new life in America. The first class passengers from Cherbourg held some of the largest fortunes of the era. These included Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff Gordon and his wife Lady Lucy Christiana Duff Gordon and Colonel John Jacob Astor and his wife Madeleine Astor.
Interestingly, of these 281 passengers, there were 26 different nationalities boarding and only 21 of these passengers were French. Many had arrived earlier in the day via the Paris train with the majority having travelled to Paris from even further afield. There were American, English, Belgian, Canadian, Croatian, Greek, Italian, Lebenese, Polish, Russian, Syrian and Urugayan passengers alongside the French. At this port 24 of Titanic’s passengers disembarked as their journey was complete. Imagine being one of these people - a Titanic passenger who had not only survived but didn’t have to witness the horror of the sinking.
There were also deliveries of many luxury French items loaded onboard in the 90 minutes that Titanic waited at anchor in Cherbourg. These included fine wines, meats and other French delicacies, which would be enjoyed by the first class passengers throughout their seven day voyage.
Titanic: Return to Cherbourg is an interactive museum experience which takes you on a journey, following in the footsteps of the passengers boarding at Cherbourg, leading up to the ships untimely demise. One of the most interesting museum experiences we’ve had to date, we have been telling everyone about it ever since! It was so immersive and mixed real life with high level technology. You begin your journey as the passengers would have done, in the huge baggage hall in the original Transatlantic liner terminal. In here you will discover the story of many of the travellers, most of whom were emigrants hoping for a new start in a better place.
By following a staircase down the side of Titanic’s hull, you will find yourself on deck looking out to sea. In actual fact this is a huge wall of screens (24 metres wide!), which show the same sequence every 20 minutes, from sailing to the moment of collision and then of course the inevitable sinking. Be sure to stay and watch - it is a powerful and realistic demonstration of what it may have been like to have been there yourself.
Including the video experience, you will need at least an hour in here to fully experience everything - videos, interactive activities such as using and deciphering Morse Code, to rooms set up as staterooms on the ship itself. Every part of the ship has been covered, from the elegant glass domed ceiling of the atrium to the cramped conditions in third class. Along the way you can read personal stories of those who were onboard and watch clips of video about Titanic from film and the media. The final section of the exhibition focuses on the investigations of the sinking and the discovery of the wreckage and its debris.
Not long before visiting here, we had been to an exhibition at the V&A Museum in London about luxury cruise liners. We had been overwhelmed by one of the artefacts on display here - a wooden door that had come from the wreckage. With this still fresh in our minds, it made our experience all the more immersive. If like us, you are fans of maritime history and especially Titanic, put a visit to 'Titanic: Return to Cherbourg' at the top of your to-do list.
Le Redoutable is a French Navy nuclear submarine that now sits in dry dock at Cité de la Mer in Cherbourg. A visit here will take you inside the vast interior of the vessel, the only nearly-complete ballistic missile submarine hull that is open to the public in the world. The exhibition gives an impressive level of access to a rare piece of military equipment, including the control centre, torpedo room, engine room, canteen and living quarters. Fans of totally retro 1970’s décor and home interiors will love the rooms which used to be for living and leisure! There were 15 officers and 120 sailors living here when in active duty. They worked across 3 decks on the 128m (420ft) long submarine which travelled at over 20 knots.
The 35-minute audio guide takes you through the vessel giving details of the uses of each area and the roles of the crew that worked here. There is also a child-friendly audio guide where Charles, an ex-submariner, will lead youngsters around the submarine with his grandson, Nathan. Under 5s are not permitted entry into the submarine for safety reasons. There are small, cramped areas, as can be expected here, and staircases to climb, so if you have a tendency to feel claustrophobic this might not be the exhibition for you.
Le Redoutable was commissioned in 1971, during the Cold War years when nuclear attacks were a real and genuine threat to most nations. It served for 20 years until it’s decommissioning in 1991. During this time it completed 51 patrols which lasted 70 days each. It has clocked up 90,000 hours of diving and has travelled a total distance of 790,000 nautical miles (1.27 million km) which is 32 times around the Earth! The boat was fitted with 16 missiles which had a range of 1900 miles (3000km) each delivering a one-megatonne war head. The task of creating a museum out of the redundant vessel wasn’t plain sailing (!) as the nuclear reactors had to be removed to ensure the safety of all.
Alongside the submarine is a section of interactive displays and information linked to submersibles. This includes photographs and documents about life inside the actual Le Redoutable as well as information about more recent and modern-day submersibles. Again, there is lots to do and see and if you are genuinely interested in this subject matter there's plenty to take in and interact with. All ages have been catered for here and so whilst the information may be more tailored towards adults, the interactive activities will keep younger visitors entertained too. Make sure you have time set aside to make the most of it all.
If simple, hearty food is your thing, then Normandy is the place to eat. Its seas are bountiful due to the large expanses of coastline, as are the orchards and dairy farms further inland across the lush, green countryside. Normandy is renowned for its high quality veal, lamb and chicken for the meat lovers amongst you. If seafood is more your thing, then you’ll be pleased to know that shrimp, trout, turbot, sole and mussels are also featured heavily in the Normandy cuisine. Usually these dishes are served in rich, creamy sauces which are known as 'a la Normandie'.
As dairy farms are a huge part of Normandy life, our stereotypical view of France being the home of great cheese, butter and milk is only strengthened by the truth. The Normandy cheeseboard is an impressive one but of course the most famous cheese to come from this region is Camembert. If you have a sweet tooth then apples come highly recommended. Try these fresh orchard pickings in pies, crumbles or with caramel! You won’t be disappointed.
The orchards of Normandy provide beautiful, sweet apples and of course, not being wasteful, the French make full use of the bi-products too. Cider, poire or pear liquor, pommeau and calvados (apple brandy) are all produced in the region. The traditional way to clear the palate between courses of rich Norman food is to take a shot of Trou Normand - calvados and apple ice cream. Why not give it a try?
If liqueurs are your thing then you can also try a splash of Bénédictine, which is usually drunk with ice before a meal, or afterwards, on its own, as a digestive. And if you’re more a cocktail drinker, Bénédictine is a perfect ingredient to many, including the Singapore Sling, Moonlight Serenade and the Manhattan. Whilst France is famous for its wine, upper Normandy is somewhat sparse in vineyards - it’s apples and not grapes that they are growing here. You will have to travel a little further south to find the lower Normandy wines, predominantly white, which are known to be of a high quality.
It is worth noting that if your luggage allows it, Normandy is a great place for shopping, particularly for local delicacies. There are lots of shops selling regional produce and what better gift to take home than cheese, cider and calvados? In contast to the independent specialist stores, Cherbourg has recently opened a modernistic-looking shopping centre, the Centre Commercial Les Eleis, which can be found in the centre of the town.
76 miles (123km) South East of Cherbourg is the city of Caen, which is the largest city in lower Normandy. A lively, modern city, it was rebuilt after three quarters of it was destroyed in the Battle of Normandy in 1944. There are lots of interesting things to visit here including the ruins of William the Conqueror's castle, the Church of St Pierre, and the twin abbeys of Abbaye aux Hommes and Abbaye aux Dames.
When researching music featuring Normandy, we were not surprised to find that it featured in many American songs. This shows the huge impact that the D-Day operations had on American life, and still does, with many future generations wishing to share the pride and hurt that the fighting and loss of troops had. This hasn’t been restricted to one genre - we found tracks from folk, rock and country artists demonstrating how levelling war can be to people from all walks of life.
Listen to our selection of Cherbourg and Normandy inspired tracks below and get in the mood for your visit to this historic region. You can also listen to our Cherbourg in Music playlist on Spotify, where you can hear all the tracks in one place.
Say Goodbye (Chris De Burgh)
The Rock (Shenandoah)
Chin Music (Diesel King Cool)
My Heart Is Free (Tift Merritt)
The Blue and the Gray (Lucero)
Hit the Beach (The Swingers)
Raise Your Bottle (Aaron Watson)
Nearer My God to Thee (Titanic)
Scène du Garage (José Bartel)
The Longest Day (Royal Legion)
Most of the films based in Northern France, and in particular Normandy, are set during the World Wars, due to so many key events from these periods happening here. These true stories are magnificent and often tragic to watch, and whilst being a form of entertainment, many facts and stories are told through this medium. If you are visiting this part of the world, being able to have a visual image of what has happened here is a real eye opener and will help you to realise the significance of the locations you visit.
You can click the links below to watch clips of some of these; it may inspire you to enjoy some of them in full, preparing you for your own visit and imagining some of the historical moments for yourself.
D-Day the 6th June (1956)
The Longest Day (1962)
Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
Big Red One (1980)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
IKE Countdown to D-Day (2004)
Storming Juno (2010)
The Family (2013)
D-Day: Normandy (2014)
Having seen many cruise itineraries, we often wondered why Cherbourg featured so regularly. We presumed it was close to home and that the D-Day beaches were a noteworthy visit. Since visiting the area for ourselves, we now realise that it has so much more to offer. The history is of course vast; from as early as the Norman conquest of 1066 to the 1940’s liberation battles. The scenery is stunning, with miles of beaches to wander and coastline to explore as well as beautiful green fields which draw comparison to Devon. There are museums and shops to interest and entice those with curiosity. And stories of bravery to make you tingle.
Whilst it may be small in comparison to cruise ports such as Barcelona or Lisbon, it shouldn’t be dismissed. In fact, this makes it all the more favourable! You won’t be caught up in a sea of tourists and constantly checking you are still in possession of your wallet and passport. The pace of life here is one that fits within the remit of relaxing holidays but can never be described as boring.
We would completely consider going again and would love to explore more of the region. Do you have any extra tips for fellow travellers? Got your own scenic shots to share with us? We’d love to hear your own thoughts and see your photos, so please leave us a comment on social media and connect with us. If you’ve found this guide to Cherbourg useful, please like and share our page using the buttons below.
Au revoir and travel far!
Discover the freedom of open roads with this guide, your passport to uniquely encountering this region by car. Featuring four amazing road trips, plus up-to-date advice on the destinations you'll visit along the way.
An unbeatable pocket-sized travel guide to Normandy, packed with insider tips and ideas, colour maps, top ten lists and a laminated pull-out map, all designed to help you see the very best during your trip to Normandy.
This facinating book details what can be seen on the ground today using a mixture of media to provide a complete overview of the campaign. Maps old and new highlight what has survived and what hasn’t.