Hamilton in France students recently visited the western region of Normandy. They started with a guided visit of Caen’s Second World War museum and learned about the history of the Normandy landing by American and British troops back in 1944 in this strategic region during the war.

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Students posing on the Pointe de Hoc

They visited the Pointe du Hoc, Omaha beach and the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-mer during the afternoon. The Pointe du Hoc and Omaha beach are famous for the landing of the ‘Rangers’, those American soldiers who assaulted the German soldiers and bunkers occupying the zone. A few bunkers are preserved and open to visitors. Our guide told us about the bloody but courageous landing of the Rangers in the occupied zone.  

The group at Omaha beach memorial

Both of these places have served as ar memorials since the end of the war in tribute to the American soldiers who gave their life to free France and the Western world from tyrannical powers. The guide told us about the moving stories of US soldiers who were mostly quite young, including the deceased brothers who inspired the Spielberg movie “Saving Private Ryan”.


The Christian and Jewish graves of the American soldiers who fought and died in Normandy

On Saturday evening, the group enjoyed a meal at a  gastronomic restaurant in the fortress city of Saint Malo in Brittany, before heading back to Normandy on the next day.


Gastronomic restaurant by the sea in Saint Malo

On Sunday, our last day, the group visited  Mont Saint Michel, an eighth-century religious center which became a monastery and pilgrimage site in the twelfth century and has since served as a fortress, a prison, and now as a renowned World Heritage site. Students were astonished by the beauty and magnitude of the mount. A village surrounds the flamboyant gothic-style abbey located at top of the rock, which is itself surrounded by vast sandbanks and becomes an island when the tides are very high.

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Students posing in front of the Mont Saint Michel

The island was originally called Mont-Tombe but became known as Mont-Saint-Michel in the 8th century, when St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, built an oratory there after having a vision of the archangel St Michael. It rapidly became a pilgrimage  centre, and in 966 a Benedictine abbey was built there.

The island, which was fortified in 1256, resisted sieges during the Hundred Year’s War between England and France (1337–1453) and the French Wars of Religion (1562–98). The monastery declined in the 18th century, and only seven monks were living there when it was dissolved during the French Revolution (1787–99). It became a state prison under Napoleon I (reigned 1804–14/15) and remained a prison until 1863. In 1874 it was classified as a historic monument and restored and became one of the most popular touristic spot in the world with 3 million visitors per year.

Morgane Guillou

You can watch the video of the weekend here: