Us in front of William the Conqueror's castle in Caen. It is one of the largest enclosed fortresses in Europe.

Once we knew we would be in Europe for a year we started thinking of places that we’d like to visit since we’d be close.  Being a bit of a WWII history enthusiast, on my list was to see the D-Day landing beaches.  I thought it would be interesting to see the location that was the start of the tide turning and thus in all likelihood changed the lifestyle we enjoy today.  So, when we knew we would be in Angers it just made sense that we’d go north to Normandy.  Since we wanted to be in Paris by Sunday (for free Louvre entry) we only had two days in Normandy. On Friday we took the train to Caen which is the capital of the Basse-Normandie region, before doing a day trip by bus on Saturday to Juno Beach at  out to the beaches at Courseulles-sur-Mer.

Preserved bunker at the Juno Beach Centre on the rise overlooking the beach.
The beach was calm and peaceful when we were there. It looks like it is a popular swimming area now in the summer - quite different from the day 14000 Canadians stormed the beach with aerial bombing support and Germans firing from their bunkers.
Another bunker

Walking around the small town and the beaches it was quite sobering to think of what had happened and how many had died in this otherwise picturesque location.  Not surprisingly there are a number of monuments along the beach front remembering those fought and died during the summer of 1944.  Here is a sampling:

An amphibious duplex drive Sherman tank that has a number of commemorative plaques affixed to it. This tank sunk about 1km offshore on D-Day and was recovered almost 27 years later.
A monument recognizing that the liberation of France began here.
Recognition of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles contributions on D-Day
Monument recognizing the sacrifices of The Regina Rifle Regiment and the Royal Engineers.
Catherine standing in front of the monument recognizing the contributions that the French Resistance fighters made while France was occupied by the Germans.
Modern sculpture outside the Juno Beach Centre depicting Canadian soldiers.

On a lighter note, here are some pictures from our quick exploration of Caen.  We weren’t expecting much other than a jumping off point for exploring the beaches, but were pleasantly surprised as the town is quite charming.

Abbey d'Hommes
Close up
Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) and gardens.
Catherine in front of Saint Pierre's church taken from outside the castle.
Abbey de Dames
Looking out a whole in the castle wall towards the Vieux Saint-Sauveur church, Hôtel de Ville and Abbey d'Hommes
Abbey d'Hommes
Not sure what significance these houses have but we found them along a busy pedestrian shopping street.