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Utah Beach D-Day Museum | Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France www.minitravellers.co.uk
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Utah Beach D-Day Museum | Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France

On our way home from our week exploring Brittany we needed to find something to do close to Cherbourg before our 5pm ferry and so we ended up at the Utah Beach D-Day Museum.

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We were staying further down in France in Redon, so we wanted to drive the 3-4 hours towards Cherbourg and then spend the afternoon somewhere a short drive away so we didn’t need to worry about getting to the ferry on time. I posted a question about where we should go on my facebook page and was immediately given at least twenty ideas.

We chose Utah Beach mainly because it was so very close, but also because I’d read this post by Kara at Are we Nearly There Yet. It looked like we would all get something out of the experience.

We arrived into Sainte-Marie-du-Mont around 12ish.  Sainte-Marie-du-Mont is the small town a short distance away from Utah Beach which was the scene of a military engagement between the American 101st Airborne Division and the German Wehrmacht on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Utah Beach D-Day Museum | Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France www.minitravellers.co.uk

All around the town are signposts on buildings where fighting took place, where treaties were made, where parachutes landed. Not all messages are tragic though and there are some placed where soldiers met, looked at each other and departed quickly back to where they had come.

It’s sobering to think of the massacre that took place in that village that day and for weeks afterwards as the war raged on.

Having wandered around the town, and picked up some drinks and sandwiches for a picnic lunch we made our way down to the Utah Beach D-Day Museum and the beach.

Utah Beach D-Day Museum | Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France www.minitravellers.co.uk

The history of Utah Beach bares repeating.  At ten past midnight on the night of 6 June 1944, Lieutenant Norman Poole landed on French soil, just inland from Utah Beach. And so began Operation Overlord – the code name for the Battle of Normandy. Poole and his crew had parachuted in to confuse the Germans before the Normandy landings boats started to approach the coast.

The three-mile-long strip of sand at Utah Beach (and believe me it looks like that long too) was the most westerly of the five Normandy landing beaches. History records that on the night of the invasion strong currents meant Allied boats were swept two kilometres south of where they intended to land and thankfully this worked in the allies favour as German defences were much weaker on this stretch of the coast. After landing, the troops fought their way inland and met up with the air troops. By the end of the first day over 23,000 men came ashore at Utah Beach.

Utah Beach D-Day Museum | Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France www.minitravellers.co.uk

Utah Beach D-Day Museum | Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France www.minitravellers.co.uk

As we sat eating our picnic on the beach we tried to explain some of the history of the area to the kids but failed fairly miserably and we did wonder if the museum was going to be a little tricky to navigate and whether it would be way over their heads.

Utah Beach D-Day Museum | Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France www.minitravellers.co.uk

The Utah Beach D-Day Museum is however very well done.  It is light and bright and contains enough interesting things to keep the kids interested and start to understand the scale, if not the horror, of the landing.

There are tanks and planes and bunkers that help them to understand the size of the battle and literally make them shout with excitement. I was made to cover my eyes to walk into the hanger as they wanted me to be surprised by the most ‘AMAZING THING EVER!”.  It is I have to say pretty impressive and the new part of the museum houses the plane perfectly.

Utah Beach D-Day Museum | Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France www.minitravellers.co.uk

Utah Beach D-Day Museum | Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France www.minitravellers.co.uk

Utah Beach D-Day Museum | Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France www.minitravellers.co.uk

As we wandered around the museum we noticed that the English translation of the film about the landing was due to start shortly. Matt popped into the French showing to take a look at some of the content and decided that it would be OK for the kids to watch.  A lot of the film went over their heads but a lot didn’t and it was incredibly well done.  The girls came out somber and asking a lot of relevant questions. They didn’t move for the full 20 minutes and were sad to understand what had happened that day and after the event.  The film had managed to set the scene way better than we had managed on the beach.

We left the Utah Beach D-Day Museum pleased that the girls had taken in what they needed to, and resolute that we would do more of the beaches on our next trip to Brittany.  It’s a really good experience for all the family and a great way to spend a few hours before the ferry.

Details:

Utah Beach is around an hour’s drive from the ferry ports at Caen or Cherbourg. Several tour companies offer guided trips around the beaches and memorials along the coast. The Utah Beach Museum is open 9.30am–7pm from June to September and 10am–6pm for the rest of the year. Entry costs €8 for adults, €4 for children under 15 and free for under 7s or (appropriately) WWII veterans.

If you want to see more of the D-day beaches do take a look at Like Love Do’s post on Spending a week in Normandy and visiting the D-Day Beaches.

NB: We were not paid in any way to write this review and paid for our own entry.

Why not PIN this:

Utah Beach D-Day Museum | Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Esther
    6th November 2017 at 11:03 am

    It’s so interesting to walk in these footsteps! I have recently visited Nuenen in The Netherlands, where Vincent van Gogh lived, and a town that was also liberated by the 101 airborne! (Maybe you remember this from the show Band of Brothers). Great post, thank you!
    #MondayEscapes

  • Reply
    Baby Loves Travel
    6th November 2017 at 11:33 am

    This sounds like an interesting museum – I have never visited the D-Day landing sites even though I am interested in the history #MondayEscapes

  • Reply
    Allison
    6th November 2017 at 12:41 pm

    This is definitely going on my bucket list. I’m a WWII buff and I’d love to visit more sites about that time in history. #MondayEscapes

  • Reply
    Nicky @ GoLiveYoung
    6th November 2017 at 9:50 pm

    What a great place to stop on the way to or from these ferry ports. We’ve never been to the Normandy beaches with the boys but are thinking of doing it next year. They’re all interested in world war history now #MondayEscapes

  • Reply
    Ruth
    7th November 2017 at 2:40 am

    Oh my! The lost of lives in here was so huge! It feels devastating to visit places like this. But, remembering and paying homage to the people who have their lives there. I am a big history geek and I know I have to visit the Normandy beaches one day. #MondayEscapes

  • Reply
    Tania @ Larger Family Life
    7th November 2017 at 2:51 pm

    We’re planning a WWII road trip so this is so helpful, thank you! #MondayEscapes

  • Reply
    Claire at Tin Box Traveller
    7th November 2017 at 4:52 pm

    What a great idea for using those last few hours before the ferry and good to know it wasn’t too overwhelming for the girls #MondayEscapes

  • Reply
    MrsS
    7th November 2017 at 10:46 pm

    What a place to stop by, it looks so interesting did the girls take it all in in the museum? This is definitely going on my list of places to visit, so much history. #mondayescapes

  • Reply
    Helen
    8th November 2017 at 10:36 pm

    We’ve been there too, but before we had the children – I have often thought about taking them, and wondered what the best age would be for them to really understand, without being frightened by it all. It’s a fascinating history and so well preserved.

  • Reply
    Marina
    9th November 2017 at 3:31 pm

    This post gave me chills. War is so sad, but it’s good that you’re teaching your kids about the history. I wish I would’ve gone to more museums as a child. I’m glad the film was able to make it clearer for them. Even though the content of the museum is sad, it’s a good way to honor those who fought by learning about it and trying to make the world a better place in response. #MondayEscapes

  • Reply
    Sharon
    10th November 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Utah Beach is so moving. We were able to tour in a 1940s Jeep with a wonderful guide. But we missed the museum. I hope to return and visit it. Your photos are great!

  • Reply
    Sarah Christie
    14th November 2017 at 9:48 pm

    This looks quite tough to see, but so important that people do! I love that it is engaging for the kids without them fully understanding the scale of it x

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