Beach To Bridge Day by Day
Day 1 – Wednesday April 29
From the hotel we drive towards the start of the event in the Pegasus Memorial Museum.
This Pegasus bridge was the first bridge to be conquered by the allies (British paratroopers) at the start of D-Day (operation Overlord) now 71 years ago.
The original bridge is now a museum piece as it was no longer wide enough nor strong enough to deal with modern day traffic. The museum tells the story about the glider planes of the British paratroopers and you will have about 45 minutes there before we truly start our adventure.
The museum opens specially for us at 08:45 so you have the opportunity to have a quick look around. We start the rally at 09:30 from the parking there. It is about 10 minutes drive to get there.
From there we follow the coastal line along 3 of the 5 beaches to end up on top of the cliffs at the coastal line just south of Arromanches where you have the opportunity for a coffee (served by Michelle in your own mugs you received today) and a look around the Battery the Longues. Old German Skoda made canons as part of the Atlantic wall. You will get the idea of the terror they produced when you see them!
From there we go inland and leave the beaches behind us to pass between Bayeux and Caen to our first regularity (on tulips to get started easy).
Lunch halt of today at an old castle, confiscated by the germans in the 2nd WW and the backyard was used as one of the largest (still unfound till today) munition depots. The buildings are now owned by a Dutch former IT guy who followed the love of his life to France. You decide if the choise was right!
This lunch is close to Falaise, in WWII terms famous for its deciviness. A pocket was formed around Falaise, in which the Germans were encircled by the Western Allies. The battle resulted in the destruction of most of Army Group B west of the Seine river, which opened the way to Paris and the German border for the Allied armies. Historically important terrain but not much left to be seen of it.
From lunch we head to Vimoutiers where we halt at one of 2 German Tiger Tanks still left in France. With its 10 cm thick steel skin the most feared tank of them all. From here (unmanned PC) you start the first navigation section so some map reading is required. It set up so that if you decide to skip it, you only need to follow the main road around to pick up the finish of the section. Penalty points will apply however…
The rest of the day we continue East south east with yet another navigation section but not before we had a proper coffee halt.
The final part of the route you pick up the “Voie de la Liberte” a string of roads from St Mere d’eglise to Bastogne in Belgium marked on most French maps and with a marker of about 1 m high every 1 km. This is the general direction the allies followed to all our liberation. TV series “Band of Brothers”
Overnight Halt in Chartres, a place where General Patton felt right at home for a long period of time before heading on. Late finish because of the days structure with the Normandy coast but nice and easy driving. Excpected finish around 18:30…
Day 2 – Thursday april 30
From the hotel it about 1,5 hours drive to our first PC of the day in the Airplane museum of St Jean Baptiste Salis. You will be stunned by all the war birds you will see here and we have planned 45 minutes there including some coffee with croissants. (bombers and fighter planes from 1904 till 1950’s.
At this Museum the first navigation section of the day starts in the direction of Fontaineblau. Well known for its magnificent palace where herr Rommel had his HQ as Marshall of the Atlantic Wall defense. In the navigation section you will pass a significantly smaller castle (but very beautifull) in Courances. This was Montgomery’s very humble HQ for 4 months as he did not realilse that Rommel was in Fontainebleau.
We make our way to Provins, a medieval city in which we have our lunch and stunned the American soldiers as they had never seen such a thing in their young lives.
After lunch we have another nav section before we head into the Marne valley where we have an outside TC (ladies no toilets) ata magnificent monument for Field Marshal Foch and his troops in WW 1. Coffee will again be served in your nice coffee mugs by Michelle.
We are now in WW 1 territory and making our way to Reims through the Champagne area. An area fought for a lot because in those day’s every soldier had the right of 1 bottle of wine per day…. If you own the winery that would ik a lot cheaper to keep your men drunk and willing…
Before heading to the hotel after our last regularity of the day through the vineyards we head to Pommery for a tour through their cellars and a tasting after.
Important to know is that you should be there no later than 16:30 in order to make the tours (in 2 groups)
Staying in Hotel de la Paix (Hotel of Peace) with its own parking garage underneath in the center of town and dinner is not in the hotel but 3 minutes walking distance in Brasserie Flo.
Day 3 – Friday mai 1st
Out of Reims we follow the Voie de la Liberte gain for a bit and you will see it took them right throught he WW 1 battle fields. We will be passing through an area that was bought by the French Government after WW 1 because nobody in this area wanted to return to their original villages as they were all destroyed. There is now therefor a string of 7 villages t hat are still on the map as “detruit”(destroyed) in what now is a military prectise area… of all things….
Right in the middle of this we pass at yet another monument where you are free to stop that houses 10.000 remains of WW 1 soldiers in an area where every month new remains are found. There are still some trenches left with barbed wire and all. Impressive… With yet another regularity before we get to our, late, morning coffee halt in a small museum about the WW 1 owned by a Dutch war buff , right next to the largest American Cemetary in Europe with over 14.000 graves. Our route passes through this cemetary and you will have ample opportunity to look around.
We have a navigation section before we have our lunch, still in WW 1 territory and we closing in on the Maginot lines. Build after WW 1 to prevent the Germans ever coming into France through the Ardennes again… so…. They succeeded in that until the Northern part of France surrendered.
Our after lunch navigation section will take you through the maginot territory and look for bunkers in most forests you pass through. Most bunkers have underground tunnels to connect them which was the strong point of theis Maginot line.
Then into Belgium for our final coffeehalt and regularity to have a relatively early finish around 17:15 in Marche en Famenne which has a surprisingly lively old centre but the hotel also has a good Spa…
Day 4, Mai 2nd
From Marche en Famenne we head back south east to Bastogne where we planned a 2 hour visit (10 till 12) to the Nassogne memorial and Bastogne war museum. This recently rebuilt museum tells the story of 4 main caracters during the Battle of the Bulge (de slag om de Ardennen) which is truly impressive. Both Jan-Peter and I where silenced for a bit after we visited this back in Februari.
We will not have any competition for about 45 minutes after leaving the museum and have a regularity that finishes at a German Pfanzer tank near Trois Ponts. Lunch in Coo where parking might be difficult as it is a holiday weekend in Belgium. We have asked for some parking to be blocked but Belgium would not be Belgium if this had succeeded. Late lunch at 13:30 and a short afternoon run to finish around 16:45 in Vaals. The RF is at the parking of the hotel…
Day 5, may 3rd and final day
With a regularity in the morning, Limburg hills, before we head north on the motorway to Thorn, the White village for our first TC. In the 17th century taxes on windows. Windows where cemented away and the houses painted white to cover recent building marks on the houses. White ever since.
Continuing to Weert where have a navigation section before we go back on the motorway to Best, the museum Wings of liberation for a test and lunch. Final competition of the event there and you have 1,5 hours for a museum visit and lunch there.
After lunch we head north in the footsteps of the liberators again: During operation Market Garden (battle for the Arnhem bridge) airborne divisions had conquered stategical bridges. Ground troops had to follow a narrow 2 lane road to the north which made them vulnerable for attacks from both sides. These attacks indeed appened and where constant. Therefor this route to Arnhem became know as “Hells Highway”. Passing over all the famous bridges in Grave, Wijchen, Nijmegen and last but not least Arnhem (the John Frost bridge) we finish at a very special location in Arnhem. A wine cellar!