Caen was always on the agenda for our world trip, although we didn’t plan to stay very long. Looking back, we should have scheduled a bit longer of a stay, because Caen is a town full of history and character. There is an interesting blend of old and new, with classic architecture rubbing shoulders with more contemporary architecture. The randomness of the mix is not the result of town planning gone mad, but rather the devastation of Caen that occurred in !944, when the town was a D-Day objective. D-Day factored heavily in our decision to visit Caen. Although we were not here for the anniversary of the June 6th, 1944 landings, the memory of the war is never far away here.
On Monday, June 18th, we traveled to the Centre Juno Beach, a museum and memorial to the Canadians who landed at Courseulles sur Mer on D-Day. The Centre sits at the head of the beach overlooking the landing ground and gives you a sense of what the allies faced when they began the liberation of Europe. Standing at the waters edge looking inland, you realise that it would have taken an immense individual act of courage to charge off a landing craft into the teeth of the enemy defences. Over 300 Canadian soldiers died on this beach and inland as they pushed toward their objectives. It is here that we stood in momentary silence and listened to Rowan playing Amazing Grace on his pipes. It was humbling. There have been many moments during our travels that we have appreciated what we enjoy as Canadians, but on Juno Beach, you start to understand what it cost. Every Canadian should stand on this beach at some point in their lives.