Visit Ste. Mere Eglise by Mouse
Ste. Mere Eglise (Wikipedia article) is a small town at the bottom of the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy, just west of the invasion beaches. It figured prominently in the D-Day invasion. If you saw the movie "The Longest Day" you might remember the scene in which a paratrooper, John Steele, played by the actor Red Buttons, gets snagged on a church steeple. That church is in Ste. Mere Eglise and the incident really happened on the night before D-Day. In fact, Ste. Mere Eglise was the first town liberated on D-Day.
 
Our visit to this town provided us with one of the best and most interesting times we ever have had on our trips. and it came about almost by chance.  When we left St. Malo we were heading for Caen.  But Adelle had a guidebook on her lap and opened it at random to a page listing Ste. Mere Eglise.  She started reading and saw that the guidebook rated the campground there as one of the best in France.  It was located almost in the center of town.  We decided on the spot that it would make a good stop instead of driving on farther.  But we had just passed the exit to go there.  We took the next exit and backtracked.  We are so glad we did.
 
It just so happened that this was the first week in June.  The anniversary of D-Day is June 6.  When we pulled up to the entrance to the campground we were staring at a World War II bivouac, complete with army tents, proper vintage vehicles and men in 1940's uniforms.  This scene was to be repeated over and over again for the next several days.  We had not realized it, but this part of Normandy really celebrates D-Day and  people come from the United States and Britain to take part.  But it turned out that most of the people we saw in 1940's American uniforms were French men and women who turn out to be serious collectors of American military stuff who love to dress up, march around the town and drive around in the precious vehicles that the U.S. armed forces left in Europe at the end of the war.  They took possession them then and have kept them in mint condition ever since.  There are clubs all over France of such collectors.
Our visit included a tour of the American Airborne Museum in the town, and a live parachute jump on the spot where the first Airborne troops landed on June 5, 1945. Their orders were to prepare the way for the landing by digging in at the Merderet River outside of town and preventing a German tank counter attack from coming across the Merderet Bridge by the La Fiere Cafe. They were commanded by General James Gavin and succeeded in this task. You can read in the letter we wrote all about our visit in this town where Americans can do no wrong . There are photos of the town, of the church steeple which the townspeople keep decorated with a life-sized model of a paratrooper and a parachute, and of the scene at the jump area. Look for a gentleman in a red jacket pointing to the spot he landed on that day. He comes back every year to participate. If you can manage a visit to this charming and historic town in early June--in any year you won't be sorry.
There is a district tourist office that includes Ste. Mere Eglise.
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