A damp mist covers the beach on the shore of the English Channel as a visitor leaves wet footprints in the sand walking to the water’s edge. There’s a chill in the air and visibility across the Channel toward the British coast is obscured.
Waves lap peacefully on the sand as the murmur of visitor’s voices drift across the beach. Looking closely into the mist one can see the outline of scores of ghost ships approaching, silently, ever closer.
It’s impossible to cross the Channel or stand on the beaches at Normandy without seeing ghosts. There are the war ships standing off shore and firing at German emplacements beyond the dunes; landing craft by the score are heading for the beaches with their human cargo ready to wade to dry sand and put their lives on the line; and the bodies, the dozens of bodies that never made it safely ashore, their blood soaking into the white sand.
Today there are few physical remnants of that day, June 6, 1944. The sands have been bleached white, the few defensive bunkers are long abandoned and the rails jammed into the beaches to thwart Allied armor from safely landing are no longer visible.
Off shore on a few of the beaches are the remains of a handful of craft sunk in the fierce fighting that took place. This was the beginning of the end for the German war machine and although the toll for Americans, British, Canadian and Free French soldiers who took part in the landing was high, they knew they were winning.
It is a cold and soulless person who could stand on those beaches today and not feel what took place here, who could not see and feel the ghosts that surely inhabit the Normandy beaches. D-Day is chiseled in the granite of history.
Americans by the planeload will be visiting the hallowed sites from the beaches to the cemeteries where the souls of thousands of soldiers and sailors rest for eternity. Some will come by bus, others by car. They will come in droves to remember and honor.
Old men who lived through those harrowing days will return to see what they won, to remember comrades who are there, resting under a stone marker. They will tell their children and grandchildren stories of their heroism and how they live free today as a result.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises is welcoming visitors with special offers and a cruise on the Seine from Paris to Normandy with side trips to Juno and Gold Beaches where British and Canadian troops landed.
There will be ample opportunity to tour the City of Lights as the Uniworld River Baroness takes on passengers and then begins a leisurely run to the English Channel. In Bayeux see the famed tapestry that has the history of the invasion woven into its fabric.
Visit the D-day Museum at Arromanches and see the nearby remnants of two Mulberry Harbors, portable structures essential for unloading cargo for the invasion.
Uniworld has made arrangements for passengers to participate in a special ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and memorial near Omaha Beach and lay a wreath.
Not all is war oriented. Uniworld offers passengers the opportunity to take in the landscapes made famous by masters such as Monet and Van Gogh. Stop over in Rouen where Joan of Arc was martyred.
Keeping costs down, Uniworld is offering an all-inclusive cruise that includes all gratuities both onboard and ashore, unlimited beverages onboard, including a wide selection of wine.
Included shore excursions with local experts will enhance the visit.
Also included will be Wi-Fi and all arrival and departure transfers. For information, go to http://uniworld.com.