O Canada

October 23, 2011 at 12:32 am 3 comments

I love Canada. Most of you reading probably know this. If you stumbled across this blog recently, you can catch up with my feelings about Canada by reading some of the entries under “Canada” in the right sidebar. To say the least. So in planning the itinerary for this Europe trip, I was so excited that we would be in Normandy on July 1st and 2nd. We wanted to see some of the Canadian sites anyway, so of course it made sense to see them on the 1st. Even in Europe, I would get a Canada Day! So I wore my “True North Strong and Free” tee-shirt and once we were done with the British sector, we headed for the Canadian area.

Maple Leaf

The Americans and the British were quick to memorialize their efforts in D-Day on French soil, but it took much longer for the Canadians. Without the advantage of proximity that Great Britain has and the military budget that the United States has, Canadians had to raise their own funds, and it took quite a while. In 2003, Juno Beach Centre was finally opened at Courseulles-sur-Mer. From my research, I knew that it existed, but it wasn’t until we arrived in Normandy and I picked up a brochure and saw the billboards, that I realized that this museum would be a big one.

Juno Beach Centre

Inside, we paid our admission, and the cheerful Canadian staff wished us a Happy Canada Day and commented on my shirt. I expected her to ask where I was from, and I was tempted to just say Toronto to avoid the explanation, but she wasn’t that interested in me, I guess.

The metal-clad building has a modern design with five sections. From the air, it looks like a stylized take on the maple leaf. I thought it was quite cute how the first area of the museum was an introduction to Canada. Canada and I are already pretty well acquainted, but I enjoyed the overview of what things were like for the country just before the war erupted. My mom enjoyed the large map on the floor, and she had me walk the route that I drove last summer so that she could see it. Since the museum was so new, the information was presented very well, and we both learned a lot.

Once we were through, we took a bit of time to explore Juno Beach and the lovely town of Courseulles-sur-Mer, which was set up like Honfleur with a large bassin in the centre.

Canada and France
The flags of my two favourite foreign countries, flying side by side. A real treat for a girl who loves flags and photographing flags.

Juno Beach East
Juno Beach was so lovely that I knew that I had to take panoramics to try to capture the serenity. It wasn’t what I expect from a battlefield at all. See this one larger here.

Juno Beach West
The above photo was taken looking east, and this one was taken looking west. Larger photo here.

The inukshuk is a symbol known very well in Canada, but not as well in the rest of the world. They were originally built by Inuits and other First Nations in the northern stretches of Canada, possibly as navigational markers, but their usage has spread recently. Since the inukshuk was used as a symbol of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, seeing one in Normandy brought back a flood of excellent memories for me.

This Sherman DD tank sank in the D-Day invasion off of Juno Beach, and it was recovered in 1970 and placed in Courseulles-sur-Mer, just off the beach. It now serves as a memorial.

We were both pretty exhausted after our full day in Normandy, so we checked into our hotel (Hotel Le Canada!) in Hermanville-sur-Mer, and took power naps before dinner. I am usually responsible for finding restaurants when we eat out at home, but without Yelp, I was at a bit of a loss. We ended up driving to Ouistreham, which seemed to have a lot of variety and since we wanted something simple, we tried a beachfront place that had a large patio and also mini golf. I don’t usually eat at restaurant/mini-golf combos, but since it was in France, I thought it was worth a shot. The food wasn’t great, but it was okay. I had a galette (savoury crêpe) that was too thick and Mom had a pot of mussels:

We’d seen the British museum at Pegasus Bridge, but we hadn’t seen the British beaches yet, so our post-dinner ice cream cones also gave us a chance for a little walk on Sword Beach. Just as I was surprised by the serenity of Juno Beach, I was also surprised that Sword Beach is now a typical summer beach, with sand castles, kids in swimsuits, and beach volleyball games. Ouistreham has a ferry to Great Britain, so it’s a popular destination for D-Day tourists, as well as families on seaside getaways.


After the beach, we strolled down Avenue de la Mer, which is a pedestrian-only street for a couple of blocks and is lined with tons of restaurants, all of which looked better than the mini golf restaurant that we chose. Mental note for the next night!


Entry filed under: D-Day, Europe, France, Normandy, Photos.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Justine  |  October 23, 2011 at 12:54 am

    I know you love Canada because you once said, “In Grade 7…” usually Americans say, “In 7th Grade….” 😉

    • 2. Mel  |  October 23, 2011 at 9:19 am

      Haha yeah, I go back and forth with that phrasing. I think it depends on whom I’ve been speaking to lately.

  • 3. Anne Coffman  |  October 23, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Even that pot of mussels was pretty good, but, if I might do a bit of foreshadowing here, the best were yet to come!


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A serial road tripper chronicles her adventures.


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