With its shuttered châteaus, cobbled streets, Norman churches and cascading blooms tumbling from balconies, being in Normandy France is always a pleasant experience. But being there on the 6th June, the anniversary of the allied Normandy invasion, puts a whole different prospective on the experience.
For the first time tourist, visiting all of the major commemorative sites such as the cemeteries and invasion beaches moves ones heart and mind into an unexpected emotive state.
When visiting Bayeux cemetery, the biggest British and Commonwealth cemetery,you come to a place of peace and tranquillity, each grave adorned with plants and small shrubs that caress carved names and ranks of the soldiers that lie there.
Omaha Beach, the American sector of the invasion beaches, its cemetery lying just above the beach where so many lost their lives on the 6th June 1944 and beyond, causes one to gasp at the sheer scale of the rows and rows of crosses that go on as far as the eye can see.
What a serene sight, these young men laid to rest with the crystal blue of the channel of which they crossed with such bravery and hope for success, glistening in the background.
But what did it for me, as it always does, was the Normandy Veterans. Who, despite the Normandy Veterans Association disbanding in 2014, still make this pilgrimage to be here on the anniversary of D day, 6th June 1944, 71 years ago, amidst the ever grateful Normandy civilians who pay homage to these wonderful gentlemen.
The crowds come from all over the world to witness this spectacle of unassuming old soldiers revel in the glory we all, quite rightly, give them.
There were hymns, prayers and heartfelt words from the Mayor of Normandy bringing tears to the eyes of all.
Fireworks, applause, handshakes and embraces.
But the most emotive of all …….
…… was the promise to do it all again – next year.
I will be there.