The Trip to Juno Beach

On the road to Juno Beach.

On the road to Juno Beach.

Vivian wanted the joy of a trip she didn’t have to plan, so she delegated all the details of our 2014 European vacation to me. But that didn’t mean she wouldn’t make “suggestions.”

“Make sure you book a Juno Beach tour, space is sure to be limited.”

Well, I didn’t see it that way, but I am a dutiful husband. I went on to the Juno Beach Centre’s website, noted that there was a combination deal for museum entry plus a guided tour of the beach itself at a very reasonable price, so I booked it. And when Vivian asked if I had booked the tour I was able to answer “yes.”

Except, as it turned out, what I booked wasn’t what she had meant. She had meant had I booked a bus or taxi tour to take us to Juno and the other Normandy beaches. We discovered the communication breakdown after we arrived in Bayeux and she asked me how we were getting to Juno Beach the next morning.

With a name like Anderson you can be certain I have a certain amount of Scots frugality bred into me. I have no problem (or at least not much) in paying top dollar for things if I really want them. But I hate unnecessary expense and I am always looking for the best deal.

So when looking at options for getting from Bayeux to Courseulles-sur-mer, where the Juno Beach Centre is located, I immediately rejected the thought of a guided bus tour. Everyone I know who has been on such a tour has said they are excellent, but it is tough to be on someone else’s schedule. I wanted lots of time, I didn’t want to feel rushed because the bus was about to leave.

A taxi seemed like the best bet, but it was going to be a long and expensive ride. We could have rented a car, but I am reluctant to drive outside Canada. If I am driving I am too busy concentrating to enjoy the journey. So that left us with only one option: public transit.

I suspect most tourists wouldn’t consider using the local bus system, but to me it made the most sense. I did my research before leaving Canada, looking up the routes and schedules – and confirming the bus stop in an email to the Juno Beach Centre. Vivian was a little surprised, I think, that we were taking a 45 minute bus ride, but had to admit the price was right; the return trip came to about ten dollars each.

Maybe it was just the day we were there, but the bus was practically empty. About four other people got on at various points as we traveled through the Normandy countryside from small town to small town.

Looking at the English Channel at Arromanches-les-bains. You can see the remains of an artificial harbour built by the Allies as part of the D-Day landings in 1944.

Looking at the English Channel at Arromanches-les-bains. You can see the remains of an artificial harbour built by the Allies as part of the D-Day landings in 1944.

It was time well spent. We saw a slice of Normandy we wouldn’t have seen otherwise and got some great views of the English Channel as well. We drove by a couple of the other D-Day beaches, as well as getting to spend pretty much a full day at Juno Beach and Courseulles-sur mer.

If I had any complaint about our mode of transportation, it would be the bus schedule. I would have liked it if the buses ran a little later into the evening, but I assume there isn’t the passenger volume to warrant that. Buses were infrequent (every couple of hours if I remember correctly). We decided to take the last one back to Bayeux, which meant an early dinner at an inexpensive seaside restaurant (I had the mussels, if you are a foodie type who wants to know these things). I skipped dessert though because I worried the bus might be early and wanted to be at the stop early. I needn’t have worried – it was almost half an hour late. Next time I’ll have the dessert.

The beach at Courseulles-sur-mer would have looked very different on D-day, June 6, 1944.

The beach at Courseulles-sur-mer would have looked very different on D-day, June 6, 1944.

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