A Toast To Normandy

We spent a week in Normandy commemorating the 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord, or, as we know it in the United States, D-Day. Everywhere we went, from our outpost in Dives-sur-Mer to the reaches of Point du Hoc, we witnessed an outpouring of emotion from the veterans making one last visit to the beaches they stormed in their youth, to the children of the citizens who welcomed with intense relief the combined forces of the United Kingdom, Canada, Belgium, Norway, and the United States.

The annual festival in the plaza of Sainte Mère-Église in Normandy on June 6

Nowhere was this feeling greater than in the town of Sainte Mère-Église, just inland of Utah Beach, where American troops made a relatively quick and successful thrust to set free the suffering village. Every June 6, while the rest of Normandy marks the pain of the invasion, Sainte Mère-Église hosts a celebration of its liberation…the beginning of the end of the war, though it would drag on nearly another year til V-E Day in May 1945.

I’d joined the town in its remembrance five years ago, at the 70th anniversary, so it only felt right to return for the landmark 75th year. A new memorial had been erected, and a new Airborne museum was in the works to add to the already marvelous one currently standing. Re-enactors of many countries gathered to line the streets, thank veterans, and generally breathe a collective sigh of relief, that the good times might just return again.

What had changed? The advent of craft beer–bière artisanale–to Normandy. It’s a good match, with the countryside’s great cheeses, and ciders, but lack of vines. And in the town itself, Brasserie Bière Artisanale de Sainte Mère-Église sold its wares not only from a storefront, but in a kiosk in the plaza. In honor of the day, we took pints of the Utah Beach IPA in commemorative cups. We toasted the effigy of the paratrooper hanging from the church tower, and the stained glass panels celebrating their likenesses within.

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