Omaha Beach looks nothing like it did that fateful day in 1944. Time has swept away the concrete barracks, machine guns, and barbed wire only to leave a tranquil, peaceful, and serene beach for the dead soldiers to look down upon from the cemetery above.After arriving to the memorial the first thing you are greeted with is the Normandy Visitor Center. Opened in 2007, this was everything I’d hoped for from the Caen Memorial. Exquisitely well done, it told the story of events leading up to and post D-Day through pictures, personal artifacts, and movies. Truly a touching memorial to all who fought and died, it’s definitely worth walking through to give you context for the surrounding area.Getting to Omaha Beach and the cemetery was much easier than I anticipated. I knew the general roads to take from Google maps, and even though it is off the beaten path a bit, it is very well marked and not that difficult to find.Upon exiting the visitor center, you have two options: walk down to the beach, or stroll through the cemetery. I decided on the latter, and after turning the corner the first thing I was struck by was the sheer number of headstones. The cemetery holds the remains of 9,387 U.S. military men, most of whom died during the D-Day invasions. On the east side of the cemetery the names of 1500+ soldiers who couldn’t be located or identified are inscribed on a semi-circular wall surrounding a bronze statue called the Spirit of American Youth.After I’d spent a good amount of time on the beach I took up the more arduous task of walking back up to the memorial and said goodbye to Omaha Beach. But before I could exist the memorial, I ran into one little problem. I couldn’t figure out how to get the stick shift rental car into reverse! I tried pushing and pulling, but to no avail. Finally, as luck would have it someone pulled up next to me and in broken french (with a few gestures to boot) I stupidly asked them how to get it into reverse. It turns out there is a latch way down the stick that is covered by that faux leather you sometimes see on stick shifts that you need to pull up. Once I had that taken care of I was on my way.After getting lost on multiple occasions — yes, I said multiple — I finally made it back into Caen and the car rental place. Although I was exhausted and hungry after the long days events, the experience I had at Omaha Beach easily made up for that weariness and was well worth the trouble.After walking through the cemetery for about 20 minutes I turned my attention to the beach itself. A quick decent that takes no time at all — I can’t say the same for the ascent — and you are standing with your feet firmly planted in the sands of Omaha Beach. The beach itself is like every other beach you’ve probably been to and it wouldn’t be notable at all if not for the extraordinary events that happened there on June 6th, 1944.The rest of my day was spent driving along the Normandy coast. Originally, my plan was to view a few of the other D-Day beaches on my way back into Caen. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out as well as I had planned because I kept getting lost. The section of roads just east of Omaha Beach are easy to follow, but once I got into some of the towns near Bernières-sur-Mer I swear to god they must purposely confuse the roads to keep people in town. (Or maybe it’s out of town because I almost gave up on several occasions.) What scared the bejesus out of me was then trying to navigate these very narrow streets in this tiny car back to the main road the whole time hoping I didn’t go down the wrong way of a one way street. Note to future users who decide to take the drive, you might want to invest in a GPS system.