Touring the D-Day Beaches

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Touring the D-Day Beaches

One of the great events of modern history, the D-Day invasion of June 1944 was enacted on the beaches of Normandy. Omaha Beach (site of an eye-opening museum), Utah Beach, as well as many sites on the Cotentin Peninsula, and the memorials to Allied dead, all bear witness to the furious fighting that once raged in this now-peaceful corner of France. Today, as seagulls sweep over the cliffs where American rangers scrambled desperately up ropes to silence murderous German batteries, visitors now wander through the blockhouses and peer into the bomb craters, the carnage of battles that raged here thankfully now a distant, if still horrifying, memory.

Unless you have a car, the D-Day beaches are best visited on a bus tour from Bayeux. Public buses are rare, although Bus No. 75 heads to Arromanches and Bus No. 70 goes to Omaha Beach and the American cemetery (summer only). However, Bus Verts du Calvados (www.busverts.fr) offers a "Circuit Caen-Omaha Beach" route that connects many of the D-Day sights.

As for guided tours, Normandy Tours (02–31–92–10–70 www.normandy-landing-tours.com), which carries up to eight in its minivan, leaves from Bayeux's Hotel de la Gare. The guides are walking encyclopedias of local war lore and may be flexible about points interesting to you. The half-day tours (€48) are available all year in English.

In addition, other Bayeux-based tour outfitters include D-Day Tours (02–31–51–70–52 www.normandy-sightseeing-tours.com), with half-day tours (€45€60) and full-day tours (€90). Battlebus (02–31–22–28–82 www.ddayhistorian.com) has a full-day extravaganza (€85) and an excellent range of weekly and daily individual tours for groups of up to eight people (children under 12 not permitted).

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