D-Day/Normandy Visit-Please Help!

Feb 4th, 2005, 10:21 AM
  #1  
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D-Day/Normandy Visit-Please Help!

I apologize upfront for the detailed, long message, but after reading many posts, I thought it might help for you to have more details than not.
My husband and I are going to be in London/Paris in early April and want to take a 2 day trip to Normandy. We will be travelling by train. I was thinking of either staying in Caen or Bayeux. We would like to leave Paris on a Monday morning and need to be back to Paris late afternoon/early evening on Tuesday to check into our hotel (are we really at risk of losing our hotel reservation if we check in after 6pm? We are staying at the Hotel Parc St. Severin).

We realize that we have a short time and don't expect to cover it all, but in order to make the most of it we would like to take a half day tour of the d-day sites and visit the Caen Memorial Museum. We only have one rolling carry on luggage each. Ideally Bayeux sounds like a great place to stay given its size and charm. Also, two of the tours I'm considering are based there (Victory and Overlord). However we really want to visit the Memorial Museum in Caen and I don't want to waste time going back and forth by train?! Is Caen charming or too metropolitan?
Here are the scenarios I'm thinking. Would appreciate your thoughts as to what would be best:

1) Stay in Caen and take the Memorial museum 1/2 day d-day tour (which covers Bayeux). Not sure how good this tour is. Has anyone been on it before?
2) Stay in Caen (so we could leave our luggage in the hotel) and visit the museum on Mon. Take the train Tues morning to Bayeux for either the Victory or Overlord tour. Return to Caen get luggage and head to Paris by train later that day. (this might be tight due to train schedules if we want to get back to Paris before 6pm so we don't lose our reservation.)
3) Stay in Bayeux, but before arrival on Monday stop in Caen and visit Memorial museum (what do we do with our luggage?). Take one of the Bayeux tours on Tuesday. Return to Paris after the tour ends.

It is our first visit to France. All the tours are pretty much the same.

Thank you so much in advance for your advice.
kimberlyb is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 10:38 AM
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Caen could not be described as charming. Bayeux is a lot nicer, but you obviously have some logistics to work out. Why can't you take the train to Bayeux, get settled in your hotel, then take a train to Caen (it can't take more than about a half-hour) to see the Mémorial? Then take the D-Day tour from Bayeux the next day.

Also, do you need to schlep all your luggage to Normandy? I've never encountered a hotel that wouldn't store luggage for me if I was planning to return a few days later. Why not just pack a small overnight bag for the two days in Normandy? Then you could take the train to Caen, visit the Mémorial, and continue on to Bayeux.

If you notify the hotel in advance that you're arriving after 6, I'm sure they'll hold the room for you.
StCirq is online now  
Feb 4th, 2005, 10:47 AM
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I highly recommend staying in Bayeux rather than Caen. The train runs between Caen and Paris so you could visit the museum either when you arrive or before you depart. I don't think you risk losing your Paris hotel reservation, especially if you let them know ahead of time that you will be arriving later than 6.
mamc is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 10:50 AM
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If you like a leisurely pace, this doesn't apply, but to avoid changing hotels and schlepping luggage, you might want to consider doing Normandy in one day instead of two.

The 8:10 train arrives in Caen at 10:19, so you could spend a few hours at the museum (there's not much else to see in Caen), then take the 12:32 or 13:28 to Bayeux and start a 4-5 hour tour right from the train station.

You might even squeeze a visit to the Tapestry in there and still make it back at the station for the 19:34 to Paris.

If you want two full days, you might consider going out to Bayeux in the evening and spending two nights there (it's cheaper than Paris!).
Robespierre is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 10:59 AM
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Kimberlyb, I have been to Normandy three times in the last three years. My principal interest is retracing my Dad's route from Omaha Beach. I found Bayeux a charming, lovely place to be. Caen had no real charm and I think for those who have done any significant research on WWII, the museum is simply not worth the time. Since you have only two days, I suggest you stay in Bayeux, spend the morning you might have gone to Caen and go instead to Colleville Sur Mer. Use that afternoon to see Bayeux and the remaining day on your tour. Enjoy a meal at Lion D'Or while you are there.
cmcfong is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 11:03 AM
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StCirq-
thank you for the suggestion. I will seriously consider staying in Bayeux. We are very light packers so we will only have a small carry on with us. Also, we don't actually check into our Paris hotel until Tues (arriving from London early Monday morning.

Anyone have preferences on tours?
kimberlyb is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 11:06 AM
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Well, I have to jump back in here and say that I completely disagree regarding the Mémorial, and while I can't say that we had done a SIGNIFICANT amount of research on WWII, we certainly had read plenty of books, seen the movies, studied it in school and college, etc.

We, including two kids who were about 10 and 13 at the time, were absolutely mesmerized in that museum. We spent nearly 4 hours there and not a single squawk from the kids. My reading of posts on various message boards leads me to believe we were not alone in being very impressed by this musuem.

I would say don't skip it.
StCirq is online now  
Feb 4th, 2005, 11:34 AM
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Speaking of museums, there is also a complete history of the invasion at the one in Arromanches (just seaward from Bayeux), including a multimedia presentation intended to simulate the experience of the landing.

Arromanches is also the site of Port Winston, the "Mulberry" harbor the Allies brought with them to facilitate landing the thousands of tons of supplies necessary to the invasion.

http://www.normandy1944.com/
Robespierre is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 11:39 AM
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No offense intended, St Cirq. I know many people who found the visit to the memorial inspiring and well worth their time.
cmcfong is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 11:44 AM
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No offense taken, cmfong. Everyone's got a different point of view. I just wanted to balance the scales.
StCirq is online now  
Feb 4th, 2005, 11:58 AM
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Thanks, StCirq.
cmcfong is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 12:23 PM
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I concur, Caen is NOT nice. Can you stay somewhere charming along the coast? Why not rent a car? We rented a car and found some VERY nice places haphazardly.
Car rental for two days might be the same price as a train. If you are interested in where we went and stayed, I can look in my souvenir stuff and get names for you.
toulousaine is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 01:59 PM
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Thank you all for your advice. I have decided we are staying in Bayeux.

After checking train schedules, I think StCirq's suggestion of making Bayeux home base and taking the train to the Memorial Museum will be quite easy (thanks!). While I have also read mixed opinions on the museum, we have heard too many great things to miss it-so it is a must on our to-do list.

That leaves D-Day tours. Since we will stay in Bayeux, I have narrowed it down to either Victory Tours (with Roel I think) or Overlord Tours. Any preferences?? We only want to the half-day morning tour.

Thanks again to everyone. I really appreciate the feedback!!
kimberlyb is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 02:52 PM
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Regarding le Mémorial de Caen, I do think that it is worth a visit. It covers much more than the Battle of Normandy, through the Cold War and the search for peace today. It is didactic in the modern style of museum, and some may find this puts them off. I did not, and I would certainly recommend a visit, but I can understand that it is not to everyone's taste. (I have, by the way, done significant research on World War II at the undergraduate and graduate level, and thereafter).

For a more traditional museum, the Battle of Normandy Museum in Bayeux used to be first class. However, the City of Bayeux, which owns the building, decided to change the nature of the museum (it thought that it over-emphasized the war!), and forced the founder, Dr. Jean-Pierre Bénamou, to leave. As he owned many of the items on display and has removed them, I understand that there is now a temporary exhibit there, and that the new permanent exhibits will open in 2006. We will have to wait to see what they are like--I'm not hopeful. Meanwhile Dr. Bénamou is planning to open a new museum, but that may take a while.

The Musée du Débarquement at Arromanches is worth seeing as is the Airborne museum at Ste-Mère-Eglise.

Caen is not a dump as others may have implied, but much was destroyed in the war, and with only 2 days, you should confine your visit to Caen to the Mémorial and stay in Bayeux, which is much more attractive and easier to get around.

I disagree with the suggestion that you try to do it all in a day from Paris. If you have two days, take them.

I have not taken a guided tour of the beaches, but as you plan to visit the Mémorial, you might want to take one of their tours. For one, they will pick you up and drop you at the railway station in Caen, with an all day tour of the beaches and the Mémorial, You can then continue on to Bayeux for the night and spend the next day there before returning to Paris. Other tours that are highly recommended are Battlebus and Colonel Chilton, but I don't know how you might fit them to your schedule.
laverendrye is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 03:21 PM
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I definitely think the museim in Caen isa must see. We visited it, with our children, only a week after my dh returned from a long military deployment. Incredibly moving!!! Our daughter had read the Anne Frank books and a few others, and although our son was too young to fully understand, both kids were just completely engrossed it all they saw. There was a high school class there that day as well, and none of them were laughing or fidgeting...they were just as in awe as we were.
mms is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 03:57 PM
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Yo, laverendrye -

That wasn't a suggestion - merely a possibility. That's why I prefaced it the way I did.

But while I've got a WWII scholar on the line, let me ask you a question that I first began to ponder in the '60s:

Why, when the Rangers found the guns of Pointe du Hoc far inland, why were the German crews not manning them? Hadn't they noticed that the pivotal battle of World War II was taking place 2 klicks away on the beach?
Robespierre is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 03:58 PM
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The Peace Museum in Caen is definitely worth 3-4 hours. And it is best visited before going out to the beaches. It provides a refresher course in history, politics and the geography of the invasion. When you visit the beaches and the cemetaries the next day, you will be better orientated to what happened 60 years ago.
Marsha is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 04:23 PM
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Dear Kimberly: You may wish to review my trip report on Normandy, as follows:
Trip Report - France- Sort Of ...

Gradyghost
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Feb 4th, 2005, 04:39 PM
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Hi Kimberly, we will be taking a half-day Victory Tour w/Roel next Saturday. I'll post back and let you know how it goes. Good luck w/your planning.
mvor is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 05:04 PM
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You'll be amazed if you take your tour with Victory Tours. Roel has been the best tour guide I have ever gotten. We did the full day tour, which is what I think you should do, and it was great! If you want more information, let me know and I'll send you an email. I can also send you a link to all my photos on his tour.
college_travelers is offline  

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