Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

London to D-Day Beaches--What's the best way to get there?

London to D-Day Beaches--What's the best way to get there?

Old Jan 18th, 2006, 06:48 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 395
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
London to D-Day Beaches--What's the best way to get there?

As part of our 3-month stay in London we have many ideas for long weekend getaways. One that is at the top of our list is to head to Normandy to visit the D-Day beaches? Can someone tell me the most efficient way to reach that area from London? Time will be critical. And I gather we should rent a car to visit the D-Day beaches, so can someone help me with where to rent a car upon arrival in France. Also any hotel recommendations for a family of 4? Thanks!
samtraveler is offline  
Old Jan 18th, 2006, 07:39 PM
  #2  
rex
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,194
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I would urge you to make it a REALLY long weekend (leave Thursday morning, return Monday?) and include Mont St Michel. If you're doing that, then Ryanair to Dinard, for as little as 44 GBP roundtrip, makes as much sense as Paris. And "the D-day beaches", you will find, ought to be viewed as a 100 mile stretch, extending from Ste. Mere Eglise (not part of any beach assault, but the epicenter of the 82nd Airborne paratrooper landings), to Pointe du Hoc, past the American cemetery at Colleville sur Mer (overlooking Omaha Beach)... to Arromanches. Do not underestimate what you can learn and see at Arromanches - - worthy of an entire day. And there are important inland visits to be made also, to Caen, for example, and/or Bayeux.

And this still does not take in much of the more charming parts of coastal Normandy, further east (Honfleur, Etretat, Fecamp).

If you cannot allocate enough time for Brittany and MSM (right at the junction of Normandy and Brittany), then flights or Eurostar to Paris are about equally an appropriate choice (more times to day to choose from than flying into Dinard).

Best wishes,

Rex
rex is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 07:31 AM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 395
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Rex, thanks for your advice. I'm not familiar with Ste. Mere Eglise. Where is that? At most we'll have 3 days (2 nights), so we're going to have to prioritize. (We've already been to Mt. St. Michel, Bayeux, St. Malo and other points west in Brittany.) This trip is solely for visiting D-Day sights. That said if it were you, would you fly Ryan into Dinard or fly/Eurostar to Paris? Or what about a land/sea combo--I've never crossed the Channel on boat, so maybe this option is much longer. Where do you suggest we stay? Thanks so much for your help!
samtraveler is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 07:54 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The best way from London to the D-Day beaches is on Brittany Ferries' overnight ship from Portsmouth to Caen. You arrive in the morning at Ouistreham within walking distance of the Pegasus Bridge. Book a cabin on the ship (www.brittany-ferries.com), take the train from London to Portsmouth, and a taxi to the ferry terminal. The ships are French, so I usually have some bread and cheese with wine before going to bed. There is also an overnight service to St-Malo which takes longer so gives time for dinner on board.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 07:57 AM
  #5  
rex
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,194
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Ste. Mere Eglise is west, near the "base" of the Cherbourg peninsula - - see http://www.normandybattlefields.com/battle_sites.htm for example.

We liked staying at Arromanches (aka Gold/Juno beaches); you can find many other recommendations for accommodations in/around Bayeux, and maybe Caen. My own personal experience is with Hotel Chanteclair - - http://www.arromancheshotel.com/us/index_us.htm - - moderately funky, with a slightly hectic, but interesting dining room (seems to serve a lot of locals; doesn't seem like the hotel's guests alone would make it as busy as it is).

An interesting anecdote - - as we left "Arromanches 360" (very much recommended), we walked out to the parking lot with a British couple who remarked to us - - "you know, we never realized, the Americans had quite a lot to do with this, didn't they?"

In Arromanches, you'll learn how/why they may look at it "that way" (as if the Americans played a peripheral role - - which was apparently how they learned it)... as the British "harbor creation", and the overall direction by Montgomery (even though Eisenhower was the supreme commander of all Normandy invasion activities) were indeed _a_ centerpiece (note: I am not saying THE centerpiece) of the success of the Battle of Normandy.
rex is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 07:58 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 19,000
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
How do you respond to that kind of ignorance? I usually shrug, maybe say something like "I guess so" and walk on.

If anyone (who knew anything) asked me what the "pivotal" event of D-Day was, I'd have to say it was the U.S. Navy destroyers blasting a hole in the fortifications at Omaha, allowing the infantry to get off the beach and inland. If those units had been pinned down a few more hours, Bradley would have recalled them, the Germans would have reinforced the gap in the line, rolled up Utah and Gold on the flanks, and the whole front would have collapsed.

I think.
Robespierre is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 08:31 AM
  #7  
rex
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,194
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I don't view it as ignorance; just partial awareness, and it all depends on the propaganda (excuse me... "news") one gets fed (er... receives).

I might just as well have erred and said "oh, I see your Brits had quite a lot to do with this, didn't you?"

Fighting forces (and civilians) from many countries... including Germany (and France)... did what they were trained and instructed to do (or tought up on their own) that day, that week and that month - - many with bravery, some with cunning and brilliance, and some with blind obedience. The "Longest Day" did not, by itself, make the Normandy invasion, and without the successful operations at Arromanches for the 10 days after June 6, the Allies could not have waged war by virtue of the guys who scaled the cliffs and paratrooped into German-occupied France.

Back to one unanswered question about "getting there" - - there is only flight per day between Stansted and Dinard, and it is no more convenient than flying into CDG or taking the Eurostar (could depend on where in greater London you're starting). Going to Paris gives you many more departure choices both directions.
rex is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 08:47 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 6,117
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
If I remember correctly, Ste Mere Eglise (sp) was where the paratrooper's chute caught on the church steeple.
For you readers, a recent interesting book is The Boys of Pointe du Hoc.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 08:54 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 6,022
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
If you used the ferry From Portsmouth, you could, if you wished, see the D Day Museum in Portsmouth before taking the overnight ferry.

I believe Flybe may fly from Southampton to Brest, from where you might hire a car and have not too far to drive.

Rex, I was interested in your point of view on peoples views of D-Day. I thought the 60th Anniversary celebrations did quite a good job of giving credit to everybody - many representatives of various commonwealth countries, the resistance movements, the "Free Czechs and Poles" etc. I think it is just natural for a nation to teach it's own part in History to the exception of other peoples.

A thread on here last year was pulled when it degenerated into abusive posts denegrating the Canadians role in D-Day. The ignorance of many posters from several countries really surprised me.
willit is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 09:45 AM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 395
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I can already tell that our visit to the D-Day beaches will be memorable, and thought-provoking. The antedotes posted here are indeed interesting. And all along I had thought we Americans were THE reason for the success. I think you really do get a filtered view based on where you live--not unlike how "reports" come to us today. I'm definitely looking looking forward to Arromanches. I have lots to learn (my husband is the history buff, I am the trip organizer).

The overnight boat might be a good way to go. I'm also intrigued by Flybe--they also fly to Rennes.

I'm going to check out The Boys of Pointe du Hoc. Any other book suggestions?

Thanks everyone!
samtraveler is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 11:38 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 15
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We just did this trip. Take the train from London to Portsmouth. Spend a few hrs. looking around the WW2 museums there (launching of the invasion) ...Take the high speed Ferry 3pm? across the Chanel to Cherbourg ( the route taken ww2) and then tour the beaches. We did it on our own...my son used Hand Maid Tours.
Riverfront is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 11:45 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 6,022
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Certainly, in other posts on D-Day beaches, the Portsmouth Caen route has been both praised and written off. There have been some changes to ferry operations out of Portsmouth recently, with P&O effectively stopping it's services.

The Invasion itself is a difficult subject to discuss without everybody's national pride being hurt, and the subject degeneratio
ng. Unquestionably, D-Day would not have been a success without the American military's huge contribution in both manpower (Slightly less than half the total number of troops in the attack) and, possibly even more importantly, equipment.

THE reason for success ? - Probably the fact that much of the German Army was fighting a losing battle against the Russians on the Eastern Front.
willit is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 11:58 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 19,000
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
There was plenty of German strength in Normandy - it was just tied up at Calais by Operation Fortitude.

THE reason for the success is that the Führerprinzip prevented Rommel from getting his Panzers into position until D+2.

If the lower echelons of command had had the command authority, Overlord could never have happened.
Robespierre is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 12:18 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 696
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I have taken the high speed ferry and the overnight ferry from Portsmouth into Caen. We drove our own car unto the ferry and hit the ground running after the (slow) overnight ferry.
The only advantage of the slow/overnight ferry was that we left port around 11pm and docked around 7am- combining the travel with sleeping. No need to book a night's room and we had a full day to see the sights. You can view the ferry info at http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/in...m?articleid=64

I looked on the PO ferry site and they did not list a Caen route. Note that you can land at one port and depart from another- ie Cherbourg and Caen.

My advice is take things at your own pace- don't get caught u in seeing or doing it all- and miss out on the specialness of some of the sights.

Not to start (or continue) the political debate, but can't we all agree that we are always at the center of "our history." Thus in the US, the American involvment would take center stage. And the Brits would teach the events with their country in the epicenter. Heck, in the Us our Civil war is centainly taught differently in Miss than in Mass.
It shouldn't be a matter of right or wrong. Just a matter of perspective.
highledge is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 02:05 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
P&O has ceased operating from Portsmouth to France - their services lost money, partly because Brittany Ferries' ships are much better. Brittany Ferries run to both Caen and Cherbourg, the most convenient ports for the D-Day beaches.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 09:28 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 493
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Good books about D-Day; "The Longest Day" (Cornelius Ryan); "D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of WWII" (Stephen Ambrose); "Band of Brothers" (Stephen Ambrose); "The Supreme Commander: The War years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower" (Stephen Ambrose)--and others by John Keegan (British) and Carlo d'Este. There is also a new book out about Col. Rudder and the Rangers of Pointe-du-Hoc.

The museums at Ste-Mere-Eglise, Utah Beach, Arromanche, Pegasus Bridge, and Caen are excellent. I have a copy of the remarkable film shown at the Caen Museum (shows side-by-side the events happening on the Allied front and the German defenses). I can make you a copy, if you wish.

Cheers,

Jinx Hoover
[email protected]

_jinx_ is offline  
Old Jan 19th, 2006, 09:40 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,085
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
There are several pre determined routes to look out for where you can follow signs. There are a lot more things to see than just the beaches, inland the gun casemates and the underground headquarters of field generals etc are quite fascinating and many are lesser known. It needs research but the French are very good at maintaining even the smallest of WW2 site.
I have stuff here I will dig out later regarding the routes.

Rex your unfortunate meeting with these 2 people is not typical at all of the British who had been fighting WW2 for 4 years before you guys decided that flogging armaments and making $$$ may not be quite enough and revenge for Pearl Harbour in true American style kicked you into action.
It's a good job though because my name could be Von Mucky now if you hadn't helped.

;-)

Muck
Mucky is offline  
Old Jan 20th, 2006, 04:48 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 19,000
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
December 7, 1941 minus four years is 1937. I had no idea the Brits started that early.
Robespierre is offline  
Old Jan 20th, 2006, 07:09 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,085
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Yes the declaration and official entry was, however USA didn't actually combine forces with the allies in Europe until January 1943.

Mucky is offline  
Old Jan 22nd, 2006, 08:47 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 51
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I can't help you out with how to get there from London as when I went there a few years ago I wasn't doing the one driving and was already in France at the time when we drove there from Paris I think. But I can tell you about an excellent book that was VERY useful 'cause it had detailed directions and maps. The book is "Major and Mrs. Holt's Battlefield Guide to Normandy" and when I just did a quick search on Google found it available online. You can view it at http://www.guide-books.co.uk/normandy.html. My dad (a WWII vet) bought it for me at Barnes & Noble when I was planning my "Battle of the Bulge" trip as I called it. I visited alot of the historical sites and it was one of the most memorable trips I have ever taken. I can dig out photos and see if I still have the itinerary someplace and can send it to do but it won't be for a few weeks as I am headed to CA & Baja,Mexico tomorrow. Yes, I LOVE to travel. IF you can only squeeze in a few days, I would suggest Ste. Mere Eglise (where yes, the movie "The Longest Day" shows the scene where Pvt. John Steele is shot down by the Nazis while parachuting and gets caught on the church steeple) and the Normandy American National Cemetery & Memorial in St. Laurent where the scene in "Saving Private Ryan" takes place. I stayed one night at the Mercure Omaha Beach hotel which is actually on a golf course at Omaha Beach. The address is Chemin du Colombier | Port-en-Bessin, Caen 14520, France. You can find more info. about it on Tripadvisor.com. When I get a chance I will dig out more information and photos. And as far as the Europeans not being grateful, I found nothing to be further from the truth. I met a Frenchman at a site when he was coming out of a bunker and he asked me if I was an American. I would imagine the jeans and sneakers tipped him off. Anyways, when I told him yes, his exact words were, "Thank you for this". I was so touched. I just wished I could have called my dad on my cell phone so that he could have talked to him but my dad had died a few weeks before my trip. It was a very emotional trip but one I would do again in a heartbeat! I felt my dad was there with me in spirit the whole time and I really enjoyed seeing all the places he had told me about when he was stationed in Europe during WWII.
Aremorra is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:24 PM.