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bellhouse May 21st, 2007 06:03 AM

Mont St Michel/D-day beaches/etc.
If we started early from Mont St. Michel and spent maybe 4-5 hours at the beaches (Pointe du Hoc/Arromanches/American cemetery - any other suggestions? is that enough time?) would Honfleur make a good stop for the night? I would like to get a little farther along (we would be headed for Jumieges and Rouen, but I don't want to push it.

PalenQ May 21st, 2007 06:32 AM

you could easily drive from Caen area to jumieges if you didn't go via Honfleur i believe and if you go via Honfleur and want to see it stay there.

apoolshark May 21st, 2007 04:43 PM

If you really want to see the Normandy site, beaches, cemetaries I would recommend getting a guide. We were there in Oct and used battlebus. It was fantastic

Dave_in_Paris May 21st, 2007 10:04 PM

Seconding the idea of a quality guided tour of D-Day sites, and I think it should be a full day. Battlebus has a great reputation and so does Victory tours. You could do all on your own in one very long day leaving from the Mont but that's a lot of driving. Don't miss Honfleur. It's lovely and less crowded at night.

Mucky May 21st, 2007 10:51 PM

Hi bellhouse.
Your idea is ok but not nearly long enough to benefit from all the D Day sights have to offer.

I guess in the time you have, a tour as already mentioned may very well be thwe answer, although not having done one I don't really know for sure.
But you will have a car.

Anyway this subject has been here several times and I just nicked some info I posted some time ago for a similar question.

There may be irrelevent bits but I hope its helpful.

The WW11 sites in Normandy are excellent places to visit. I think the French have spent a couple of generations looking after these places and the current generation probably see things as quite lucrative, therefore access is easy and routes are available to follow which allow the visitor to really explore what happened in WW2.

Bayeux is in my opinion the best place to have as a base. The town is quite pleasant and as PalenqueBob said was not destroyed.

There are eight signposted routes, looking at different phases of the fighting from the landings, to battles in the Bocage, to the final breakouts. The eight routes have different names, and are clearly signed . At major points along these routes are multi-lingual information totems which tell you the history behind the location you are visiting. It is well worth following these routes.
They will take you to the well known places and also the lesser visited places too.

I have dug up a recent pamphlet I picked up in Normandy it may be of some interest regarding WW2 touring routes. You can do part or all of which ever you wish.
Sorry its a little long winded but it may be of some interest.

The routes are identified by sword shaped signs and totem poles scattered around the areas.

"Normandy is a veritable open air museum; the historical area of the battle of Normandy brings together all museums and places of interest and remembrance connected to D Day and the ensuing offensive in the three departments of Calvados Manche and Orne.

There are 8 itineraries in chronicle sequence clearly signposted
?Normandie Terre-Liberté?
These routes enable the visitor to discover these history packed places and follow the unfolding of the huge battle on which the outcome of the Second World War depended.

These itineraries are as follows:

This route is designed to help discover a great many places that marked 6th June 1944 in the Anglo-Canadian sector from the right bank of the Orne estuary to Bayeux.
You will first come across Pegasus Bridge at Bénouville, and then carry on along the coast following the signs.
Juno and Gold Landing beaches as far as Arromanches and the Longues Battery. Finally reaching Bayeux the first French town to be liberated.
Distance : 72km


Starting out from Bayeux, this route covers the entire length of the Omaha sector as far as Carentan. Taking in places like Colleville-Sur Mer and Points du Hoc, it gives an idea of the violence of the battle and the scale of the American casualties, which earned the Omaha beach the nickname ?Bloody Omaha?
The route then follows the hard fought advance of the American troops towards the town of Saint Lo badly scarred by intensive bombing raids and then through marshlands to Carentan where the link up took place with the troops coming ashore from Utah beach.
Distance :130km

From Carentan to Cherbourg, this route lets you relive the parachute drop by the American 82nd and 101st airborne divisions around Saint-Mere Eglise and the landing on Utah beach at St Marie-du-mont. Moving on to Cherbourg, a vital base for importing the equipment and supplies required for the operation to succeed.
Distance :95km

Starting out at Bénouville this completes the ?Overlord-L?assaut? route and follows the extremely difficult advance and consolidation of the beachhead by the British and Canadian troops. Between Caen, not liberated until 9th July, and Vire in early August, strategic towns like Caumont-L?eventé and St Martin des Besaces would be wiped out under Allied artillery fire and air attacks during ?operation bluecoat? (breakthrough in the Bocage) with the aim of supporting the American offensive in the West .
Distance :207km

From Cherbourg to Avranches, you will follow the difficult progress of the Allied tanks under General Patton as far as the tremendous breakout at Avranches, which was not liberated until 31st July.
The towns of La Haye-du-puits, Périers and Coutances, and the battlefields of Mont Castre, la chapelle-en-juger and Roncey show with what extreme difficulty the fighting forces contrived to get around the German defences entrenched in Normandy.
Distance :174km

The decisive phase of the Battle of Normandy took place with the wide sweep from Avranches to Mortain, where a deadly counteroffensive put paid to German hopes of halting the Allied advance.
From Mortain, the route then takes you to Alencon along either side of which Anglo-Canadian forces, to the North, and American forces to the South would gradually close the jaws on the German divisions.
Distance :209km

This itinary, from Alencon to L?aingle, gives an idea of how the trap designed to encircle the German forces closed in from the south. After following the progress of the French 2nd Armoured Div and American units moving northwards, you can discover the place where the bloody and decisive and decisive battles were fought for the Falaise-Chambois pocket. Before going on to L?aingle, whose liberation opened the road to the Seine for the Allied Armies.
Distance :162km

This circuit covers the phase in which the Allied offensives converged towards what would be the most decisive battlefield of the whole Normandy campaign, the Falaise pocket. It follows in the footsteps of the British, Canadian and Polish Armies, heading due south in operation ?Totalize? to meet American and French (2nd Armoured) troops who had achieved a breakthrough towards Alencon and were moving North to encircle the German army as it withdrew following its failure at Mortain.
Distance: 128km"


cklimon May 22nd, 2007 06:14 AM


How much time are you spending at M ST. M -- one or two days? What do you want to see at Normandy? It's 1 1/2 hour drive to Carentan and Utah beach just to start. I agree with Muck a Normandy trip is 50 miles alone to see all the battle sights. I tried to do this from Paris in one day by car -- a disaster. A good stopping point is a farm house B&B in Ryes near Arromanches -- It's in Rick Steve's book ofline I can give you better info if interested. Regards,

bellhouse May 25th, 2007 08:57 AM

Muck - wow! Thanks for all of that! I'm printing off a copy for us and for the boys. Also, Pool Shark and Dave - thanks for the recommendations of tours. I know, from traveling with my parents, that you get a lot out of them, but we really enjoy doing research and going at our own pace - especially with the boys.

cmeyer54 May 25th, 2007 09:08 AM

we hired a private guide for our family - two early teens and us old folk. he was excellent; moved at our pace, allowed us to wander and slowly take things in. The original tour was set for a full day, since we spent more time at some of the sites and the last stop (American Cemetery) was closing early that day, he extended to another half day at no extra charge. I would not do this any other way; the emotions run too high to be in a cattle car group tour (at least for me) and I don't want to spend my time navigating rather than taking it all in.

PalenQ May 25th, 2007 10:20 AM

how much did the private guide cost? Is it affordable for average travelers?

laverendrye May 25th, 2007 10:33 AM

As others have commented, you really should devote a full day to D-Day sights and then you would still have to pick and choose. The suggestion of a tour is a good one. The guides know their history, and most importantly, where to go. You could easily waste considerable time in navigating and getting lost.

Paul Reed has an excellent battlefield website. Here's his page on Normandy:

And this is is page on battlefield tours:

I would recommend Bayeux for an overnight stop, but Honfleur would be a good second choice.

Mucky May 25th, 2007 12:31 PM

laverendrye thanks for the websites, really interesting stuff.

I am pleased they mention Hillman, which I visited a couple of years ago.

Lesser known ingenius network underground. Well worth a visit, but it wasn't always fully open.


cmeyer54 May 25th, 2007 12:37 PM

Bellhouse - I honestly can't remember the price he charged. You can google him - Col. Michael Chilcott - and get an email address. Since this was a few years back, I'm sure its gone up; while it was more than a group tour, we felt that the area deserved a splurge. We paid for him, his petro and his lunch on day 1; day 2 was nothing extra. He's a retired british army colonel and some think eccentric - we thoroughly enjoyed his commentary. he was willing to tailor our day to our interests - US vs British vs Canadian, etc. His insight and additional personal andecdotes were well worth whatever price.

blh May 25th, 2007 02:17 PM

We just returned from Normanday and did a D-Day tour with Victory Tours, with Roel. His l/2 day tour is 40 Euros per person. Our tour lasted from 9:30 am until 2:30 pm. He also does a full day tour. We had six people on our tour, on a van. It was great - Roel is very interesting, and we thought it was well worth the money.

Robespierre May 25th, 2007 03:08 PM

Roel has a nice little franchise going there. Let's see - 240€ for 5 hours' work? If he does two tours a day, six days a week and fifty weeks a year, it's about $194,000.

You can also hire a very knowledgeable guide at the Tourist Information Center who will take you anywhere you want to go and regale you with fascinating history from the point of view of the locals. In addition to the Official History, you will hear D-Day stories that have been passed down the generations by the grateful French who endured it all.

Prices are generally a full day (ten hour) tour for as many people as can fit in the car or van for 70€ to 100€, depending on how much real estate you choose to cover.

Dave_in_Paris May 25th, 2007 05:12 PM


Arranging through the tourist office clearly is more economical. How many guides are in their "stable"? How many times have you done this?

Robespierre May 25th, 2007 08:19 PM

We've hired a tour twice.

I don't know how many people they have to choose from, but the lady who set us up called one or two before finding one who was available.

One time we hired a driver/guide from the parking lot at Bayeux rail station, choosing the one we did for his friendly demeanor and willingness to accommodate our itinerary. I had to do simultaneous translation for my family, but his French was so intelligible that I had no difficulty (which I have had in Paris on occasion) keeping up with him. The TIC will provide English speakers on request.

He related how his parents (children at the time) and their parents hid in the cellars of their farmhouses all day and night, getting really emotional as he described the mixture of terror and elation they experienced as the battle raged around them.

To this day, the Normands tend the American graves with great respect and devotion - because they have not allowed the allies' sacrifice to be forgotten.

hopingtotravel Jun 1st, 2007 08:04 PM

OR, maybe save some of that money, buy a really good map ahead of time and decide which places you want to see--depending if you are American, British, Canadian, etc. Sorry, guess I just have this thing about tours.

Dave_in_Paris Jun 1st, 2007 08:32 PM

Well, you can find the D-Day sites with a good map and the cemeteries need no commentary. But unless you're a military historian, standing on the terrain is going be short of what it could be with a competent guide.

Robespierre Jun 2nd, 2007 10:53 AM

A guide with car costs about the same as a rental car for the same period/mileage. Unless you buy a day pass on for your transport, there's no saving by doing it on your own.

timsmom Jun 2nd, 2007 11:08 AM

I recommend going to Arromanches-sur-Mer to see the barges still sunk in the bay. For a different viewpoint, go to Juno Beach, where there is a Canadian monument/centre to commemorate the Canadian role in the D-Day invasion - it is very moving.

I also recommend Bayeux for viewing the tapestry about the Norman invasion of Hastings in 1066 - it is a turning point in history and the actual tapestry can be viewed, with English commentary available.

Also, Dinan is a unique medieval village with the most yummy crepes and Brittanesque(?) shops.

Enjoy - I can't wait to return :)

hopingtotravel Jun 4th, 2007 08:46 AM

I guess my 'tour' thing isn't about saving the money, it's a 'time' thing.

I've read on here about people going on tours and what they end up hearing is war stories from the other people on the tour.

Also, there may be things I want to see/and/or miss that the tour does differently. Plus, my DH gets impatient.

Robespierre Jun 4th, 2007 08:55 AM

More arguments favoring a private tour. If you want to decide where you go, what you see, and how long you stay, the canned tour buses aren't for you.

The battle buses also tend to dumb down the history for those who haven't cracked the cover of a history book for 35 years.

hopingtotravel Jun 4th, 2007 11:12 AM

Robes, maybe that's part of it--I've read tons of books.

PalenQ Jun 4th, 2007 11:15 AM

and unless you bikeable - bikes are a great way to see the beaches and sights along them - i've done it and it's easy enough - public transportation via Bus Verts is so spotty that you either have to take the mini-bus tours or hire a private tour

How much does it cost to hire a private tour guide? I know the minibuses seem very reasonable - $50 or so?

swagman Jun 9th, 2007 02:54 AM

Could someone comment if it is worth staying a night at Mont St Michel? For the sake of having it to yourself when the day-trippers are gone.


Mucky Jun 9th, 2007 06:41 AM

I always think the best part of MSM is the view of it from about a mile away, it always takes my breath away.

Sorry never stayed there but it gets hellish busy with tourists.


Dave_in_Paris Jun 9th, 2007 06:50 AM

I think it's worth staying overnight on the Mont. Alternatively, stay on the mainland, admire the Mont from afar, and avoid the crowds altogether.

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