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Normandy Omaha beach--can I do it without a guided tour?

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Aug 1st, 2008, 07:14 AM
  #1
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Normandy Omaha beach--can I do it without a guided tour?

Hi. I am looking ahead to a trip to France next year. I'd like to see Normandy Beach, museum and American cemetary. Can I do this all "on my own" or should I join a guided tour? I'll have a car. Can I do it in a half day (3-4 hours?)--or just how much time should I allow? Thanks.
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Aug 1st, 2008, 08:58 AM
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Hi marybethcl,
There are several tours that you could take and many are mentioned on this forum. They are no doubt very good.
However you may wish to take one but you do not need a tour. Especially as you have your own transport.

How long it will take depends upon you and what you want to see. From what your saying in your post a day would do it easily, but I suspect you want to see more than the cemetery, museum and a beach.

Normandy is packed full with interesting places to see and go you could fill a month if you really wished.

There are loads of threads on the subject, here is one:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34913482

I hope the link works but I have topped it for you too.

Have a look and see, come back with specific ideas.
With a good book and a map you can see everything you wish to see without a guide if you so desire.

Good luck

Muck
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Aug 1st, 2008, 09:47 AM
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I spent 2 weeks in Normandy a year ago - staying in several different areas (there is lots to see!). I did the beaches on my own, but still regret not taking one of the guided tours. Depending on how much time you have, I would say do the tour.

By the way, the Memorial Museum in Caen is great - try to do that, too.
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Aug 1st, 2008, 02:48 PM
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Audioguide Tour?
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=35141876
Regards, Walter
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Aug 2nd, 2008, 04:46 AM
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It is very easy to visit the sites on your own.

There is good signage, ample space for parking, marked ways and some plates giving explanations.

And yes, within 3 hours you can easily visit the cemetary, the beach and the museum. There will be enough time for a swim, too (pack a towel).

IMO, no need to book a tour. Driving on your own, you will be much faster than with a get-into-the-bus, get-off-the-bus, 50-people-use-the-toilet, buy-souveniers tour.
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Aug 2nd, 2008, 04:58 AM
  #6
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Many thanks! I'm usually not fonhd of guided tours, and I think I'll just do my homework and visit the sites independently on my own schedule.
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Aug 2nd, 2008, 10:03 PM
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We've been to the Normandy beaches three times, and we never used the services of a guide. Perhaps we would have heard stories that aren't found in guidebooks, but we enjoyed walking around the American cemetery, Point du Hoc and other places of interest at our own pace. We were able to get first-hand accounts of wartime Normandy from the brother of the owner of the guest house where we stayed in Crepon. For us, Normandy was one of the highlights of our last trip to
France (2004), mainly because our then 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son enjoyed it so much. They were able to experience history right at the source.
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Aug 3rd, 2008, 04:29 PM
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We just toured Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, Point du Hoc, and Longueville sur Mer, this past May.

With good maps, NO absolutely you don't need a tour guide.

However, I guess I should modify that to say: depends on your background history, and what movies/books etc you have seen re the D-Day invasion.

In my case, we had already seen Band of Brothers, The Longest Day, Saving Private Ryan, etc., and read several of Ambrose' and Cornelius Ryan's books.

I've read stories of people on here who paid for tours which took all day (and they ended up listening to experiences of relatives of other people on the tour). Hey, yes, better ways to spend your day than that!

Let me know if you want me to top my trip report for you.
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Aug 16th, 2008, 03:27 PM
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You need at least a day to get a meaningfull visit of the d day beaches. They stretch along 50 miles of coast. I think you need a guide of some sort. As a guide I'm biased but if you have one visit to normandy don't waste it by just floundering around looking at sandy beaches and concrete blocks.
You can go to Mont St Michel on your own, (guides are provided) you can walk around Bayeux and visit the tapestry on your own, you can drink in the atmosphere of Honfleur on your own, but you need a guide to appreciate the d day beaches.
There are private guides, minibus tours and audio guides.
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Aug 16th, 2008, 04:48 PM
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Hello Marybeth:

Of course you can tour Normandy without the aid of a professional guide. When you depart, what kind of experience have you had? When you are visiting a place of such importance, why would you want to rely on tour books and your own uneducated views and reactions? The contributions of a professional enhance the experience far beyond any reasonable expectation of doing it "on your own".
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Aug 16th, 2008, 05:45 PM
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[email protected] and www.dday-guide.com
This is the name of a guide we used in Normandy in 2006. We knew a lot about WWII and Normandy, we're from the US, but we wanted a more in depth view than we'd get on our own. We did a one day tour with Nigel, but did some touring the day before and the day after. I think it was the very best money we spent on the 10 day vacation. We didn't want the big tour group sort of guide, and it worked out very well, just Nigel and the two of us. I would strongly recommend him and if not him, a similar situation. We are going to be in Belgium in October and have arranged a guide there for Bastogne, recommended by Nigel. No, I don't get a kickback! There's a lot to see in this area, but please allow more than three hours to do the WWII sites.
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Aug 16th, 2008, 06:06 PM
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We have hired a driver/guide on two trips to Normandy, and I highly recommend it. For €75 or so, a carload of people can have a custom-guided tour of the most important historical sites (of your choosing - not a one-size-fits-all) by guides who know the area and history intimately. Both of ours were locals, and their families had passed down many intimate observations of the feeling of the invasion and what it meant to the people of France.

Just go to the Tourist Information Centre in Caen or Bayeux, tell them what you want (English only or whatever), and they'll have someone there in ten minutes.
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Aug 16th, 2008, 07:56 PM
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You can certainly visit the American cemetery without a guide and see the beach there. Just visiting that one area can take a good half day.
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Aug 17th, 2008, 07:18 AM
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And when you get back home people will ask, did you see the first exit from Omaha?
No.
Did you see the machine gun pill boxes on the cliff?
No
Did you see where Perrogory attacked a machine gun nest single hande?
No
Did you see the 10ft high stainless steel statue?
No
Did you see the "Private Ryan" graves?
No
Did you see the artificial port?
No
Did you see the band of brothers field gun attack?
No
Well what did you see?
A sandy beach

For looking for a guide the best approach is the tourist board at Caen. They have many more guides on their list than Bayeux.
CDT LETOURNEUR Muriel <mailto:[email protected]>

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Aug 17th, 2008, 07:45 AM
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I disagree with cpmac's implication that the only way to have a complete experience of D-Day is to hire someone. Myriad books and maps exist that present as complete a picture of the landings as you could possibly hope to have (and then some).

But a hired local guide is a good way to avoid screwing around with navigation and maximize your tour. Since they come with their own vehicle, you can also end-run the transportation requirement.
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Aug 17th, 2008, 08:06 AM
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We went to the Normandy beaches on our own. Just walking around those white tombstones made for an emotional day. And imagine yourself coming up off the beach to take out those German pill boxe.

Everyone travels differently - some like to have a tour guide to tell them everything. I like to read and study about where I am going, find it for myself and just take the time to view it all and take it in.

I found it amazing at Omaha Beach that there were so many different languages being spoken. Thought for some dumb reason that it would be an American thing to see but that was not the way it was. There were people from all different countries visiting.

Try to find the 1962 movie "The Longest Day" about D-Day
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Aug 17th, 2008, 08:07 AM
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No don't do a tour !If you have a car you can go at your own pace ,and not have someone telling you when it's time to go .
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Aug 17th, 2008, 08:23 AM
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If you're paying a driver, you can tell him when and where you want to go.

I think the bus tours are a ripoff (but if they were publicly traded companies, I'd buy in).
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Aug 17th, 2008, 12:45 PM
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There's the well known saying ignorance is bliss. Somebody who knows litle about D day will look at Omaha beach and think "this is awesome" then go to see the 10000 white marble crosses and say this is awesome and think they've seen the d day beaches.
The film the longest day is a great introduction to D day. It's probably the best film about it. But it won't help you find the sites or corelate what you've seen with the terrain.
The corroroly of ignorance is bliss is the more you know the more you know that you don't know. After 20 years of guiding and learning about d day and Normandy I know there is still a lot I don't know.
I also know that after a days visiting people are astounded at what they have seen. They didn't realise there was so much to the d day area.
But there's no law against wasting your one trip to Normandy.
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Aug 17th, 2008, 03:10 PM
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Of course you can. Get the Michelin Green Guide to Normandy and study it a bit for an itinerary--add Arromanches to your trip, at least. Then buy one of the many guides they sell at the sites. There is one that is particularly good. Maybe someone can supply the name. And No, you can't do it in half a day.
You say "Normandy beach". There are many. I would do Omaha, Pointe du Hoc, Arromanches, and the cemetery--in a day. They are all very different in what happened but it will give a good picture of the invasion. Don't shortchange, and I think you can do it on your own for the experience.
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