Self-guided D-Day beaches tour

May 2nd, 2006, 07:56 AM
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Self-guided D-Day beaches tour

Does anybody know of a book/pamphlet/website that gives details of a good, simple self-guided tour of the D-Day beaches in Normandy? We will be there in June and would like to spend an afternoon on the beaches. We are not huge military history fans, but I would like to give my 9 year old son a little introduction to the topic. I'm not interested in spending the money on paying a guide to take us around. We will most likely go to the highly recommended museum in Caen. Do they have any brochures about self-guided tours?
emvic is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 08:07 AM
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I recommend studying the history for a few hours before you get there - it will make your time much more productive.

A good DiY book and map is

p.s. hiring a driver doesn't cost much more than renting a car. The ones we've used charge by the carload for well under 100€, price varies by itinerary. You can book a driver at the Tourist Information Center in Caen or Bayeux (the latter is closer to the American end of the invasion area). Just tell him where you want to go.

If you like seafood, try to be around Port-en-Bessin at lunchtime. The coquilles Saint-Jacques are very fresh!
Robespierre is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 08:38 AM
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I realize this isn't the answer you wanted, but as someone who was there 8 months ago, I would recommend a tour guide. Maybe do a 1/2 day tour instead?

It is definitely worth the money! The information that you will learn will make it much more real to you -

We used and Roel was awesome! He uses a small van (8 people), so he is very personal.

ymmv... but these are my thoughts.
surfmom is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 08:58 AM
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We just got back from our trip to Paris with a day trip to Caen and the D-day beaches. We chose to go with the tour that the Caen Museum has and it was okay. Not the greatest b/c I felt a bit rushed. With that said, the Museum in Caen was very good and I could have spent more time there and they have a pretty big shop with lots of books so I imagine you could find something there. But if it were me, I would be too stressed out about waiting to figure out where I was going to go until I got there. If you go to any of the many tour companies websites and look at their itineraries for an idea of where to go and then all you would need is a good map.
lhs624 is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 11:03 AM
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Another vote for a tour guide. You should think about the effort and money invested in your trip and whether you might ever return to Normandy and compare that to the relatively small cost of a tour guide. I am a history buff so I thought I had a good basis for my trip but I can't tell you how much more our guide contributed to our day touring the landing sites. We used Col Chilcott who lives just outside Bayeaux and if you do a drill down search here you will find many others have used him as well. Spend the extra money, it's well worth it for memories that will last forever.
rlbplf is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 08:34 PM
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I assume from your post, you will have a car and be doing your own thing. A number of years ago, we spent an afternoon visiting the sites along the beach road. We didn't do a formal tour, just stoped at the sites marked on a map we picked up at an area museum. We had our 14 year old daughter along. She was most imppressed with the American Cementery. My husband is a history nut, but he had not planned the stop. We went that way at the last minute!

We will be back this July. We will have a car again and stay a few days to see more of that area of Normandy. Including revisiting some of the sites again minus a guide.

Do a web search for D Day Beaches. There are marked routes you can follow. You can see the major sites with some info from a D Day Web search and a good map.(try plus_utah.htm;_gold.htm:_omaha.htm)

I know guides can be nice, but they can also make you plans less flexible. The main advantage of doing without is that you are moving on your own schedule, at your own pace.

Either way you and you son will enjoy the afternoon. Have a good trip.
cwn is offline  
May 3rd, 2006, 01:20 PM
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Rent 'The Longest Day'
TheodoreW is offline  
May 3rd, 2006, 02:07 PM
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My sister and I visited the sites on our own and found it very rewarding. Perhaps we would have learned more on a tour, but with just the two of us, we were able to experience the emotional impact of the beaches, cemetery, and monuments alone, which was best for us.

I'm sure Rick Steves France book has a suggested itinerary you could follow, and I know that Frommers does:

Fodors doesn't seem to offer much on their destination website.

We were reading Stephen Ambrose's D-Day book while we were in France, and it really added a lot. We're both WWII buffs, though my sister is far more knowledgeable than I am.

I would think that Point du Hoc would be one of the most interesting sites for your son to see. There are massive German Bunkers there atop the sheer clifs the Rangers climbed. Their courage was simply mind boggling.
Mary_Fran is offline  
May 9th, 2006, 01:58 AM
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I can't give any recommendations, as I am looking for a D-day tour myself. But I did find this website: , apparently this company has written a book and they have an outlined self-drive tour. It's a full day but I suppose if you read the book you could choose which things sounded good.
LSUvetgirl is offline  
May 9th, 2006, 02:20 AM
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You might try to find a copy of
Major and Mrs.Holt's Battlefield Guide to Normandy Landing Beaches

They are recognized as probably the best guidebook authors
jody is offline  
May 9th, 2006, 02:30 AM
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The Michelin guide for Normandy has maps and driving routes for the area.
I would strongly suggest that you prep your son before you go. There is so much to take in that a foundation of knowledge would go a long way.
I've taken our kids to the area twice and toured without a guide (age range at the time of our trips was 5-11).
Our top three sites were
Pointe de Hoc
Arromanches (two great museums Arromanches landing and 360)
American Cemetery at Colleville sur Mer
highledge is offline  
May 9th, 2006, 04:34 AM
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Hi emvic,
There have been a number of threads regarding this so rather than re post my answer will add the thread for you to read all the great information from everyone that replied.

I can also recommend Major and Mrs.Holt's Battlefield Guide to Normandy Landing Beaches, well worth buying.

Mucky is offline  
May 9th, 2006, 04:46 AM
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We did it ourselves a couple of years ago starting out with the Michelin Green Guide to Normandy. But there are MANY guide books that are sold at all the sites that will give you good info. There are also a lot of little museums you will run into on the roads. Don't bother with them--hit the big sites and be amazed.
Gretchen is offline  
May 9th, 2006, 05:25 AM
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You can find a wealth of information about touring the battlefields in Normandy from Paul Reed's website:
laverendrye is offline  
May 9th, 2006, 06:27 AM
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Thank you all for your very helpful replies. I'm trying to keep this part of our trip (basically one day) down to a dull roar! There is way too much out there on D-Day and the beaches, and as I said in my original post, we are not military history buffs. I just thought that while we were in Normandy it would be a good idea to make a brief pass through the beaches. I definitely do not want to do a guided tour -- both because I don't want to spend the money and because they sound way too intense. I did get a few good children's books on D-Day from the library. I've also looked at the Michelin guide and a few other Normandy guide books. And last, I'm going to rent the PBS video about D-Day (part of their American Experience series.) My game plan at this point is to visit the museum in Caen, which I've heard very good things about, first. Then to drive along the coast, stopping at the American cemetery, Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc. My family objects if I schedule too many activities in one day!
emvic is offline  
May 9th, 2006, 07:36 AM
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You'll have to start VERY early to do the museum and the beaches. I would also recommend Arromanches. It is a phenomenal story without which there would be no D-Day.
Gretchen is offline  
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