Taking my dad to the Normandy beaches

Mar 5th, 2009, 12:13 PM
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Taking my dad to the Normandy beaches

My dad participated in the Normandy invasion in WWII and he, my husband, and my son are taking a trip there this summer. My dad is 85 and in good health, and my 24 year old son has become fascinated with WWII history. So it seemed like the thing to do sooner rather than later. They plan to arrive and leave from CDG and rent a car. Arrive June 1, depart June 9.

I don't know this part of France at all and would greatly appreciate some planning help.

How many nights would you spend in Normandy (if the focal point is WWII)?

Where would you stay?

Which of the many museums and memorials would you recommend most highly?

Are there any places that you know of that will have special ceremonies on June 6?

Many thanks, Laurie
lreynold1 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2009, 12:53 PM
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Google "Colonel Chilcott". We stayed with them (very quirky B&B, but nice) in 2002 and did his all day tour. Our only focus on WWII on that trip was when we were at their place (see our web page-France-
Our stay with them was two nights. He is extremely well versed as well as opinionated. I would highly recommend him. Happy Travels! Shirley
LuvToRoam is offline  
Mar 5th, 2009, 12:57 PM
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There are probably 1,000 threads on this board pertaining to visiting the D-Day beaches of Normandy, so a search here would be the place to start.

I wouldn't get off a plane and drive to Normandy, first of all. My personal limit for driving after an all-night flight is 2 hours. Normandy's twice that. I'd go into Paris, spend the night, then take the train to Bayeux or Caen the next day and pick up the rental car there.

Bayeux is my choice of town for visiting the Normandy WWII sites. It wasn't bombed, like so many other towns, so it's still architecturally intact. It's also just a darling, friendly place. I'd spend 3-4 nights.

The Mémorial museum in Caen is fabulous. The museum at Arromanches is also good. There are also dozens of smaller museums all over.

I believe there is always a major event on June 6. I'm guessing Google can answer the question of where. Probably the American Cemetery.
StCirq is offline  
Mar 5th, 2009, 01:09 PM
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Hi lreynold1

Do you know from your dad which regiment he was in and which beach he came ashore on?
May be a good place to start.
As you will have a car you will have great flexibility to see lots of places quite quickly.

Bayeux is one of many good places to stay, but I suspect that hotels are filling up with the commemorations that will be taking place this June.

How about staying in a Gite? They are self catering cottages/farm houses.holiday homes, but you have space to relax too. Google Normandy Gites there are lots.

There are driving routes following the story of the invasion. These routes are indicated by totem signs along the way and are seperated out. To phases of the invasion: The Assault,The Onslaught, Objective-Aport, the confrontation, Cobra-The breakout, the counter attack The encirclement, the outcome.

Along with all the cemeteries beaches, gun emplacements etc etc. Enough to satisfy you for a good week or more.

I use a great book called Major and Mrs Holt's Battlefield guide. May be worth getting it to start you off.

I will see if I can dig up a thread that used to be on here which had masses of info, not sure if it survived the restructuring of the site, but will look.

If you find out the basics about where dad was we can point you closer to the right direction.

Mucky is offline  
Mar 5th, 2009, 01:09 PM
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Note this year of course is 65 years and there will like be big festivities (and hotels etc. may be already booked). In 2004 we used Alain Chesnel and had an excellent day out there. His website is at http://www.overlordtour.com/index.htm.
laurie_ann is offline  
Mar 5th, 2009, 01:19 PM
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Ok I found one for you.
Check out a thread called

Normandy Must See itinerary

Anyone know how to add a link now??

Anyway search that title and you will find one of hundreds.

Good luck

Mucky is offline  
Mar 5th, 2009, 01:53 PM
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This is the link to Normandy Must See Itinerary: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-itinerary.cfm

To add a link, open the thread, then copy the url and paste it into the reply.
Nikki is online now  
Mar 5th, 2009, 02:16 PM
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Thanks for the link to the "must see" itinerary. I did a search before posting, but apparently only brought up threads with "normandy beaches" in the topic line, not in the body of the message, because I didn't get that many.

I will look for lodging in Bayeaux, though it's late, I know. I hadn't done the math and didn't know it was the 65th anniversary, so I guess accommodation will be tight.

I will get the information from my dad on regiment and beach. It's funny, he's never really talked much about it till my son started peppering him with questions. A few years ago my dad said to my son -- when I was your age, I was already back from the war. That really triggered something in my son and he's been reading about WWII ever since. Thanks for the help, Laurie
lreynold1 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2009, 02:48 PM
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First off, as another vet, I salute you dad for his contribution of heroic service. I enlisted when I was 17, filling the ranks so that the guys like dad could come home.
I ended up in Japan with an occupying infantry unit....to this day, I'm thankful that we didn't have to resort to invading the mainland...the a-bombings prevented that.

I do hope dad can gets to see everything. I've been twice. You know it will be exceptionally emotional for him every step of the way, no matter how stoic he may seem now. I strolled both Omaha and Utah beach, looking up toward the ridges, trying to imagine what is must have been like. Your dad won't have to imagine at all.

I would suggest that there is a much smaller museum in Bayeux (on the outer circle) that is more personal than the Caen exhibits. He might get a good deal out of it..no crowds, everything spelled out, lots of surplus.

On our more recent trip we stayed at the Chateau de Sully, about 2 kms outside Bayeux, on one of the main roads to the beaches. It was a sheer delight. I imagine the rates are quite a bt more than we lucked out on in 2001 ($120)...but it would give the family an experience in a beautiful chateau.

Hey, Dad...have a great visit...again, I salute you, sir!

Stu Tower, 19th Inf, 24th Div. so many long years ago.
tower is offline  
Mar 5th, 2009, 03:27 PM
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What a wonderful trip for your dad, husband, and son.

I recommend the Battlebus tours; there are lots of them to choose from. The guides are very knowledgeable and thorough. www.battlebus.fr

Unless you think the guys will sleep on the plane, I would suggest not driving all the way to WWII area the first day after flying all night.

We stayed in Bayeux for our Normandy sejour and thought it was a perfect base for visiting the area. We stayed at the Hotel d'Argouges right in Bayeux and would recommend it.

Another vote for the Caen Memorial Museum.
grandmere is offline  
Mar 5th, 2009, 03:55 PM
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You should also see if you can find out about what I believe is a new D-day museum near St. Mere Eglise. (I just read about it but can't remember where and a google didn't turn it up.) Also, we had a great Michelin map that is a very detailed depiction of the D-Day invasions. Here's link to it on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Michelin-Battl.../dp/2067002627.
laurie_ann is offline  
Mar 5th, 2009, 04:50 PM
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Hello Ir: As you can see from the replies, lots of folks have had rewarding experiences in visits to Normandy. St Cirq mentioned the wealth of information on this board and that's right. You mentioned that you might be late in making arrangements. If that is so and the available accomodations may have narrowed to some of the higher priced hotels, I suggest chateau la cheneviere, one of the small luxury hotels of the world and located just outside Bayeux.


Great place and fabulous restaurant which is nice after a long day of touring. We used Roel of Victory Tours (often mentioned on this board). He came to our hotel and drove us all day according to our own pace. With a car, we then were able to later visit the spots that Roel introduced us to.

Good luck. Gradyghost
gradyghost is offline  
Mar 5th, 2009, 06:02 PM
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I am happy to hear that they are all making the trip together.

I am also taking my Dad this year to the celebrations, although he wasn't there - he was 3 at the time - he is just a history buff. This will be my 4th visit to Normandy.

I am actually staying with the Chilcotts for the third time and I'm sure they are full by now as they tend to fill up months ahead of time. Colonel Chilcott unfortunately is ill and is unlikely to be conducting tours. Rosemary had given me a few recos for tours which I don't have at my fingertips.

There are a number of museums to visit - Caen, the Merville Battery (small and homegrown, my last visit to that particular one was ten years ago so I don't know if it has grown) and another one not far from the "mulberries". My last visit was 5 years ago and the Ste Mere Eglise museum mentioned was not there yet.

I've done the drive from landing in Paris all the way to Bayeux the same day (with a stop at Giverny/Claude Monet's house and gardens on the way, including a nap in the grass at Les Andelys), it's possible if you have a peppy travel companion (I did) and the nap helped!

Do find out where he was and his regiment, and so on. Being able to take him to the same places would be very meaningful for him.
flygirl is offline  
Mar 5th, 2009, 06:49 PM
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Laurie, E-mail me please off line. [email protected]
rosiecaro is offline  
Mar 6th, 2009, 10:38 AM
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I posted this thread recently, this may be helpful in your planning:

flygirl is offline  
Mar 6th, 2009, 11:04 AM
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We had a wonderful stay at Manoir de Thionville in April 06. The Manoir is off the beaten path in the countryside, but with a car it is no problem, plus the days are so wonderfully long in June you wouldn't be driving in the dark. I was just thinking it may be another option to try if the town hotels are full.

Good Luck!
HappyCheesehead is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 03:41 PM
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My son and I are also going to France and the same area for the same reason. We are coming in from London via the Chunnel. My travel agent is going to book us a car for rental and we'll drive from Paris. Any suggestions on places to visit en route to the beaches of WWII?

We will be there in middle of June (approx the 12th).
Mondoux is offline  
Mar 21st, 2009, 12:07 AM
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I also recommend Battlebus tours. If you let them know your father is a veteran and what unit he was with, they will do extra research on that unit. I can well imagine tours and hotels are getting booked. I have just recently read about veterans being able to have a ceremony with the local mayors to receive medals commemorating their service. Here is a great website that lists the many events going on and how to contact the mayors to plan the ceremony.

Please thank your father for his service. It is so wonderful that your son is asking him questions. I wish I had asked my step-father a few more questions. A really good book to read is "The Greatest Generation" as it presents these men and women who sacrificed so much, and kept so quiet about afterwards.
Mainhattengirl is offline  
Mar 21st, 2009, 03:59 AM
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Ireynold, please thank your father for his service from me as well. What a meaningful trip you're planning for your family--best wishes and enjoy a wonderful trip.
AnnMarie_C is offline  
Mar 21st, 2009, 05:32 AM
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That will be quite a trip--no doubt about it. I would get the Michelin Green Guide to Normandy and start there. Also the Michelin Map of Normandy that shows the many small roads. We preferred the N Roads instead of the big autoroutes.
Bayeux would be a good base for your visit. We started up at St. Mere Eglise and worked back down the American beaches. There are MYRIAD numbers of "museums". I would recommend visiting the ones at the main beach areas. St. Mere Eglise is "different" in that it is mainly for Airborne items. The "must sees" for us were Pont du Hoc, Omaha, Arromanches, and the American Cemetery. We also visited Pegasus Bridge on the way to Bayeux from Honfleur.
The Caen Museum may be a must see for your family.
We did not do a tour, but just visited these places on our own over a period of days.
You will be unbelievably moved that your father did this as a teen ager. That the Germans could be overcome from the vantage points and the visiblility they had is one of the great campaigns of any time.
We stayed at the Hotel Bayeux--squeaky clean, large rooms, and under $50 8 years ago. Secure car park next door. VERY close to the Cathedral and the Tapestry--also worthy destinations to see.
Gretchen is online now  

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