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Visiting DDay Beaches in Normandy

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Apr 11th, 2012, 05:41 PM
  #1
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Visiting DDay Beaches in Normandy

I would like to visit the DDAy beaches. Is it best to do this by car on my own or is it better to take a tour? If I do it on my own by car, how much time do I need to do justice to the experience?
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Apr 11th, 2012, 05:46 PM
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I've done it quite a few times and never taken a tour - the Michelin Green Guide and a car is all I've needed. I've spent up to 5 days in the area, but you can do it in 2 if you have to. What I consider essential to visit is the Musée Mémorial in Caen (give yourself up to 4 hours there), Arromanches (and the museum there), at least the American Cemetery (if not the others), Pointe du Hoc, and a couple of the beaches (Omaha and Juno probably). You could add in Ste-Mère Eglise and any number of smaller museums and sites.

Then, of course, if you're in the area you'll want to see the Bayeux Tapestry and perhaps the cathedral.
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Apr 11th, 2012, 06:20 PM
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StCirq has it wrapped up, but it is beautiful country, I would give myself as much time as you can and enjoy it!
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Apr 11th, 2012, 07:05 PM
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StCirq has it...although you may not see all. Yes Bayeux Tapestry and cathedral.
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Apr 11th, 2012, 07:14 PM
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And stay in Bayeux and have dinner at Le Petit Bistro.
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Apr 11th, 2012, 07:19 PM
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Another option is to purchase the Day Pass on the Caen Memorial website (http://www.memorial-caen.fr/portail/). It costs Euro 61/person and includes entrance to the museum and a 5 hour guided tour of D-Day sites in a minivan (includes all the sites that StCirq mentioned above).

Another option to consider - that is all.
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Apr 11th, 2012, 08:39 PM
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I visited the beaches and Normandy about ten years ago. Normandy is beautiful country, and the locals were very friendly to me. I took a train from Paris to Caen and rented a car there. I found driving in Normandy very easy and pleasant. I had no problem at all driving anywhere I needed to go. Unless you are terrified to drive on your own, I would do it yourself instead of taking a tour. That way, you can spend as much time as you like at each site.

I know most people seem to prefer staying in Bayeux, but I found a bit dead, even if it is a beautiful old town. Caen, where I spent only one night, may be modern than quaint (bombed out during World War II and rebuilt after), but I also find it a thriving, vibrant town, whereas in Bayeux at night I found only other tourists. If Caen works better in your itinerary (because of a need to be close to the Memorial or something), don't be afraid to stay there for a night.
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Apr 11th, 2012, 08:48 PM
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Well,I totally disagree with Andrew, as Bayeux was completely spared from devastation in WWII, whereas Caen was bombed to smithereens and is an ugly recreation of a town. Bayeux isn't " dead", but yes it's a fairly small town, and no, it's not only tourists. Caen is a wreck, trying to get back on track as an interesting destination, but not making it so far. It's certainly not the most horrible place you can choose to spend a night on your trip to Normandy, but would be WAY down on my list,like WAY, WAY down.
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Apr 12th, 2012, 12:39 AM
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Can I put a contrary view?

We seldom take organised tours, but did in the case of the Normandy beaches. We were a family group of 7, so had a minibus and guide of our own, and spent 1 and a half days touring both the American and British beaches and other sites. The guide from Overlord Tours was very well informed and told us things and showed us places which we would never have found otherwise. He was unstinting with his time, and the information which he shared.

One reason we liked the tour is that the beaches are just beaches, apart from a smattering of old German fortifications. The guide was able to explain how the landings happened, what resistance was encountered, etc.
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Apr 12th, 2012, 03:55 AM
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We also used Overlord for a tour. For us it was the best way to see what we wanted to see given how much time we had in the area. With more days, we might have rented a car, but Overlord did a great job for us
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Apr 12th, 2012, 05:28 AM
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I will just ditto what St. Cirq said up to and including why to stay in Bayeux. We stayed at the Hotel Bayeux which is on the edge of town, near the cathedral, tapestry and Le Petit Bistro!! I don't think we even saw another american, including in our hotel!!
We were there for 3 days and "did" the beaches St. Cirq mentioned, including St. Mere Eglise, and saw the Pegasus Bridge on our drive to Bayeux.
Yes, the beaches are "just beaches" but what was so incredible to me was to see the 180* line of sight that the Germans had at all of them, and the bravery of men coming straight into the beachhead.
Maybe a big narrative would be interesting, but the Green Guide is excellent, and for me, my knowledge was full enough.There is some repetition at many of the museums at the beaches, but Arromanches and St. Mere Eglise are more unique, because of the harbor building (fascinating) and the airborne nature of the landing.
An aside, friends who sing in a wonderful choir here took a European tour and visited the American Cemetery--truly truly hallowed ground. They stood on the steps of the memorial there and sang an anthem, tears flowing.
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Apr 12th, 2012, 05:33 AM
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We did the area by car and stayed for three nights in Bayeux. We found Bayeux to be totally charming and the town is conveniently located for touring the DDay sights. In addition to WWII sights nearby, Bayeux has the cathedral and the tapestry both of which are very well worth visiting. We also found excellent restaurants. We travelled with my sister and BIL. BIL is an expert on the war and was able to give us a wonderful tour. If you read about the area before visiting, doing it on your own will be easy and pleasant.
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Apr 12th, 2012, 05:46 AM
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We drove through northern France a couple years ago, and stayed a few nights in Bayeux. To me, the Bayeux tapestry and the cathedral there are must-see's. Even though we had a car, we opted for a full day tour of the WWII sites (BattleBus?) which we thought was well worth it. If at all possible, I wouldn't miss a chance to return to Honfleur, one of the prettiest harbor scenes anywhere.
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Apr 12th, 2012, 06:51 AM
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We took a day tour with Battlebus (no longer in existence) in 2005 and found it to be very worthwhile. Unless you plan to do a lot of research yourself, I think going with a guided tour can present you with much information that you might otherwise not know. As Chartley said above, a beach is just a beach w/o the info to go along with it. Having a well-informed guide made it all come alive. Our guide was Dale Booth, who now runs tours with his own company: www.daleboothnormandytours.com He was excellent; he has 68 reviews on Trip Advisor, and they all gave him 5 stars, as we would.
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Apr 12th, 2012, 08:15 AM
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Thank you all so much for your input. While I am not usually much of a tour person, I am leaning toward the tour since "the beaches are just beaches" arguement is compelling.

Since you all seem familiar with the area -- any thoughts on spending time in Rouen? Any preferences for staying at Mt. St. MIchel or just doing a day trip?
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Apr 12th, 2012, 08:25 AM
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Rouen is delightful, especially if you're up on your Jeanne d' Arc history. It also has some of the best eating in Normandy.

A lot of people enjoy staying on le Mont-St-Michel to experience it after the tourist throngs leave for the day. I've never done that, but have stayed nearby in places with a view of it. I mainly have avoided staying there because as far as I know there really isn't a single place to get a decent meal, which isn't the case in nearby towns.
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Apr 12th, 2012, 10:03 AM
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When we did our Normandy trip we stayed the first night in Rouen and enjoyed it. I love the Beaux Artes Musee there for its Impressionist wing. Then we spent a night in Honfleur, and agree about that charming town.
While you do see the beaches, the museums that are at each one tell the story of the assault at that particular point--you are not left with only a "view", if that would enter into the mix of whether a tour is necessary/desirable. Just for another viewpoint, I could possibly get too MUCH information on a tour!!
We enjoyed dining on the waterfront at Arromanches--moules, of course.
And as for the Normandy countryside other than beaches--the cheese and cider is super!!
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Apr 12th, 2012, 01:18 PM
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I didn't know Battlebus is no longer in business! How sad because our tour was outstanding.

Be sure to visit the American Cemetary but also the German Cemetary - quite a contrast.

We had planned on staying in Bayeaux for 2 nights and ended up staying for 4 - the history is amazing. I read the book "D Day" by Stephen Ambrose before we left and it made our visit so much more memorable.
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Apr 13th, 2012, 04:18 AM
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The German cemetery across the road is where the commandant that ordered the massacre of the town of Odour-sur-Glane is buried.
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Apr 13th, 2012, 06:16 AM
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I agree with StCirq(and others) too!
I loved Bayeux especially the Tapestry and Cathedral.

The French have a top notch road system and we had had no problems at all.

We did the beaches on our own, because my Dad was on the 6th wave on Omaha. I did not want to be rushed or talked to at all. I just sat and meditated.

St Cirq, I was curious about staying in Mont St Michel. I think I would rather view it, then stay in it.
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