Touring the D-Day Beaches
One of modern history’s landmark events—the D-Day invasion of June 1944—was enacted on the beaches of Normandy. Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, as well as many sites on the Cotentin Peninsula, all bear witness to the furious fighting that once raged in this now-peaceful corner of France. Today, as seagulls sweep over the cliffs where American rangers scrambled desperately up ropes to silence murderous German batteries, visitors wander through the blockhouses and peer into the bomb craters, the carnage of battle now a distant, if still horrifying, memory.
Unless you have a car, the D-Day beaches are best visited by bus. Public ones are relatively rare, but Bus No. 74 does go to Arromanches and Bus No. 70 heads to Omaha Beach and the American cemetery (summer only); both are operated by Bus Verts du Calvados and originate in Bayeux. The company also has a "Circuit Caen–Omaha Beach" route that connects many of the D-Day sights.
D-Day Historian. Paul Woodadge, the "D-Day Historian," offers highly acclaimed, customized tours for up to eight people with an all-inclusive price tag of €600 for a full-day, full-immersion experience. This includes a two-day tour of American landing beaches, an exploration of "hedgerow country," and an itinerary focused on the HBO series Band of Brothers. 14400. 07–88–02–76–57; www.ddayhistorian.com.
Mémorial Tours. In Caen, the stunning Mémorial Museum organizes a series of English-speaking tours; prices depend on the sites included and the mode of transportation used. Esplanade General Eisenhower, Caen, Normandy, 14056. 02–31–06–06–45; www.memorial-caen.fr. From €45.
Normandy Sightseeing Tours. Bayeux-based outfitter Normandy Sightseeing Tours offers half- and full-day options costing €60–€70 and €100 respectively. A half-dozen different itineraries focus on the experiences of the different armies involved; two visit Omaha Beach, while the others take in Gold Beach, the U.S. Army beaches, Sword Beach, Juno Beach, and the Canadian cemetery. 6 rue St-Jean, Bayeux, Normandy, 14400. 02–31–51–70–52; www.normandy-sightseeing-tours.com.
Normandy Tours. The guides at Normandy Tours are basically walking encyclopedias of local war lore and can be flexible about focusing on what is interesting to you. Tours of Omaha Beach, German fortifications, Pointe du Hoc, and Gold Beach depart twice daily at 8:15 am and 1:15 pm, from Bayeux's Hôtel de la Gare. Four- to five-hour half-day tours in English are available year-round; full-day outings are offered as well. Hôtel de la Gare, 26 pl. de la Gare, Bayeux, Normandy, 14400. 02–31–92–10–70; www.normandy-landing-tours.com. From €62.
Paris City Vision. If you’re staying in Paris (and willing to spend a lot of time touring), Paris City Vision runs 12- to 14-hour tours to key D-Day locales, from Omaha Beach to Pointe du Hoc, Juno Beach, and the American cemetery; they also offer multiday tours that add on stops in Mont-St-Michel and nearby St-Malo, just across the Breton border. 2 rue des Pyramides, Opéra, Paris, Île-de-France, 75001. 01–44–55–61–00; www.pariscityvision.com. From €150 .