On 6th June 1944, the largest invasion force the world has ever seen set off from ports all over Southern England to liberate France & the rest of Europe from Nazi occupation.
On Day 1, over 170,000 men were landed in Normandy, by parachute, glider and by sea. Within a month over a million Allied troops had arrived in France.
Within a year, Europe had been liberated. But it was a very precarious start. The invasion was postponed for 24 hours because of stormy weather. The troops came in on 5 beaches, codenamed Omaha & Utah for the US forces, Gold, Juno & Sword for the British, French, Canadians and other Allies.
The story has been told many times in movies, notably Saving Private Ryan & The Longest Day. To be able to get an understanding of the operation, how ambitious it was, and the enormous logistical challenges faced by the Allies, you need ideally 3 days or 2 nights. There are many people who do it as a Day trip from Paris but it’s nearly 500 miles round trip and you won’t get much a sense of the overall operation
I recommend BAYEUX as the place to stay. It was the first city to be liberated, early on 7 June. It is a charming small French city with an abundance of restaurants and atmosphere.
I have been guiding in Normandy for 35 years and have seen the number of monuments and museums increase dramatically, as well as the numbers of visitors from many nations.
I speak reasonably fluent French – having lived in Paris for three years in the late 1970s. I know the main sights to visit and the best time to be there.
There are many ways to tour the D Day area. Usually we focus on the immediate landing beaches and the immediate aftermath, up to the “breakout” over a month later.
There are many ways to get to Normandy. Here are three of the most popular options:
A: Fly to Paris, where I meet you at the airport and then we drive to Normandy. Allow about 4 hours driving by fast road (“Autoroute”), with an optional stop halfway at Claude Monet’s world famous garden at Giverny.
B: Start in England. Drive from London, stopping to visit Churchill’s home Chartwell (closed on Mondays), then head to The Channel Tunnel and drive onto one of the frequent trains that take the car and passengers on the 30 minute journey under the sea-bed to France. Then either drive straight to Normandy (about 4 hours without stops) or break the journey partway and stay overnight in Northern France. Spend the next 2 days visiting the most interesting sights. Then take the High Speed evening ferry from Cherbourg to Portsmouth, England. Possibly stay overnight in Portsmouth and then next day visit the D Day Museum and the nearby town of Southwark where Eisenhower was based as the invasion unfolded.
C: There are other ways of getting to Normandy, including certain (slightly obscure) flights from England. I know the best options.
There are a few trains from Paris to Caen, but it is really only time effective doing this if you are already in Paris, or ending your tour there. If coming from the airport it is best to drive.
The logistics of getting to Normandy and the Landing Beaches are quite complex but I am very used to co-ordinating these, so please contact me first.