I would appreciate some suggestions on how to do the Normandy WWII beaches. There are day tours originating in Paris....can you go to the sites by car and pick up tours at the sites? How much time should we alot to see everything?
The tours from Paris make for a very loooonnnngggg day trip and you might feel rushed. I guess it depends on the level of your interest in the area. There are many places to go and you can tour on your own with a decent guide book. We rented a car and stayed in Bauexu for two nights. We drove around the various D-Day sights at our own pace. With a GPS, it is not difficult to get around. I don't recall tours at most sights, but there are usually signs that provide you with some good information about the events at that place. There are a couple of good museums in the area; one in Bayeux and one in Caen. I wouldn't miss the American Cemetery and its visitors cener. If you stay in Baueux, you can also book day trip tours that will pick you up at your hotel. When you are done, you will still have enough energy to enjoy the town and relax. We stayed at the Hotel Churchill and they offer a day trip to Mon St. Michel. The Bayeux tapestry is also an interesting site just a couple of blocks from the hotel.
We had a rental car, picked up at the Caen RR station after taking a ferry from Portsmouth. You can also take a train from Pris. Three rental agencies there and they are open late on Saturday, unlike other towns like Bayeux. We stayed the first night at the Churchill, free parking behind the hotel, and that's where the D Day tours met as well. We did a full day tour, and returned the next day to spend 4 hours at the American Cemetery. We had only 15 minutes on the tour and we spent 3 hours being lectured on the tactics to get off Omaha Beach. On our own we had a far better time and met some British vets in all their medals and I got my photo with them. You really need to spend one or two nights in Bayeux or nearby. Send me a PM and I can help you out with a B&B that is fabulous and near Bayeux.
Judy, The best way (IMO) to tour the D-Day beaches is with one of the excellent local tours. As the others have said, that means spending at least one night in Bayeux, as that's where many of them depart from. Both half-day and full-day tours are offered, depending on the tour firm. The tours aren't cheap, but they provide an incredibly interesting and memorable glimpse into the history, and they provide all transportation. You could take a day tour from Paris with Paris City Vision or others, but it's not an ideal solution due to the travel times involved. The Paris day tours only provide a short few hours actually visiting the historic sites. I've never seen tours offered right at the beaches. If you decide to stay in Bayeux and take one of the local tours, post another note and I'll provide names of some of the tour firms in that area. Happy travels!
Hi Judy, I agree with most of the other suggestions. We took the train from Paris to Bayeux (about a mile walk into town, taxis not readily available). We packed light and left our main luggage in Paris. I would not visit the D-Day sites on my own and I would take a full day tour. Our guide (sorry, forgot name of company) was incredible. There is no way you can understand the history and the scope of what happened without a guide. He also took us to smaller communities that were affected by the assault. We met several people who were children at the time and his translation of their stories was powerful and poignant. Depending on your interest level, you could even stay two days. We decided on one night in Bayeux and skipped Caan. We found Bayeux to be delightful and the tapestry is also there if you have time. Our side trip to Normandy was a profound experience and you will leave with an experience that you will never forget.
Hi Judy, We stayed at the Hotel Churchill last week and it is located one block from the battlefield tour pickup site and one block from the Tapistry museum,it is a great location and hotel.We went with Overlord tours to Omaha and Utah beaches as well as several other sites involved in DDay,they did a great job
Agree with those who recommend staying locally and taking a tour. If you are a daring soul and read up on the history a little bit then touring Normandy Invasion Beaches by car is enjoyable (minus the summer crowds).
Judy, remember that people who know that they like Independent Travel (and with a rental car) have the option of buying a guidebook or two with excellent coverage of the D-Day area (Rick Steves France is just one) and doing on their own. We walked past a number of professional tours while walking above the beaches. I'd point out that a Drill Sergeant's vocal delivery (and I mean that in a good way ... ) is perhaps an extreme case of a well-trained and well-informed tour guide. And I'm sure the laminated binders being passed around provided tremendous depth (without the, to some, boring shadow of museum aisles) to the experience. My point is that you should not feel condemned to a dilettante experience just because you passed on a very expensive tour option. And one reason I mention Rick's guide is that while I buy his books all the time, they could be said by his detractors to sometimes be, perhaps, shallow in spots. His coverage of the Normandy Beaches is not shallow. But to have an in-depth experience, you have to do research and planning, One (I avoided the personal pronoun, because I'm not talking about "you") cannot just depend on the internet to suggest a few attraction names and parking lots. You have to do the work that you're not paying for!