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question about Normandy from my son

Hello,
We have booked a tour to Normandy to see the what my son describes as the "best thing ever!" (landing beaches) He is a WWII history buff thanks to his military grandpa. Anyway, he insisted that I write on here to ask... are there any gift shops and what kind of things they carry. He would like to buy a gift for himself and to bring home to his Grandpa.

Thank you all who have been there and for answering my son's question.
Viv

Posted by
215 posts

Thank you everyone. My son is home from school now and quite excited about what he read and has a ton of ideas now. (both purchased and made) We may not be able to do the sand.. but perhaps a shell or a rock. I will look into the laws for that.

I was raised watching old war movies hearing stories from my dad and then saw my son sit there watching them in my place. Going here will be so emotional. All the lives lost and then touched by what happened that day.. it is overwhelming. It may not be a long trip there.. but I know it will stay with my son whatever we can see. I know a lot of places listed on the tour we are doing are in his board game Axis and Allies D-Day. We have looked at the game today and found the places we are going to see. Once again this I know is only a taste... but it is more than I ever thought I'd see.
thanks again all for your help

Posted by
23370 posts

First, you need to fully understand where you are going. Normandy is not a single point. The beach area is massive -- some 50 to 60 miles in length plus the areas behind the beaches which are equally significant. I have only visited the western end closer to Cherbough. The gift shops that we saw were pretty standard touristy kinds of stuff. Items with names of locations, toys, postcards, etc. -- nothing I would view as unique or unusually representative of the area. I think a nice of picture of himself in the area would be a better gift than a cheap ash tray with the name Omaha beach.

Posted by
504 posts

I think some of the museums would have gift shops with items related to D-Day. I do like the idea of photos as a gift. On our Battlebus tour this summer I took tons of pictures and as we showed them to friends, one of our friends wanted to get copies of about 50 of them to make a book for her dad who loves history (and D-Day specifically). She said he loved the gift.

I know the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mere-Eglise has a gift shop as we were there. We didn't get to go to the Caen Memorial Museum (next trip!), but I'd guess they have one too.

Posted by
215 posts

Thank you Jed and Frank for the answer.. Please keep in mind this was posted from an 11 year old.. He does have a digital camera and will take photos as well... however he is a kid and would like D-Day type things to purchase for himself and his grandpa...who would love an ashtray, pen or post card because it was given to him by his grandson --- especially if it is with his own money he is trying so hard to save for our vacation.

I wish I had all the time in the world to visit each place in the time they deserve. The fact I can take our children to a place that they love even if it is for a taste makes me very happy...
thanks again

Posted by
359 posts

Viv, the young man will have no difficulty finding a souvenir for his Grandpa. I'm only familiar with the eastern beach area(British/Canadian) but there's no shortage of shops/museums selling D-Day memorabilia. Everything from postcards, mugs, key-rings, ashtrays to books/maps on the invasion for the avid historian/student; something will catch his eye.

My family history includes D-Day and the battle for Caen/Falaise and I remember finding a 'split' postcard (at the hotel actually) with a sepia photo of Caen 1944 (after the bombing) on one side and Caen (bright colours) 2007 on the other; made quite an impression.

I'm big on postcards as I'm a lousy photographer; the one exception being visits to the Normandy war grave sites. You and your family will probably visit one on your tour and although very sad, it will be something you'll never forget; bring some kleenex.

I don't know if the USA war grave cemetaries have them but the Commonwealth sites have a visitor's book in the entrance structure (in a small bronze 'cupboard' on the wall)where you can leave a note of your visit. I expect your son might like to record his thoughts.

Posted by
8980 posts

We saw a lot of things for sale in all of museums. One thing that might be nice is to bring back some sand from the beaches, in a nice bottle with a stopper. One of the best things I saw for sale were books that I hadn't really seen before. This would make a nice gift. I do think making a book with photos taken by your son sounds like a nice gift too, especially since they aren't that expensive to have made.

Posted by
486 posts

"I don't know if the USA war grave cemeteries have them but the Commonwealth sites have a visitor's book in the entrance structure (in a small bronze 'cupboard' on the wall)where you can leave a note of your visit. I expect your son might like to record his thoughts."

And, why not get a picture of what he wrote in the book and bring that back to grandpa. A memento of not only where he was and what he saw, but what he said.

Posted by
12040 posts

"One thing that might be nice is to bring back some sand from the beaches, in a nice bottle with a stopper." But be aware, this will be a prohibited item according to US Customs.

Posted by
23 posts

Hey Viv!

I don't know if it's the "best thing ever", but it is certainly a deeply moving experience if you know a little history.

If you don't mind the graphic violence, watch the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan with your son. Once there (hopefully at low tide) walk out onto the beach at Omaha Beach (the tide goes really far out), I went about half-a-mile, and turn around and look up at the bluffs........ It is an awesome and intimidating experience.

Also, Pointe du Hoc is amazing! Left "as-is" following the war, the cliffs are pock-marked with shell craters up to 15-20 feet deep - gives you an idea of the incredible destructive power of the shelling on D-day.

There are "souvenirs" and trinket shops all over the place. For me, my photographs are all I needed to bring back with me........

Posted by
10344 posts

The 10-part HBO production, Band of Brothers, gives a wider understanding of what "started" at the D-Day Beaches, continued in other parts of France, Belgium, and Germany, and ended in Germany about a year later (edit: Frank makes a good point, I guess parents can make a decision about whether what is shown in Band of Brothers would be shocking to an 11-year old. Anyway, the series could be great for travelers to Normandy who are somewhat above age 11 and want a wider perspective of what happened in the year following Normandy).

Posted by
23370 posts

Ah !!! Kent -- not sure I would recommend that to an eleven year old. I am 67, VNam era vet, and I had trouble watching that one. AND I may have id with it more than I should have. The Longest Day would be better in my opinion for an eleven year old.

Posted by
215 posts

Thank you all who have posted. For my son this "is the best thing ever" since he is a history buff. His comment is more to the "I get to go there, and see some of it for myself" He is a history buff when it comes to things like this and to be honest knows a lot more than I. (I think he payed more attention to my father than I did---LOL) We did try to watch some of the opening of Private Ryan and it was a little much for him. Band of Brothers is excellent but he will have to wait a long time for that as well.

Thank you again for your help.
(next year he wants to see Pearl Harbor) :)

Posted by
215 posts

Oh Frank I forgot to say he did see the Longest Day several times with my Dad, it is a good film. Thanks again :)

Posted by
359 posts

One more Viv then let you get on with your planning; already so many great ideas from the posters. Because of research I'm doing on two uncles from WW2 (1 Army/1 Air Force) who remain in Europe I've collected quite a library of books/videos/DVD's.

The best I've seen is "The War" (WW2) a 2006 documentary by Ken Burns who also did the multi-part series on the US Civil War. It's a PBS produced, 7 part, 15 hour series available on DVD and I'd be surprised if one of the libraries in Boston didn't have it for loan.

Tells the story of 4 diverse American towns and how their citizens experienced WW2. The current-day interviews with the 4 men who went to war leaving their families behind is very moving but also very interesting. Alas, TV rated for ages 14+.

Posted by
215 posts

Kent, I hope to hold him off until 2011, we'll see. :) I hope to have my dad along as well.

Geoff, Thank you for that lead... I love any information. I want to look into that DVD set for purchase. I think my dad would love it. (me too)

thank you both again
Viv

Posted by
8980 posts

I don't know if your son likes to read, but maybe he could read the book "Band of Brothers"? I really like "The Greatest Generation" too. Since films are so graphic, books can allow him to research too.

Posted by
32231 posts

Viv,

Could you elaborate on what sites you'll be visiting on your "tour to Normandy"? That may provide an indication of the souvenirs that may be available for your Son. I may be able to offer further tips on places to visit also.

As the others have indicated, many of the Museums offer various types of souvenirs, including books, DVD's, etc. The Airborne Museum at St. Mere Eglise has a good selection of items. One cautionary note on the DVD's however - it's important to ensure these are formatted for use on NTSC video systems, rather than PAL (European) systems. While it is possible to have these converted, the quality is often less than ideal. If you're visiting any of the Canadian beaches, the Juno Beach Centre also has various items for sale, and the same at the Pegasus Bridge Museum.

If your tour doesn't include it, you might want to arrange a visit to the Gun Batteries at Longues sur Mer (just outside Bayeux). The Command Bunker was used in the filming of The Longest Day and the Batteries are fairly intact. The Command Bunker is open, but be sure to take a Flashlight.

He'll also be interested in seeing the famous Church in St. Mere Eglise, where Pvt. Steele is STILL hanging from the Bell Tower (he didn't actually land on the side shown in The Longest Day).

When he visits the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach, he may be interested in visiting the graves of two of the Niland brothers, who were the inspiration for Saving Private Ryan (there were four brothers).

One thing you might want to mention to your Son (if you haven't already) is that the appearance of Omaha Beach and the other sites is significantly different than what he may imagine after seeing The Longest Day or other movies. It's often hard to imagine how different they looked in June 1944. Part of the memorial at Pointe du Hoc is "off limits" due to the fact that the cliff is unstable, but the rest can be visited.

Cheers!

Posted by
66 posts

If your son wants gifts related to the Landing Beaches, the best militaria shop is at Dead Man's Corner inland from St Mère l'Eglise.

I compiled a list of our favourite coastal D-Day sites here:

http://www.normandie-chambres.co.uk/beaches.html

and you'll find information on this year's D-Day remembrance events here:

http://visitnormandy.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/d-day-65-anniversary-fireworks/

and here:

http://visitnormandy.wordpress.com/2009/01/30/2009-d-day-normandy-liberation-ceremonies-and-events/

Posted by
215 posts

Thank you all! this has been wonderful all the information and help you have provided. All of this will add to the experience. I forgot to write when he came home yesterday he had checked out a book from the school Library. (yes can you believe he is reading with no project due-LOL!) The book is titled "Men of Valor, The Story of WWII". He told me he wanted to do more research. I, as you can imagine, am quite proud. (He did the same thing when we went to St. Kitts and saw the Brimstone Hill Fortress... Did a lot of research before we left.)

Anyway, thank you all again for everything...

Posted by
1568 posts

Yes there are several gift shops. The tour guide will see that you have time to shop at more than one gift shop.

One of the things I bought was the clickers as I remember playing with them when the men came back from the war. They gave them to the kids.

Posted by
215 posts

Hi JB, I am curious about the clicker thing, (my dad isn't home to ask and I was hoping you or someone will help)

what is it, and why is it important to WWII. When I look it up on line.. the tool to train dogs keeps coming up.

Thank you for your help

Viv

Posted by
8980 posts

You can also call them crickets, cause they sound like that sort of. Issued for D-Day, they were used as a sort of password. One soldier would click once and the answering soldier would click twice. Here is a website that has lots of information about equipment issued for D-Day.
http://www.101airborneww2.com/equipment3.html

Posted by
16 posts

The best gift I brought home for my older friend that is a history buff were several empty film cannisters filled with sand from Omaha Beach. When I got home I placed the sand in a nice bottle and a label saying that it was paid for by the 1st Inf Div on D-Day. He loved it.

Posted by
32231 posts

Viv,

Which tour have you booked to Normandy? It would help to have a bit of further information, as the group here may be able to offer suggestions of places to see before or after the tour ends.

Posted by
263 posts

Viv,
You are doing a wonderful thing for your son. I taught fifth grade for a lot of years and when we talked about WW II, the Normandy landings, Point du Hoc and the sacrifices made there, it was hard for 11 year olds to imagine it all. I have been fortunate to visit Omaha, Gold, Point du Hoc and I can tell you he will be moved by the experience...even at his age. When you are in the American Cemetery, look around to see if there are any veterans visiting there. I found a group of British soldiers who were very willing to tell about their experiences on June 6. I don't think he is too young to watch Saving Private Ryan, but The Longest Day was not bad either. Have a great experience. Many of us will be interested to read about his reaction.
Terry

Posted by
215 posts

Hello everyone.. thank you all for the recent comments.

I have been busy planning and found a tour that works with our time there. I did try Battlebus like some advised, however we couldn't do it because the train from Paris would arrive too late.

The one I did go with is a larger tour no more than 24(ok with us for my children know how to work a crowd) really I'm not kidding.. I think in a way they would like the company rather than it being too private. The places we are seeing are for the ones who asked me...
We go to a commented visit with a film and lunch at the Memorial-Peace museum of Caen, we stop at Pointe Du Hoc, Omaha Beach, Saint-Laurent, the American Cemetery, the last stop is at Arromanches.

we know that this is only a taste, however how small and short of time ---I know our children will remember this. My youngest broke out his new and unused travel journal and wrote. "I am going to NORMANDY" This will all be worth the long day!

thank you all again. Viv (ps- Terry I sent a pm to you)

Posted by
8980 posts

If you are staying in Bayeux, they do have quite a nice WW2 museum there and also a British cemetery.

I also liked the museum area above the Bayeux tapestry. It showed all these models of what villages looked like and how they built things, etc. For a history buff it was interesting.

Posted by
515 posts

Viv, as a 6th grade history teacher, I endorse any trip/tour you take with your son to Normandy. You will find many tangible souvenirs, but the "best thing ever" will be the memories you and your son will have forever. Please do report to us after your trip. Have a wonderful time. And to Grandpa...thanks for your service. We salute you.

Posted by
850 posts

Viv,

I think it is great that your son is interested in WWII history and this will hopefully be the first of many trips to Europe for visits to WWII sites. There are so many throughout Europe so he will never run out of places to go. There are many gift shops up and down the Normandy beaches. Bayeux has a nice museum as Jo mentioned with plenty of WWII gifts to purchase. There are many good books about this subject. Stephen Ambrose wrote many that I have read and enjoyed. The Victors, D-Day, Citizen Soldiers, The Supreme Commander to name a few. The Band of Brothers, also by Ambrose, is an easy read and I would recommend reading it before watching the series at whatever age you allow him to do so. I have watched that series 7 or 8 times and still pick up things I missed. I have visited Toccoa, GA where Easy company trained and have met some of the men, Wld Bill Guarnere and Babe Hefron are two of those and they are still living. He could visit the Wild Bill Guarnere website. They have an excellent forum with many knowledgable folks who contribute. He could learn much just by lurking on that site and reading things that would be of interest to him. He will enjoy his visit and to be standing on land and looking out over Omaha Beach or Point du Hoc into the channel trying to imagine those thousands of boats coming into those beaches is something that will stay with him forever.

http://wildbillguarnere.com/