A few months ago, I was reading through the travel forums on visiting Normandy and the D-Day sights. I had an opportunity to visit for one day in June and the forums highly recommended going with a guide. For that one day visit, we were not able to see the sights with a guide. We visited the Caen Memorial Museum, the American cemetery, and the statue on Omaha beach. After concluding that brief visit, I felt that although I had seen some sights, I really missed the whole D-day experience.
Another chance arose to visit Normandy this October and I knew I wanted to really experience the history and the stories from D-day.
Chris, from http://www.visitdday.com, was recommended on the forum as a great guide with military experience. My family booked a day with him and we were not disappointed. He met us at our b&b (note: stay closer to the coastal area as to spend more time exploring and less time getting there) and rode as co-pilot. He did research for us and what we were interested in learning about D-day. During our journey to Omaha beach, we learned personal stories of several soldiers, strategy that was involved, mishaps that occurred, emotions that may have played out, and history was brought to life. As we were visiting Omaha beach, we were able to meet two veterans who landed there on D-day. Chris was instrumental in making this spontaneous experience possible as he approached the gentlemen to see if we could visit with them. Sadly, other groups were visiting the beach and totally missed the honor of meeting the veterans. That seemed to be the M.O. for the day... other tour groups were let out to explore on their own and would totally miss some of the wonder and history of D-day. We did have chances to explore areas alone as we chose, but frequently found ourselves back by Chris to glean more of his insight.
When we went to visit the American Cemetery, he provided pictures and stories of some of the fallen soldiers. It was much more meaningful to be able to connect a story/person to their sacrifice. It is overwhelming to see the rows and rows of white crosses (and some stars of David), but then to see a photo and hear a story about that man (or woman)- WOW! We later saw some of the places Chris had mentioned when sharing stories of the fallen soldiers.
We were able to see several sights: Omaha beach, Pont du Hoc, Utah beach, the American cemetery, and some villages and churches that were important during the invasion. Chris's wife provided a delicious lunch for us. It was enough to provide us dinner as well. Even though the day was windy and slightly rainy, it was worth every moment.
As our time ended, we lamented that we had only one day with Chris. If you are looking for an outstanding experience when visiting D-day, you will not be disappointed with Chris at http://www.visitdday.com. He really helps history come to life.
the Carlson crew
Note: Our logistics- family of four in a rental car from Paris. We needed to get back to Paris and had one day set aside to tour with Chris. We stayed outside of Caen and went to visit the Caen Memorial Museum the previous evening.