As a little tribute in honor of the June 6, 72nd anniversary of the WWII D-day Landings, here’s how you can visit those same beaches and experience the feeling of awe that we felt when my family and I visited. This is one of those places that everyone should visit at some point in his/her life – it’s much more impressive when you see the area with your own eyes. And, for those of us who have ancestors among those who participated in the landings, it’s truly an emotional experience.
Why to go: History! But it’s also a beautiful area.
When to go: In this region temperatures are generally pleasant in all seasons. Summers tend to get a bit warm and winters are usually mild. Unfortunately, you can expect rain anytime. However, if you plan your trip expecting a bit of rain (bring an umbrella and rain jacket), you’ll enjoy the region and still be able to appreciate the historic significance of the sites.
Where to go: Normandy is easily reachable from Paris – about 2-3 hour drive. The 60-mile coastal stretch was divided into 5 sections for the planning of the D-day invasion and each had a code name. Sword and Gold beaches were primarily British forces; Canadians led the invasion at Juno beach and American forces landed at the Omaha and Utah beaches. Access to each area is well marked so you can visit any or all of them. And you can go independently or as part of a tour.
What to see/do: In addition to the 5 beach landing points, there are many memorials, historical stops and cemeteries along this whole coast. Make sure to stop by the Caen Normandy Memorial Centre for History and Peace. The museum does a great job explaining the history of the events that led up to D-day as well as the Landings, themselves. And don’t forget to visit the seaside towns in the area – they’re charming and very welcoming to visitors.
What to eat and/or drink: Being a coastal area, you’ll find lots of options for Atlantic seafood. Apples are also local and plentiful. Cream based dishes are a specialty and don’t miss the desserts, notably Tarte Normande which is an apple tart topped with cream
Where to detour: While you’re in the region, it’s not a big detour to visit Mont Saint-Michel (detailed previously) and well-worth the extra time!