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Experiencing D-Day in Normandy

Going to Normandy was something on Adam’s “To-do List” and after experiencing this tour ourselves it should be on everyone’s list as well. I am not a history buff, but there were many moments during this tour where the history and stories took my breathe away and I became overwhelmed with emotions. The Normandy tour is very moving and rewarding to see the historical monuments and places firsthand. Here is our experience….

We booked our Normandy tour through Normandy Sightseeing Tours and they did a phenomenal job. We are not one to book group tours because we like the intimacy with what we are discovering, but with Normandy Sightseeing Tours it was a small group of 8 people – a perfect tour group size. Each group had their own van and a personal tour guide and never intertwined to make the group bigger. Normandy Sightseeing Tours has seven different D-Day tours to choose from depending on: the length – morning, afternoon or full day, to the different locations – Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, U.S. Beaches only, British Paratroopers and Sword Beach or Juno Beach and Canadian Cemetery. We chose to do Omaha Beach during the afternoon which included: Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, American Cemetery and the Visitor Center.

Normandy Sightseeing Tours pick up their guests at the location of your choice in Bayeux, France. Six out of the eight people in our group were picked up at Bayeux train station which was the most convenient. The tour starts as soon as we were all in the van, our guide (unfortunately I forgot his name) introduced himself as did the guests to break the ice. We then got straight into history topics as he drove to our destinations. During the tour, our guide would discuss the history of events at each location we were standing on that made us grasp the reality of the traumatic war. Our tour guide was very thorough and had a binder full of pictures from the war to help us understand the tragic events. He spoke English very well and was always able to answer everyones questions with confidence. After our guide would walk us through history he allowed us to explore the grounds of each destination on our own. The tour itself took about five hours and never felt rushed, it was plenty of time to sightsee.

Point du Hoc

A 30-acre battlefield with the remnants of D-Day. Walking through this battlefield was incredible! We were able to see a number of bunkers still intact and actually walk inside them. It was an unbelievable feeling and experience to be standing in the bunkers used in WWII.

Almost everywhere we walked there were bomb craters ranging from small to ginormous. They truly blew us away with how big they were. Adam is 6’2” and when he stood in the middle of the bomb craters he looked like an ant.

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The day we were here it was a little chilly and windy so when we walked towards the cliffs we got a beautiful view of the ocean. When the wind moved we embraced the moment knowing that brave soldiers fought and died to keep this world a better place.

At the cliff was the Point du Hoc Ranger Monument dedicated to the American Second Ranger Battalion under the command of Colonel James E. Rudder who attacked and took possession of the Point du Hoc. Yes, this was a moving moment and a great honor for everyone here, but this was even more meaningful to me because I am an Aggie, a graduate of Texas A&M University. Colonel James E. Rudder is one of the biggest names in Aggie history, he was the sixteenth president of Texas A&M University and he is the one who turned the all-man college into the fighting Texas A&M University it is today – seeing this, being here, was a very rewarding moment for me. Whoop!

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Omaha Beach

I will be honest, when we booked this tour we were both excited for this part specifically because of the movie, Saving Private Ryan, knowing the historical moment and we expect to see the barriers still in the sand. So when we arrived to Omaha Beach we were very disappointed to find the barriers were removed and the beach had become a vacation spot. Yes, families and children were playing in the sand knowing what took place there. Before the war, Omaha Beach was used as a vacation spot for locals and once the war ended they reopened it to be used for its same purpose – a vacation spot. So when we look at it as dishonorable, France sees it as a place where men fought to keep peace on their land. Today, people embrace the victory by celebrating life and happiness. Our tour guide also explained that because so much of the war was fought in France, if they were to designate every battlefield a monument or memorial then most of France would be a bunch of ghost towns. France had to rebuild where battles were won. With that said, France did build a memorial to honor those who fought in WWII to claim victory on D-Day. If you Google “Omaha Beach now and then” you will see photos during the war and photos after the war; to see where soldiers stood fighting, to where tourists playing on the beach today.

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On the beach is Les Braves Memorial which represents three elements: The Wings of Hope, Rise Freedom, and the Wings Of Fraternity. It is a very beautiful memorial and near the memorial is where Adam collected his sand for keepsakes – probably our most valued sand. While we were standing in the sand with our back towards the water we took a moment of silence to visualize where our soldiers fought. It was another moving experience that we will never forget and never take for granted.

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The Omaha Beach Liberation Monument was built just off the shore to honor the landing of the 1st Infantry Division and the 116th Infantry Regimental Combat Team of the 29th Infantry Division. On both sides of the monument are the flags of every ally.

American Cemetery

Our last stop on the tour was the American Cemetery and the Visitor Center. We never went inside the Visitor Center because we were so moved by the cemetery, but we have heard good things about it. As soon as we saw the cemetery I was overwhelmed with emotions and almost broke down in tears. The cemetery includes white marble gravestones overlooking Omaha Beach (the graves are shaped into latin crosses for Christian soldiers and the Star of David for Jewish soldiers) and includes a memorial of the Walls of the Missing, a reflecting pool, and a chapel (includes Christian and Jewish faith) in the center of the cemetery.

The memorial of the Walls of the Missing included 1,577 names. Some names have rosettes marked next to their names because those were ones that have been recovered and identified. The memorial is beautiful and can be found in a semicircular garden with the monumental sculpture “The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves” in the center. Maps of the landings on Normandy Beaches and air operations can be found on the sides of the memorial. The memorial overlooks the reflecting pool, chapel and gravestones. The center of this memorial gives guests a great view of the memorial and the cemetery.

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We walked almost every pathway in the cemetery, appreciating every soldier’s gravestone and their sacrifice. We were told that the next of kin were able to decide if they wanted their loved ones to have a proper burial in the United States or in Normandy.

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Among the cemetery are three recipients of the Medal of Honor as well as a few other notable interments.  One of the Medal of Honor recipients was Theodore Roosevelt Jr., son of President Theodore Roosevelt.

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Overall we really enjoyed this intimate tour and learned more than we imagined. In the 77 days we were in Europe this remains one of the highlights of our trip. I highly recommend Normandy Sightseeing Tours to anyone wanting to get the most of out of their experience and learn more about the invasion of Normandy.

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Normandy Sightseeing Tours
6 rue Saint-Jean
14400 Bayeux
Tel: +33 (0)2 31 51 70 52
Fax: +33 (0)2 31 51 74 74
Email: contact@normandy-st.com
http://www.normandy-sightseeing-tours.com

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53 COMMENTS

  • Katrina | Aqua & Ink

    Those bomb craters sound CRAZY big… so devastating! Looks like a very informative day though!!!

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      They really were. We tried to show the proportion with Adam standing in the middle of one. It was a very informative and moving day.

  • I would love to visit Normandy, for these exact reasons, I find history so fascinating. It was also shocked reading about Omaha Beach, as I love the film Saving Private Ryan too! But even so it would be an amazing insightful place to visit, Thanks for sharing this with us!

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      I know! We were so surprised to see Omaha Beach as a place to visit for families and the barriers removed. When you visit watch Saving Private Ryan afterwards. I know it is a movie, but its a great movie and when you watch the opening scene it will be with different eyes.

  • I would love to visit Normandy, for these exact reasons, I find history so fascinating. It was also shocked reading about Omaha Beach, as I love the film Saving Private Ryan too! But even so it would be an amazing insightful place to visit, Thanks for sharing this with us!

  • ilive4travel

    It looks like a great tour. I did a WW1 tour in France where the Battle of the Somme was. That was so interesting and seeing at points how close both sides fought was unbelievable. It’s something I will never forget and be glad that I got to experience 🙂

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      Wow that sounds awesome and similar to how we feel about this tour. Hopefully we can do a WWI tour too. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Sam H Travels

    This looks like a really informative tour. A great post and amazing photos – i liked the way you showed the size of the bomb crator with Adam standing inside!

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      Thank you we really appreciate it! And yes it was his idea. Being as tall as he is, he had trouble climbing out it was so big! Granted he was also wearing sandals 🙂

  • kidsandcompass

    Such an important place to visit, and a very moving place too. I think it’s good that people are spending time and playing on the beach but I understand that some might be surprised. It looks like a very informative tour.

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      Yes we were very surprised, but the once the reasons were explained we understood. The tour was great! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  • My husband mentioned not too long ago that he’d like to visit Normandy. I’m also pretty meh about history so I wasn’t so sure about it. I feel like it’s super weird that people were swimming at Omaha beach. I can’t imagine taking the kids there for a fun day out. It feels ookie to me.

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      I think you will find yourself enjoying it more than you think. I wanted to just go for Adam, but he thought a tour would be more beneficial and a better way to see Normandy. He was definitely correct! If you do decide to do a tour when you visit I really suggest Normandy Sightseeing Tours they did an amazing job. I definitely think it is a culture thing that some people play on Omaha Beach while others mourn. We collected our sand and had our moment of silence. I don’t think we even touched the water. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  • EG III

    I’m now wishing I would have taken a tour during my one and only trip to Normandy. I’m not surprised that tears were shed at the American cemetery because after standing in those craters and looking through the small eyes of the bunkers I would have been emotional as well.

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      I am sure that anytime you revisit Normandy emotions will remain the same and with a tour you will learn and see more. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • neha

    I have never been to such a battlefield. It looks so beautiful. And I feel sad to think there was a battle fought here at some point in history 🙁 nevertheless, a beautiful site to visit

  • Fair Dinkum Traveller

    Now that is a real part of history to be involved. Normandy, how I would love to see it myself. I remember going to Korea DMZ and having goosebumbs, but Normandy would be another level in itself. That American cemetery would have left you speechless, so many lives gone, so we could have a better future. Thanks for your post.

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      It was definitely a moving experience. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Lewi Blake

    Cant believe the size of those bomb craters. Although its sad, its nice visiting these areas such as normandy to remind us how terrible war can be!

  • Nice post. We spent ANZAC Day in that very spot in 2015 when we drove from London to Madrid. (We’re Aussies so it’s only a tad crazy, the Brits think we’re nuts!) Looks like you captured the day really well. I was quite moved by the size of the cemetery and hard to believe what happened there so many years ago. If you have time and you’re headed that way I can recommend the Bastogne War Museum as a really great place to stop.

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      Thank you. The next time we are in Europe we will have to visit Bastogne War Museum. There is just so much to see in this world!

  • emmaeatsandexplores

    That takes me back – I went to Normandy on a school trip when I was 11! Must’ve been amazing to be there on DDay though – very emotive!

  • Vyjay Rao

    This was a different kind of trip. A very poignant experience. I am sure it was a very emotional and moving experience. The Bomb craters are really gigantic.

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      It certainly was and were glad we took the trip. Definitely with it! And yes the bomb craters really were gigantic!

  • Lara Dunning

    Normandy is on my bucket list. I like tours, small or personalized ones, like Normandy Sightseeing Tours, because you really get more out of the experience with a knowledgeable guide. It sounds like that is what happened with this tour. I love that they keep the size small too-very smart.

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      Yes, this was the perfect size for a tour. When you check Normandy off your bucket list you should definitely look into Normandy Sightseeing tours!

  • Wanderlust Vegans

    What a cool experience to be in Normandy on D-Day. Those craters are huge!! We haven’t been to Normandy, but if we go it sounds like we should take a small tour.

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      Yeah definitely look into Normandy Sightseeing Tours! Thanks for reading!

  • Fairytale Studios

    Thats a very different trip from what i was expecting. I didnt know there was so much of history associated with Normandy and there were so many historical significant spots. Thanks for publishing it

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      It was definitely the most historical place we visited during our Europe trip. Thanks for reading!

  • flunkingmonkey

    Wow there is so much history here! We never learnt much about this in school, so it’s really interesting to hear all of this 🙂

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      I am glad you enjoyed this post. I think going to Normandy is moving for anyone. Your from England right? They have a British cemetery there too.

  • Call of Travel

    Now that’s definetly something I want to go see! I devour any WW2 related information… Would be useful to read how much you paid for the tour.

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      I definitely recommend it. And yes sorry I thought about adding the price, but figured that a link to Normandy Sightseeing Tours would be enough. Plus they offer so many different tours the prices can vary. This particular tour was 70 euros each. Well worth it though – 5 hour tour, pick and drop you off at desired location in Bayeux, more history information than I have ever heard and it was a small group. I hope you can experience it one day!

  • sudiptode

    Normandy remains an important place in history and the war created would that will never heel. We would really like visit here someday and go through all the history. What would be a good time to go here?

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      I would suggest early or late summer. Better temperatures and less crowds. We went first week in July and for that time of the year being a high season for traveling in Europe the crowds were pretty minimal. Also it was actually a bit cold and windy.

  • Joanna

    I have also visited Normandy this summer and I was touched by the stories and the photos that I have seen. I didn’t go to the part you visited but just to a small village. Still, the signs of the war were still visible. It must have been such an emotional moment to see children playing on the same beach where not even 100 years ago a war was going on.

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      Yes, it was definitely hard to watch tourists playing in the same sand where soldiers fought and lost their lives. Like you said the war was not even 100 years ago, but in the moment and hearing the history it felt like the war happened yesterday.

  • travellingslacker

    Really enjoyed readng this account. It must have been an emotionally moving experience. I still rememeber the landing scene from Saving Private Ryan. Wonder how I’d feel when I actually stand on that beach.

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      Coming from two people who love that movie, you will definitely feel some emotion when you stand in the sand of Omaha Beach. We most certainly did. After I wrote this post I actually watched Saving Private Ryan and I watched with new eyes. I felt moved all over again and it was almost like I could see places where I had just been. If you ever go to Normandy, watch Saving Private Ryan after, it is a different cinema experience.

  • ehsanhaque24

    This was an awesome read! I love history so much (I spent the last year in China just to get a glimpse of their history, haha) and actually have a plan to visit France soon. Thanks for sharing, I am so excited to get to Europe 😀

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      Aww I am so happy to hear you enjoyed this. Thank you! When you visit you should look into Normandy Sightseeing Tours! You will really enjoy it and have an experience to always remember.

  • Mansi Kamdar

    This experience – along with a visit to Mont St. Michel – is at the top of my list for when I visit France. It must’ve been especially humbling to visit on D-day itself. I’d read about an experience where they take you around the sites in a WWII jeep. Do you happen to know how it is?

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      Hi, I do not know about a tour that takes you on a WWII jeep, though that sounds awesome. We wanted to visit Mont St. Michel, but it time did not allow us to do everything in one day. Oh well I guess we have to go back 🙂

  • utravelshare

    Really nice and detailed post guys, in each part. I only visited the southern part of France, so I hope to visit the northern one soon…Anyway as I can see from how you described Omaha Beach and the American cemetery it was surely a touching moment

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      Thank you. We really appreciate your kind words. It sounds like we have seen the opposite of each other, we have only seen the northern part of France while we stayed in Paris. Would love to see southern France!

  • Where Monica Goes

    It always excites me to visit historically-rich places. Normandy is on my list for the exact reasons. Those bomb craters look crazy and such a pity the beach was disappointing. Would be nice to go to a film location though.

    • OurSweetAdventures
      AUTHOR

      You will love Normandy then! The beach is so long that there is an area where you can enjoy the memorials and have a moment of silence.

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