Why were you inspired to do this?
I have always been fascinated and touched by the massive efforts involved by the Allies in WWII. The battles of Dieppe and D-Day are significant events in our history and I wanted to pay my respects by seeing the beaches and towns for myself.
What were 3 things you did to make this happen?
Eurorail ticket from London Waterloo station to Calais, France was approximately US$250 return through www.raileurope.com. Most trains do not except bookings more than 2 months in advance. There is also a ferry but due to limited time scheduling it did not work for me.
The rental car from Calais for 3 days from National Car rental was approximately US$200 and can be picked up at the Calais train station. Suggest getting a good map or even better GPS. It’s about a 3 hour drive to Caen from Calais.
Our accommodation was a 15th century bed and breakfast in Argentan about an ½ hours drive from Caen and the D-Day beaches. I booked our accommodation through www.bonadresse.com for approximately US$125/night. Minimum 2 night stay.
How did you feel once you had accomplished this?
The drive through the countryside is interesting and there are many little towns that fly American, British and Canadian Flags. Every town in Normandy has a story and even the bed & breakfast we stayed at, an allied pilot was hidden from the Nazies. Our first stop was the War Museum in Caen, which is very good and gave us a proper perspective on the Normandy battles. We then focused on Juno beach where the Canadians landed and visited the Canadian Museum along the beach. It was hard to believe a battle took place on such a pretty beach with sailboats along the coastline. The next day we explored some of the towns along the coast and everywhere you go there are historic sites and far too many cemeteries!! On our way back to Calais we went to Dieppe where over 6,000 Infantrymen, predominantly Canadian, were involved in the raid and over 3,500 were killed, wounded or captured. As I stood on the beach I was saddened by the ill-fated attack that took so many Canadian and allied lives. As I toured the Canadian Cemetery I was shocked to see so many headstones for unknown solders, such was the savagery of the battle. As we left Normandy I was left with an overwhelming sense of loss. It’s a trip that I have thought of often and one I will never forget.
Additional notes and tips:
Leave plenty of time to explore the beaches. The beachfront area is quite long and takes time with traffic and the many little towns to navigate through.