I’ve been traveling to the Landing Beaches of Normandy for over 20 years and have seen massive changes made in the past 5 years – even the past 2 years – to accommodate the incredible volume of travelers from both sides of the famous 1944 battle who make this important pilgrimage every year. New museums, employing impressive technological devices (almost Universal Studios worthy) make visitors feel like they’ve just jumped out of a C47 over Ste Mere Eglise and then start to walk with the paratroopers through the hedgerows. The new top notch Utah Beach D-Day Museum not only has an authentic “hero of the day” – a B26 – but employs a variety of techniques to immerse visitors in the Landing experience using award-winning film, a rich collection of objects and creative displays. In fact, one of our very favorite private guides is a Certified Interpretive Guide who applies a variety of techniques to research one particular trooper who might be known to the visitors (a grandfather, father, etc.) and explain his entire Operation Overlord journey to family or friends – presenting them with a custom-made book after the tour. The experience and importance of June 4th and the days afterward have never before been so well presented.
Tremendous advances have also been made to keep the visitors fed and comfortable during their stay. Our very favorite hotel, located in the heart of medieval Bayeux, just gets better every year since its opening in 2013. With only 28 rooms, the air-conditioned property (still one of the only hotels in the region!) is richly appointed yet also exceptionally comfortable and the very clever owner (on site every day to greet and look after her guests) includes a stocked minibar of juices, water and beer and have key World War 2 films continually running on the in-house TV system – not to mention the best breakfast buffet (cost included!) in all of Normandy. Exciting news for us – Hoteliers Rima and Francois Hebert have purchased the majestic building adjacent to the current hotel and plan to create 6 spacious suites which will all have the plus-perfect view of the Romanesque and Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame. Also in this building they will create a new addition to Bayeux’s restaurant scene which will have an inviting outside terrace space for alfresco dining. With a target opening of 2017, I’m confident these suites and new restaurant will be unrivaled for guests to use as a base while exploring this historic terrain.
We also love to recommend La Cheneviere, located about 20 minutes outside of Bayeux close to Port-en-Bessin, and this bucolic chateau property has had a stunning recent refurbishment, updating all of the rooms in the main house, which are now also air conditioned. Cheneviere has a simply fabulous pool area and wonderful grounds, not to mention a killer chef.
But – wait! It’s not ALL about World War 2! This is Normandy – the land of apples, calvados, camembert and the distinctive Norman style of architecture which creates the most appealing countryside. We are proud to work with a small new boutique tour operator who delights in showing off the exquisite Pays d’Auge – beautiful landscapes scattered with magnificent half-timbered manor houses, orchards and horses. Our travelers are able to visit a small family-owned cider and calvados producer—whose quality ciders even bear a vintage date and another award-winning, family owned Pont L’Eveque cheese producer. Several villages in the vicinity are members of the celebrated French association “Plus Beaux Villages en France” for an atmospheric lunch stop plus—on request—we include a visit to a privately-owned completely restored 18th century castle, with medieval vegetable garden, horses and a simply idyllic setting. And we haven’t even MENTIONED Honfleur . . . .
Include a four day add-on in Normandy to your next European trip – Frontiers can easily design the best short itinerary for you to maximize your time while appreciating the best of the region. Our travelers say it best – “quotes”.
“My wife and I enjoyed a trip of a lifetime – the perfect way to celebrate 20 years together. Hassle-free but full of adventure, our trip was exciting, well-coordinated and personalized. All 3 hotel properties were wonderful and we would choose each again. Renting a car gave us flexibility that I would recommend to everyone. All in all – the best international travel experience we’ve ever had!” SG, Columbus, OH.