Celebrating D-Day

Beaches of Normandy

The quiet and scenic beaches of Normandy, which some 70 years earlier were the site of one of the most important battles of World War II.

Tomorrow is an historic day, as it marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, when the US-led Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy.  This was the start of an invasion that helped bring down Nazi Germany.  While you might have heard about it from older family members, in history class, “Saving Private Ryan” or “Band of Brothers”, but it takes a good visual prompt so you can begin to understand what happened on that fateful day.  I recently came across an article that discusses some ways for Americans can celebrate and honor this important and historic day, where so many American soldiers fought and died to protect the free world.

In France, the Basse-Normandie Region will be hosting an official 70th anniversary series of events and ceremonies, which include such activities as parachute drops, a walk that retraces the steps of soldiers, fireworks displays, a screening of the Tom Brokaw-narrated IMAX film “D-Day Normandy 1944”, wreath-laying ceremonies and a sound and light show.  Over the course of the year, hundreds of other events shall be occurring throughout Basse-Normandie.  If you would like to visit the area with a guide, plenty of companies are offering D-Day tours throughout the year.  You can choose an historic tour, or maybe something like a hiking or biking trip to see the beaches and countryside of Normandy.

Stephen Ambrose, who wrote “Band of Brothers” and founded the National D-Day Museum, started his own tour company that offers trips to all of the places he wrote about.  In September, history buffs can partake in Ambrose’s personally-designed “D-Day to the Rhine” tour, based on thorough research and hundreds of interviews with World War II veterans, while accompanied by a war veteran.  Historic Hotels of America has partnered with National Trust Tours for a series of tours, such as a September D-Day tour.  Led by a World War II historian, you’ll be taken to the less-visited landmarks associated with the invasion, such as the house where Eisenhower decided to carry out the invasion, Churchill’s Cabinet war rooms and a chateau where the BBC broadcast its reports.

Various different travel companies, such as Ciclismo Classico, Discover France and Wilderness Travel all offer fantastic options for those who want to get in a little workout while learning about the history of the area.  On Ciclismo Classico’s Normandy bike tour and Discover France’s “Brittany to Normandy” bike tour, you can pedal through the beautiful hills and coast of the Norman countryside.  Both tours also include stops at key D-Day sites and memorials, and offer plenty of delicious French food.  Wilderness Travel does hiking tours of Normandy and Brittany, pairing you with an historian as you walk the high cliffs of Normandy, which are still pockmarked with shell holes and German bunkers.  Travelers spend a day exploring historic areas, such as the rows of crosses and clifftop lawns at the American cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer.  While D-Day is the primary focus of this tour, it also focuses on food and the general region of the history, which dates back some 6,000 years.

However, these aren’t the only options.  You can also see the region by boat with Tauck through two different river cruises, “Rendezvous on the Seine” and “Cruising the Seine Plus Versailles, Paris & London”.  Both cruises will visit the D-Day beaches in Normandy and the American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer, as well as stops in other French hotspots as Paris, Rouen and Giverny.  Other special D-Day Normandy tours throughout the year include “Memorials of War: Normandy & Paris” and “World War I and World War II Battlefields”.  Les Manoirs Hotel in Tourgéville, located near the Normandy beaches, has a special package for two.  The quaint, 57-room hotel offers three nights accommodations, two dinners at its on-site 1899 restaurant, a private tour guide of the D-Day beaches and American war cemetery, admission to the D-Day museum and two spa treatments.

If a trip to France is out of your budget, that’s totally fine, since there are endless ways to celebrate in America.  At the Warbird Air Museum at the Valiant Air Command in Titusville, FL, you can climb on board and fly on the “TiCo Belle”, which was not only at the D-Day invasion, but also participated in other historic events, such as the Berlin Airlift.  Flights are available on the third Saturday of every month.  The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA is hosting a series of events tomorrow, such as a wreath-laying ceremony by D-Day units, a parade, a USO Show, a parachute jump and a flyover by a P-51 and C-47.  At the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D in Chattanooga, you can see the “D-Day Normandy 1944” movie, in addition to military displays and rare artifacts used during the invasion.  Over 25 different IMAX theaters, ranging from Maine to Washington State, will also be screening the movie.