I recently assisted guest poster Sophia Curcio with her trip to Paris, France. One of her bucket list items was a trip to Normandy to see the D-Day Beaches. Here’s her review of her wonderful experience!
A Trip to Normandy with Bayeux Shuttle
Just to clarify, Bayeux Shuttle did not compensate us for or request this review – but we had such an amazing experience, we wanted to make sure your readers knew about them and to encourage them to ask you about making this part of their next trip to France!
We spent a week in Paris for Christmas, and decided to spend a day outside of the city to visit Normandy for the day and experience a D-Day tour. We knew we wanted to do this via a tour, knowing that it would make the history come alive better than a guidebook, but didn’t think the big bus tours out of Paris were really our thing– it takes longer to drive to Normandy than it does to take the train, and both of us like to be in smaller groups. After some initial research and planning, we booked a tour with Bayeux Shuttle who would pick us up from the train station, and I can’t recommend them enough to you or any of your clients who are also considering this.
How to get there
We took the first high-speed train out of Paris at about 7:00 AM (yes, it was a very early day. What I can tell you is that it was so memorable that we never felt tired!). This is a 2.5 hour, comfortable ride straight to Carentan station — Bayeux Shuttle includes directions on how to book these train tickets on their website, and if you book ahead of time, there are discounted tickets available (our tickets were only 70 euros each roundtrip, and we also booked directly through SCNF instead of Rail Europe for some slightly cheaper prices). From here, Andy, the owner of Bayeux Shuttle, picked us up in a modern, spacious mini-van and off we went!
Although it was “off season,” which also meant limited open restrooms along the way, it also meant that we had a less crowded experience and at many sites had them to ourselves. We lucked out with the weather (this was the last week of December after all), and it was a pretty sunny day despite the chill – nothing a warm coat and some well-planned layers didn’t take care of. (Tip – the weather can be unpredictable and won’t match up to Paris weather if you’re coming from there, so definitely bring layers as recommended on the website!)
A detailed schedule of things you’ll see is available on Bayeux Shuttle’s website, so I won’t reiterate the day minute by minute – you will get to see the “big” items likes Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, but my favorite was actually the small church at Angleville-Au-Plain, where the stained glass windows are now images of paratroopers in gratitude for the stories of courage and humanity that happened that day.
Why I Loved This Tour
We’ve all been on tours where you feel like a herd of cattle… get off the bus, get on the bus, listen to someone droning facts over a crackly microphone, grab a quick photo, move on. Well… this isn’t that kind of tour. Here are a couple of things that set this experience apart:
- Small groups: the comfortable, spacious mini-van holds only 15 people, and on our tour there were only 9. Private tours are also available as well at reasonable rates, particularly if you have several people in your party.
- Modern and updated: the tour van was equipped with multimedia and GPS systems, so at different points on the tour, you could see where you were on the map and pertinent videos, interviews, photos, would play automatically as you travelled, bringing the stories and history to life. Honestly, within 10 minutes of first starting, I’m pretty sure we’d all teared up already after watching the first couple interviews of World War II vets talking about their experiences in that very countryside we were driving through.
- Passionate and exciting tour guides: Andy, the owner of Bayeux Shuttle, spent every minute telling us stories, showing us photos and documents related to that spot, and interacting with everyone on the tour to incorporate things that each person was interested in. It’s one thing to read in a history book the facts about what happened – it’s another to hear story after story of 19-and-20-year olds (and younger!) displaying remarkable acts of courage. Andy is very open in his belief in human goodness, integrity and compassion — his stories and narration never took on a “good vs evil” tone, but rather focused on the stories of brotherhood and bravery that took place on both sides of the war. He made history come alive in a way that us just reading a guidebook and driving ourselves around would not have.
- Lunch included – this is homemade baguette sandwiches made by Andy’s wife and served in their Normandy farmhouse that is in the middle of being restored to what it was like in the 1940s when it was a cafe used by both German and American soldiers – including artifacts and items from the Normandy Invasion. This is exclusive to Bayeux Shuttle customers and is included in the tour. Realizing that the blankets or army jackets on the chairs are actual articles that were left there 50 years ago is pretty incredible.
We ended the day at the somber American Cemetery listening to “Taps” as the American flag was lowered. Then we had just enough time to grab some quick dinner on our own in Bayeux before taking the train back home and arrived back in Paris just before 9 pm.
Would I do it again? Yes!
Because we only had one day to spend in Normandy, it was worth it to us to make a day trip and whet our appetite for the next time we come back. It was an incredibly moving experience. When we return, I’d probably take a tour the first day and then spend a night in the gorgeous countryside and return to explore a little more on my own the next day. Bayeux Shuttle offers a variety of D-Day tour options to suit your needs, including half day options for those already staying in Bayeux overnight as well as tours focused on specific sectors (American, Canadian, British, etc). If you’re interested in extending your stay in Normandy, they also offer tours of the area outside of the D-Day focused tours, including a trip to Mont Saint-Michel. We had a blast with them and when we’re able to return to Normandy won’t hesitate to use them again!
Additional articles written by Sophia Curcio include Iceland and Vegas trip reports. You can find a complete listing here.
Note: all photos are copyright the author.
One last note..
Did you like this blog? I’m a professional travel agent specializing in giving my clients the most memorable vacations possible. You can find out more about my credentials and contact me here. I’m happy to help you travel the world!