Latest update: 30 May 2023
D-Day, June 6, 1944. It was the day of the Allied invasion of Normandy via the coastline. So many soldiers met a horrible death that day. Now the same beach is the setting for a family day out. Children play with a plastic shovel or a kite, and a couple walks their dog. What a bitter contrast.
Omaha Tour: Operation Overlord
I visit the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy with a guide. Because I fear that if I do it on my own, I’ll be staring at an empty beach and miss the context. I book a half-day Omaha tour with Overlordtour. Contact by email is fast and friendly, so that feels promising. If they don’t have availability, try this or this tour.
An English-speaking Frenchman takes the group of seven from Bayeux in a van. The tour lasts over four hours, mainly focusing on Omaha Beach, from Longues-sur-Mer to Pointe du Hoc. At first, I don’t understand the name Overlordtour. Shame on me: that’s the name of the Allies’ operation. Within five minutes, I have already learned something from the tour.
We start at Longues-sur-Mer. There is a battery of the Germans that served as a defense. You can now view the ship’s guns. I see thick concrete walls and roofs with a cannon and some storage space. There are also a few smaller bunkers, and our guide explains about the trenches and minefields. One hundred and eighty Germans worked in this place. Now it is mainly people with selfie sticks who rule the battery. Because yes, it is definitely a tourist attraction. Many people come to the D-Day sights. Rightly so, because it is an essential piece of history.
Omaha Beach and D Day
We make a few stops near Omaha Beach. The goal of Operation Overlord was to liberate Western Europe from Germany. D-Day is the first action of the operation. Mainly British and Americans tried to conquer the French land via the beaches of Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword. A coastal strip of about five kilometers. Writer Ernest Hemingway also landed on Omaha Beach. He was “lucky”. Many soldiers soon died.
After landing, they had to walk through thirty meters of shallow water. Some drowned because of the heavy pack. Then they stood awaiting machine gun fire on the beach. Land mines, Germans in bunkers on cliffs, hardly any support from heavy artillery due to the loss of 27 out of the 29 floating tanks… Ultimately, they managed to break through the German lines, but with a significant loss. Over three thousand Americans died.
Shortly after D-Day, the coast served as a vital route for supplies to the troops. And now, now I walk around with hundreds of others to marvel at the remains and memories. That feels harsh, but it is also necessary. The expression “lest we forget” is so incredibly true.
With the tour, I also visit the American cemetery Colleville-sur-Mer. 9,387 Americans are buried here, including one from the First World War, 4 women, and 307 unidentified people. The Jewish people can be recognized by stones with the Star of David. There is a pine cone on some graves. The guides do this so that they can easily find and point out the notable graves. For example, someone with a medal of honor or a father and son.
It’s terribly busy at the cemetery. It’s so big and imposing, and only at the very back can you walk around in silence. At the entrance is a giant bronze statue, a memorial garden, and a wall with the names of the missing people. Some names have now been given a rosette; these people have been found and identified. It’s so many names. I want to read them all. Here, I run into the tight schedule of the tour. We have to continue.
The cliff of Pointe du Hoc
The tour ends at Pointe du Hoc. This area was attacked by the Allies on July 6. The idea was to knock out the guns with 255 men. Before this, Pointe du Hoc had already been heavily bombed, so the Germans moved the guns more inland. The Rangers, the soldiers of the Allies, did not know this. After a fierce climb of 30 meters, they managed to take position, but only after a few days serious reinforcements arrived to overpower the Germans. The cliff is so very steep. Unbelievable that someone had to climb up there while under fire. At Pointe du Hoc, you will also find remnants of the fighting. The terrain is rough: there are craters left by the cannons.
D-Day tour: running out of time
In four hours, I only come into contact with a tiny part of history. The half-day tour is excellent for those with limited time who want to see a lot, like me. I see remnants and terrain that witnessed the battle. Apart from that, I am at the mercy of my own imagination and the stories of the guide. Images of films and series such as Band of Brothers loom. You can also do Band of Brothers tours, by the way. The first episodes of the well-known HBO series focus on Easy Company’s preparation for D-Day and the landing at Utah Beach.
It is actually nice that there are now running children and barking dogs on the beaches. After all, the soldiers fought for that freedom. Anyway, I find this visit to the D-Day beaches very impressive. I will come back here to learn more.
More inspiration for travel in France?
Helpful links for your France trip
- Travel guides. I love the practical travel guides from Lonely Planet, buy them at Bol.com or Amazon.
- Flights. Be sure to check out Transavia, but do compare all your options! Definitely check out Momondo, Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
- Train and bus. Travel by train to France with NS International or FlixBus, or find deals on trains and busses in France via Busbud, Omio, or 12Go.
- Accommodation. All-time favorites: Booking.com and Natuurhuisje. Or try Campspace for unique camping spots. Rather stay in a hostel? Check out Hostelworld.
- Money. Your bank cards may not get accepted everywhere. You could opt for a Revolut card as an additional card when you travel.
- Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. Check out Freetour and GuruWalk for ‘free’ walking tours, and for bike tours, try Baja Bikes. If you’re into wine: check out all the wine-related activities at Rue des Vignerons.
- Attractions and museums. Book museum and attraction tickets with Tiqets and get a 5% discount with this code: KIMOPREIS22.
- Car rental. My go-to car rental companies are EasyTerra and Sunny Cars as they have all-inclusive / worry-free offers.
- Travel gear. Buy your gear at Bever or Decathlon, or simply at Bol.com.
- Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? You have many options! For the Dutch, try ANWB vakanties or Sawadee, or maybe you can find a sweet deal at TUI, Sunweb, D-reizen, or Vakantie Discounter?
And what about a yoga retreat in France?
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First published: July 2016. Updated since.