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12 May 2009

Visiting Normandy for D-Day +65

A few helpful quick tips for people planning to visit Normandy for the 65th Anniversary of D-Day. From the UK, look at the British Legion site, and from the overall French perspective, check the official programme of events here.

Firstly, make your cross channel ferry reservations as early as you can. Now that P&O no longer travel the western crossings direct to Normandy, the remaining services – Brittany Ferries and LD Lines - will fill up quickly. There is not likely to be a problem on the short crossings to Calais and Boulogne (unless the French fishermen blockade the ports again, which is always possible – but to get to Caen (Ouistreham) on the north coast nearest the landing beaches, or Cherbourg for the second phases of the invasion, or Le Havre for the consolidation, early booking is probably a good idea.

Hotel bookings will be essential. Try Logis de France for real independently owned hotels (see this blog item). Reasonably priced chains include Mercure, Ibis, Accord.

There are also some very cheap hotel chains, such as Formule 1, which are acceptably comfortable at very low prices. I prefer independent, quirky, little hotels which are usually cheap, in interesting towns, and all very different. Speaking as little French is probably essential, though.

A useful initiative is the Normandie Pass, which for a one off fee of one euro, provides reduced admission to museums, events and non D-Day attractions, products and services. If you want to see as much as possible, it can save you a fair bit of money, as well as lead you to some unexpected places and events.

There is a very large number of events being planned throughout the region. To find out details of what and when, visit any local Tourist officeOffice de Tourisme, or Syndicat d'Iniative - where you will usually find English speaking staff, large volumes of usually free leaflets, guides and other materials. Look for the 'i' symbol on signs and streets.

None of the organisations mentioned here have paid anything to be named. Alas...

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