October 9, 2012

D-Day 69th Anniversary 2013: Normandy Tours, Events, Hotels, and Tips

If you're looking to visit the World War II battlefields of Normandy there's no better time than the anniversary on June 6th.  2013 marks the 69th anniversary of the D-Day invasions.  Visiting during the anniversary you'll find the whole area teaming with tourists, veterans, diplomats, historians, and reenactors from around the world who are all gathering to mark the special occasion.

Tourist information center in Bayeux is one of your best
sources of information on anniversary activities

Finding information before your trip can be difficult - most web searches just yield tour information from larger companies.  Your best source of information for events for the D-Day anniversary are the local tourist information offices.  The TI's and many others in the region depend on tourists like you and me for their livelihoods and are a welcome resource for those interested in a trip to Normandy.  A friendly, English-speaking staff at the Bayeux TI is a great place to start if you need info on anniversary events. A quick call or email will be answered by their small staff who are well-versed in the region and are used to dealing with English-speaking tourists every day.  Their website will also feature information as the D-Day anniversary draws near.

Modern French military soldiers commemorate the 68th Anniversary
of the D-Day invasions
Special Events are what make the anniversary the best time to visit Normandy.  Every landing zone will host a special ceremony on our around the 68th anniversary.  The nations involved with the invasion all put on a special commemoration ceremony on the beaches, museums, or cemeteries.  Presidential visits are common as are veterans and modern military ceremonies.  Times and dates vary (some happen on the 6th, some happen on the preceding or following weekend) and the events could cause localized traffic or parking issues immediately surrounding the event. With careful timing (or by going around the block) you won't even notice a delay.
Everywhere you go, you'll find French, Canadian, British, and American flags flying in honor of the nations involved.  If you want to find a monument or event, just look for the flags.  Commonly seen are historic military vehicles and reenactor camps sprinkled throughout towns and the countryside.  If you see a camp full of "American" soldiers, you might just find they only speak French!

Tours around the anniversary are a great way to see a lot that is going on for the D-Day anniversary.  Because of the popularity around June 6th, book your tours as early as possible.  Many of the private tours will be very early (seven months, if not earlier), so contact them as soon as possible.  Small group tours will have more availability, but must still be booked in advance.  As a general rule, I suggest booking your tour as soon as you decide on a trip to the region.  Sites like TripAdvisor are helpful when choosing a guide or company.  There are a number of well-reviewed and recommended guides in the area.

The TI in Bayeux posts event fliers in multiple
languages in their window
Where to stay in Normandy.  I've had great experience staying in Bayeux.  This medieval town was largely spared destruction of allied bombing leading up to the June 6, 1944 D-Day invasion.  Today, you'll find a town steeped in World War II history waiting to welcome tourists to Normandy.  St. Mere Eglise is another town that rolls out all the stops for WWII tourism.  This town, popular with paratroopers, is another good choice if you are looking for a fully immersive D-Day experience.  It will be filled with reenactors and offers a number of sites and museums to visit.  If you are coming from Paris or using public transportation, Bayeux is very easily accessible by train and the entire town is walkable (including to and from the train station).  Hotel Churchill in Bayeux is a favorite due to its central location. I've also had good luck with Hotel d'Argouges that is just down the main road.  Like many places in Europe, you'll find that most you encounter speak great English and are quite welcoming of your tourist Euro.  That includes the plentiful cafe's bakeries, and cider shops.

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