Place of memories : Normandy and Landing Beaches, Loire valley and its wonderful castles
Eugene boudin museum, Caen Memorial, The Bayeux Tapestry, Pointe du Hoc, Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, American military cemetery, D-Day landing museum, manoir du Clos Lucé, Wine tasting at Vouvray
Flexible departure dates
Honfleur, Caen, Bayeux, Sainte Mère l'Eglise, Landing beaches, Arromanches, Mont saint Michel, Saint Malo, Cancale, Dinard, Angers, Amboise, Chenonceau, Chambord, Blois
Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final hotel choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.
Departure from Paris and go back to WWII in the footprints of the allies on the landing day of June 6. You will visit Omaha beach and its American military cemetery, the Pointe du Hoc, Arromanches and its artificial harbor, Bayeux and its tapestry, Caen and Calvados. After Normandy you will continue with the dreams of the Loire Valley's Castles.You will be fascinated by the chateau de Chambord and its famous spiralling staircases, the chateau d’Amboise, Leonardo da Vinci’s burial place and the Chateau de Chenonceau reflected by the water.
Meet your guide-driver after the customs at CDG Airport and drive to Normandy.
Visit Honfleur with its Old Dock, the most symbolic place in the city with the very typical high houses. The Old Dock is a tremendous foreground for painters, among them famous impressionists such as Claude Monet and Eugène Boudin.
Here you can visit the Eugène Boudin Museum, founded in 1868. The gallery exhibits the works of the landscape painters of 19th and 20th century Hornfleur.
You may wish to enjoy lunch at the Michelin starred Ferme Saint-Siméon, a refined restaurant with a terrace looking out onto the sea. Do not miss the fine selection of calvados and good, classic cuisine!
Drop-off at your hotel in Port en Bessin.
9:00 am: meet your guide-driver at the lobby of your hotel and drive to Caen.
Situated between land and sea, with beaches just 10 minutes away and 2 hours from Paris, on the Mont Saint-Michel road, Caen is a thriving and dynamic city offering a rare wealth of heritage and culture.
Narrow streets lined with lively shops, a marina right in the heart of the city and an array of parks and gardens that have long charmed experts.
In Caen you will visit The Men’s Abbey, founded by Willianm The Conquerer in the 11th century. The abbey is adjacent to the magnificent St. Etienne church.
The church is a Norman Romanesque masterpiece, with a severe, unadorned façade crowned with twin Romanesque towers.
You can also visit the Caen Memorial. This museum for peace was born out of the desire to create a place reflecting on wars on the basis of the experience of the memorable events that took place in Caen and the region during the summer of 1944.
Le Mémorial de Caen, a destination that is not to be missed by tourists in Normandy, is today one of the first memory sites in Europe, with nearly 400,000 visitors per year. Le Mémorial de Caen has received several awards for its quality of reception and the wealth and quality of its content.
Inaugurated on June 6, 1988 by François Mitterrand, Le Mémorial de Caen is a major modern museum dedicated to the history of the 20th Century. Its innovative and emotionally charged presentation invites the visitors to take a journey through history and a consideration of the planet's future in three museum spaces: the Second World War, the Cold War and the Worlds for Peace. Le Mémorial de Caen definitely incites the visitors to consider the fragility of Peace and Human Rights.
Le Mémorial de Caen’s collections get enriched with foreign institutions, private collectors or second hand booksellers. They also collect the testimonies of the actors of the Second World War and of the twentieth century.
Along 20 years, a vast collection of objects and archives both printed and audiovisual about the period of the Second World War has then been gathered. It includes different kinds of items (sound archives, films, photographs, posters, press, flyers and so on) and interests as well the historical and iconographic research as the museum research.
Enjoy lunch at leisure in a restaurant suggested by your guide.
Return to Bayeux for a visit of the Tapestry museum which is surrounded by historical monuments, town houses and pedestrian walkways along the Aure, the river that winds its way slowly through the town.
It is the old Bayeux Seminary, a huge classical style edifice built in the last decade of the 17th century. It stands on the site of a medieval priory, of which only the chapel remains, a treasure of Norman Gothic architecture from the 13th century.
The Bayeux Tapestry, which is one of the most historically important, and unusual, chronicles of its day. The 70m-long (231ft) tapestry offers a splendidly vivid depiction of the events leading up to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. It begins with Harold of Wessex’s visit to Normandy and his meeting with Duke William in 1064, and culminates with the flight of the English army at Hastings.
All the main intervening events, including the death of King Edward the Confessor in January 1066, Harold's coronation, William's elaborate invasion preparations, his landing at Pevensey, the Battle of Hastings and Harold's death, are covered in painstaking detail.
Along the top and bottom of the tapestry run decorated borders illustrating scenes of contemporary warfare, hunting and husbandry and also some episodes from the fables of Aesop and Phaedrus.
The tapestry is often referred to in French as La Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde (Queen Mathilda’s Tapestry) after William’s wife. Although it was almost destroyed in 1792 when French revolutionaries used it as a wagon cover, the whole tapestry (with the exception of the final section, thought to have depicted William's coronation in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066) has survived to this day and can still be viewed by visitors.
5.00 pm: Drop-off at your hotel.
9.00 am: Meet your guide-driver in the lobby of your hotel.
Start your tour at Sainte Mère l’Eglise which is situated on the Cotentin Peninsula in the Manche "department" of Normandy. Sainte Mère Eglise and Sainte Marie du Mont together with Utah Beach, keep alive the memory of the Normandy landings of 6th June 1944. These landings comprised the first stage of the allied advance in France and then across the whole of Europe during the second world war.
Visit the US Airborne Museum, located at North Cotentin in a Park of 3000 m ². This museum of legend is an anthem to the extraordinary epopee of the American parachutists of the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions which plunged on Sainte-Mère-Eglise in the night of June 5, 1944. Back in Bayeux at the end of the day for evening and a dinner at leisure.
Then, drive to “Pointe du Hoc”. On this particularly favorable site, the Germans had built a heavy artillery battery capable of raking a wide stretch of coastline. It represented a formidable threat to the two beaches where American troops were going to land: Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east.
After having scaled the 100-foot cliffs, under heavy enemy fire, the Rangers pushed on through this lunar landscape to capture and destroy the six heavy guns capable of firing their shells to a maximum range of nearly 15 miles. Colonel Rudder and his men only realized upon capturing the battery that the Germans, under the orders of Rommel, had moved the guns half a mile inland and hidden them while bunkers were being constructed to protect them.
The overpowering of Pointe du Hoc was a long and laborious fight, with the Rangers being left to fend for themselves two days longer than had been planned. The 2nd Battalion suffered very heavy casualties during the two and a half days they were at Pointe du Hoc, only 90 of the original 225 still fighting when they were finally relieved.
Visit Omaha beach, for example, the beach which is depicted in the opening scenes of Steven Spielberg's, “Saving Private Ryan”. Omaha beach witnessed the most vicious fighting of World War II.
Approximately 34 000 soldiers from the 1st, 2nd and 29th Infantry Divisions landed on this beach on D-Day. The beach was covered in anti-tank and anti-landing craft obstacles.
Nearly all the pre-invasion bombarding had missed the fortifications along the beach and the geography of the beach itself, consisting of 80 to 100-foot bluffs rising up from the shore, was very easily defendable terrain for the Germans.
One of the German’s only good quality front line Infantry Divisions was also present on the beach, purely by coincidence. This made the assault the most difficult of all the beaches on D-Day, earning the nickname “Bloody Omaha”.
Only a few days after the landings, the Americans had transformed nearly the entire beach into a vast artificial harbor, code named “Mulberry A”.
It was used for less than a week before it was destroyed in a very heavy storm between the 19t and 22 June 1944. There is only one piece of this harbor left to be seen today.
Two kilometres (1.2mi) west along the beach from Omaha is the American Military Cemetery, where the graves of 9,386 American soldiers can be found.
This immense place of memory and reflection will amaze you with its calmness and serenity. You can see the graves of some of the 307 unknown soldiers or visit the resting places of the more famous, such as the Niland brothers, the family who inspired the film “Saving Private Ryan” as well as those who were awarded the Medal of Honor, one of whom is General Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
If time permitted, finish your tour by a visit of Arromanches. You can see this lovely village and the remains of the artificial harbor. Here, if time permitted, you can visit the D-Day Landing Museum, built on the site of the artificial harbor constructed during the Second World War.
5.00 pm: Drop-off at your hotel.
9.00 am: Meet your guide-driver at the lobby of your hotel.
Drive to the Mont Saint Michel, one of France’s most spectacular sights. Dramatically perched on a tiny island, the Gothic abbey is surrounded by vast sand flats and surging tides. According to legend, the archangel Michael appeared on this island, which inspired construction of the Benedictine abbey in 1017.
Continually expanded over the next 500 years, Mont Saint Michel became a magnet for Christian pilgrims. Its extraordinary location, its rich and influential history and its glorious architecture combine to make it the most splendid of the abbeys of France.
According to Celtic mythology the granite mass of what is now Mont St. Michel was a sea tomb to which dead peoples’ souls were sent. In 708 A.D., so legend has it, the archangel Michael appeared three times before Bishop Aubert of Avranches, instructing him to build a chapel on the top of the Mont.
More than two centuries later Richard I, Duke of Normandy, gave Mont St. Michel to the Benedictines, who created first an important center of learning and later an ecclesiastical fortress with a military garrison at the disposal of the abbot and the king.
You will visit the abbey that towers at 260 feet high, and displays a number of architectural styles, Norman Romanesque and Gothic among them. You will climb the stone steps to the monastery, roam through the vertical maze of chambers, and take in the beautiful light and surrounding scenery.
How about lunch at the Mère Poulard to taste their world famous omelette?
Continue onto St Malo. This settlement, whose modern name is taken from a British Monk "Malo" who came to convert the region to Christianity in the 6th century A.D., is today a thriving channel port town.
The town has an interesting history having been an important base for pirates and also for the slave trade. A walk around the ramparts which encircle the old town provides excellent views of the town itself and the surrounding sea and countryside.
5.00 pm: Drop-off at your hotel in Cancale.
9.00 am: Meet your guide-driver at the lobby of your hotel and enjoy a tour in Brittany.
Cancale lies along the coast to the east of Saint-Malo. It is a picturesque fishing village popular with visitors many of whom are drawn by its reputation as the “oyster capital of Brittany”. Though a small town, it is well served by a large number of restaurants, many specialising in seafood. When not eating one can sit and watch the bustle of this busy little town with many stalls selling crustaceans of all types.
Eugène Feyen painted Cancale and the inhabitants with the oyster-picking Cancalaises for several decades around 1865–1908. Vincent van Gogh wrote that Eugène Feyen is one of the few painters who pictures intimate modern life as it is really, and does not turn it into fashion plates.
Cancale has made its reputation as a fishing port, famous for its oysters. History has it that Louis XIV had his oysters brought to Versailles from Cancale. Centuries later, the farming of oysters is still a major activity in the port and there are oyster beds covering about 7.3 square kilometres easily seen from the pier at the harbour. These beds harvest about 25,000 tons of oysters each year.).
There is an interesting museum of oysters "Musée des Huitres" in Cancale. Lots of restaurants are available in "La Houle", the port of Cancale, where you can taste oysters, crabs, lobsters and the like!
Enjoy lunch at leisure in a typical restaurant suggested by your guide and then drive to Dinan.
Raised up overlooking the valley of Rance, the rich town of Dinan dominates the fishing port to which it is connected by a cobbled road, lined with old houses and shops. The architecture of this Breton town shows that it was home to many different craftsmen such as potters, basket makers, weavers and butchers, amongst others. Like the Mont Saint Michel or Saint Malo, the town of Dinan was protected by ramparts, partly destroyed now but offering great protection to the Dukes of Brittany who ruled the region at the time. One of the unique buildings of the town is the oval keep, a defensive tower, built at the end of the 14th century and joined to the ramparts. Let the charm and beauty seduce you and spend an afternoon living in a medieval world of amazement.
Then you will end your daytrip at Dinard.
Dinard is a town and commune on the Côte d'Émeraude, on the northeast coast of Brittany.
Its beaches and mild climate make it a popular holiday destination, and has resulted in the town having a variety of famous visitors and residents. Dinard, across the estuary, was a favourite haunt of the English aristocracy in the 19th century, establishing a tennis and a golf club for their amusement.
In modern history Dinard was first settled by Saint-Malo's shipping merchants who built some of the towns magnificent villas on the cliff tops. In the late 1800s American and British aristocrats made Dinard popular as a fashionable summer resort, and the building of villas and exclusive hotels continued. It has been suggested that Dinard is a "French Brighton".
Dinard's reputation as the "Cannes of the North" has attracted a wide variety of stars. Joan Collins is a frequent visitor, and Winston Churchill enjoyed holidaying on the River Rance. Alfred Hitchcock spent many summers in Dinard and based the house used in his most famous movie Psycho on a villa standing over the Plage de l'Ecluse.
5.00 pm: Return to your hotel
Check-out your hotel in Brittany.
En route, visite Angers.
The wealth of its heritage and the care taken with its promotion have enabled Angers to obtain the prestigious "Villes d"Art et d"Histoire" label awarded by the Department of Architecture and Heritage. If you are in tune with the spirit of chivalry and courtly love holds no secrets for you, you’ll love the capital of Anjou. Memories of a visit to Angers are always coloured by its blue and white stones and the beauty of its slate.
The Château tells the story of King René. The Jean Lurçat museum and the contemporary tapestry evoke the loom setters. Under the glass roof of the gallery you will find the monumental David.
The gothic-style cathedral of the Plantagenets and the Apocalypse tapestry will strike a chord straight away. And our heritage can be seen and experienced in the art galleries, the Maison d’Adam, and the many inhabited castles nearby.
Take a short stroll from the Cité to the Doutre, where you can find a lively student atmosphere, or enjoy the quiet banks of the Maine. Memories of a visit to Angers are always coloured by its blue and white stones and the beauty of its slate.
In addition to the Maine, the Doutre quarter on the right bank still has a discreet, rural charm. You'll be delighted by its wood-framed houses, its private townhouses, its Angevin residences with their pale tufa facades, and its many green spaces.
Check in at your hotel in Loire Valley
9.00 am: Meet your English-speaking guide-driver in the lobby of your hotel .
In the morning visit the nearby Manoir du Clos Lucé where Leonardo Da Vinci spent the last three years of his life. Visit his apartments and see the models of the marvelous machines that he invented. Leonardo Da Vinci was honored with the King’s benefaction; he was given the "Clos Luce Manor" near the Royal Castle of Amboise. King Francois I asked for nothing in return, only the pleasure of conversing with Leonardo Da Vinci.
We suggest an optional visit to the Château of Amboise where Leonardo Da Vinci is buried. Amboise, loved by Catherine de Medici, who raised her children there, was the first royal castle built in the Loire during the Renaissance period. It was in a strategic position overlooking one of the few bridges that allowed people to cross the Loire. The decoration was originally of French inspiration but later profited from the collaboration of Flemish and Italian artists.
Amboise is the chateau to be visited if you want to have an overview of the historical Loire Valley.
For lunch, we suggest a local restaurant “Le Bon Laboureur” in the Loire valley, near Chenonceaux. Since 1786, this restaurant has been a reputed, not-to-be-missed place for visitors to the Chateau of Chenonceau. The restaurant favors genuine traditional French cuisine that has been updated. Top quality seasonal products and produce from the inn's vegetable garden contribute to the authenticity of the preparations and aromas. Simple, tasty dishes are fundamental.
In the afternoon you will visit the Château de Chenonceau. Built on a bridge over the Cher River, with the unique beauty of its Renaissance architecture reflected by the water, the Chateau de Chenonceau is the masterpiece of the Val de Loire. This enchanting castle may be smaller in comparison to others, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm. It is certainly one of the most romantic chateaux in the Loire Valley
Continue on to the vineyards of Vouvray, famous for their sparkling white wines, to visit a couple of cellars and taste the wines.
Back to your hotel at the end of the afternoon.
9.00 am: Meet your guide-driver in the lobby of your hotel.
In the morning, you will enjoy a visit of the castle in Blois; you step into the courtyard, where the extraordinary clash of architectural styles has only been slightly muted by time. The relatively plain stone of the Gothic Salle des États, the manorial assembly hall, juts forward in the near right-hand corner, while immediately to the left, the graceful lines and inspired Italianate stonework of François I's Renaissance north wing is interrupted by a superb spiral staircase. Ahead, the grandly Classical west wing was built in the 1630s by François Mansart for Gaston d'Orléans, the brother of Louis XIII. Turning to the south side you return 140-odd years to Louis XII's St-Calais chapel, which contrasts with the more exuberant brickwork of his Flamboyant Gothic east wing.
The château was also home to Henri III's mother and manipulator, Catherine de Médicis, who died here a few days after the murders in 1589. The most famous of her suite of rooms is the study, where, according to Alexandre Dumas' novel, La Reine Margot, she kept poison hidden in secret caches in the skirting boards and behind some of the 237 narrow carved wooden panels; they now contain small Renaissance objets d'art. In the nineteenth century, revolutionaries were tried in the Grande Salle for conspiring to assassinate Napoléon III, a year before the Paris Commune of 1870. You can return to the courtyard via the vast space of the Salle des États, where the arches, pillars and fireplaces are another riot of nineteenth-century colour.
In the afternoon, you will visit the most impressive of all the castles, the Château de Chambord.
It stands in a vast park enclosed by a 20-mile wall. Leonardo da Vinci may have helped with the plans for this fabulous edifice of more than 400 rooms. The archives give us no information as to the name of the architect but an analysis of the structure reveals a profound influence of Leonardo's thought and extremely close ties to some of the projects of Domenico da Cortona, an Italian architect.
During King François I's reign the castle was rarely inhabited. In fact, the King spent barely seven weeks there in total, comprising of short hunting visits. As the castle had been constructed for short visits, it was in fact not practical to live there on a long term basis.
King Louis XIV added stables which could hold up to 300 horses, enabling him to use the castle as a hunting lodge and a place to entertain such notables as Molière for a few weeks each year. Nonetheless, Louis XIV abandoned the castle in 1685.
5.00 pm: Drop-off at your hotel.
Private transfer with an English-speaking driver from the hotel in Loire Valley to CDG Airport