Monday, April 01, 2013

Normandy: Pre-Trip Details

Visiting Normandy has been one of Joe's top travel priorities since he was young, but he had never managed to go.  Therefore I made it a travel priority for our last trip together during my exchange... and the travel gods were kind to us... and well, we made it!  I also came much better prepared than other trips, having learned my lesson from our trip to Pearl Harbor in July 2011.  (I was fascinated at Pearl Harbor and wished I had known more before visiting. Of course, afterwards I turned slightly Pearl Harbor obsessive to make up for my previous lack of knowledge.)

For this trip, I did the following:
-Constant learning about Germany and WWII during my earlier travels
-Watched the D-Day Band of Brothers episode
-Downloaded a Normandy book on audio to listened to it on the train
-Watched some of Saving Private Ryan (the beach landing scene)
-Researched Normandy travel experiences online
-Purchased the awesome guidebook "D-Day and the Battle for Normandy" and previewed it before the trip. This book was a great help during the trip too.
-Read Jeff Shaara's "The Steel Wave: A Novel of World War II," which I highly recommend for those wanting an easy to read but very comprehensive lesson about Normandy

I am so glad I did this pre-planning because I really do believe it gave me a better perspective, comprehension, and appreciation for what I saw.  If anyone is planning a trip to Normandy, I would definitely recommend buying the guidebook and reading "Steel Wave" to get up to speed. I was surprised at how much I already knew when we went through the museums and sites, but seeing it in person was unreal.

Another tip: Don't overplan the actual trip itself. We didn't have any set agendas and were therefore able to spend as much time in places as we liked.  It ended up that we spent the first day in Caen and Bayeux, second day half in Bayeux and half on the British beaches, and the third day at Omaha (and somewhat Utah) beaches as well as some interior towns.  Our fourth day was spent at Mont St. Michele and St. Malo, which was definitely a mental break from the previous three days. 

For details on our trip, go to Normandy Day One, Normandy Day Two, and Normandy Day Three and Five.

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