The transformation wrought by Europe's two world wars cannot be overstated. World War I marked the transition away from 19th century warfare while World War II demonstrated just how destructive modern war could be. Revisit the epic battles and heroic sacrifices of the Somme and D-Day in museums, memorials and on the battlefields themselves. From the heart of Paris to the cliffs of Normandy, learn how both conflicts changed the course of history.
• Exclusive: Tour the Normandy coast in a small group and take part in a wreath laying ceremony at a D-Day landing beach.
• Visit famous WWI and WWII battle sites in the company of expert guides.
• See the iconic Notre Dame, Bayeux Tapestry and Mont Saint-Michel.
This insightful exploration of Northern France lets you walk in the footsteps of the brave soldiers, airmen and sailors who fought during World War I and World War II. Enjoy a fitting introduction to both at the Armistice Museum in Compiegne where you'll see the recreated railway car that Germany surrendered in after WWI and where a defeated France signed a second armistice with Nazi Germany in 1940. More history comes to life on a full day tour of the Somme Region with an expert guide. The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of WWI and one of the bloodiest - over 1 million were killed or wounded during a four month period. The battle also marked the first use of the armored tank and to some extent, air power. Honor the fallen at the Somme American Cemetery and Memorial and learn about the evolution in weaponry at the Somme 1916 Museum.
The immersion in history continues with a poignant, full day tour of Normandy battlefields and beaches with a local expert guide and lecturer. Normandy’s proximity to the sea has made it the site of many battles but none more famous than the D-Day Invasion by Allied forces during WWII. Walk Omaha Beach where the Allies were able to secure a "toehold" on the continent despite enormous losses. Visit the U.S. Cemetery where almost 10,000 brave American soldiers who participated in the invasion are laid to rest. See life-size panoramas of beach fighting at the Omaha Beach Memorial Museum. And pay your respects by taking part in a wreath laying ceremony on one of the D-Day Landing Beaches, an exclusive honor specially arranged for our AAA Sojourns group.
Other highlights include the town of Bayeux, the first French town to be liberated from the German occupation, one day after D-Day on June 7, 1944. Retrace the story of this pivotal phase of the war at the Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum. A different era of warfare comes to life in the stunning 230-foot long Bayeux Tapestry, an 11th century masterpiece depicting the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Cap off your journey with a visit to the famous Mont Saint-Michel, a fortified island abbey, and a farewell dinner at 58 Tour Eiffel, the first floor restaurant of Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower.
• 7 nights accommodations: 2 nights in Paris, 2 nights in Amiens and 3 in Caen
• Meals - Daily breakfast and 6 dinners, including a farewell dinner at the Eiffel Tower restaurant
• All on-tour transportation, English-speaking tour manager and local guides
• Sights - Paris sightseeing and visit to Compiegne, important in both WWI & WWII
• Full day tour of the Somme Region, site of one of WWI’s bloodiest battles
• Visit to Bayeux, the first town liberated in WWII, and Mont Saint-Michel
• Exclusive - Tour of D-Day Landing Beaches with exclusive wreath laying ceremony
• Arrival and departure transfers to Charles de Gaulle Airport
Note: Additional nights and sightseeing can be requested for Paris as part of a post-tour package. AAA Sojourns can also add a London Your Way package as either a pre-tour or post-tour package that can include hotel accommodations, high speed rail aboard the Eurostar, tickets for a London show and more. Inquire at time of booking.
Day 1 – Arrive in Paris
Upon arrival in Paris, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. En route, enjoy a panoramic sightseeing tour of the French capital, including a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral. Notre Dame is a Gothic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in Paris, with its main entrance to the west. It is still used as a Roman Catholic cathedral and is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Later after check-in and time at leisure, get to know your traveling companions at a Welcome Dinner.
Accommodation: Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel or similar - 1 night
Day 2 – Historical Compiegne
After breakfast and hotel check out, we depart Paris for Compiegne. Historical Compiegne is where Joan of Arc was captured by the Burgundians in 1430. It is here in a railway clearing near the city where Germany surrendered in 1918, ending World War I. In World War II, Adolf Hitler ensured that the same clearing and carriage was used for France’s surrender to Germany in 1940. The Clarière de l’Armistice is home to the Musée de l’Armistice, which houses a replica of the carriage. We then drive on to Amiens in the heart of the Somme region.
Accommodation: Best Western Grand Hotel De L’Univers or similar - 2 nights
Day 3 – Somme Region & the Battle of the Somme
After breakfast depart to enjoy a full day tour of the Somme Region with an expert local guide. During the First World War, this area was the scene of one of the bloodiest conflicts in history: the Battle of the Somme. This battle was as decisive as the battles of the Marne and Verdun, but at great cost: more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed between July 1 and November 18, 1916.
We’ll visit the Somme American Cemetery and Memorial. The cemetery is named for the region in which major U.S. units fought from September 1918 through to November 1918. Also visit the Musée Somme 1916. The museum is located inside a tunnel that dates back to the 13th century and which was made into an air-raid shelter in 1938. Display cases show the evolution in weaponry and the appearance of new technologies such as gas and armored tanks. There are also recreated trench scenes that give you an understanding of what life was like for the soldiers of both sides during World War I. Later, return to your hotel for dinner.
Day 4 – Memorial Pegasus
Today we depart Amiens for Caen in Normandy. En route stop at the Memorial Pegasus, where you can relive the dawn of 6th June 1944, known as “the longest day.” The Memorial Pegasus is dedicated to the men of 6th British Airborne Division, known as the Red Berets The division was composed of parachutists and glider-borne troops. Their mission was to hold the eastern flank of the invasion forces and to stop German counter attacks coming from the east. These missions were accomplished with great success before dawn on D-Day but with heavy losses.
Accommodation: Mercure Caen Cote de Nacre or similar – 3 nights
Day 5 – Bayeux & the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel
Our full day excursion begins with a visit to Bayeux. Bayeux is most famous for the 230 foot long 11th century tapestry which describes in pictures the course of William the Conqueror’s victory at the Battle of Hastings. But it was also the first town to be liberated by the Allies in 1944. The events of that year are retold and celebrated in the Musée Mémorial de la Bataille de Normandie. Bayeux was the first French town to be liberated from the German occupation, on the 7th of June 1944. This museum retraces the military and human story of the Battle of Normandy, which was to last through August 1944. Its recently installed scenography offers an insight into purely historical facts, alternating with themed features, 25 minutes of film archives and exhibits featuring original equipment and uniforms.
In the afternoon, we continue to the undoubted jewel of northern France, the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, possibly the most enchanting and romantic image of the country. The picturesque abbey dominates a fortified island, once protected by strong tides, but today linked to the mainland by a causeway.
Day 6 – D-Day Landing Beaches
Embark on a full day tour of Normandy battlefields and beaches with a local expert guide and lecturer. Begin at the U.S. Cemetery which sits on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel. Established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 and the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II, the cemetery site covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 of military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.
We then visit Omaha Beach. The full horror of the Omaha landings can barely be imagined. The first wave of troops, landing at 6:30am on June 6, 1944, was met with heavy machine gun fire and explosives. By midday, a bleak picture was emerging of landing conditions and the U.S. First Commander even considered pulling back. But bravery and force of numbers ensured that by the end of D-Day, the Allies had a toehold on this section of the Normandy coast.
On the Pointe du Hoc now stands the Omaha Beach Memorial Museum and inside you can view displays of military vehicles, arms, uniforms and badges worn by American and German soldiers in World War II. Events and life in France under German occupation are portrayed, alongside life-size panoramas of beach fighting. Conclude this moving day by taking part in a wreath laying ceremony on one of the D-Day Landing Beaches. This is an honor that has been specially arranged for our AAA Sojourns group.
Day 7 – Caen Peace Museum
We begin the day with a visit to the Caen Peace Museum. The Caen Memorial was established in 1988 and dedicated to peace. As well as presentations on D-Day and World War II, the museum includes exhibits on other failures and triumphs of peace, such as September 11th and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
We then travel back to Paris for a final spectacular evening. A private transfer will take you to the Eiffel Tower for a Farewell Dinner in the first floor restaurant 58 Tour Eiffel, a truly memorable end to your visit to France.
Accommodation: Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel or similar – 1 night
Day 8 – Depart for home
After breakfast and check-out, transfer to the airport for your flight home.
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