Day 1: Paris Arrival and Transfer to Bayeux
After individual arrivals into Paris, guests meet the tour manager at Charles de Gaulle Airport before heading directly to Normandy. After arriving in Bayeux and checking into the Hotel Villa Lara, the group enjoys an optional walking tour of the historic medieval city before dinner. The walk includes stops at Cathédrale de Bayeux and the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux, home of the “Bayeux Tapestry,” which portrays William the Conqueror’s victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. A welcome dinner at Le Lion d’Or Restaurant, where famous photographer Robert Capa and reporter Ernie Pyle ate and first celebrated the success of D-Day, ends the first day of the journey.
Hotel Villa Lara (D)
Tourists admiring the Bayeux Tapestry
Day 2: Sainte-Mère-Église and Utah Beach
Following breakfast at the hotel, touring focuses on the combined efforts of various airborne assaults that took place on June 6, 1944. The first stop is La Fière, where members of the 82nd Airborne fought off four days of attacks from German troops trying to retake this strategic bridge. Guests hear the stories of Bob Murphy and Johnny Marr in their own words, from The National WWII Museum’s oral-history collection. The next stop is Sainte-Mère-Église, where paratroopers landed during the pre-dawn hours of D-Day. After touring the Musée Airborne and visiting the church made famous in the film The Longest Day, guests enjoy time on their own before continuing to Brécourt Manor, where Dick Winters and his men from “Easy Company” made their famous assault on the German guns portrayed in the book and miniseries Band of Brothers. Today’s final visit is to the Utah Beach Museum, where the story of Teddy Roosevelt Jr. and the men who landed on Utah Beach is told. This outstanding museum is nestled in the sand dunes and sea grass that once held German defensive positions. Dinner this evening is enjoyed at a quaint Bayeux restaurant.
Hotel Villa Lara (B, D)
Musée du Debarquement Utah Beach
Day 3: Vierville-sur-Mer—The Bedford Boys: One Town’s D-Day Sacrifice
The morning tour begins at Omaha Beach, where the landing craft transporting the Bedford Boys came ashore. While standing on the very section of “Dog Green” sector of Omaha Beach, Alex Kershaw recounts the horror that awaited them at H-Hour on D-Day and their bloody fate, bringing these men and their histories to life. En route to the next destination, guests listen to the oral history of Hal Baumgarten, who trained with Company A and landed immediately after them. Visits to other sites along Vierville-sur-Mer and at St. Laurent-sur-Mer follow, providing a close-up view of the intricate German defense system and giving a sense of the overwhelming odds the American soldiers faced on D-Day. After a special lunch at the hotel casino overlooking the bloodiest sands in US history, the tour continues to Pointe-du-Hoc, a strategic point that overlooks the surrounding coastline. The 2nd Ranger Battalion successfully scaled the cliffs to neutralize this heavily fortified German position. Guests learn about the desperate battle that took place between the unified 2nd and 5th Rangers fighting against multiple German counterattacks before returning to Bayeux for an evening at leisure.
Hotel Villa Lara (B, L)
Alex Kershaw guides guests on “Dog Green” sector of Omaha Beach
Day 4: Operation Cobra and Bedford’s Final Fate in Normandy
After breakfast, the tour follows the American advance of the summer of 1944 by heading to Saint-Lô, a stronghold and transportation hub through which the German army could move men and equipment to block the progress. It was in this area, in efforts to wrest the city from German control, that the final two Bedford Boys in Normandy were killed in action. The next stop is at the museum at Le Chapelle de la Madeleine, where guests hear about those who experienced the bombardment in the Battle of Saint-Lô. After lunch and independent exploration, return to the coast at the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. The group joins Kershaw to pay respects at the graves of the Bedford Boys, nine of whom are among the 9,387 Americans buried in the soil that they helped to liberate. After free time to reflect and participate in a wreath-laying memorial service, the group returns to Bayeux for a private “Farewell to Normandy” dinner at the extraordinary Chateau de Brouay, where guests will sample the region’s classic fare and its finest Calvados, an apple brandy at this storied Normandy château.
Hotel Villa Lara (B, D)
The Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville- Sur-Mer
Day 5: Paris Arrival: Following Kershaw’s Avenue of Spies
This morning begins with breakfast at the hotel before enjoying a scenic drive to Paris for a full day following Kershaw’s Avenue of Spies. Upon arrival, guests visit Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides before touring the “Nazi Triangle,” the upscale area where the Gestapo occupied several offices, including the leafy Avenue Foch, which was one of the most exclusive residential streets in Nazi-occupied France. During the tour, Kershaw brings to life the tales of intrigue, deception, and danger that took place at various addresses along the avenue, beginning with American physician Sumner Jackson, the protagonist in Avenue of Spies. Jackson lived with his wife and young son Phillip at Number 11, performing dangerous deeds for the French Resistance right under the Nazis’ noses. Down the street at Number 72, Kershaw recounts Colonel Helmut Knochen’s orchestration of the crushing of Resistance forces from this imposing white villa. Across the street at Number 31, Captain Theodor Dannecker and Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann spent much of June 1942 planning the Grand Rafle—the Great Roundup—of July 16–17, in which German forces took more than 13,000 Jews to a velodrome before sending them to death camps. Continuing to Number 84, Kershaw relays the stories of horror that took place as brutal Gestapo operatives tortured their “enemies,” including legendary British Special Operations Executive agents Violette Szabo, “The White Rabbit,” and “Madeleine,” in efforts to keep their sinister regime in power. This evening, after checking into the Westin Paris Vendôme, guests enjoy an evening at leisure in Paris.
The Westin Paris Vendôme (B, L)
View of the tree-lined avenues of Paris
Day 6: The Liberation of Paris
The morning tour of Paris begins after breakfast and includes sites with a focus on the occupation and liberation of the city more than 70 years ago. Guests follow in the footsteps of the Führer, visiting several of the landmarks that Hitler admired during his victory tour in June 1940, which proved to be his one and only visit to “The City of Light.” In addition to the Opera, Notre Dame, and the Pantheon, the tour includes a stop at the Hotel de Ville, where liberating American troops fought fiercely in August 1944, and Hotel Meurice, where the high drama of the German surrender played out, as portrayed in the movie Is Paris Burning? After free time for lunch, the last day in Paris fittingly ends at Père Lachaise, the famous cemetery where guests pay respects to French Resistance heroes and the victims of Nazi rule, many of whom, like Dr. Jackson and his family, were deported to concentration camps. The tour wraps up at Pasco, which became a favorite of Kershaw’s during his many research trips to France, for a farewell dinner with a very special guest who lived through Nazi occupation.
The Westin Paris Vendôme (B, L, D)
The Grand Staircase in Palais Garnier, National Opera House, Paris
Day 7: Return to the United States
After breakfast at the hotel, guests are transferred to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Alternatively, guests who participate in the Versailles post-tour extension program remain for one additional night at The Westin Paris Vendôme.
Liberation of Paris
Versailles: Optional Two-Day Post-Tour Extension Program
October 19 - 20, 2017
Our post-tour extension program spends the day at the Palace of Versailles on the outskirts of Paris. It was the site where the world’s statesmen signed the ill-fated peace treaty ending World War I. The defeated Germans ultimately rejected the harsh provisions of the pact, setting the stage for another world war. Guests visit the famous Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), the actual site of the treaty signing, and tour the royal apartments, which still look much as they did when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette fled before an outraged mob in 1789. The tour then returns to Paris for an evening at leisure in preparation for the return journey home the next day.
The Westin Paris Vendôme (B, L)
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