History, Culture and Art in Normandy
With Politics & Prose | July 30 - August 5, 2020
Optional Trip Extension to Mont Saint Michel, Giverny and Paris | August 5 - 8, 2020
$4650 per person, based on single occupancy.
There are no single supplements to pay.
Stories of Courage and Sacrifice
It was 75 years ago that the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy, but we still find those stories of courage, heroism, strategy and sacrifice compelling. Now join other “interested and interesting” people in exploring Normandy, France with Politics & Prose.
We’ll base ourselves in the charming town of Bayeux, within easy reach of the landing beaches. We’ll visit those places whose names still resonate in our history: Omaha Beach, Arromanches, Pointe d’Hoc, Colleville-sur-Mer – places where American and Allied soldiers fought to break Hitler’s heavily fortified Atlantic Wall.
We’ll walk reverently through the American Cemetery, with its rows on rows of crosses, stars of David and crescent moons. We’ll stand among the wide and deep craters left by Allied advance bombings, scramble into actual German bunkers – and, in contrast, see the broad Omaha beach now filled with families enjoying the sun and sand.
By the end of the week, you’ll have new understanding of how the Normandy landings unfolded, and of the lives of those who fought, and of those who did not return.
Stay in an Elegant 18th Century Residence
We’ll stay for the week at the charming Hotel d’Argouges with its lovely garden in the old town of Bayeux. Located across from the market square, the elegant 18th century residence, owned by the same family for two generations, is very inviting with its high ceilings, old doors, parquet floors polished by time and period fireplaces. (Do note that the hotel has no elevators.)
While in Bayeux, we’ll also have a chance to see the centuries-old Bayeux Tapestry before it departs to spend several years in Great Britain. The 300-foot tapestry depicts the story of the 1066 conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy.
We’ll also have time to enjoy the splendors of the Norman countryside and coastline. The region is famous for farmlands, cider, Calvados and cheese. We’ll spend a full day at Honfleur, one of the prettiest port towns in France. You’ll have time to visit its museums and walk along its quays – and to dine on seafood fresh from the ocean.
Mont Saint Michel, Giverny and Paris
If you’d like to see even more of this region of France, you can stay on for an optional trip extension to Mont Saint Michel, where we’ll visit the Abbey for stunning views across the waters. On the way back to Paris, we’ll make a pilgrimage to Giverny, Impressionist artist Claude Monet’s house and garden and its iconic Japanese bridge over the waterlily pond.
Please note that we may make changes to this itinerary in response to unexpected closings, road conditions, weather or other unforeseen events. And, although this is a very full itinerary, remember that you always have the choice to take a day or part of a day off to pursue your own interests.
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Leave for your overnight flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
Thursday, July 30, 2020
From the airport, taxi to the Gare St. Lazare train station. Trip leader Donna Morris will meet you there and help you board the train for our leisurely trip through the countryside to Bayeux in Normandy. (Please note: you’ll need to arrive at Paris Gare St. Lazare by 2pm, so please book your flight to arrive in Paris no later than 11:30am. Conversely, try not to arrive at 6am either.)
6:30pm Meet in the hotel for drinks and orientation.
Friday, July 31, 2020
9:30 am We’ll begin today with a short drive to Saint-Côme-du-Mont where we will visit Dead Man’s Corner and a museum called the D-Day Experience. According to General Eisenhower, the area around Saint-Côme and Carentan was crucial for the Normandy landings; it was needed to link the troops at Utah and Omaha beaches. The fight for Carentan was a day-long, house-to-house ordeal. Dead Man’s Corner was originally the headquarters of German paratroopers before the Americans secured it.
The exhibit includes a very realistic experience of flying over the English Channel and landing in a French field in a C-47 flight simulator. C-47s were the primary aircraft for the 13,000 Allied paratroopers flown over for the invasion.
Afterwards, we’ll visit the German Cemetery in La Cambe. Built and maintained by the German War Graves Commission, the cemetery is the burial site of over 21,200 German Soldiers. 1220 maple trees have been planted here as living symbols of peace between all nations.
We’ll stop for lunch in the lovely port town of Saint Laurent sur Mer. Afterwards, we’ll visit Pointe du Hoc, where the 2nd Ranger Battalion was tasked with climbing 30 meters of cliff, assaulting the German battery at Omaha Beach and destroying its guns – a tremendous feat – only to find that there weren’t many Germans there. But the German concrete bunkers were dug into the hilltop, and they’re still there for you to enter if you like.
6:30pm Wine and conversation at the hotel.
Saturday, August 1
9:30 It’s market day in Bayeux. We’ll meander through the stalls of Normandy’s bountiful farms before meeting at 11am for a walking tour of this Medieval city. Spared during the D-Day Landings, Bayeux contains many architectural treasures, including the famous Cathedral built in 1077.
After lunch, we’ll have a chance to visit the famous Bayeux Tapestry before it leaves for Great Britain for several years. The tapestry is an embroidered cloth, nearly 230 feet long, that tells the story of the 1066 Norman Conquest. It practically reads like a graphic novel.
6:30pm Wine and conversation at the hotel.
Sunday, August 2
9:30am This morning we set out for Arromanches, located in the heart of the Gold Beach landing. The Allies needed Arromanches as the location for a huge artificial port they need to build. In only a hundred days, 220,000 soldiers, 530,000 tons of supplies and 39,000 vehicles were landed at “Port Winston.” We’ll watch the unique 360 circular film, “The 100 Days of Normandy,” (warning: it’s very realistic about the battle) before visiting the Landings Museum.
We’ll have lunch here in town before returning to Bayeux. You’ll have the afternoon to roam about the town on your own, possibly to wander along the riverside track or take a break in one of the many tearooms. If you’re not going on the optional extension, you may want to walk over to the British Cemetery and the Journalists Memorial. Don’t miss the Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayeux. It was consecrated in 1077 by William, Duke of Normandy and King of England.
6:30pm Wine and conversation at the hotel.
Monday, August 3
9:30am Today we take a break from our WWII history to visit the beautiful seaside town of Honfleur. With perhaps one of the prettiest harbors in all of France, the “vieux bassin” (old dock) dates to the 17th century. Seafood abounds in this picturesque village of multi-storied buildings of timber frames and slate roofs.
There’s plenty for you to see here: the 15th century wooden Eglise St. Catherine, a church constructed by boatbuilders; the very eccentric museum dedicated to musician Erik Satie; an art museum showcasing the work of Impressionist artist Eugene Boudin; and the Musée de la Marine, with ship models and artifacts from Normandy’s close relationship with the sea. We return to Bayeux at 3:30pm.
6:30pm Wine and conversation at the hotel.
Tuesday, August 4
9:30am We set out for a drive to the Ferme de la Sapinière, a cider farm, where we’ll taste all the varieties of Norman beverages that come from apples: cider, hard cider, the aperitif pommeau and Calvados, plus have a tour of the cider-making process.
1pm After an early lunch, we’ll visit the American Cemetery and Visitor Center just above Omaha Beach at Colleville-sur-Mer. The cemetery was dedicated in 1956 and honors the American soldiers who died during the Battle of Normandy. It contains the perfectly aligned headstones of 9,387 soldiers who fell in combat and the Garden of the Missing where the names of 1,557 soldiers are engraved.
Besides walking through the cemetery, you can look out seaward to see the wide Omaha beach. Inside the Visitors Center are numerous artifacts and videos that detail the American contribution to this momentous feat.
Wednesday, August 5
This morning you’ll leave Bayeux for home or wherever your forward journey takes you. Or, if you’re staying on for the optional trip extension:
Optional Trip Extension: Mont Saint Michel, Giverny and Paris
August 5-8, 2020 | $2100 per person
Mont Saint Michel
9am We depart for our drive west to Mont Saint Michel, the fabled town on an island surrounded by tidal waters, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Once there, we’ll take a shuttle bus into the town and walk up to the Abbey Mont Saint Michel, which has existed here overlooking the sea since the 1100s. In stark contrast to the bustling town that surrounds it, the abbey is a serene retreat. A small community of monks and nuns still lives here.
There are plenty of places for lunch on the island. If you choose carefully, you might be able to enjoy the traditional dish of agneau de pré salé (lamb of the salt fields), said to have its distinctive flavor from the salt marsh grasses on which they forage.
3pm We depart for our drive back to Bayeux.
Thursday, August 6
10am We begin this morning with a walk over to the British Cemetery. Here families have been able to add bits of poetry or other memorials to the gravesites of their loved ones. We’ll also walk through the Reporters Memorial, a garden path with stone steles, each listing the names of all journalists killed in the line of duty, beginning with the year 1944. Over 2000 reporters are – sadly – honored here.
2pm We depart for Chateau Fontaine-Henry for our 3:15pm guided tour of Chateau Fontaine-Henry, which dates from the 15th and 16th centuries. The château has never been sold in its long history; it is still lived in by the descendants of its early owners, the count and countess de Olliamson, and presents a vivid picture of long family history. There’s also a lovely family chapel and a park for us to explore.
5pm We return to Bayeux.
Friday, August 7
9am We check out of the hotel and depart for Paris – but we’ll spend much of the day in the Norman town of Vernon, where Claude Monet’s house and garden lie. We’ll spend time strolling the paths of his famous waterlily pond with its Japanese bridge, enjoy the huge flower garden, check out the chickens, and tour the house. Afterwards, we can have lunch in the village and peruse its many art galleries.
3pm We continue on to Paris, where we’ll have one night at the Relais Monceau hotel in the 8th arrondissement.
Saturday, August 8
Depart for home, or wherever you’re next traveling to.
The price of the trip, based on single occupancy, is $4650. There are no single supplements to pay; everyone has their own room unless you prefer to share. The optional extension is $2100. (Note that there’s a minimum group size of six people for the extension.)
Here’s what’s included:
- First class train fare from Paris to Bayeux (one-way only)
- Six nights in the historic Hotel d’Argouges in Bayeux.
- Breakfast each morning.
- Transportation of all venues not within walking distance from the hotel.
- Wine socials every evening with the trip leaders and a staff member of Politics & Prose
- Entrance fees for all group activities listed.
- Restaurant and dining recommendations.
What’s not included: lunches and dinners, transport to and from the airport, tickets to museums and attractions not specifically mentioned in the itinerary, your flight to France and back home and anything else not listed under “What’s included.”
The price for the optional extension is $2100. The trip includes two additional nights at the Hotel d’Argouges in Bayeux and one night at the Hotel Relais Monceau in Paris, breakfast included, and all admission fees to group activities in the itinerary.
Have Some Questions?
First, be sure to read all the Frequently Asked Questions and Terms and Conditions. If you have more questions, contact:
Politics & Prose
They’re always happy to talk with you about the trip.
You can reserve your place on the trip with a $625 deposit, payable by check, made out to Wild Blue Yonder (mail to Wild Blue Yonder, 1001 Spring Street, Suite 623, Silver Spring, MD 20910). If you’d rather pay with a credit card via PayPal (there’s a 3% surcharge), let us know (email Sheila at SCampbell@wildblueyonder.biz) and we’ll send you a PayPal invoice.
A Few Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Do I have to pay a single supplement?
No. This trip is priced based on each person having his or her own hotel room.
Q. I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate?
For people who share a room, we offer a discount of $150 each. We’ve priced the trip primarily for people to have their own rooms, because French hotel rooms just aren’t as large as those in the U.S. But of course you can share a room if you prefer.
Q. How many people will be on the trip?
The maximum number of people is 18, so you won’t feel like you’re part of a huge group. There’s a 12-person minimum group size. So please don’t buy your plane tickets until we confirm to you that we have reached the minimum group size.
Q. Why do you call this a “trip” and not a “tour”?
We’ve included the things we like best about group travel, including the convenience of having someone plan daily itineraries. But there are lots of things we dislike about tours, so here’s how this trip is different:
- You’ll never board a big tour bus.
- You won’t be seated at long tables for big group meals at “We accept bus tours” restaurants. Instead, we’ll suggest authentic places for you to eat in small groups.
- You won’t have early morning calls to leave the hotel.
- You only unpack and pack once.
Q. Tell me about the trip leaders.
Sheila Campbell of Wild Blue Yonder has been organizing informal groups of travelers for years – often on hiking trips in France, England, Italy and Spain, as well as for Politics & Prose. In her day-to-day work, she’s a group retreat leader who understands how to ensure everyone is involved and having a memorable experience. She lives in Washington, DC, where she is a volunteer at the National Gallery of Art.
Donna Morris is president of Best Friend in Paris, where she creates customized experiences for travelers to Paris. She has lived in France since 2006 and is one of the founders of the Politics & Prose travel program. She’s fluent in French and is an expert navigator of European cities and sites.
Q. What’s the best way to fly to Paris?
At this time, both Delta/Air France and United offer direct flights from Washington, DC to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
Q. What is the Hotel d’Argouges like?
It’s a small, elegant boutique hotel with an inviting garden out back. Situated outside the busy center of Bayeux, it’s in a quiet neighborhood, but within walking distance of restaurants, shops and museums. Due to its historic nature, please note that it does not have an elevator.
Q. Is there internet access at the hotel?
Yes, free wifi comes with your room.
Q. What will the weather be like?
It’s impossible to predict any weather accurately these days, but generally late summer in Normandy is sunny and a bit cooler than, for instance, Paris. It can sometimes be windy, and rain is always a possibility, of course.
Q. What to wear?
Wear what’s most comfortable, and pack lots of layers. Jeans are acceptable almost anywhere, except for the very nicest restaurants. Don’t forget your raincoat or umbrella, just in case. Most important: comfortable walking shoes.
Q. Why aren’t lunches and dinners included in the price?
Restaurants that accept tour groups are usually the last places we want to eat. And there are just so many delicious choices for meals in France that we want everyone to be free to eat where and when they want. One day you might eat a sandwich for lunch, sitting out on a plaza; or you might choose to browse the local food markets.
Alternatively, we often make lunch the biggest meal of the day, maybe even eating at a restaurant that would be too pricey at night. You’ll choose where you’ll eat, and with whom and how much you want to spend.
Q. Is it safe to walk around by myself at night?
Yes. Of course, as in any place it makes sense to be aware of your surroundings after dark. But Bayeux is a small town, and it’s usually quite safe to be out on your own or with a friend in the evenings.
The most prevalent crime is pickpocketing, which mostly happens in areas where there are crowds of tourists. Pickpockets are wily, so we recommend that you leave most of your money, credit cards and passport in the safe in your room, just taking with you what you need for one day. A handbag that you can sling over your shoulder and tuck high under your arm (with a good zipper) works better than bags with long straps that dangle below your waist. And never sling your handbag over the back of a chair; that creates a very tempting target.
Q. Do you require us to buy travel insurance?
We very strongly recommend it. Reasons for cancelling a trip can happen suddenly. Please read the Terms and Conditions carefully to see our cancellation policy. Also be aware that trip insurance companies are very strict about what they will and won’t reimburse you for, so read their policies closely as well.
You’ll want to be insured for both trip cancellation and medical treatment and evacuation. Many insurers require you to enroll as soon as you pay your deposit, so don’t wait. There are many websites which offer comparison information about trip insurance.
Note that if you are on Medicare, it does not cover services outside of the United States, so you definitely will need medical coverage.
Q. Some friends are going to be in Normandy while I’m there. Can they come along with us?
Because we want to keep our groups small, we can’t invite your friends to come with us on our daily excursions. But you can bring them to our evening get-togethers. Please give us a day’s notice, and there’s a €10 per person charge for the wine and snacks.
Q. When do I need to sign up by?
The sooner you put down your deposit, the better. We’re limiting the size of the group, so it’s best to reserve as soon as you think you’d like to come.
Q. If I want to stay longer than six days, can you arrange that?
Yes. We can arrange for you to stay on at the hotel at your own cost, although our trip will be over. If you’d like to arrive early, we can also make those reservations for you. We may not be there to greet you if you come early, but it’s okay if you want a day or two on your own before the official trip starts.
Terms and Conditions
Please read this information carefully, as payment of a deposit represents your acceptance of the following Terms and Conditions.
Trip prices include hotel accommodations on a single or double occupancy basis, breakfast at the hotel, daily transportation as mentioned in the itinerary, entrance fees to museums if with the group as listed in the itinerary, tasting events, evening socials to plan the next day’s activities, and the services of the trip leaders as outlined in the trip description.
Not included in the trip price are entrance fees to museums and other attractions not expressly included; taxis or other forms of city transportation; airfare and airline baggage fees; lunches and dinners; hotel, restaurant or airport tips; costs of passports and visas; personal expenses such as beverages, laundry or room service; internet wifi except as established in the trip description; airport transfers or any other services not specified in the trip description.
Please note that we cannot guarantee any special requests for hotel rooms.
Registration and Payment
The payment of your deposit confirms your reservation. Deposits may be paid by check made out to Wild Blue Yonder, Inc., or credit card via PayPal. There is a 3% surcharge for PayPal.
Your deposit is refundable for two weeks from the date it is received by Wild Blue Yonder, except for deposits made less than 60 days before a trip departs; those deposits are completely nonrefundable. Two weeks after the receipt of the deposit by Wild Blue Yonder, deposits are not refundable for any reason and will be forfeited if you cancel your trip reservation. Cancellations must be in writing by either letter to Wild Blue Yonder or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Cancellations become effective on the date they are received by Wild Blue Yonder.
Once your reservation deposit has been paid, you will receive a confirmation email and further information to help you plan your trip.
We reserve the right to cancel any reservations that are not paid in full at any time after the final payment is due. If you make your reservation after the final payment due date, payment in full will be required immediately.
Full final payment is due March 30, 2020.
Cancellations and Refunds
For any cancellations made before March 30, 2020, you will forfeit your deposit but will be refunded any other payments you have made. If you must cancel your trip, the effective date of cancellation will be upon our receipt of your notification, which must be made in writing either by email or letter. No refunds are possible after March 30, 2020.
We strongly recommend that you purchase trip cancellation insurance when you pay your deposit for this trip.
Changes to Your Reservation
If you would like to stay on for longer than the official days of the trip, we will make reservations for you at the hotel. We will not charge you for any changes to your reservation outside of 90 days before the trip start date. From 30 – 89 days before the trip start date, if you make any changes to your reservation, a $100 per person administrative fee will apply. Changes are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed. If your reservation changes from double occupancy to single occupancy, you will be charged the single occupancy rate.
You are responsible for securing your own passport, valid for at least six months after the completion of your trip.
Health and Medical Issues
We welcome all travelers, but you must be in good health to participate in our trips. Our trips require a reasonable amount of walking, possibly several hours a day, uphill or on uneven streets or streets without curb cuts. You must be able to climb stairs and board trains and buses on your own. We regret that we cannot provide individual assistance if you require the use of a wheelchair or have other personal needs; in such cases you must be accompanied by a companion who will assist you. We suggest that if you use a wheelchair, this trip is probably not the right choice for you, as the transport does not accommodate wheelchair use.
If you are unable to navigate this amount of walking, you will not be able to participate fully in the trip, and we suggest you choose another type of trip. We cannot provide individual alternatives to the planned group activities. If your fitness level does not allow you to keep up with the group and/or travel on public transportation, you will be responsible for planning your own activities and for any additional costs incurred (for instance, but not limited to, personal taxis, train tickets, and entrance fees).
We strongly recommend that you purchase both trip cancellation insurance and traveler’s medical and evacuation insurance for your trip. Should you have to cancel your trip after you have paid in full, we cannot offer refunds other than specified above, because we will have already paid the costs of your trip to our vendors.
Arrival and Departure Dates
It is your responsibility to make sure you arrive on the specified trip start date. We cannot refund part of your trip if you arrive late or leave early, unless you have notified us of your different start or end date 90 days before the trip start date.
The liability of Wild Blue Yonder and Politics & Prose, individually or jointly (referred to hereafter as Trip Planners), is strictly limited. In no event will the Trip Planners be liable for amounts in excess of the amounts payable to the Trip Planners in accordance with the terms hereunder, nor will Trip Planners be liable for any consequential indirect or incidental damages arising from this agreement. Trip Planners purchase accommodations, transportation and other services from independent suppliers not under our control. We serve only as agents for these suppliers in securing trip arrangements, and therefore will not accept responsibility and liability for wrongful, negligent or arbitrary acts or omissions of these independent contractors, their employees, agents or representatives.
Trip Planners are not liable for injury, damage, loss, accident, or delay that may be caused by events not within our control, including but not limited to, without limitation, acts of terrorism, war, strikes, defects of any vehicle, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters or the negligence or default of any third party.
Trip Planners reserve the right to correct errors in advertised prices. We reserve the right to cancel an advertised trip, decline to accept a reservation or remove a person from a trip if it is determined by us to be in the best interests of the health, safety or general well-being of other trip participants. We will make every effort to conduct our trip as planned, but we reserve the right to make itinerary and other changes as necessary. If unforeseen circumstances require us to change a hotel, we will make every effort to select alternative accommodations of the same quality. The forgoing terms and conditions and all aspects of the relationship between Trip Planners and you shall be governed by the laws of the State of Maryland.
We love to read about the places we’re visiting, and we suspect you do too. Mark LaFramboise, Politics & Prose’s senior book buyer, has selected some books meant to enhance your travel experience.
Although there may be some discussion of books in our evening salons, there is NO required reading.
The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day, June 6, 1944, by Cornelius Ryan
Normandy ’44: D-Day and the Epic 77-Day Battle for France, by James Holland
D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II, by Sarah Rose
The First Wave: The D-Day Warriors Who Led the Way to Victory in World War II, by Alex Kershaw
D-Day: June 6, 1944, The Battle for the Normandy Beaches, by Stephen E. Ambrose
William the Conqueror by Jacob Abbott
1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry by Andrew Bridgeford
Eisenhower: Soldier and President, by Stephen E. Ambrose
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
Old Bones, by Aaron Elkins