A not-so-traditional France vacation: All the reasons to visit the historical grounds of Normandy

This will make you reconsider your next getaway

A World War II re-enactor looks at the phrase "D-Day" scrawled in the sand on Omaha Beach in Normandy on the 75th anniversary of the World War II Allied D-Day invasion on June 6, 2019 near Colleville-Sur-Mer, France. (Sean Gallup, Getty Images)

This year will mark the 78th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy.

As veterans of World War II get older and older, with most of them now in their late 80s and 90s, how will we preserve that legacy and keep their sacrifice alive?

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Perhaps it’s time to consider forgoing a typical beach vacation, and instead, venturing back in time, to Normandy’s historic beaches.

You might be asking yourself why, or wondering what it’s like to plan a trip like this one. We did some digging, and here’s what we found.

You can escape from the hustle and bustle of a traditional Paris vacation.

Normandy, you’ll find, has a surprisingly rustic charm, travel sites say.

You’ve seen the movies and watched countless documentaries on the D-Day invasion, but if you wanted to check out the area for yourself, it’s more than feasible. Make the pilgrimage with your family. Teach your children or grandchildren about these historical grounds where thousands of young men gave their lives for our freedom. Walk the path in the sands where the Allies started the fight to bring freedom to Europe just 78 years ago.

While big cities like Paris demonstrate the romantic ideal of Parisian life, the relaxing, slow-paced motif of Normandy’s small towns offer an escape. History buffs and part-time hobbyists can learn from visiting the shores of Normandy to remember what happened June 6, 1944.

How do you visit the beaches of Normandy the right way?

If you do some digging and some Googling, most sites recommend starting your visit to Normandy at a few of the many museums around the region.

Visiting D-Day exhibits will put the sobering experience into perspective.

There are plenty of stories, pictures, memorabilia, and installations that show the sacrifice young men made on those shores. When you finally walk Utah and Omaha beaches, you’ll be able to visualize how far the U.S. soldiers had to crawl and fight to survive and reach their objective.

Tourists visit the Mulberry harbours at the beach at Arromanche in Normandy (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images).

The beaches remain undeveloped out of respect and preservation for the thousands who lost their lives.

Stand on the shore and take it all in.

The wide-open beaches give an inspiring and intimidating feeling for how far the Allied troops had to move under constant fire from Axis soldiers entrenched in machine gun nests.

From there, the Normandy American Cemetery is a short walk from the beach, a solemn burial site for those who died during the start of Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944.

After deciding to make this historical journey, there are a few things to consider.

Where to stay?

To make the most out of your visit, perhaps you should do the quaint town of Bayeux, which is only a 25-minute drive to Omaha Beach. It also hosts plenty of bed and breakfasts, restaurants, museums and tour guide services. Whether you’re a history buff or you’re just curious to learn more, there’s something for everyone.

While English is not the most-spoken language, many locals are reportedly eager and happy to help you find your way, order at a restaurant or visit significant sites.

There are several other countryside towns where you can relax and take in the serene calm, while surrounded by rich history.

The local fare includes traditional seafood dishes of sole, mussels and scallops while the weather makes the land fertile for producing rich and refreshing cider. You’ll likely want some comforting food after a long day of exploring.

Any other trip details to think about?

When it comes to packing your bags, remember that Normandy’s weather is notoriously fickle. It rains quite a bit, the travel sites say, so you’ll want to bring a jacket and layer up as it can be chilly in the mornings but warmer during the day.

Tourists visit the memorial sites at Utah Beach (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images) (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images).

If you visit in the spring, the trip will bring longer days and more favorable weather without the bigger summer crowds.

You will need your own transportation to reach the beaches of Normandy, as they are a bit of a drive from the towns, such as Bayeux. Fortunately, there are many affordable car rental services available.

Booking a tour service is likely the best way to learn the most and understand the significance of your visit. Experts can provide information on where exactly these events happened and what took place during the largest air, naval and land operation in history.

Bring your family, some tissues and walk the beaches brave men sacrificed their life on to secure freedom for France, and the world.

This was originally published in 2019 and has since been updated.

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