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D Day

June 6th, 2017 marks the 73rd  anniversary of D Day.

Depart May 30th, 2017
Return June 10th, 2017

The German massive guns at Longues Sur Mer have gone silent on the bluffs overlooking the sea; but they’re still there for all to see. Mulberry Harbor stuns the first time visitor as we climb the hill to reach the plateau above the village of Arromanches. Private John Steele is still snagged up on the church steeple in Sainte Mere Eglise. The cliffs of Pointe du Hoc remain ever imposing – just as the Rangers left it and Omaha’s pain and sacrifice are made real to succeeding generations by our men interred on the bluff overlooking the sacred stretch of sand known as Omaha.

We’ll walk the D Day beaches to commemorate that fateful day. I will be by your side constantly with the requisite historical narration, with one exception.  I never walk the cemetery (OUR CEMETERY) at Colleville sur Mer with you.  You decide how to visit this pristine patch of Normandy, granted to America in perpetuity.  Undoubtedly we’ll meet others from around the world who will similarly convene to both remember and honor the sacrifices that were made. Many vestiges of the battles remain intact and we will carefully and thoroughly explore them.  We’ll start on Pegasus Bridge where Major Howard earned fame as he led the gliders to crash landings next to the Orne River and the Caen Canal.  This bridge was of great strategic importance; and we’ll explain why once there.

While at Pegasus we’ll try to arrange our usual photo opportunity or greeting with Madame Gondree.  Madame was there the night our troops (British) captured the bridge, thus kicking off the invasion just after midnight on the morning of June 6th.  

Madame Gondree was just 6 years old that night and now she welcomes visitors from the 4 corners of the world to the same house in which she resided then.  The house, as duly noted with a plaque hung on its exterior, is officially recognized as the “first house” liberated during the D  Day Invasion.  Today Madame Gondree makes one mean omelette for visitors as the ground floor has been converted to a café and a British Military museum, full of any and all manner of D Day memorabilia!

We’ll visit Cozy’s Corner (also known as Cosy’s Bunker) at Juno beach and learn of the role our brethren from Canada played in the invasion.  This will be the first German bunker we’ll visit up close and you won’t believe the position it’s in after the Canadians scored a direct hit.  I’ll also tell you the story of my friend Will Delude, who was there the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, at Juno. Remind me to tell you about Will’s rosary beads he wore the morning of the invasion.

The story of the “disinterred tank” is one you will never forget.  Like most visitors, including myself back in 1982, you’ll probably have no idea what kind of a tank this was by looking at its odd gun.  It doesn’t matter though……..when you learn about what this tank and its men went through on June 6th you’ll be amazed.

On a lighter note: you’re in oyster country now, as you shall see.  It’s France: indulge a little!

On to the promontory above the sea that gives you a bird’s eye view of the Mulberry Harbor.  Careful where you walk……the plateau is honeycombed with German tunnels.

To conceive of the harbor today is really not that difficult: a man-made wharf, or pier, sitting parallel to the shore line just off-shore, and perpendicular road sections (strung together) emanating from the wharf to the beach.

The conception is easy. Making it functional was the great challenge.  We’ll show you the element that made it all possible: the Kite Anchor.  Without the Kite Anchor it’s possible that the promise made to Stalin in Tehran by Roosevelt and Churchill (to finally open up a second front in the West) would not have been honored.  That’s how crucial the Mulberry was; and I’ll give you the time to visit the highly informative, small museum here at Gold Beach where you’ll understand how the Mulberry was built, complete with an undulating pool to simulate the tides.

The story of Longues Sur Mer, the 4 massive German batteries, is little known. The mayor of the village had the foresight to retrieve the big guns from the scrap yard post-war and put them back in their place in the bunker…….but it’s the bunker that took the direct hit that will surprise, and sadden you.

When in Normandy we usually reside in the pittoresque village of Port en Bessin. From our lovely, modern hotel you may walk to the shoreline 200 meters away, past the colorful fleet of scallop fishing trawlers.  This village is the scallop capital of France, and thus a very active commercial fishing port.

The sunset here is phenomenal.  

Omaha is divided into 3 parts: The Beach. The Visitor Center. The Cemetery.  The Visitor center will bring you to tears. Enough said.  The cemetery needs no elaboration.  The Beach DOES need a lot of elaboration from your tour leader. Why? Because all 5 beaches have become pleasure beaches down through the decades. Aside from Gold, there is virtually nothing on the sandy beaches by way of remnants or detritus.  All the bunkers, sniper posts, tanks, cannons, Widerstandnesten, Higgins boats and subterranean German passageways are all just off the beach, in the bluffs, the dunes (Utah) and lining the all-important ravines (or “draws” as the military termed them.)

You are not simply going to the D Day Beaches.  You are going to UNDERSTAND how the invasion unfolded, with a particular emphasis on Omaha and Utah.  What went wrong?  Too much.   What went right? Who saved the day?  

Pointe du Hoc.  Your homework assignment before we head over to France is to google Pointe du Hoc and see the aerial view. Then you may walk into the craters or between them once there.

Yes: I will take you to the Granite Spike where President Reagan spoke to “our boys” in 1984.  It sits atop one of the most elaborate German positions in all of Normandy and you may go inside its labyrinth and see for yourself.

JFK once said “life is unfair” when he spoke about the awful human loss during war and the fact that some, and some generations, are never called for war.

Well…..on another lighter note…..Private John Steele never had to buy a beer post-war in Normandy.  There are inns, squares, schools, hotels, restaurants and shops named for Private John Steele, and the focal point of all this attention is Sainte Mere Eglise, the little village 10 miles inland from Utah Beach, heading up the Cotentin Peninsula towards Cherbourg.

Private Steele had the good (odd) fortune that night (British at Pegasus, Americans down the other end) of gliding towards the ancient church and having his parachute snag on the church steeple.    Given the way he’s feted in Normandy you would think he was MacArthur and Patton all rolled into one!

Utah Beach.  In a word: everything that went awry on Omaha went well on Utah.  So well in fact, that the larger risk became too many men successfully landed on the beach before our engineers could demine the beach.

Utah is also critical to understanding the issue of the “white bread” German soldier versus the others wearing Hitler’s colors that day in Normandy.  Teddy Roosevelt’s eldest son and namesake had a roaring debut during the invasion here on Utah, but sadly didn’t live long thereafter to savor the eventual victory.

The military museum at Utah has been tripled in size and houses one of the best collections of souvenirs, armament and personal objects anywhere.  

We will conclude our D Day visit with the vast, audio-visual collection known as the MEMORIAL TO PEACE museum.  This is a perfect encapsulation of the history of the whole war, with of course a special section devoted to the D Day Invasion.  This is also where I recommend you purchase any books or CD’s about the war as it has the largest selection.  This museum was built by the French government during the Mitterand presidency and it covers the whole war very well, including the Rape of Nanjing, the Holocaust, Stalingrad, Pearl Harbor, Midway, Guadalcanal and Nuremburg, just to name some of the highlights.

Le Mont St. Michel

While in Normandy we’ve added an extra day and night to afford a visit to the majestic Mont St. Michel, once only reachable by boat at high tide but now a whole lot easier to visit!  While on the rock you’ll have to visit La Mere Poulard, as much a part of Mont St. Michel lore as the edifice itself!  She made art out of the simple omelette…..and built a culinary empire along the way.

 

The Bulge

During this excursion many will take our optional day trip and ride the bullet train to lovely Luxembourg, where we’ll retrace the events of December and January, 1944-1945 – the Battle of the Bulge. Our Bulge historian will join us on this day trip to narrate the battle.   Bastogne, Foy, Mardasson, the great military museum at Diekierch, the foxholes where some of our men froze to death as a warming fire would have made them an even greater target for the Germans across the open field.  The Foxholes are still there!  Have to fit in a  stop for some liquid work of art…….a fine Belgian brew…..and there is no point in coming to Belgium if you don’t taste the world’s best French fries made with “blanc du boeuf!”  Lunch is included in your Bulge day trip.

Champagne/Nazi Surrender

We’ll take a separate day trip also on the bullet train to discover Champagne Country.  This is a walking tour in the tiny city of Reims, which happens to be the capital of Champagne, part of France’s cherished patrimony.  It also happens to be where General Eisenhower took the surrender of the Nazi regime to end World War Two, although Stalin had something to say about this episode in which he was not calling the shots!  You will enter the map room that Ike and Monty used and see all their ORIGINAL maps on the wall.  In this very room, preserved, is where General Jodl captitulated to the allies, thus ending the Thousand Year Reich in its homicidal infancy.

A gastronomical lunch, a guided tour of a major Champagne house like Veuve Cliquot or Mumm, the famous cathedral where most French kings were coronated will round out our Reims visit.

Paris

Paris remains one of the world’s most spectacular cities.  The French prize beauty, in architecture, engineering, fashion and cuisine. Nowhere is this more evident than in the City of Lights.  I will lead you on a private sightseeing tour of all the great iconic landmarks and boulevards in this wonderful metropolis.  The Eiffel Tower. The Arc de Triomphe.  Les Champs Elysees. Trocadero. Saint Germain. Notre Dame. La Sainte Chappelle. Le Pantheon. Luxembourg Gardens. Les Invalides and Monmartre to take us back in time when the likes of Picasso and Van Gogh roamed this little quarter and enjoyed the same accordion hits that you can enjoy today.

We’ll jaunt out to Versailles to see if the Sun King really knew how to make home renovations!

French Cuisine

The dining included in this tour event?  It’s varied and you will have choices; but I limit the choices to suit American taste buds.  For the more adventurous I’ll be happy to find some French delicacies for your dining enjoyment.  I recommend that everyone try at least one evening the roasted quarter leg of duck, which is as common in France as a hamburger is in America.  And the desserts?  Well…..let’s just say that in 30 plus years in France I’ve never had an American guest leave dissatisfied with the desserts in France.   You can’t taste them all so I’ll take you to Galeries Lafayettes, their gourmet food department, and we’ll also let you take some of the most beautiful food photos you’ll ever see.  I’ll make plenty of suggestions for food items to take home for yourself or for gifts.

OPTIONAL TOUR EXTENSION TO PROVENCE
(SIX NIGHTS/SEVEN DAYS)

PROVENCE has always been known as a unique corner of France that has all the attributes of the rest of the country; i.e.; history, cuisine, culture, joie de vivre—but the inhabitants of Provence have one undeniable advantage: the sunshine that is sometimes lacking up north is in abundance in Provence!  We’ll start our discovery of Provence in “l’arriere pays” that is: the back country, away from the sea and into the heart of old Provence, land of lavender, sun baked olive groves, dining al fresco, and a sip of pastis.

LES BAUX DE PROVENCE.  UZES. PERNES LES FONTAINES. GORDES.  NIMES.  ARLES.

As our motor coach traverses this beautiful region we’ll make one our first stops the village of Les Baux de Provence. The terrain and climate here are quite similar to the American Southwest, i.e.: dry and sunny. Marvel at the symmetrical placement on craggy slopes of the vineyards and be taken aback from time to time at the stunningly rich color of the lavender fields that attracted Cezanne, Van Gogh and Chagall.    We’ll visit the quintessential villages of Provence like St. Remy, Les Baux, Allauch, Remoulins and Uzes.

AVIGNON

Better known must see stops include The Palace of the Popes at Avignon, the Roman Amphitheatre in Arles and the Roman Arena in Nimes. My two favorites in Provence as concerns history would be The Pont du Gard and the Maison Carre in Nimes. Both are breathtaking in their beauty and architectural prowess.

MARSEILLE

Marseille is like a second home to me. We’ll head strait for my favorite location in the city: Notre Dame de la Garde. The view is stunning! The German Luftwaffe left a few reminders of its occupation here. I’ll point them out to you. The American army left a gift as well (not to be confused with the larger gift of liberating the country) You’ll be surprised to see it and proud to do so!

LE VIEUX PORT DE MARSEILLE

Of course we’ll also see Le Vieux Port (the focal point of the city which is not only an active port of pleasure craft but also retains its ancient function of small fish market only ten feet from the water!) The fishmongers themselves are as colorful and “salty” as their selection of fish; and they’ll be happy to take a few snapshots with you and the gorgeous Vieux Port as a background.   The fish couldn’t be any fresher than at Le Vieux Port, and I hope you see some that strike you’re fancy because a little later in the day that could be your lunch. Yes; for the fish eaters among the group we will visit one of the best restaurants in France to dine on the famous fish stew of bouillabaisse.

CASSIS.  LES CALANQUES

The coast of Provence is studded with beautiful villages, one of which is Cassis. We’re going to take a leisurely boat ride a short distance from Marseille to Cassis. Along the way we’ll pass up close to Les Calanques, a nature reserve on the coast, accessible only on foot. When the most beautiful photographs of the Mediterranean show up in a travel magazine, very often they are shots of Les Calanques! As we head out of Le Vieux Port on our ship we’ll also pass Le Chateau d’If, which lies just off the coast and was the island prison setting for The Count of Monte Cristo.   The next day we’ll take the bullet train back to Paris for our departure on Delta Airlines.

 

Grab your beret!  I’ll see you on Omaha Beach!

Kenneth G. Chase, President

Conservative Tours Inc.


Highlights of this tour include:

  • Luxury Hotel in the heart of the city of Paris
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Versailles Palace
  • L’Arc de Triomphe
  • Les Champs Elysees
  • Notre Dame
  • Place de la Concorde.
  • Les Invalides
  • Free time to visit the museums of your choice in Paris (the Louvre, Le Grand Palais, Le Musee d’Orsay, l’Opera Garnier, La Madeleine.)
  • Daily Breakfast plus formal dining and bistro dining
  • Shopping excursion at Galeries Lafayette & Printemps
  • Chance to meet and interview D Day Survivors, both British and American
  • D Day Beaches in Normandy and commentary of historic battles
  • Pointe du Hoc, where President Reagan spoke in 1984 and where Colonel James Rudder, made history with the Army Rangers.
  • Sainte Mere Eglise to see Private Steele still hanging from the church steeple.
  • American Military Cemetery at Omaha Beach
  • Arromanches
  • Day trip to visit the fortress-like Le Mont Saint Michel in Normandy. 
  • Optional Battle of the Bulge tour
  • Optional tour extension to Provence
  • Optional Champagne day trip including the Nazi Surrender
  • Memorial de la Paix military museum in Caen
  • Mulberry Harbor, Utah Beach, Longues sur Mer, La Cambe and Courseulles. 

Price:  $4,369.00 per person

Deposit:     $500.00 per person

 

What’s Included: 

  • Round trip airfare on American Airlines.  
  • Breakfast daily.
  • Day trip to visit historic Le Mont Saint Michel in Normandy
  • Touring by luxury coach in Normandy for all D Day sites.
  • Airport Transfers.
  • Motor coach sight-seeing tour of Paris.
  • Tour of Versailles Palace.
  • Escorted tour to The Eiffel Tower.
  • Five Dinners.
  • Entry to the War Memorial Museum in Caen.
  • Expert Dinner or Breakfast lecture.
  • 7 nights in a first class hotel in the heart of Paris.
  • 3 nights in a modern hotel in Normandy.
  • All entrance fees as per the itinerary.
  • Denver radio legend Peter Boyles will be attending the entire tour with you.
  • All transportation as per the itinerary.
  • The pleasure of knowing that your tour leader has been visiting Paris and France for over 30 years; and he’s been leading tours to Omaha and Utah since 1981!

 

What’s Not Included: 

  • Optional group travel insurance.
  • Government air tax.
  • Optional day trip to Champagne country with tasting & cellar visit and lunch at Le Boulingrin! Bullet Train included!  This is also the NAZI SURRENDER DAY TRIP.
  • Optional day trip to retrace the Battle of the Bulge. Bastogne. Diekirch. Houffalize. Saint Vith. Patton’s grave site at Hamm, Luxembourg. Bullet train Included.
  • Optional half-day trip to Giverny (Monet’s Garden & Home.)
  • Optional one week extension to Provence
U.S. General Anthony McAuliffe

Gen. Anthony McAuliffe (left)

LETTER FROM A GERMAN COMMANDER TO U.S. GENERAL ANTHONY MCAULIFFE , BATTLE OF THE BULGE, DECEMBER 1944
To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.
(signed)
The German Commander.

RESPONSE FROM GEN. MCAULIFFE TO THE GERMAN COMMANDER

To the German Commander.
NUTS!
The American Commander

Bastogne is part of our optional Bulge day trip.