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Guillaume le Conquerant in Normandy.
Guillaume le Conquerant in Normandy.
The Battlefields of Normandy.
Jeff in Normandy.

Vive La France - D-Day Walk

Thursday, August 2, 2001
Step back in time when history takes us to the battles of the past with a special guest report by Jeff Watson.

For such a small area, Normandy has many claims to fame. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for heresy there in 1431, and it was the site of two of history's most important battles — The Battle of Hastings, in 1066 and World War II's D-Day on June 6, 1944. On this day, 135,000 allied troops stormed the beaches, liberating Europe from Nazi occupation. The beaches of Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword and Juno were swarmed, and the fiercest fighting took place on Omaha. Before 1940, Normandy was a pleasant holiday resort, and as you walk along the peaceful beaches, it is difficult to imagine what took place there in the name of freedom.

There are several moving monuments and the American cemetery is 70 hectares of 9386 simple, white marble crosses and Stars of David. The Marine Küsten Batterie at Longues sur Mer is the most famous gun site and is on one of the eight tourist routes through the Normandy battlefields.

The white cliffs of the Alabaster Coast are the gateway to Normandy. Claude Monet lived in the village of Giverney and found inspiration there to create some of his most famous paintings. Normandy is also home to the magnificent Mont St-Michel and historic Bayeux and Honfleur, from where brave sailors set sail in search of the New World.

An easy drive from Paris, Normandy is divided into Upper and Lower regions — Haute and Basse — and divided again by hedges, copses and seaside resorts. It has attractive little villages, castles and historic abbeys.

The Battle of Normandy Museum in Caens is a peace museum, exploring the causes of wars, and is a tribute to those who fought in WWII. Its four parts describe the lead-up to WWII, the Battle of Normandy, video presentations and the ongoing fight for peace.

Bayeux is a town of 15,000 and a good place to base yourself. It was the first town to be liberated from Nazi rule and was remarkably undamaged. There are magnificent buildings, including the Gothic Cathedrale Notre Dame from the 13th century and the Centre Guillaume le Conquerant on rue de Nesmond, where the magnificent Bayeux tapestry is housed. The 70 metre-long tapestry is in 58 panels and was made from eight pieces of coarse linen, colourfully embroidered to depict events leading up to and including the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Honfleur, at the Seine's mouth, is extremely beautiful and inspired Impressionists such as Monet, Boudin, Cezanne, Pissaro and Renoir. With a severe shortage of stone and stonemasons after the Hundred Years War, the resourceful people of Honfleur used their boatbuilders to construct a church, making St Catherine's at the harbour France's only wooden church.

About 130km from Caen, in a village of about 50 people, is one of France's most breathtaking attractions — Mont St-Michel. The abbey was built on the summit of a granite rock, which becomes an island at high tide. It dates from the 8th century and has been extended and enhanced over the centuries with additions of Romanesque and Gothic buildings and fortifications. Its fame brought pilgrims and visitors and, by medieval times, shops, guesthouses and eating places had appeared. The abbey is topped with a copper statue of Michael the archangel slaying a dragon. The exterior of the building is lit each evening and that is when you fully appreciate its beauty.

Driving inland and north from Mont St-Michel, the gently rolling countryside is dotted with tiny villages, dairy farms, wheat fields and apple orchards growing the perfect fruit to make fiery Calvados brandy.


Normandy, about three hours northwest of Paris.


Qantas is offering Getaway viewers an exclusive low fare to Paris. Return economy fares are $1399 from the east coast, Adelaide and Perth. The offer ends on Monday, August 6, 2001, and is for departures from October 1 to November 15, 2001 and January 14 to February 28, 2002. Conditions apply.
World Cars has car hire in France starting at $23 per day.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Maison de la France
French Government Tourist Office
Ph: (02) 9231 5244 Fax: (02) 9221 8682
Normandie Tourisme:
World Cars: 1300 656 601
Qantas: 13 13 13
For a safe and healthy journey, talk to the travel doctor: 1300 658 844 or visit
Vaccinations: Tetanus/Diphtheria and Measles if under 30 years and no previous booster. A small kit for treatment of cuts, scratches, coughs and colds is available in all Travel Doctor clinics. Take plenty of protective 30+ sunscreen. Beware when crossing roads, traffic travels in the opposite direction from Australia.

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