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Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Remembering--An American tourist on Omaha Beach recently etched her father's initials in the sand

Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944
SAN DIEGO CONNECTIONS--Initially, Normandy was not on our radar as we planned a recent three-week tour to Europe from San Diego.   Crossing the English Channel by train through the Euro tunnel gripped my attention, until a family member reminded me that tunnel travel could be duplicated on our next trip to San Francisco by taking BART subway to Oakland. After all, a dark tunnel is a dark tunnel.  If you close your eyes for 20 minutes you will enjoy exactly what I saw in the Chunnel (I’m teasing here, folks).

Our plans eventually refocused on Normandy because our dads took part in the WWII invasion on or soon after June 6, 1944.  With 2014 being the 70th anniversary, we believed seeing Omaha and Utah beaches a year earlier would be less crowded.  We wanted to honor their memory with a visit, especially with one of their grandsons in tow.

Right of the clock--The church in the village of Sainte-Mere Eglise starred in the American movie, “The Longest Day.”  Up in the bell tower is a mannequin hanging from a parachute to honor the American, Pvt. John Steele, who landed there during the first hours of D-Day.  He survived the war and later became a regular visitor to the village and church. 
As it turned out, our visit to the battlefield area in April 2013 was a good idea—maybe.  We succeeded in avoiding hordes of fellow tourists, but unfortunately it rained hard for the entire day we had scheduled our visit.

Respected--In our short, visit we learned Americans are welcome in Normandy.  On the train to Normandy, a man inquired in English if we were going to see the “beaches?   When we said yes, he asked if we had family, who participated in D-Day. When I said, yes, he stuck his hand across the train aisle and quietly mouthed “merci” and then offered in a louder voice “welcome to Normandy.”  After that greeting, we teared up easily for the next 24 hours as we paused at as many monuments as possible.

Honoring--A grandson in 2013 snaps a picture 
of a U.S. Army Sherman tank similar to one his tank commander 
grandfather drove across Europe in WWII.

No complaints, whatsoever, considering the weather was just as foul when our dads and thousands of other GIs were coming ashore.  On a more personal note: I gave Phyllis, my wife an extra hug that day knowing that if her father had not survived that longest day and the rest of the war, she certainly would not have had Major Glenn W. Adkisson, United States Army for a loving father.  She was born after the war.

Professional Help.
Thanks to a visit to the Battlefield at Gettysburg a year earlier, we knew how important it was to hire a personal guide.   Having the professional guide makes it easier on everyone.   Our first rate guide in Normandy was Danielle Duboscq.  Once she learned we were just as interested in local history as we were military history, she tailored an eclectic tour that pleased our three touring musketeers.  We had her all to ourselves and she drove through the driving rain.

Our guide Danielle, visited with one of the German Army volunteers, who regularly volunteer to attend to the German Cemetery that’s located en route to Utah Beach.
Because Danielle’s son is also a pro tour guide in the Normandy area (she was born in Normandy and son Trevor Standefer lives in nearby Ravenoville Plage, France) they often network. Trevor and his wife prepared a delicious lunch in their home, which was included in Danielle’s tour.

As it turned out, lunch was a San Diego reunion of sorts.  We learned of Danielle from another San Diego couple, who had hired her earlier.  Little did we know Danielle lived in San Diego.  Her ex-husband and Trevor’s dad is a retired journalist, who lives in San Diego.

The mom/son tour guides operate independently.  Trevor gets the nod with ardent military historians, while Danielle offers tours to “all of Normandy.”

It depends on your interests.

Despite the weather we did not feel short changed by our day-long tour.

We now wish we had scheduled more time in Bayeux and Normandy.  One day to visit the villages and another to tour the museums and cemeteries, plus all the beach landing sites.  It’s worth the extra day.

And, thanks to advance planning, we did include the “Chunnel” when we booked a bullet train from Brussels to London.

Professional Guides:
Danielle Duboscq:
Trevor Standefer: Phone: +33 233 402 127

Trevor Standefer, Normandy Guide at his home
Lunch on the Tour at Trevor's

Also on the tour--After a customer complained about the weather, Seamus Coyle, a legendary San Francisco bartender replied “it never rains inside an Irish pub.   The same is true in D’Isigny, France: despite the storm, it was perfectly dry inside a candy factory called Carmels D’Isigny.  I’ve added Normandy made caramels to my list of culinary addictions. C’est vrai.  Thank you to our guide Danielle for introducing us to caramels, too.

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