I am always available by e-mail for questions about touring in Normandy, but there are some topics and subjects that come up very frequently. I am confident this page will provide answers to these questions.
Who is DDay Historian? I am a Paul Woodadge, a British National, who has lived in Normandy for 15 years. I have conducted hundreds of tours and taken thousands of clients through the battlefields. Read my full bio here. If visiting Normandy is high on your bucket-list, I urge you to be aware of the varying quality levels of touring services offered. There are lots of great well-established services, just make sure you do your research carefully.
What legal requirements are needed to show people the DDay beaches? To take people on paid tours in a vehicle I am registered and licensed with the Registredes Voitures de Transport avec Chauffeur (VTC). I also have a Chauffeur de Voiture de Tourisme card issued by the Prefecture de Calvados. I comply with all the regulations of these two official organisations, meaning I have special insurances for taking fare paying travelers, First- aid training and have passed a physical exam ensuring I am fit to drive. I am not a Licensed Guide Conferencier, which I would need to be if I were taking people to cathedrals and places like Mont St. Michel, but that's not what I do. I am a battlefield guide taking people to beaches, bunkers and fields. My business is registered in France where I have paid taxes and contributions since 2002. I am also Vice-President of the Normandy Battlefield Tour Guide Association. When you are browsing other tour guide websites, please make sure you are booking with someone who is legally entitled to take you on a paid excursion. Of course you should expect them to have good knowledge of the the history of 1944, but most importantly they should be legally permitted to do what they do. If their website is unclear - ask them. All professionals are happy to tell you, because acquiring the licenses involves time, effort and financial outlay. So they are proud to share with you their achievements. Where are you based? Where do your tours commence? I live in Bayeux which is in my opinion, absolutely the best place to stay in for touring the DDay beaches. I provide lots of information about the town of Bayeux here. I recommend this charming town, because it is tourist-friendly, easily-accessible and has plenty of restaurants and cafes. Everything a traveler may need can be found including: souvenir shops, pharmacies, camera shops, sports shops, dry-cleaners and lots of bakeries for lovely French pastries. You also have the famous cathedral and Tapestry museum to visit. For some general facts about the greater Normandy region see my page here.
What Tour Itineraries are available? I have a selection of optimized itineraries that I truly believe offer first-time visitors especially, a chance to see the most important DDay sites in carefully planned, nicely paced days. Or I can work with you via e-mail to plan a bespoke tour of particular sites of interest to you.
Do you offer group tours priced per person? No, sorry. I offered this type of tour from 2002 to the end of 2013, but since then have only offered private tours. For group tours my first recommendation is always Normandy Panorama.
What dates are you available? I am one of the few independent battlefield guides in Normandy with an online calendar that indicates which dates I am already booked or otherwise unavailable for touring. Please check there first to see if I am available. If I am available on your chosen dates, please contact me to begin the booking process and to discuss your requirements. If I am unavailable I provide a list of other Normandy guides on my Links Page.
When do your Tours start and end? From March to the end of October I run from 8.30am to 5.30pm - 9 hours per day. In the winter (November to the end of February) when there is less daylight I usually run from 9.00am to 5.00pm. Also in January and February especially I tend not to take advance bookings because of the uncertainty about the weather. It can often be horrible at that time of year - windy, rainy and very cold all day. They are also the months I often plan trips myself, so please don't plan on me definitely being available at that time of year.
I have not received a reply to my e-mail? I am the only person answering e-mails and managing my business. I always try to reply to e-mails received within 24 hours, and usually much sooner. BUT sometimes I am very busy and unfortunately this is not always possible. However, if within 3 or 4 days you have still NOT received a reply, then there has probably been some kind of e-mail failure. Every now and then I reply to an e-mail and my message is returned undelivered. Sometimes this is due to your server rejecting my reply because it comes from an overseas location. If you don't get a reply try e-mailing from a different account - Gmail and web-based providers often fair better than other types of provider.
Winter Touring I run tours through the winter, but please understand that touring in the middle of winter can be tough. The weather can be horribly wet, icy and windy and some of the museums and hotels are closed. Please contact me for advice and suggestions.
What vehicle do you use? I use a 2016 blue Ford 7 passenger Custom Tourneo, it has a/c throughout, comfortable seats, lots of head and leg room and good visibility. This is the best vehicle I have ever had and all my 2016 clients loved it!
What Tours won’t I do? I cannot join you in your own vehicle or bus for a tour - I only offer small group tours in my own vehicle. For bus or "Step-On" tours contact my partner Mag at DDay4You. I do not offer tours from the cruise ships at Le Havre or Cherbourg, nor do I start tours in Paris. The only language I offer tours in is English and I do not take children under the age of 12. The reason for this is that I lead 9+ hour battlefield tours, aimed at an adult audience. There are other guiding services better suited to families with young children.
Physical Requirements? My tours involve lots of standing and walking, if it rains - we will get wet and you may get a little muddy. These are battlefield tours, not drive-by sightseeing tours. I take you through fields, across sand dunes and beaches and into German bunkers. If you have minor mobility issues please contact me for my recommendations - I can still help, but there are restrictions on the sites that can be visited. When you first contact me, it is helpful if you let me know how "immersive" you want the tour to be and how much walking and standing you are prepared to undertake. For visitors with severe disabilities or issues, there are other options in Normandy better suited to your needs - often meaning visiting more museums that have suitable facilities.
What is your touring philosophy? I have spent years developing my tours and I believe I have created a product that works. Of course to explain a military event like Operation Overlord (DDay) I have to give names of participants, dates, times and unit designations, but in addition I try and build a running narrative that completes a greater DDay jigsaw puzzle. For example I use what I call "Paul's Themes", I establish these early in the tour and return to them often. The themes are clear and easy to understand, and they help you join in the process of learning with me. I also use visuals and audio. I show you pictures and graphics of the places we visit as they were in 1944, maps and above-all - photos of the people who fought. On my American Experience Tour I use my own unique audio-files in the minibus when driving. They include the voices of men I talk about, explaining their actions and feelings, actors reading WWII letters, sound-effects and my own commentaries. Here is an MP3 file I use about Ernie Pyle - the famous WWII journalist. The first voice is mine telling you about him, the second (reading Pyle's words) is an actor friend of mine - If you think you recognise his voice - book a tour with me and I will tell you if you are correct!
Another little trick of mine, is that I always find out what you do for a living? Why? Because it helps me know how you think and what challenges you face in your work, which in turn helps me adjust my presentations to you. Put simply, a sculptor or artist probably thinks and processes information differently to an accountant. Few of us have been in combat (me included) and witnessed anything as important and vast as DDay, but we have had to make decisions. We maybe have staff we oversee, or have raised children. To understand the success of DDay we need to understand how the participants rose to the challenge. A good tour guide will adapt his or her presentation to the audience and keep it interactive - I ask you questions during the day - nothing hard don't worry, but it helps you learn more easily if you are involved in the experience. I am not lecturing to a crowd of strangers in the dark in a lecture hall, we are together on the ride.
To fully immerse you in history, the assistant guide on my tours is my Ipad - new for the 2017 season. A 12.9 inch screen in a water and drop proof cover, It is packed with thousands of WWII images and many short video clips. In addition to hearing my voice, you will hear and see some of the men who took part and rare footage of the invasion. So , do I need to be a history buff to appreciate your tours? Not necessarily, but in some ways - YES. The fact is there are many guiding options available in Normandy. I am a self-confessed D-Day, battlefield and history junkie - a geek, a nerd, an obsessive if you like. I have over 1000 books in my library and discs and drives full of WWII documentation, archives and files. Nothing pleases me more than spending time with fellow geeks. At the very least I expect my clients to have seen the major movies like Saving Private Ryan and The Longest Day and maybe to have read at least a couple of books - like the Rick Atkinson trilogy, and those by authors such as: Sir Max Hastings, John McManus, Alex Kershaw and Mark Bando. At the very least you could spend some time on YouTube there are lots of DDay programmes there. I also have a page of Recommended Reading here.
If this does not apply to you, then I am just as happy to take novices on tour. Or there are a proliferation of other tour companies and guiding services available. It is not that I am running an "elitist" business, but the fact is that the majority of my clients are keen to get "up close and personal" to the historic sites they have read about for years, so a bit of prior preparation benefits us all.
Are the touring days hectic and fast paced? Yes and no, in order to see all the places I wish to show you a certain pace does need to be maintained and there is no spare time for multiple coffees, shopping detours and long 3 course lunches. Lunches usually consist of sandwiches and snacks and there are typically 3 or 4 toilet/bathroom stops per day. With this kind of schedule you will have time for full and detailed explanations at the sites I show you and time to ask questions and of course take photos. Ultimately I customize the tour to your needs, especially for older clients, but I do like to fit as much in to the touring days as possible.
How do you take payments? I take all payments in advance via a secure online payment system. I take a 10% deposit at the time of booking and the balance 2 months before the tour. For bookings within 2 months of the tour date, I take all the payment in advance.
Do you ever cancel tours? A negative aspect of booking a tour with an individual is that there is always the possibility I may be ill on the day of the tour or have some other emergency. There is not much I can do about this situation. I cannot tour if I am ill, and at busy times of year there is no guarantee at all I will be able to find you a replacement tour guide. If I have to cancel a tour for any reason, your full payment will be refunded.
What should I wear? Sturdy shoes or walking boots and layered clothing including a waterproof jacket. From October to March you may also need gloves, hats and scarves. Even in the summer, you may get quite muddy and some tours involve crossing wet fields of quite tall grass, sometimes with cattle and or horses grazing. Do you guide all your tours personally? YES, every tour booked via this DDay Historian website will be lead by me personally.