For a full millennium the entwined stories and people of France and England have been at the heart of many of the most important events in Western and world history. Visit the beaches, cliffs and fields; and villages, towns and cities where the Greatest Generation made their most indelible mark.
Day 1: Arrival in London
Upon arrival in London, your local representative will meet you at Heathrow airport and accompany you on the limousine drive to central London. Check in to your apartment suite in ultra-posh Belgravia, the most sought-after address in the capital, near to Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament. After a refreshing welcome luncheon, our journey begins as we step back nearly 1000 years to when a Norman-French army crossed the English Channel (La Manche to the French) and conquered England forever. We start at Westminster Abbey, where Duke William of Normandy became William I of England on Christmas Day 1066 and then head to the opposite end of the Thames-side inner city and visit William’s famed White Tower of London, where he and his successors ruled. Afterwards, we will take a guided walk along the iconic old streets of the City of London, with talks and stops for literary, cultural, social and historical sites. A social hour and welcome dinner complete the day.
About Your Guides
This Quintess Adventure is unique in that you have the same hosts/guides for the entirety of the trip. Brian DeToy has a PhD and has taught university-level History for 14 years, in conjunction with his 28 years of Army experience. His extensive background allows access to high-level museum curators and dignitaries, who will enhance your experiences. Sheryl Rankin Shafer has two Masters degrees and is a highly skilled tour leader. Having two guides also allows for more flexibility should your party wish to pursue separate activities at the same time.
About Your Accommodations
All lodging will be reserved based on your specific desires. The descriptions provided are sample options.*
One-bedroom apartment in Belgravia: Located in central London, Belgravia is noted for its luxurious residential properties. This elegant one-bedroom apartment is situated in the heart of Belgravia, close to all the amenities of both Sloane Square and Knightsbridge. Located on the second floor, the apartment has a generous reception room with plenty of natural light, kitchen, and master bedroom with ensuite shower room. The nearly 1000-square-foot apartment is beautifully furnished with Louis XVI antique furniture.
Four-bedroom apartment in Notting Hill: Located in inner west London, Notting Hill is a renowned cosmopolitan neighborhood, host of the annual Notting Hill Carnival, and home to the Portobello Road Market. Notting Hill is an affluent and fashionable area known for attractive terraces of large Victorian townhouses, and high-end shopping and restaurants. The luxurious, 1,572 square foot, four-bedroom apartment features an outdoor patio that stretches along the southern portion of the property.
Day 2: Treasures of London
A comfortable sleep in your private London apartment prepares you for the busy, yet relaxing day ahead. Your London adventure begins with an immersion in the striking history of the capital of an empire that stretched across the globe. Private guided visits to the countless, invaluable, and immeasurably important treasures in the British Museum and British Library (from across the centuries and including many items of great Franco-English interest) are followed by a sumptuous luncheon. The afternoon takes us on a private visit to the Wallace Collection of European art in the Hertford House. More incredible art, particularly strong in French, is packed into its eclectic galleries than the larger, more visited museums. An expertly guided walking tour of the city of Westminster, focused on its many riches, brings you to Apsley House at the corner of Hyde Park. Formerly the residence of the Duke of Wellington, this museum contains invaluable art and artefacts from the Napoleonic epoch that ended with the Duke’s victory at Waterloo in 1815. This evening, you will dine at one of the city’s top restaurants before taking in a performance of Shakespeare at the wonderfully restored 1599 Globe Theatre on the Thames (or the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican in the off-season).
Day 3: Palaces and Gardens
Along the Thames River, between Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, lie two of Britain’s most historic and beautiful royal palaces. Away from the crowds lie the treasures of King George III’s Kew Palace within its UNESCO World Heritage gardens. The last king of America, he lost the colonies in the titanic world-wide struggle with France. Just a few miles further along the river is a home of the monarchs since the time of Henry VIII and his wives in the mid-1500s when he strived with and against France – Hampton Court Palace. Our private guided tours will take us into the state and royal apartments and more. Back in London, visit a modern palace and take a private, behind-the-scenes tour of the home of one of the world’s most recognizable sports franchises – Stamford Bridge Stadium and the grounds of the famed Chelsea FC Blues. Your London visit is capped tonight with an incredible dinner.
Day 4: Battle Preparations
Depart London by private transportation this morning and make important historical stops in the southern coast invasion ports. First, at Southampton, you will encounter one of the oldest pubs in England, The Red Lion, where Henry V completed his invasion plans before setting off for France in 1415. Then, on the coastal highlands overlooking Portsmouth and the D-Day invasion preparations, take a private tour of Southwick House – General Dwight Eisenhower’s headquarters for the entire D-Day operations. After visiting the historic dockyards of Portsmouth, home to the famed “Wooden Walls” of Britain’s Royal Navy and its iconic ships such as Henry VIII’s Mary Rose, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s flagship at the era-shaping battle of Trafalgar in 1805, HMS Victory, and the world’s first iron-clad warship, HMS Warrior, of Queen Victoria, embark on your ship, the M/V Normandie, and prepare to voyage across the English Channel to land on the shores of France the next morning.
About the M/V Normandie
The sleek, contemporary Normandie is a first-rate super ferry specifically designed for cruising the English Channel between Portsmouth, England, and Caen, France, in style and stable comfort. Named after the French region of the same name, it is decorated in traditional Norman style and colours with an equestrian theme throughout, demonstrating the importance of the horse in Normandy. Normandie features superb on-board facilities, including excellent dining, shopping and live entertainment and relaxing public spaces. There’s plenty of space to move around on board with an open plan feel; the deck is bliss on a clear day and perfect for star-gazing at night. There are a number of options to keep you and your family entertained while on board, including resident music duos and cabaret singers, cocktail pianists, tribute acts and DJ sets as well as two cinemas for the latest films. On board Wi-Fi is provided free of charge.
The shipboard accommodations are the outside Commodore staterooms (for 2-3 persons each). There’s nothing better than arriving at your destination fully refreshed for the journey ahead! All spacious cabins are en suite.
Day 5: The British Beaches and Battle of Normandy Day 1
After rising from a delightful seaborne slumber, have breakfast aboard ship and, then, we land at dawn on the Norman coast. Pegasus Bridge lies astride the Orne River Canal and was the site of the first airborne landings on D-Day. Major John Howard’s company conducted a textbook perfect strike to seize the bridge. The Gondree Café, the first French home liberated by the Allies, still stands at one end of the bridge and we will meet Arlette Gondree for tea. As a little girl, she witnessed the invasion and has held court ever since, entertaining returning soldiers and world leaders for decades. From Pegasus, travel along the three British invasion beaches (SWORD, JUNO and GOLD) and stop at selected sites including the beautiful British cemetery at Ranville, the British and French Commandos at Ouistreham, the Canadians and French forces at Courseulles, and the technological marvel Mulberry floating harbour at Arromanches. A visit to the majestic, awe-inspiring Caen D-Day Memorial Museum caps the day and places all within the broad 20th century perspective. You will then arrive at your lodgings – La Ferme de la Ranconniere, situated in a lovely pastoral field near the beaches. A social hour and French dinner complete the day.
About La Ferme de la Rançonniere
Your accommodations are in a wonderfully charming boutique hotel located in the Calvados region of Normandy. Originally a farmhouse, the first buildings were constructed in the 13th century. Most of the farm was reconstructed in the first part of the 17th century. Peasants who worked the land of La Rançonnière could take shelter with their animals in the large courtyard, where they could defend themselves against enemy invasions and were protected by the solid entryway, an example of medieval military architecture. During the Second World War, La Ferme de la Rançonnière was requisitioned by the German army and served as a military camp. Thanks to its close proximity to the D-Day beaches and Arromanches, the farm was quickly liberated in June 1944. The farm has been lovingly restored and transitioned into a charming hotel with each unique room boasting antique furnishings and vintage objects d’art.
Day 6: The Americans on D-Day – the Battle of Normandy Day 2
Following a hearty Norman breakfast, set out to spend the day with the American invasion forces. Start at UTAH beach – at Ste Marie du Mont you will walk the bluffs where General Teddy Roosevelt Jr earned a Medal of Honor with his inspiring leadership of the 4th Division. At Brecourt Manor see the first operations of the famed Easy Company ‘Band of Brothers’ from the 101st Airborne. At La Fiere Bridge and Ste Mere Eglise we will see the desperate fighting done by the 82nd Airborne as they became the first Americans to liberate a French town. After lunch in Ste Mere Eglise visit the somber German cemetery in La Cambe, and then continue to the coast and take in the surreal landscape of Pointe du Hoc, where the 2d Ranger Battalion made its epic climb to glory up the sheer cliffs. Spend the remainder of the afternoon on one of the most famous stretches of sand and cliff in the world – OMAHA Beach, visiting portions where the 29th Division fought ashore at Vierville and the 1st Division climbed the bluffs at Colleville. The touring will conclude by paying your respects at one of the most beautiful of all resting places – the American Cemetery atop the cliffs of OMAHA. Return to the chateau for another social hour and sumptuous meal.
Day 7: William the Conqueror’s Normandy – Bayeux and Caen
Begin the day with a visit to the glorious town of Bayeux, home to two of the most important sites of historic Normandy – the ancient Cathedral and the Bayeux Tapestry. Both date from 1077 and, together, continue the amazing tale of Duke William. After lunch make the short trip to William’s capital (and still the capital) of Normandy. Caen is a beautiful city with well over a thousand years of history maintained in amazing detail. You will visit the castle, with its history and Beaux Arts museums, and abbeys built by the man who conquered England in 1066. Walk the quaint streets to see sites of the battle that raged here in 1944, destroying much of the city. Dinner will be in the Quartier Vaugueux, a charming quarter dating to the Middle Ages.
Day 8: Avranches, Mont St Michel and the Suisse Normand Cidre Route
Your final day of Normandy exploring concerns the breakout from the beaches in the heady days of August 1944 as well as 1000 previous years of history! In Avranches, General George Patton first came to command in his drive across France. A short distance away is the small island of Mont St Michel, just off the coast. This enchanted isle is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to a 1000-year-old abbey with 360-degree views of the bay and to a charming single-street village that climbs from the sea to the mountaintop. On your return to our chateau, take in the gorgeous vistas along the high rolling hills known as Swiss Normandy. Admire the beautiful Jardin de Brecy and sample some of the local wares along the Route de Cidre that celebrates the fruit of the region through pommeau and calvados. Once back at the chateau, complete your Normandy visit with a final social and memorable dinner.
Day 9: The Road to Paris
Today you follow the route of Allied troops as they raced eastward toward Paris. Enjoy a private tour of Monet’s amazing gardens at Giverny where he and others changed the way we see the world. Arriving in Paris, we will head straight for the central downtown Ritz Hotel, where Ernest Hemingway and crew “liberated” the first bar in August 1944. Around the corner near the Louvre we will see the headquarters of the German forces. In the late afternoon we will stroll the leafy boulevards and parks, exploring the city’s literary, cultural and historic past, especially focused on the French Revolution and Napoleonic periods when France and England vied for supremacy from 1793-1815. At St Eustache and Les Halles stop to explore the ancient soaring church interior and bustling historic market. Once ensconced in your private apartment, you will enjoy the gastronomic delights of this most famous of all epicurean cities.
About Your Accommodations
*This three-bedroom apartment is in the 16e Arrondissement, overlooking the Arc de Triomphe and one block from the Champs Elysees. Le Triomphe is a luxurious retreat with easy access to everything you could want in the City of Light. Spacious and airy with high ceilings and French windows, the apartment is awash in natural light. This villa can accommodate up to six guests. Each bedroom in this lavish private lodging includes a queen-sized bed and ensuite bathroom.
Day 10: A Day with Napoleon – The Embodiment of France
Your last full day in Paris focuses on one of the most intriguing characters in all of history. One famed historian has called Napoleon Bonaparte “the most competent human who ever lived.” His mastery of things political, military and social remade the map and cultural fabric of both France and Europe, and his legacy continues to impact the world to this day. Enjoy private tours of the priceless works at the Fondation Napoleon guided by a prince who is the direct descendant of one of Napoleon’s greatest marshals, and at the Musee Nationale de Legion d’Honneur. Complete the morning at the Hotel des Invalides – a 300 year old combination of working military hospital and museum as well as the final resting place of Napoleon and other important leaders of France. In the afternoon visit the gorgeous and historic Chateau de Compiegne, a royal palace from Louis XIV’s day. Compiegne is also famed as the site where Joan of Arc was captured, and where the Germans signed the Armistice with the French and British and their allies to end the Great War. Your dinner this evening will put a final flourish on the culmination of a phenomenal trip through history and culture.
Day 11: Departure
After a sumptuous Parisian breakfast, your guides will escort you to Charles de Gaulle International Airport to meet your departing flight.
**Note – This itinerary was created with the assumption that many guests have previously been to London and Paris and seen some or most of the typical sites, museums, etc. However, if you wish to see any of these sites, we will be pleased to adjust the itinerary. Some of these are included in the “options” below along with a number of other opportunities.
Visits to iconic London museums and galleries – National Gallery, Tate Gallery, Imperial War Museum
Houses of Parliament Guided Tour
Westminster Abbey Self Tour
London Shopping Afternoon at Harrods, Oxford High Street, or Camden Lock or Portobello Markets
Salisbury Cathedral Private Tour
Stonehenge Private Access (inside the stones)
Historic London Pub Crawl
Helicopter Tour of Normandy
Cruise on yacht on Normandy coast
Private chartered flight from England to France
Overnight on Mont St Michel
Versailles Prestige Tour
Iconic Paris museums and galleries -the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay
Literary Walking Tour of Paris
Notre Dame Tour
Ste Chapelle Tour
Champs Elysees Shopping
Private chef for any portion of the trip