Experience history with a soldier-scholar as your guide.
Day 1: Arrival in London
Upon arrival in London, you’ll be greeted at Heathrow and chauffeured by limousine 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, your first stop is a private tour with the Director of Winston Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms. Afterwards, enjoy a guided stroll along the expansive boulevards of Whitehall (the seat of global British power) and Pall Mall through Royal St James Park back to your lodgings. 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.*
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 expensive residential properties and is one of the wealthiest districts in the world. 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 comprises 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, home to the Portobello Road Market. Notting Hill is 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
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 are followed by a sumptuous luncheon. The afternoon takes you on a private visit to the Wallace Collection of European art in the Hertford House. An expertly guided walking tour focused on the city’s literary, architectural, and historical riches completes the afternoon. This evening, you will dine at one of the city’s top restaurants before taking in a top West End show from the best seats.
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 are the treasures of Kew Palace within its UN World Heritage gardens. Just a few miles farther along the river is a home of the monarchs since the time of Henry VIII and his wives – Hampton Court Palace. Your 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 with an incredible dinner.
Day 4: D-Day Preparations
Depart London by private transportation this morning and make two important historical stops en route to the southern coast D-Day invasion ports. First, at the quiet grounds of Bletchley Park, encounter the sophisticated, real-life story of the incredible code-breakers from the recent Oscar-winning film “The Imitation Game.” Then on the coastal highlands overlooking all the 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, embark on our own ship, the M/V Normandie and prepare to voyage across the English Channel to land on the shores of France.
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 colors with an equestrian theme. 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. Onboard wifi 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 ensuite.
Day 5: The British Beaches and Battle of Normandy Day 1
Have breakfast aboard ship and land at dawn on the Norman coast, where you will be chauffeured to Pegasus Bridge, the site of the first airborne landings on D-Day. The Gondree Café, the first French home liberated by the Allies, still stands at one end of the bridge and you 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 harbor at Arromanches. Then you will be welcomed at La Ferme de la Ranconniere, situated in a lovely pastoral field near the beaches. A social hour and dinner complete the day.
La Ferme de la Rançonniere is a wonderful 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. 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: William the Conqueror’s Caen and UTAH Beach & the American Airborne – the Battle of Normandy Day 2
Following a hearty Norman breakfast, set out to explore UTAH beach. At Ste Marie du Mont, walk the bluffs where General Teddy Roosevelt Jr earned a Medal of Honor. At Brecourt Manor see the first operations of the famed Easy Company ‘Band of Brothers.’ After lunch in Ste Mere Eglise, visit the sombre German cemetery in La Cambe, en route to the capital of Normandy. Caen is a beautiful city with more than a thousand years of history. Visit the castle and abbeys built by William the Conqueror. Then walk the quaint streets to see sites of the battle that raged here in 1944. Dinner will be in a charming quarter dating to the Middle Ages.
Day 7: Bayeux, Pointe du Hoc and OMAHA Beach – the Battle of Normandy Day 3
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. 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. After lunch, spend the afternoon on one of the most famous stretches of sand and cliff in the world – OMAHA Beach, where the 29th Division fought ashore at Vierville and the 1st Division climbed the bluffs at Colleville. The touring will conclude with a visit to one of the most beautiful of all resting places – the American Cemetery atop the cliffs of OMAHA. Here you will truly connect with the Greatest Generation. Return to your chateau for another social hour and sumptuous meal.
Day 8: Operation Cobra – the Normandy Breakout and the Island of Mont St Michel
Your final day of D-Day exploring concerns the breakout from the beaches in the heady days of July and August 1944. From St Lo, the 1st city to be liberated in Operation COBRA, to Avranches, where General George Patton first came to command in his drive across France (and where an impressive monument commemorates Patton and his Third Army). A short distance away is the small island of Mont St Michel, just off the coast. This enchanted isle is a UN World Heritage site and home to a 1000-year-old abbey with 360-degree views of the bay. Once back at the chateau, complete your Normandy visit with a final social and memorable dinner.
Day 9: Paris – Liberation of the City of Light
As you depart Normandy you will follow the route of the American troops as they raced eastward toward Paris, stopping at Chartres to visit the famed cathedral. In Paris, head straight for Ritz Hotel, where Ernest Hemingway and crew “liberated” the first bar in August. Around the corner near the Louvre, see the headquarters of the German forces. In the late afternoon stroll the leafy boulevards and parks, exploring the city’s literary, cultural and historic past. At St Eustache and Les Halles you’ll stop to explore the ancient soaring church interior and bustling historic market.
*Three-bedroom apartment 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 has 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. Napoleon Bonaparte has been called “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 impacts the world to this day. You will 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 and the final resting place of Napoleon. In the afternoon you will visit the gorgeous and historic Chateau de Compiegne, a royal palace from Louis XIV’s day through to the two Napoleons. Compiegne is also where Joan of Arc was captured, and where the Germans signed the Armistice to end WWI. 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, you will be escorted to Charles de Gaulle International Airport to meet your departing flight.
**Note – This itinerary was created with the assumption that many Quintess members have previously been to London and Paris and seen some or most of the typical sites, museums, etc. However, if you wish to visit 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
Musee des Beaux Arts in Caen
Caen Memorial Museum (World War Two museum)
Chateau de Brecy Gardens
Route de Cidre Tasting
Giverny Private Tour
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