Normandy for school groups. Intrepid travellers from Diverse carry on...

Another couple of days out of the office – a familiarisation trip to Northern France – Normandy and Opal Coast in particular – both very popular destinations for primary and secondary schools. We hit the road towards Normandy bright and early.  First we arrived at the Village Vacances Cap France in Merville-Franceville, and were delighted to be staying there: it’s right on a beautiful beach, has its own mini golf course, and much, much more. Really the perfect accommodation for school groups!From there it was a short drive to the Mémorial de Caen, which consists of three buildings, each dedicated to a specific section of modern history.  This museum is quite particular in that it has a slightly different approach to most war museums – it doesn’t just focus on historical artefacts (though it does, of course, display some) but the emphasis is laid on different media, such as photographs, posters and films from the selected era, which give a more visual experience. We particularly enjoyed the museum’s literal interpretation of Europe’s “downward spiral” into the Second World War: the 1919-1933 exhibition is laid out along a sloping corridor, which itself spirals downwards towards the next exhibition.It’s a really interesting visit on a school trip to Normandy, and one we highly recommend!It was there that we met our guide Olivier, who gave us some time to explore the museum before taking us on a tour of the D-Day landing beaches, and dazzled us with his intimate knowledge of the area.  He helped us spot traces of the conflict, still visible in the landscape today. Being there, where it all happened (especially after having seen archive footage from 1945), is a truly humbling experience, the full scale of which is virtually impossible to put into words.Jenn and Laura at the Landing BeachesAfterwards, we had just enough time to catch the last showing at Arromanches’ 360 cinema, a totally unique experience. A mixture of archive footage and historical fiction is projected onto 12 different screens in a circular room. Another great feature of this cinema is its cliff-top location: by stepping onto the roof there is an amazing view of the beach below, where sections of Mulberry Harbour still stand. We were lucky enough to be there at dusk, and the breath-taking view was the perfect end to an enriching day. We just wished we’d had more time to spend there!This year from March through to the end of August Normandy will commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy with ceremonies, firework displays, street dances, parades and re-enactments.There is a huge variety of rewarding, educational and memorable trips we can organise in Normandy for your school group – please see our website here and get in touch!  But, onwards and upwards, we moved onto the Opal Coast next – which deserves a blog post all of its own!  Watch this space… Jennifer Leonard

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