A kid's staff ride in Normandy

Utah Beach Higgins boat outside the Utah Beach Museum.  © Trista Gleeson
Utah Beach Higgins boat outside the Utah Beach Museum. © Trista Gleeson
Utah Beach Higgins boat outside the Utah Beach Museum.  © Trista Gleeson
Utah Beach Higgins boat outside the Utah Beach Museum. © Trista Gleeson

A kid's staff ride in Normandy

by: Kipp Gleason | .
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published: June 06, 2016

Editor's Note: This story was written by an 11-year-old visiting Normandy, France for the first time.

You climb over a small hill and finally reach the beach, but what is the history behind this place where Vikings raided, conquerors set off, and men gave their lives for our freedom.

Going to Normandy? Don't go on a vacation; take your kids on a staff ride! What is a staff ride, you may ask? A staff ride is a trip to historic places to learn about what happened there. (It's also a great vacation!)

First, you will want to prepare. I suggest Orep historic comics, a regional publisher, Band of Brothers, the book and miniseries (parental guidance), and library books about Normandy, WWII, and the Vikings. I also suggest audio books, and YouTube videos on Normandy.

If you are coming from Germany, don't forget to stop in Belgium. First, eat some waffles, then, go to Bastogne. The Bastogne WWII museum is excellent for kids. When your done at Bastogne, get back on the road to Normandy.
When we get to Normandy, we were ready to go right to bed. We liked the Utah beach museum a lot. It had loads of fun activities and things to see because it is built on a bunker sight. Next, we went to Ste Mere Eglise, and the Airborne Museum.  Bring a jump master and prepare to jump. The third building has a very realistic simulation of a C47. Next we went to Point De Hawk at Omaha beach. The bomb craters are HUGE! After Omaha, we went to Gold beach. There, I got a steel helmet and we visited the guns, which are mostly intact and great for pictures. At Juno beach, there was a mud run and museum, but we decided not to go. We went horseback riding on Sword beach, and I don't mean being lead around on a pony, I mean real horseback riding! Brush up on your French and call +33-2-31-96-41-41.  All my dad really had to know was, "Parlez-vous l'Anglais?"

Make sure your trip is not only about D-Day. Go to Bayeux and discover their tapestry that tells the story of William the Conqueror with a little humor stitched in. It's a thousand year old comic strip. There is also a nearby shop called Bayeux-Broderie that sells pictures from the tapestry for you to sew. (It is harder than it looks.)  Mont Saint Michel is also a cool place.  It is both part of the mainland and an island in the same day. Pick a tide time. It is only an hour from the Normandy beaches.

ENJOY YOUR VISIT

TIPS:
• Don't forget to get interactive kid headsets (free at Bastogne and Bayeux, cheap elsewhere)

• Wear costume items (historic and fun souvenirs)(my brothers and I wore helmets to all the WWII sights)

• Buy the kids activity book at Utah beach museum.  It makes the experience more fun.

• Collect sand in a jar at each beach.  Jars are available at gift shops.

• Take photos in front of dueling KM marker zeros.  See if you can find all the different start points along the route of liberty.  Each one is marked "0 km."

• HAVE FUN!!!!

Tags: active, art, beaches, Belgium, experience, France, Germany, gift, helmet, history, island, museum, Normandy, photo, region, riding, road, vacation
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