Keren & Sean's nerdy self-guided WWII tour of France honeymoon

February 24 | meganfinley
Europe 2010
Sean and I at the Imperial War Museum.

Honeymooners: Keren & Sean

Type: International travel

Budget: Micro-budget (under $500)

Where did you go? My now husband and I started dating after a long conversation about our shared love of history, specifically WWII history. Yes, we are history nerds. Sean and I have always shared a love of history and many of our first dates involved trips to the American History Museum or the WWII section of the Air and Space Museum (it's lucky for us we live in Washington, DC and have lots of free museums).

Poppy at the Peace Garden in London
Poppy at the Peace Garden in London.

After a year of dating we decided to have a history-themed wedding. We got married in August in Washington, DC at the WWI memorial with a 1940s-themed reception. We both wanted a history-focused wedding. We decided to delay our honeymoon so that it overlapped with the anniversary of the D-Day landing. We ended up flying to Europe in May 2010, seven months after our wedding.

Drinking a 'proper pint' along the River Thames
Drinking a 'proper pint' along the River Thames.
We spent two weeks traveling between London, the Normandy Coast, Amsterdam, and Paris. We planned a self-guided tour following the route the Allied army took on their path to Germany. Unfortunately, due to time and travel delays, we only made it as far as Amsterdam. Although, now we have a good reason to go back to finish the tour all the way into Germany!

Arromanches, France--Site of the British landing
Arromanches, France. Site of the British landing

What did you do? We started in London, vising the Imperial War Museum and other WWII sites. We wanted to travel from London into Normandy (like the Allied forces) but travel delays forced us to change our plans. Instead, we took the ferry into Netherlands to visit the Dutch Resistance Museum and a few other memorials.

Town Square in Bayeux, France
Town Square in Bayeux, France

After a few days in Netherlands, we traveled by train to Paris (unfortunately skipping Belgium due to travel delays) where we rented a car and drove to the Normandy Coast. We rented a room in a great bed and breakfast in the small Town of Bayeux. Bayeux was the first town liberated in France. We spent a week traveling from town to town through the Normandy countryside.

Omaha Beach on the day before DDay
Omaha Beach on the day before DDay

During the week there, we got to attend several town-wide liberation festivals, talk to dozens of WWII veterans, witness the wreath laying at Omaha Beach on D-Day, and listen to first-hand accounts of the war.

Memorial Paratrooper Jump, Sainte Mere Eglise-France
Memorial paratrooper jump, Sainte Mere Eglise, France.

We were even invited to stand in the landing zone of the memorial paratrooper jump into the Town of Sainte-Mère-Église.

WWII reenactment
WWII reenactment

What would you do differently? There isn't much we would have changed on this trip. It was pretty much perfection. Although when we go back I would practice my French a little more then we did for this trip. The waitress at our favorite cafe kept teasing us for switching between French, Spanish, and English all in one sentence.

Train to Paris
On the train to Paris.

What's your advice for other offbeat honeymooners? We had to make several last minute changes of plans.

Piece of the Berlin Wall outside the Imperial War Museum, London, England
Piece of the Berlin Wall outside the Imperial War Museum, London, England.
Our red-eye flight to London got canceled so we had to fly into Manchester instead. Our train to France got delayed to the point where we were going to miss our connection into Normandy. This inspired us to reroute and take the ferry into Netherlands instead. In Paris, we lost our train tickets and had to use our best (worst) French to explain our situation to a security guard at the train station. Who, might I add, even without understanding us (our French is that bad) went out of his way to make sure we got new tickets with no penalty fee and got onto the last train out of Paris for the night.

Another highlight: on that last train out of Paris, we got to ride in a train car packed full with a Russian folk band. They played their accordions and guitars all the way into London!

Our advice to everyone is to just roll with it. We had such a great itinerary and were a little bummed that we had to change them, but the new plan caused us to have the time of our lives.

What was the most meaningful moment of the trip? There were two moments that stand out in our minds as perfection.

Pointe du Hoc, France
Pointe du Hoc, France.

On the morning of June 6th, we woke up early and drove out to Pointe du Hoc, the site of an important battle. It's located on cliffs between Omaha and Utah Beach. No one was there and we got to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean. We sat there, alone, both thinking about how sacred this site is and how important that day was. I don't think we talked for a while, we just sat there watching the ocean.

My 30th birthday with family

Sean has family in England that he never gets to see. So, on our last weekend in Europe we decided to take the train to London to visit his family. This is family that I've only met once and Sean hasn't seen much since he was a kid. It could have been an awkward weekend. But it wasn't… it was perfect. This was the first time since Sean was 13 years old that he spent any real quality time with his English family. We played a family game of soccer, Sean got to teach his little second cousins how to throw an American football, his cousin threw me a surprise 30th birthday party, and so many other amazing family activities. Sometimes family, even separated by continents, just feels like family. We had such a good time we decided to make plans to go back to London next year.

Enough chat, let's see more European honeymoon photos!

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  1. LOVE honeymoons! I definitely know a few history nerds that will love to hear about this trip. Flexibility really is the name of the game when traveling multi-internationally :)

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  2. Ack, I love your pictures! I've been to Normandy– it was one of the places on my "must see" list when I was traveling abroad because I'm also a history buff. I can definitely concur with the "brushing up on your French" thing… I'm not sure I would have made it to the beaches on my own (a train and 2 buses were required from Paris) without the help of a fellow traveler I met who was Canadian but spoke fluent French.

    If you get a chance to go back, go to Belgium. It's really, really worth it– I went to Bastogne because my grandfather (who died before I was born) was in the Battle of the Bulge. I couldn't make it to the memorial for the battle which is outside Bastogne, but there was a bunch of cool stuff to see in the town itself, and the people are friendly and the countryside is beautiful.

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    • We had to cut out Bastogne and we were/are bummed because of it. Our goal is to go back when our babies are a little older and start our trail back up at the battle of the Bulge memorial.

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  3. i would LOVE to know how they did all this european travel on a budget of $500?? was that a typo or did they really do all that with so little funds? travel wizzards, enlighten me please!

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    • I didn't count the cost of the plane tickets from DC to London because they were a gift. Although I found a sweet deal on tickets (200$ round trip so 400$ total for 2). I spent a year pouring over deals to find the cheapest route. Keeping it cheap meant we had to go via plane, train, ferry, auto and a lot of walking (around 100$ or so). We also were able to stay with family and an old college friend for a lot of this trip which cut out a big cost and we stayed in a farmhouse while in Normandy which was inexpensive (less then 200$ for the week). Most of the memorials, festivals and cemeteries were free. We did pay to go in a few museums (around 50$). We ate on the cheap because the first morning there I followed a group of elderly women hoping to figure out how to get to a bakery. After chatting with them they informed me that every morning they go to a friends house to pick up the days bread, sausage and cheese (the friend makes them herself). They adopted me into their group and every morning I got enough food to feed us for the day on next to no $$. We kept pretty close to our budget of 500$ (not including the gifted plane tickets).

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    • Yeah, wait, what? Do plane tickets not count? I am guessing typo! If not, hook us up!

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  4. This honeymoon looks amazing. All the beautiful sights and the wonderful moments. I almost had tears reading about the moment you shared on D day.

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  5. I love everything about this!! And I've met the couple, which was completely random that I stumbled on this article. The pictures are amazing. And I love the food story in the comments. That in itself is so special.

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  6. What a fantastic idea for a honeymoon! I love it! And the pictures are lovely.

    I have to ask, though, because it's killing the uptight English student in me: does OBB not correct grammar and typos when they post things? Perhaps it's just me, but after a while, repeated errors can be distracting and take some of the enjoyment out of reading the post.

    I don't want to be a downer, though. Seriously, this looks like an amazing honeymoon. The historical theme is such a good idea. I would love to see photos from the wedding! It sounds equally awesome.

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    • We have a copy editor and these get checked by at least two other eyeballs before going live. But you were right. Our fearless copy editor's changes didn't take and we didn't see it in time. We're a really small team and sometimes technical issues happen. We've gone though it again for errors though. Thanks for the catch!

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      • Hooray! Thanks for not making me feel like a nitpicky jerk.

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      • that's what the Editz button is for! i looveeee that function, it makes me feel like a real editor, hahah.

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  7. We're getting married at the DC War Memorial this coming June! Do you pictures of your wedding that I could see?

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    • We unfortunately don't. Right before the wedding started it started to pour rain and we did a very quick service and hightailed it to cover. We do have a few pictures from our rehearsal the day before.

      Congrats on the upcoming wedding!

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  8. Ha! The boy and I are also huge history nerds, although he's the one with the WWII military bug (I'm more into rationing and propaganda). 2014 is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and we've always said we'd go to Normandy for that. I'm more interested in Mont Saint Michel (I minored in French in college) and apple orchards than Omaha Beach, he'll go completely gaga, so I wouldn't mind.

    So happy you had such a wonderful time on such a wonderful budget!

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    • We went to Mont Saint Michel! It was amazing. We made friends with a couple who was touring France by car and we hitched a ride with them.

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  9. Such a wonderful love story. I wish I had the courage to go on such a trip with my boyfriend.

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