I have been a history buff all my life and like many in my age group (50+) I am especially fascinated by WW2. I had several Great Uncles who were in the war and I was just spellbound as a child when I would listen to their stories. I have visited many sites that were key in the conflict and many other famous battlefields such as Borodino, Gettysburg and Sedan. We had scheduled a 3 week family vacation with a week in Paris and I convinced my wife and Mother-In-Law to take this tour. My son was keen to go to Normandy as his grandfather and I had sat around the kitchen table discussing a future trip there. I was in several hot zones during my time working for the US Army and was attached to the 4th Infantry Division for a while in Iraq. This too stoked my interest as that unit is still steeped in the historical apsects of the Normandy operation.
We booked the trip with Ellwood von Siebold way in advance based on the advice of Rick Steves. I did a lot of research prior to this trip and it was far and away the most highly recommended tour. I am glad that I took the time and effort to make the personal communication with Ellwood regards the tour. Ellwood even gave us instructions on which train to book and at what time. He arranged to pick us up in Carentan.
Like me, Ellwood is passionate about the subject and his tour is more than just a litany of chronological events. He actually lives in a house that a paratrooper landed in and starts the tours by combining a "get to know you" Q&A along with a BUB (Battle Update Brief). By the time he finishes in his drawing room he understands who you are and why you came and you have a full understanding of the background and planning that took place. Unlike many amateur historians Ellwood understands that logistics win wars. No amount of fighting spirit can make up for a lack of operational and contingency planning along with supply.
There were 4 of us (Me, wife, son, Mother-In-Law) and another American family of 4 adults. My son is only 10 but he is quick and intelligent so Ellwood did not demean him by talking down to him. He treated him like an adult. He treated all of us with dignity and respect and took extra pains to not only answer our questions but to also try and impart upon us the emotions, personal actions and fear of the men involved that day. He did not demonize the Germans. He has respect for them and for all the participants. He took us to the locations we requested to see and it did not take me long to figure out that we were only going to scratch the surface and that I needed days to soak it all in.
The tour was paced for the group and did not feel rushed even though he kept us on schedule. Since we had made the trip by train from Paris he knew he had to get us back to Carentan early. Had we stayed locally or even driven we could have seen and heard much, much more. The day trip by train from Paris really cuts into your time.My son and I have already agreed that he and I will return to spend several days in the area and will include visits to Mont Ste. Michele and Cherbourg. We will also go with Ellwood again. He is worth it. By the end of the day Ellwood did not seem like a guide, he seemed like a friend. I hope to take the tour again soon.
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