By air: From the US fly to one of the principal European gateways: London, Paris, Amsterdam Direct flights inside Europe: Southampton-Amsterdam, Amsterdam-LeHavre, LeHavre-Southampton (summer only) I’m a sucker for flying the airlines of the countries I’m visiting. My experience is that the airline tries hard at making your first impression a great one. British Airways succeeds!
By train: Reliable trains connect London, Paris and Amsterdam with connections to the South Coast of England, northern France and Flevoland/the Golden Circle in Holland. Rail Europe, 800-438-7245.
By ferry: A ferry trip can be a pleasant leisure part of your journey between Cherbourg and Poole, LeHavre and Portsmouth, Portsmouth and Cherbourg or Caen.
Getting around: Local travel is easy. Fine public transportation is available as are rental cars and campers for self-directed tours.
Portsmouth offers an extensive maritime history with a rich collection of historic ships you can climb on and see up close and personal. Of particular note is the recently raised Mary Rose, a four masted flagship built in 1509 and sunk in 1545. At Portsmouths D-Day museum you’ll see the breath-taking Overlord Embroidery which commemorates the city’s role as the main assembly point for the D-Day invasion, Operation Overlord. This hand-stitched masterpiece took 20 embroiderers and five apprentices over five years to complete.
Southampton enjoys a strategic maritime location which was the departure point for the Pilgrim fathers on the Mayflower in 1620. Southampton bid farewell to maiden voyages of the Titanic and Queen Mary and saw 5 million movements passing through beginning June 6, 1944. For a contemporary touch, the Titanic Trail in Southampton helps add to the fabric of understanding the true personal tragedy of hundreds of families. Visit the Grapes Inn where some of the Titanic crew drank before their journey. Trail starts in Southampton and continues in Cherbourg before its fateful final departure.
Poole is an ancient seaport whose circumference makes it the second largest harbor in the world. It was the second largest embarkation point for US troops in 1944. The Waterfront Museum tells a fascinating tale of the town and port’s history with a touch of high technology to its exhibits.
Nearby Bournemouth is a seaside resort town popular with tourists from around the world. Entertainment, shopping and recreational activities abound. Bournemouth was a special furlough destination during World War II. The building that housed Red Cross headquarters during the war is now the lovely Marsham Court Hotel with a priceless view of the strand.
A pleasant four-hour ferry trip connects Poole, England to Cherbourg, France.
Cherbourg is dominated by the Liberation Museum (Musée de la Liberation) high atop this city, a bustling working and pleasure boat harbor. Cherbourg is a departure point for wonderful tours of Normandy and particularly to Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno and Gold Beaches. Along the way, a visit to the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur Mer is a moving experience for any patriotic American.
In Caen The Memorial to Peace is an absolute must-see in an area that both understands the horror of war and the pursuit of peace with Americans (proudly) often pictured as at the forefront of making peace a reality.
LeHavre, founded in 1517 and located on the northern bank of the Seine River, has a long history as a military and commercial port. Its Port Centre of Vauban docks offers a fascinating panorama of 150 years of maritime history and trading out of LeHavre. The city also home to an exciting art museum with its impressive collection of impressionist art.
Searching for ancestors from these areas?
The Portsmouth Records Office maintains city archives back to the 14th century while Southampton’s City Archives and Central Library, Poole Central Library and Bournemouth Reference Library all offer public access to records. The EngladGenWeb offers a guide to local reference centers, listings for Parish and Census Records and links to other English Genealogy web sites (www.rootsweb.com/~engwgw/index.html).