The D-Day beaches lie near the town of Caen. On June 6, 1944, British, American, Canadian and Free French forces stormed the Nazi encampments there, the first step towards Berlin. Today the beaches are open to the public, and visitors are permitted to sit in the sand, listen to the tide and hear the ghosts of battle. The Normandy American Cemetery stands just above Omaha Beach and is dotted with white crosses, each of which denotes the final resting place of the dead. The beaches themselves are closed to camping, but numerous hotels in Caen, Bayeux and Arromanches accommodate visitors who wish to spend a few days hiking across the sand. Caen also offers a wonderful museum, The Caen Memorial, which covers the war with unique audio-video exhibits.
Mont St. Michel
After Paris, no site in France is visited as often as Mont St. Michel. It stands on an island just off shore and was originally joined by a land bridge, which was covered at high tide. The Benedictine Abbey stands at the top of the isle, and there is a small village built below. The climb is quite daunting. To make it to the top, visitors must trek up 900 steps, but the abbey and the view of the surrounding area is worth it. During its history it has served as a military fortress, a monastic retreat and a prison. The United Nations declared it a World Heritage Site in 1979, and it is now open to tourists year-round (closed Christmas, New Year's Day and May 1).
Standing 100 miles west of Paris, the Parc Naturel Regional du Perche encompasses a beautiful swatch of French countryside. Sights within its borders include classic French chateaus, mills, country villages and rolling forests, which are accessible through over 1,000 miles of hiking and biking paths. Admission to the area is free, and a number of hotels, inns and bed-and-breakfasts cater to visiting tourists. In addition to hikes, guided tours and carriage rides pulled by the region's famous horses, called Percherons, are also offered. The Corboyer, a historic 15th century manor nestled in the park, serves as a debarkation point for tourists hoping to explore the area.