5 Things You Didn’t Know About the D-Day Invasion at Normandy (and why you should visit)

Normandy-us-cem The American cemetery at Normandy.

We celebrated Memorial Day yesterday here in the United States, which honors all the men & women who died serving the U.S. Armed Forces. My Boy Scout troop (874 representing) planted flags one year at Arlington National Cemetery, which was a moving experience topped only by my visit to the Normandy American Cemetery. You may remember it from the opening and closing scenes of Saving Private Ryan.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZJANhWizUY]

If you’re planning a trip to Paris, I highly recommend taking the train (or a car) up to Normandy. Plus, you ought to also visit Mont Saint-Michel to get lost in the winding paths of this awe-inspiring monastery. Incidentally, I also found it to be one of the regions of France where my very limited French skills weren’t chided, which was nice.

  1. D-Day means…
    The “D” in “D-Day” doesn’t really stand for anything – it’s the term used for the day of the landing, which was subject to approval (and ended up being pushed back a day because of weather).

  2. Better late than never
    Though this marked the first decisive landfall by Allied forces onto the European Continent, World War II had been going on since 1939 (D-Day was June 6, 1944) and the turning point in the war had actually happened thanks to Soviet forces at Stalingrad in 1943 — yet more evidence that land wars in Asia are never a good idea.
  3. Technology from the swamps of Louisiana finished off Hitler
    That said, the success of the D-Day invasion was the death knell for the Nazi empire as they’d now begun losing ground on two fronts. The naval technology that made it all possible (the distinctive Higgins Boat that unloaded tens of troops at a time on the shores of Normandy) was designed by Andrew Jackson of New Orleans, who used them to navigate the shallow waters and swamps of the area.

    Hip-tip: Want to visit the history, but can’t quite visit France right now — head to New Orleans and visit the National WWII Museum, which was only the D-Day Museum when I visited, but has since expanded to include the Pacific front as well.

  4. There was a fake army faking an invasion that made the (real) Normandy Invasion so successful
    Operation Fortitude, one of the most effective Allied deception moves of the war, tricked the Nazis into thinking the invasion would come from Pas-de-Calais, dividing and delaying their forces significantly. The Allies knew how well it’d worked because we’d cracked the Nazi codes & ciphers.

    We’re indebted to Alan Turing, father of computer science, for his work that led to cracking these secret transmissions. Almost a decade later, he was charged under UK law for ‘gross indecency,’ punished by chemical castration, which drove him to commit suicide in 1954, ten years after his work dealt the finishing blow to Nazism.

  5. British, Canadians, Australians, and Kiwis also landed
  6. They don’t get much attention in Saving Private Ryan, but the Yanks weren’t the only ones who landed at Normandy. You’ll find loads of tourists visiting during the spring and summer, so don’t embarrass yourself while talking to some Brits. I visited in December and although the weather was dreary, having the beaches to yourself is a surreal and rather stunning experience.

A Sunset from Space, Solo Freeclimbing and Customizing your iPad for Travel


Rock climbing is becoming more and more popular. Even in my current city of Chiang Mai, there’s a robust rock climbing club and plenty of karst to scramble up – with ropes, safety equipment and helmets. But what about free form rock climbing, with nothing at all? The video below from North Face, showing world famous free solo climber Alex Honnold casually climbing Yosemite’s Half-Dome (in a fun, green shirt no less) with no ropes, is pretty insane to watch. 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICBrXUuwvgg]

This week, National Geographic also posted a great photo gallery of superclimbers, also pushing the limits at Yosemite National Park. Check out the incredible set of daredevil photos – you won’t regret it.

Speaking of incredible photos, this NASA image from the Earth Observatory shows a golden sunset over Bolivia, from Space. Taken by astronauts on the International Space Station, it’s a just beautiful. I can’t imagine being able to say goodnight to an entire continent from above, but this is the closest I’ll get:

Sunset from Space

In more earthly travel news, but strange indeed, a woman claims that Continental Airlines lost her husband’s body and is now suing them for damages.

Over on Intelligent Travel, the 2011 Traveler Photo Contest is up and running, with photos posted every few weeks. The competition is still open if any of you Hipmunks have travel photos to submit!

Capitalizing on the spotlight from the Royal Wedding, Antigua has decided to rename one of their beaches after Princess Diana, noting that “Barbuda [beach] became a sanctuary for the princess, and she seemed to find solace in the beauty of the island”. [via]

Have an iPad and like to travel with it? Matt Long from Landlopers did a service-y post on how to customize your shiny toy for travel, with screenshots and apps for download.

Man drives his car off the South Rim of the Grand Canyon - and survives to tell the tale. Pretty crazy stuff.

New York Times’ Frugal Traveler column posted a guide to navigating rental car fees. Given the many options, add-ons and fees when you rent a car, this is bound to come in handy.

EuroCheapo has rounded up three free walking tours of Paris for those of you heading over to the pond to France.

And in my hometown of Montreal, a new exhibit at the Museum of Archeology commemorates Mr. Indiana Jones, archeologist extraordinaire. The exhibit runs through September 18 and includes an interactive tour, film accessories and archeological finds on loan from other museums. 

Avalanches, Skydiving and Northern Lights: Amazing Videos from Around the World

This is a Hipmunk guest post from Jodi Ettenberg. Her views and opinions are hers alone and do not represent Hipmunk. 

For this post-Easter weekend roundup, I wanted to share a few videos that caught my eye. The first is from Mattias Giraud, a French skiier who climbed out of bounds in the French Alps for some pristine powdered snow. He got a bit more than he bargained for when he got caught in an avalanche, all captured on film with a GoPro HD Helmet HERO camera. Matthias was quick to clarify that there were rescue teams watching at all times, including a helicopter. But he added “like any exposed line in the Alps, a fall means death. So, you don’t fall. And if you do, well it’s part of the game and you know that before going into it.”

Dizzying, first-person view of an off-piste trail between the ski resorts of Megeve and Les Contamines in the French Alps: 

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/22669590 w=500&h=325]

GoPro HD: Avalanche Cliff Jump with Matthias Giraud from GoPro on Vimeo.

My brother sent this to me late last week, and as someone who has skydived (skydoven?) for years, I was mesmerized. But you don’t have to have jumped out of a plane to appreciate the ethereal beauty of this video. According to Vimeo user BettyWantsIn, a Melbourne-based design studio, post processing was used only to slow down the shots and correct color.

Experience skydiving without actually leaving your chair, thanks to these four Melbourne Skydive Centre skydivers, slowly floating toward the ground:

 [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/22428395 w=500&h=325]

Experience Human Flight from Betty Wants In on Vimeo.

From the enthusiastic response to Terje Sorgjerd’s The Mountain timelapse posted on Friday, I thought I would include another one of his videos. In The Aurora, he filmed an incredible display of Northern Lights, from a vantage point in Pas National Park, Norway. Braving the -25C temperatures seem worth it in retrospect – what an awe-inspiring show.

Almost 2 minutes of shimmering green Northern Lights from the far reaches of Norway:

[vimeo 21294655 w=500 h=325]

The Aurora from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

More to come on Friday. Until then, if you’re an Android developer, Hipmunk wants you.


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