A lot of people in Paris will shy away from taking a day trip to Normandy's various WWII sites. They shouldn't. Yes, you have to leave very early in the morning and return very late at night, but the long, tiring day is totally worth it. Between the Caen war museum, the American Cemetery, the landing beaches, and the other coastal sites, you will find yourself completely immersed in the touching, tragic history of the time. Seeing the craters that still exist in the ground on the tops of the Normandy cliffs - left there more than sixty years ago by Allied bombardment trying to take out the German gunners, which are also still there - will transport you to a different world, when the peaceful beaches were anything but. A good guide is a must; he or she will give you tons of interesting bits of knowledge that you wouldn't get on your own.
We didn't stop being amazed the entire day, and while you might think that such a day trip would be more depressing than not, I felt the opposite to be true. Yes, thousands of men lost their lives. Yes, it was war, civilians were caught in the crossfire, and entire villages were destroyed. But there was hope to be found in the visit as well. The stories of the Frenchmen and women who shared the movements of German soldiers with the Allies at great risk to themselves, the heroics of the soldiers sent to fight a terrible battle, and the tranquility of the area today, proving that life can go on peacefully after war - all of this and more will uplift rather than depress you. Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that good can come from bad.