Alex Wilson, an English guide in Normandy
A few words about me...
I'm a history-buff Brit in his mid 50s who has been living in France for the last 30 odd years. So I'm something of an Anglo-Norman now, and if English is my mother-tongue, my French is nigh-on perfect too.
I graduated from Oxford University with a First in Modern History. Then, after extensive experience in international advertising and an MBA to add to the MA, I set up and ran a small literary publishing house in Paris for nearly 15 years. It was during this time that I bought a small fisherman's cottage on the coast in Normandy. And I am afraid to say that the ecologically-friendly renovation of the house is still on-going !
Here in Normandy, which I love, I decided to fall back on my history background and qualify as a Licensed National Guide. I started sharing my knowledge professionally with visitors in 2010, aiming to bring history alive for them. I continue to find this ever rewarding, as I hope – and often know – my clients do.
It must be said, I'm in just the right place: next to Bayeux, with its Cathedral and Tapestry; close to Caen, the regional capital founded by our local superstar, William the Conqueror, who built a castle and wonderful churches there – indeed, he's buried in one of them; and not far off there's the Mont-Saint-Michel, Honfleur and so much more... I have a quite amazing wealth of history on my doorstep and it's great.
But perhaps above all, I live right slap-bang in the middle of the Landing Beaches. My home village of Port-en-Bessin, a beautiful old fishing port, was the junction between the American and British landing sectors in June 1944 – one side of the harbour is Omaha, the other Gold. And it was liberated on the morning of June 8th by the men of the 47 Royal Marine Commando, among whom was my late father (he was 19 at the time!). So I have a special connection to the story of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Which I love to share.
...and my visits
Not a big fan of "standard" tours, I prefer to discuss itineraries with clients first, as interests and tastes differ, special wishes can be better integrated and it is always good to retain flexibility. But together we will ensure that the major sites are covered.
It is sometimes good to remind ourselves that "less can be more": taking the time to walk a beach, for example, might leave a deeper and more lasting impression than visiting an extra bunker. While whistle-stopping highlights might be some people's cup of tea, it is not really mine.
I do not have an appropriate vehicle myself and indeed do not enjoy driving and guiding at the same time, as both suffer. Very often therefore I will acompany clients in their car. I do however work regularly with an excellent local transport company (VHP - Voitures Henri Pavard) and a vehicle and driver can always be arranged.
An extra for French-readers
Michelin published a profile of me – only in French for the moment – in the 2015 edition of their "Carnet" travel guide to Normandy.
Click on the picture or here to see the profile