Normandy’s Arromanches D Day Garden

D-Day sculpture

The recently installed Arromanches D Day garden pays tribute to the veterans of the Battle of Normandy. The garden is known as D-Day 75 Garden and was first exhibited at the RHS Chelsea Garden Show in May 2019.

D Day 75th anniversary

It was officially opened at its new permanent site in Arromanches on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It now overlooks Mulberry Harbour and Gold Beach, which is one of the five D-Day landing beaches.

Arromanches D Day garden

 

Bill Pendell was chosen to represent the veterans although sadly he passed away aged 97 in December 2018. In 1944 Bill landed on Gold Beach aged 22. With his family’s blessing, two sculptures of him have been included in the garden.

Arromanches D Day garden

At the entrance to the garden, Bill sits on a stone plinth wearing his medals and beret. He looks across at another sculpture of his younger self about to land on D-Day. Four further sculptures of soldiers show them wading through the waves as they navigate the obstacles on Gold Beach.

Arromanches

D-Day sculpture

 

The sculpture of 97 year old Bill is carved from a single block of Millstone Grit. And the young soldiers opposite are constructed from thousands of individually welded metal washers.

Arromanches D Day 75 garden

75 years separates these two scenes. Visitors are invited to consider how it must have felt for veterans to reflect on the intense experiences they endured on D-Day and the days that followed.

D Day 75 garden

The photos probably don’t do it justice. It is hauntingly beautiful. There’s a fluidity to the sculptures of the young soldiers as if they’re there but not there. I found it incredibly emotive.

D Day

The Arromanches D Day garden was designed by John Everiss and in the video below you can learn more about how the sculptures were made. Also there’s more information about the project on the D-Day Revisited website.

Where To Find The Garden

It’s right next to the 360 Circular Museum in Arromanches. You can access it via rue Calvaire. There is paid parking next to the museum or you can park in the town and walk up the hill to the cliff top.

We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE

A Garden In Coutances With A Difference

Garden in Coutances

The public garden in Coutances is just that little bit different. It’s one of Normandy’s oldest public gardens having been created in 1855. It’s also a mix of French and English styles. What really sets it apart from other gardens is the mosaiculture style used in the planting. This horticultural art creates topiary-like structures using bedding plants on wire frames.

Coutances garden

 

The theme changes a few times each year and new works of art are created. The current theme is French expressions.

Coutances garden

There are two panels showing the French expressions represented in the garden in Coutances.

Garden in Coutances

There are a couple of expressions relating to fruit. The middle one in the photo above shows a pear being cut in half. The French expression is ‘couper la poire en deux’. The English translation is to split the difference.

 

‘Avoir la banane’ means to be smiling.

Coutances garden

 

The centrepiece is a peacock. This represent the phrase as proud as a peacock.

Garden in Coutances

 

My personal favourite is the expression ‘while the cat’s away, the mice will play’. Although in French they dance.

Garden in Coutances

So, for some great fun improving your French do pay a visit to the garden in Coutances. During July and August it’s open until 11pm at night and is lit up so you can enjoy the floral displays.

Jardin des plantes Coutances Jardin des plantes Coutances

The garden is right in the centre of town not far from the cathedral. This is the view from the main gate.

Coutances

Longues sur Mer Abbey in Normandy

Longues sur Mer abbey

Introduction

In the quiet village of Longues sur Mer is a beautiful Benedictine abbey dating from the 12th century. The Abbaye de Longues or Abbaye Saint-Marie is nestled on the road leading to Bayeux. Although it’s not far from the Omaha and Gold D-Day landing beaches it wasn’t bombed during the Battle of Normandy. It had however already fallen into decline some centuries before. Nevertheless, there is a great deal to explore and you can see how the abbey would have looked in its heyday.

abbey church at Longues sur Mer

The Abbey’s History

The abbey was founded in 1168 in the Calvados department of Normandy. The first monks came from Hambye Abbey located some 70 kilometers away in La Manche department. Many of the the buildings date from the 13th and 14th centuries. The western facade of the Abbot’s House was re-done during the 18th century.

abbot's house at Longues sur Mer

The abbey comprised the following building/structures:- a gatehouse, coach house, barn, abbey church, cloister, chapter room, refectory, kitchen, scriptorium or library, infimary, lay quarters, abbot’s house, dovecot, farm buildings and various gardens. The cloister was in the centre with the other buildings accessible from it.

In line with many other Normandy abbeys, Longues sur Mer abbey fell into decline starting in 1526. Successive abbots didn’t invest in the abbey and by 1640 the nave of the church had fallen into ruin. As a result, the abbey eventually closed in 1782. Some of the stones were quarried and further decline continued until 1915 when it was designated as an historical monument.

Restoration

An American, Charles Dewey, bought the abbey in 1932 and started the restoration process. In 1964 the abbey was sold to the French d’Angeljan family. The family have continued to restore the Longues sur Mer abbey and so in January 2006 it was classified as an historical monument.

Visiting Longues sur Mer Abbey

Thanks to the efforts of the current and previous owners, you can visit the abbey today. During visiting times the wooden doors of the ornate stone gatehouse are open. The gatehouse dates from the 14th century. The owners often greet visitors and they speak English. I was fortunate to be met by Hannah, an American who was undertaking a summer internship at the abbey. We chatted as we walked over to the coach house which is immediately to the left of the gate house. I picked up a leaflet and Hannah gave me a laminated sheet about the abbey. English and French versions are available.

You can then walk round the abbey at your own pace following the numbered arrows. However, take some time to look at the information boards and photos in the coach house. They give more information about how the abbey used to look and the history of the buildings you’re about to discover.

The Visit

If you stand in the main courtyard with your back to the gate house this is what you’ll see.

Longues sur Mer abbey

The abbey church is on the left. The abbot’s house is in the centre and to the far right is the refectory. The abbot’s house is now lived in by the French owners so it’s not possible to visit. However, you may be lucky enough to be invited into the La Salle de la Source and see the spring water running underneath the building. The western facade of the abbot’s house is particularly stunning. It was re-done in the 18th century to create a good impression because this side of the building is what guests would have seen.

There’s a central path down to the remains of the abbey church and this is the first stop on your visit.

The Abbey Church

As you walk towards the church’s ruins you’ll be walking where the nave used to be. The nave was attached to the abbot’s house and created the south side of the cloister. What remains of the abbey church is the choir or chancel and part of the northern transept. As you reach the choir, remember there would have been a lantern tower here. You can visit the transept but not the choir. You can, happily, see into the choir but it’s not safe to go inside. Pause to look at the architectural details here.

Longues sur Mer

The Cloister and the Chapter House

Follow the route past what remains of the southern transept. You’re now walking along what would have been the galleried cloister. To your left are two windows which are the remains of the chapter house.

chapter house Longues sur Mer

Before you continue, take a look at the rear of the abbot’s house. The eastern side of the building is very simple and in stark contrast to the western facade.

The Gardens

The gap in the hedge leads to the first of three gardens. The first garden is a formal garden of box hedges and flowers. It’s on the site of the former cemetery and affords a wonderful view of the southern side of the abbey church. Continue through to the vegetable garden and finally into the medicinal herb garden.

benedictine abbey church

The Monks’ Refectory

This huge barn was constructed in the 14th century. The refectory would have completed the south side of the cloister.

It originally had 3 floors; the ground floor was the refectory, the first floor was the dormitory and the top floor was a small chapel. There’s some fascinating architectural detail in the refectory. The displays of glazed floor tiles and three tombstones of the abbey’s benefactors are wonderful. These were discovered in the ruins of the abbey in 1932 by Charles Dewey. There are also interesting decorations high up on the walls. Leave through the main door, exit through the garden and you’re back in the abbey’s courtyard. If you walk along the south side of the refectory you’ll see the remains of a staircase on the far corner of the building.

Practical Information

Longues sur Mer abbey is located at 17 rue de l’abbaye, 14400 Longues-sur-Mer. There’s a car park that is clearly marked from the main road. Park here and then walk back to the main road through the gate you’ve driven through. The buildings adjacent to the car park are private although they belong to the abbey. The entrance is via the gatehouse.

Longues sur Mer abbey

The abbey is open from May through to July from Tuesday to Saturday inclusive. Opening hours are 2 – 6pm. There’s more information on this website or you can follow the abbey on Facebook @AbbayedeLongues. It costs 5€ to visit and under 18s go free.

The abbey has been selected to participate in the 2019 heritage lottery for some much-needed restoration funds. You can watch the video below to see an aerial view of the abbey. But do go and visit in person to experience the calm and serene surroundings as you’re transported back through the centuries.

If this has whetted your appetite, then here are 10 more Normandy abbeys and castles to visit.

We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE

A Family Friendly Farm in Normandy

Family friendly farm in Normandy

There’s a family friendly farm less than 10 minutes from Gavray that’s suitable for younger guests. It’s called La Ferme de Lucie and is run by Céline and Benoît Hachler in Le Mesnil Rogues.

Normandy farm shop

 

I was kindly allowed to take photos of the animals which included goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, lambs, llamas and peacocks.

Family friendly farm in Normandy

Some of the animals such as the chickens are in pens but others roam free. Sensible shoes are therefore recommended as you may come across animal droppings as you wander round.

Normandy farm shop

There’s also a farm shop where you can buy honey, sweet spicy cake (pain d’épices), jam, cider, calvados, apple juice, cider vinegar and duck pâté. The apple products are all produced locally in Normandy.

If you’d like to pick your own seasonal fruit and veg, this is also available and is priced by weight. Strawberries are available from June through to the end of September. Simply pick as much as you want so there’s no waste.

Where To Find The Farm

The farm’s address is 46 Rault Bidel, 50450 Le Mesnil Rogues. It is located just off the D7 than runs from Gavray to La Haye Pesnel. Opening times from June to September are Wednesday and Saturday morning and afternoons. On Thursday and Friday it’s open in the morning only. Morning times are 9.30 – 12 noon. Afternoon opening is 2 – 6pm. Their website has more information about the pick-your-own produce and the animals you can visit. It costs 4€ for children and 6€ for adults to visit the farm.

 

For more family friendly activities in Normandy, read this blog post.

We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE

A Normandy Chocolatier

A Normandy Chocolatier

On World Chocolate Day let’s visit a Normandy chocolatier. In Granville there are two outlets for Yver Chocolatier who make exquisite chocolate creations for every occasion.

Yver Chocolatier in Granville

 

In the centre of Granville is the shop À La Marquise de Presles. It’s at 26 rue Lecampion. This is one of their chocolate counters.

Normandy chocolatierThey also make delicious melt-in-the-mouth macarons.

Normandy chocolatierAnd as if that wasn’t enough, they also have a range of delicious pâtisserie.

Granville patisserie

The quality is excellent and if you’re looking for a present or to treat yourself, then this Normandy chocolatier is the place to go. There’s even an ice-cream parlour next door.

 

A little further out of town towards Yquelon is La Chocolathèque where you can discover the origins and history of chocolate by taking a tour in French. This shop also sells a wide range of delicious chocolates as well as macarons. They are at 189 route de Villedieu and have onsite parking.

Their website is here. You can drool over their entire range of chocolates, chocolate nibbles, macarons and pâtisserie without consuming a single calorie. Yver Chocolatier have been making chocolates since 1946.

Summer Events in Normandy

Summer Events in Normandy

Brochures for summer events in Normandy are now out. I picked up two brochures this week; one was for Coutances and the other for Villedieu-les-Poêles.

Normandy in the summer

Highlights in the Coutances area include:

  • Guided tours of the upper parts of the cathedral in English every Tuesday afternoon at 4.30pm. They run from July 9th to August 27th and cost 8€ for adults. Booking essential.
  • The 40th Marché Normand will take place on Saturday 13th July. The town is closed to traffic as classic cars, tractors and cows parade through the main street. There’s traditional dancing, a Normandy wedding and plenty of people dressed in traditional Normandy costumes.
  • Zic sur le Zinc is a series of free music concerts. There are 9 events happening across the summer months.
  • A 3 day family event in the elegant seaside town of Coutainville from 2nd – 4th August. Art, sports, food, music and fun for all the family is guaranteed at this free event.Summer events in Normandy

There are also events specifically for children, firework displays, exhibitions, guided tours, walks and much more. The brochure is here giving full details of all the events.

In Villedieu and the surround area, events include:

  • Free Tuesday evening music concerts in Villedieu in the main square (Place de la République)
  • A tourist train which will run from 1st July to 31st August around Villedieu. It costs 3€ for adults and 2€ for children and you can hop on an off as it goes around the town in a loop.
  • Pony rides for children on Friday afternoon in Villedieu. 2,50€ per child.
    Guided tours and demonstrations at some of the artisan museums in Villedieu. These include the bell foundry, the copper museum and the lace museum.

The brochure with full details of the summer events taking place is here.

Marché Normand in Gavray Marché Normand in Gavray

 

 

We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE

Exhibitions In Villedieu-les-Poêles, Normandy

Villedieu-les-Poêles Mairie

There are two exhibitions in Villedieu-les-Poêles happening right now.

Exhibitions in Villedieu-les-Poêles

The first exhibition is in the Tourist Office and is called Souvenirs de nos campagnes (Memories of our campaigns). It’s a tribute to the soldiers of World War 2 who liberated Normandy towns and villages after D-Day.

Exhibitions in Villedieu-les-Poêles

The exhibition is the work of Monsieur Gabriel Bossard who is a private collector. Among the memorabilia are a uniform from a French soldier and an American one. Also included are everyday items such as toiletries, rations, first aid kits, toiletries and even a French/English phrase book. Descriptions for the display items are in French and English.

Tourist Office in villedieu

There are also photos of Hambye, Percy and Villedieu after D-Day.

Villedieu-les-Poêles Exhibition

It’s free and is only on until Friday 28th June but is well worth going to see. The tourist office is in La Place des Costils in Villedieu-les-Poêles. Their website is here.

The second exhibition is called 1944 – 2019 and commemorates the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the liberation of Villedieu. It’s an outdoor exhibition in the Jardin des Lavoirs. The garden is on the rue des Quais by the river Sienne.

Jardin des Lavoirs

Panels written in French give an overview of these two events and are illustrated with black and white photographs. Villedieu-les-Poêles was liberated on 2nd August 1944. The exhibition is also free and runs until 2nd September.

Villedieu-les-Poêles Exhibition

There’s also a display on the steps of the Mairie (town hall) to commemorate Villedieu’s liberation. What a fabulous display! These two exhibitions in Villedieu-les-Poêles are definitely worth taking a look at.

Villedieu-les-Poêles Mairie

 

We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE

Where To Buy Normandy Cider

Normandy cider

I visited La Ferme de la Butte this week to sample and buy some Normandy cider. They’re fairly local to me at around a 15 minute drive away. I include a bottle of Normandy cider in my welcome basket for guests so I wanted to check out this local producer.

La Ferme de la Butte

Products

The farm produces sparkling cider (semi-sweet and dry), sparkling pear, calvados (an apple brandy) and pommeau which is an aperitif. They also produce their own apple cider vinaigrette and sell apple juice.

Normandy cider

I sampled a semi-sweet cider (doux) which was very pleasant and you can definitely taste that it’s made on a farm. The owner also offered me a pommeau.

 

Normandy ciderAt 17% it certainly warms you up and this was before 9.30 so it also woke me up. It’s a lovely aperitif and is stronger than cider but not as strong as calvados.

Normandy calvados

The calvados is aged in barrels for either 5 or 10 years and comes in various sized bottles from 20cl to 150cl. Here’s their price list when you buy direct.

Normandy calvados

 

How To Find Them

This map shows their location. They are at 14 route Saint-Martin in the small village of La Meurdraquière in Normandy.

La Meurdraquiere

 

From the D7 take the road towards La Meurdraquière. This road is called Route du Doux Coeur. After around a kilometre take the turning on the right by looking for the signs to the farm. Carry on until you see this sign.

Ferme de la Butte

Here you turn left and then follow the road round to the right.

A Calvados Event in August

I chatted to one of the owners while I was there. She explained she moved to the farm in 1961 when she married her husband. The farm had belonged to his parents. At first they used to make cider and calvados and also sold apples. Gradually, they have added other products to their range. Their cider is sold in the supermarket and also convenience store in Gavray. From Wednesday 7th to Friday 9th August they’ll be open from 10am and you can watch how calvados is made.

I really enjoyed my visit. I bought some cider and added it to my current guests’ welcome basket. I hope they enjoy their Normandy cider.

What’s On In Normandy This Weekend

What’s On In Normandy This Weekend

Looking to find out what’s on in Normandy this weekend? Here are just a few suggestions.

Fête de la Musique

 

Normandy music

This weekend Normandy will host a series of concerts throughout the region. There’s one in Gavray on Friday 21st from 8.30pm and it’s free. Alternatively, why not go to a summer concert given by a local choir at Hambye Abbey. It starts at 6.30pm on Saturday 22nd and is also free. For the full list of events, take a look at the website to find out what’s on. The concerts range from gospel, choral, rock, pop and jazz so there’s something for everyone. The majority of the concerts are free.

Antique Fair

 

What's on in NormandyIf you quite like the thought of finding a genuine French antique, head to Granville on Sunday 23rd. This is a monthly event and is called a brocante. It will be held in the Cours Jonville which is a square in the centre of the town. The fair opens at 8am and closes at 6pm. It’s held in the open-air but the weather is due to be good this weekend. Make sure your you have cash with you and you know your French number if you ask the price of something.

Normandy brocante

Local Fair

The village of Percy is holding its annual fair on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd June. On the Saturday there will be a funfare, bands and a firework display. On Sunday there will be more music and also a parade of floats from 2pm. The theme this year is the 1970s. I’m sure some of the costumes are going to be very entertaining!

Fireworks in Normandy

For more information about summer events in and around Villedieu-les-Poêles, take a look at this brochure. Normandy certainly has a lot going on.

 

Top 3 Normandy Museums

Normandy museums

There are plenty of museums to choose from in Normandy so I’ve selected my top three. They’re perfect for museum buffs or for a rainy day activity. The three museums are in Cherbourg, Caen and Bayeux.

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Cité de la Mer

Cherbourg is much more than a Normandy arrival and departure port for ferries. There is a natural history museum, a museum about the liberation, parks and gardens and a fine art museum. You could easily spend a day here or fill in some time before boarding a late ferry.

Cherbourg

 

The Cité de la Mer is a maritime museum housed in the former ArtDeco railway station built in 1933. There are six separate spaces to visit:

The Ocean of The Future

A new space for 2019. Visitors can explore 17 aquariums spread over three floors.

Cherbourg 1944

This permanent exhibition covers the period from 6th June to 26th June 1944. From D-Day through to the day the city was liberated, you’ll learn how Cherbourg inhabitants were affected during this time. You can view large scale photos and a film to help bring history to life.

The Men and Machines Gallery

The ground floor hosts a unique collection of deep-sea diving craft and submersibles.

Le Redoutable

Visit the Le Redoutable submarine and take an audio guide tour around the control centre, canteen, engine room and cabins.

Walking into the Depths Adventure

This is a 50-minute long immersive trip that transports explorers into the depths of the ocean. On board the simulator you begin a virtual dive down into the mysterious, inhospitable world of the ocean depths.

Titanic, Return to Cherbourg

Take an historic voyage on The Titanic and travel with 50 million emigrants on their way to the New World. The fateful shipped docked in Cherbourg on 10 April 1912 before setting off on its final journey. The stories of those emigrating as well as historic events behind the sinking of the liner can be discovered.

I’d recommend you arrive in the morning to really make the most of the museum. Your ticket is valid all day so you can leave for lunch and return later. Alternatively, you can eat on site. Le Quai des Mers restaurant offers à la carte or set meal options. Seafood platters are very popular. There is also Le Ruban Bleu Snack Bar. You can grab a snack or a drink here although it’s only open during the high season.

The museum is based at Allée du Président Menut, 50100 Cherbourg-en-Cotentin. Check out the website for opening times and ticket prices.

Watch the video below to give you an idea of what to expect in this spectacular Normandy museum.

 

Le Mémorial de Caen – A Normandy Museum

The Caen Memorial Museum, Centre for History and Peace (Le Mémorial de Caen) is built on a blockhouse used by German troops during the Second World War. The bunker has recently been opened up as part of the museum. There’s a lot to see in this Normandy museum and a minimum of half a day is recommended but to immerse yourself fully you can spend a full day here. The museum covers the events leading up to the Second World War and how the conflict unfolded. There’s also a section on the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy. Visitors can also learn about other conflicts such as the Cold War and the Vietnam War. If you are visiting Normandy to explore some of the D-Day landing sites, the museum is a very good place to start.

D-Day in La Manche

You can download an app, purchase an audio guide or, alternatively, just wander round watching films, reading display boards, looking at exhibits and photographs. History will come to life before you as you walk through the decades of conflict since the Second World War.

Practical Information

The museum is open 7 days a weeks although check opening times on the website. It closes for part of January and opening times differ throughout the year. From April through to September it’s open from 9am to 7pm. There’s plenty of free parking together with a restaurant, snack bar, gift shop as well as various places to sit throughout the museum. Information about the snack bar and restaurant is here. It costs 19,80€ for a single ticket but family tickets cost 51€. A family ticket allows 2 adults and at least one child (under 18) entry although there’s no limit on the number of children. If you want to see other Normandy sites such as Arromanches 360 circular cinema or Cité de la Mer in Cherbourg (a nautical and maritime museum), then there are packages available for joint tickets.

How To Get There

Caen Memorial Museum
The museum is on Esplanade Général Eisenhower, 14050 Caen

GPS N 49° 20′ 24″ – O 00° 37′ 16″

By car: coming from Paris on the A13 or from Rennes on the A84, take the Northbound ringroad (périphérique), exit n°7

By bus: no.2 from the city centre. Easy access for disabled people.

There is access as well as facilities for people with reduced mobility.

For more information visit the museum website.

 

Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux

The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth measuring nearly 70 metres long and 50 cm high and depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. Characters include William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, (later King of England).

Bayeux tapestry Bayeux tapestry

You can read about my visit to the the museum here. The 58 scenes are technically an embroidery rather than a tapestry. I enjoyed my visit here enormously. The intricate embroidery is exquisite in its detail. I particularly enjoyed looking at the 2D facsimile in more detail and spotted all manner of things I’d not seen when looking at the original. The link includes information about each area of the museum, practical information, photos and a video.

The museum is at 21 Allée des Augustines which is just off the rue de Nesmond. It’s open 7 days a week from February through to December but check opening times on the website.

 

We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE