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Mont St Michel / D Day Beaches side trip advice please!

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Hello! My husband and I are spending 10 days in Paris in late September. We are planning to spend the first 5 nights in Paris, before doing a 3 night side trip to visit Mont St. Michel / D-Day Beaches. We'll return and have two final nights in Paris before heading home. I've been working on the side trip portion of the trip and would love any feedback!

Sat 9/24: Take train to Caen, rent a car and drive out to Cancale / St. Malo area. Relax, explore, eat oysters.

Sun 9/25: Take our time and head over to Mont St. Michel. Spent the night in a hotel across the water.

Mon 9/26: Visit Mont St. Michel very early in the morning before it gets mobbed. Head over directly to check out some of the D-Day sites and/or the Bayeux tapestry. Spend the night in Bayeux.

Tue 9/27: Take an early train back to Paris

My Questions:

I'm not the biggest fan of moving hotels every night but seems necessary if we are to fit everything in. Does my plan above seem doable? I know it seems a little rushed, but still enjoyable I hope? Any suggestions or recommendations for hotels or restaurants?

I looked up trains from Paris to Caen. The SNCF website said it was too early to book, but the RailEurope website had options for 56 euros each way per person. It leaves Paris St Lazare at 10am, transfers at Rouen (47 min transfer time), and arrives in Caen at 2:43pm. It also looks like there is a $18 booking fee, and is flexible/90% refundable up to departure. Is 47 minutes enough time to make that transfer and is it a good price? I think read somewhere that you could get much cheaper tickets through SNCF - should I hold off until they become available? Does the date/time of my trip also make a difference?

For the car rental in Caen, any recommendations for which rental agency to use?

Thank you!

  • Report Abuse

    A few questions:

    - Why not put all of your time in Paris at the end of your trip so you don't have to change hotels yet again? I applaud your plan to avoid renting a car for a day or two until you recover from jet lag, but I think you could do that without staying in Paris first.

    - Are you sure you would have time for both the D-Day sites and Bayeux tapestry on Monday 9/26? I haven't visited the D-Day sites, but was under the impression -- perhaps mistaken -- that it would be difficult to do both in the same day. Or maybe you don't think the tapestry worth the time? I thought it well worth a couple of hours, but YMMV. Which is to say: You might want to give Bayeux a bit more time. ;-)

    - How committed are you to giving time to Cancale and St. Malo? I must admit that I was a bit disappointed with St. Malo -- and that isn't something I often say. It seemed a bit sterile and stage-set-like to me, and too full of tourists even in shoulder season. To be clear, I'm glad I had the chance to walk it's walls and see it at low and high tide; I just didn't think it was otherwise very interesting. YMMV. I skipped Cancale -- from what I read, one could get oysters that would be at least as good elsewhere, but then again, I've read some inconsistent commentaries about that question. (Nothing is easy! Sigh.)

    - I visited Mont St. Michel when it still had a causeway that was closed to cars at night, at least during spring tides -- and I was there during a spring tide. FWIW, I am incredibly glad that I stayed on the isle overnight: Despite the overpriced lodging and food, I found walking around after the sunset extremely evocative. I know many speak of the delight of seeing the Mont from a distance -- but I don't think I missed that: I simply walked out the causeway far enough to see it, and then returned. The view from the shore would, I think, be far more distant. And being ON the island certainly made it easy to see the monastery before the masses of day trippers reached it. Again, maybe things have changed with the change to the access routes....

    I'm sure you'll have a wonderful trip no matter what you decide and hope these observations prove helpful.

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    9/26 doesn't work at all. No way can you see MSM, then drive from there, and then do the next two MAJOR sites.

    I'd try to carve out a longer time in Bayeux (the tapestry deserves a couple hours after you get in and the cathedral is a marvel!) and DEFINITELY at least one entire day to do a tiny bit of the D-Day beaches. I'd not recommend you try to do both in the same day at all.

    Caen's WWII museum is wonderful, too.

    We did not visit S. Malo, but I'd say maybe scrap that. So, I'd say rethink.

    What if you drove from Paris to MSM. Saw it, even if some crowds still there. But stayed after most left and enjoyed it in the evening. Spent the night. Next morning (maybe real early) head to Bayeux.

    Then spend either whole day there, or we were able to also squeeze in a quick trip to Caen for a couple hours in its WWII museum.

    Then from Bayeux the next dy have whole day to see some DDay sites.

    And we LOVED staying in a chamber d'hote which was a working farm in the Bayeux area--La Ferme du Pressoir. From it (arrived late after our whole day at MSM), we spent one day in Bayeux and Caen and the next day on the Normandy sites. Out of the places we've stayed in France, Spain, and Germany, this was our favorite.

    Don't know about car pick up and rental in your case--we did that from Paris (airport I think).

    Maybe cut one of your nights in Paris so give more time for this car trip/side trip. I liked Paris (been twice, never want to go back now), but I LOVED the other places (would revisit in a snap as well as didn't see enough!).

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    There is no reason whatsoever to buy train tickets from Paris to Caen 9 months in advance. Nor from Raileurope, there are trains all the time, several in the morning.

    No, that is not a good price for a train ticket and it isn't a good train route. there are plenty of direct trains to Caen, you don't have to change in Rouen. The full price one-way ticket should cost about 40 euro, and only about 15-25 euro bought online a few months in advance (nonrefundable) when available.

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    If you're renting a car in Caen and then driving to St. Malo the same day, it seems as though it may be more productive to train out to Rennes from Montparnasse (about 21 euros per person) rent your car there, and drive to St. Malo. If you rent the car from Rennes, then return it in Caen (3 day rental is about 150 euro with the different drop location) you can start in the Brittany area, work east to Caen for your return to Paris. Caen Paris train tickets should be less than 15 euro pp.

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