Wanted to share our trip report of the Normandy Highlight tour...the trip that a lot of people do their first time in Normandy: Mont Saint-Michel, Bayeux, and Honfleur. A little about us: We are a 30ish year old couple, not big museum people - prefer strolling and taking in the sights leisurely and like boutique B&B accommodations. We currently live in Europe so we travel a bit, but hadn't been able to spend any time exploring France (outside of Paris) up to this point.
Day 1: Paris - Saint Malo - Cancale - MSM
We flew into CDG Friday afternoon and spent the weekend enjoying Paris. Monday morning, we caught a 7:30am direct train from Montparnasse station to Saint Malo to begin our Normandy adventure. We arranged to rent a car from Europcar and their office was right across the street from the train station - super easy. We opted to prepay for a tank of gas and return the car empty - probably not the more cost effective option, but made life easier. Side note, when booking online it was cheaper to select the Saint Malo city pickup rather than the Saint Malo TGV station...even though it's the same office/place. We drove the 1 mile to the center of town and parked where the road ended in several parking lots, just outside the old city walls. We spent probably two hours strolling the streets and along the ramparts and stopped for a bite to eat. We ended up having some of the best moules and frites of our trip! I can't remember the name, but it was just before you cross through the wall onto the ramparts by the sea, with a yellow awning/sign. Saint Malo was cute and we enjoyed it. No doubt it's been made more popular of late by the book All the Light We Cannot See.
From there, we made the quick hop over to Cancale (about 20-25 min) for oysters!! We jumped the gun a little bit on parking as soon as we entered the town - there were plenty of spaces towards the market end, but we didn't mind walking the length of the town. It was neat to see all of the boats "stranded" in the sand due to the tide. We finally made it to the other end and found a half dozen stands selling fresh oysters from €4.80/dozen with several different varieties. Add €0.50 for a lemon and €0.50 for the lady to open them all and serve them on a plate. We sat right on the sea wall and tossed the shells over the edge. The oysters were so good, so fresh...so we had a second dozen! Once we finished, we simply brought the plate back to the lady to wash in a big soapy bucket. We sat for a bit and watched the fishermen tend to the oysters beds, driving out in big tractors - it was really neat.
It was about 5PM at this point, so we needed to get moving and drove the 50 min or so to Mont Saint Michel. I had read that dinner options were limited and we would need to be seated around 7pm, so instead we stopped at the Carrefour en route and picked up some bread, cheese, meat, etc and a bottle of wine for a picnic. We weren't exactly starving after a late lunch and a few dozen oysters, so this worked well for us. We arrived at our hotel - the Mercure - dropped our bags and set off for the 2km walk towards the Mont.
It was an absolutely gorgeous walk and so quiet and peaceful. We stopped to take so many pictures. It was hard to imagine that there would be crowds of people in the morning! We walked part way up the main path inside the walls - still teeming with vendors - and decided that we would save the ascent for our morning visit. We hopped on one of the shuttle buses back (they're free and run every 10 min or so to the main land hotels and parking lots) and got off at the first stop which was the observatory area on the newly built dam. There we caught the last rays of light and enjoyed the quiet of nature as the sun set. We sat and enjoyed a few snacks and beverages and absolutely could not have asked for a better late summer evening.
The Mercure hotel is just past an access gate, but still on the main land in the last cluster of hotels just before the causeway to the Mont. It's dated and motel style, but we had an interior room with a renovated bathroom and once you got past the bad carpet in the lobby, it was actually quite okay. Rooms were a decent size (huge by Paris standards!) and the price was right. I think it was about €135 including breakfast. And for us, the location was unbeatable, literally across the street from the shuttle stop and so close to the observation area. Many people argue that staying on the Mont is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (and worth the €300+), but we loved our evening watching the sunset around the Mont - it was one of our favorite evenings. I'd absolutely recommend staying here (or one of the neighboring places). There are no views of the Mont if you're staying on the Mont!
Day 2 coming up...
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