3 Days in Normandy, May '18

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Apr 16th, 2018, 08:28 AM
  #1
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3 Days in Normandy, May '18

Hello,
We are 3 adults from Chicago visiting Normandy area for first time, coming from Paris.
We have 3 full days, Tu-Th.
We'd like to focus on:
D-Day sites (incl. a 1/2 day guided tour, best museum (in Caen?), and American cemetery.)
-Any particular tour recommendations?
Mont St Michel (we'd like to stay there one night, to see at night & in morning.)
-Is Hotel la Mere Poulard the best choice?
Honfleur and another picturesque town or two if time permits
We like food, wine, and scenery.
We could drive, and wonder if a car is the most flexible & convenient.
Or could take train, & then rent a car if automatics are easily available

Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you.
MJN
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Apr 16th, 2018, 08:42 AM
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I used Normandy Sightseeing tours from Bayeux for the WWII sites tour, they were excellent.

As for the car thing, what is most convenient is a matter of opinion. I find it most convenient to never deal with a car unless I absolutely have to when traveling in Europe, others don't feel that way. I hate the whole renting car stuff, dealing with that, driving in and out of perhaps confusing big city areas, the expense and I could go on and on. I love the frequent and cheap train travel in Europe. So it depends where you are going, for Mont St Michel and Honfleur and what you want to do in your time frame, it seems to me you HAVE to rent a car, I don't know what other choice you have. if you were just doing WWII sites from Bayeux or Caen, you wouldn't.

Bayeux is a very small town, Europcar doesn't even have an outlet. You can check Hertz there or both in Caen, they probably have an AT at one of those. I wouldn't call that "easily" available, though, they may not have many. Hertz has some in Bayeux.
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Apr 16th, 2018, 09:05 AM
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If coming from Paris, train to Caen. Rent a car from any of the several options across the street from the station. If you are returning to Paris via train as well, use it as pick up and drop off. Driving in Caen is NOT difficult or intimidating, I've done it twice now with absolutely no problems. The Memorial de Caen (the peace museuem) is a MUST SEE, IMO. you can do it the day you arrive, and before you go to your hotel. I would stay in either Bayeux, or one of the small towns around Bayeux. We always stay at a small IBIS in Port en Bessin, which is about 10 minutes outside of Bayeux centre. If you are going to do a tour, I would invest in a full day tour instead of a half-day. You will get a better understanding and see more sites with a full day. You can do what a half day tour would provide yourself with a car rental. (We've done both the on our own tour, and also a one day tour.) I would also consider stopping in Caen/Bayeux for the first two days - which would allow you to visit Honfleur on your own on one of the days, then trek out to MSM on your last day/night and return the car to Rennes and train back to Paris from there.
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Apr 16th, 2018, 09:24 AM
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apersuader's plan is pretty much what I have done on several trips to Normandy (though I have spent a few more days than you have at your disposal and occasionally dropped the car off at Rouen on my way back to Paris). I have never used an organized tour, but I have been told the ones organized by the Mémorial in Caen are good, and others have a good reputation as well (I think Overlord is one commonly mentioned). The Michelin Green Guide has always been my main tool for exploring that part of Normandy. The Mémorial can easily take half a day, just so you know. The Museum at Arromanches is well worth a stop, and there is no end to the tiny museums that just pop up as you're driving around. The cemeteries also take some time, and if there, you should try to make time for Point du Hoc, Ste-Mère Eglise, and at least a couple of the well-known beaches.

I have always stayed in Bayeux, never on the Mont itself, though I once spent the night in Dol-de-Bretagne, which was lovely and convenient. I've only ever set foot in La Mère Poulard once, a good many years ago, and it was for lunch, not an overnight. I found their dizzyingly overpriced omelette to be one of the most unpleasant things I've ever tasted in France, despite all the fanfare.

Honfleur is lovely if you have time, as are Deauville and Trouville.
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Apr 16th, 2018, 12:02 PM
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Highly recommend the Memorial in Caen. We visited it on both of our trips to Normandy. We had a car on each trip and I found it very easy (using our gps) and relaxing to drive on the uncrowded rural roads. In addition to all the good suggestions above, two other things we enjoyed were climbing the cliffs at Etretat and walking around the German Battery at Longues-sur-Mer. With only 3 days (one of them at Mont St Michel) you probably will not have time for Etretat but the Battery is fairly close to some of the other sites you want to see. Here is a link to the Battery. https://www.european-traveler.com/fr...-mer-normandy/
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Apr 16th, 2018, 12:30 PM
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If going to D-Day sites and Mont Saint-Michel consider taking train yes to Caen from Paris and rent car hit Caen Memorial - great orientation to the whole area - base in Bayeux drive to Mont-S-M and back then trek over to Honfleur and maybe drive to Rouen and return car there and take train back to Padris. Book trains at www.oui.sncf and get discounted fares is book early enough - can always get on most trains by showing up but can save money by booking in advance. www.seat61.com has great advice booking your own tickets online - general info trains also BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com.

You can stay on the Mont itself in some pricey hotels or in the gagle of modern hotels on the mainladn just opposite the Mont - views from Mont at night from there are mesmerizing and you can easily go iover to the Mont itself at night to savorit sans many tourists.
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Apr 16th, 2018, 01:54 PM
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Thank you ALL for such helpful input!

One last question:
If staying ON Mont St. Michel, which hotel would you recommend?

Again, many thanks.
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Apr 16th, 2018, 02:10 PM
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None, really. As you can imagine they are all overpriced and underserved because it doesn't really matter what service they provide- people will come no matter what.

Maybe there's a luxury hotel on the Mont that provides good/superior service, but in the decades I've been in France I've never heard of one or stayed in one. Désolée.
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Apr 16th, 2018, 02:42 PM
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https://www.viamichelin.com/web/Rest...-Manche-France

I don't know diddly about hotels on Mont-Saint-Michel but if I were looking for a good source to review them I'd look at Michelin folks takes and them and on restaurants with their famous no stars, *, **, or vaunted *** ratings.

If driving hotels on the mainland opposite the island are much easy to access - on the Mont itself you obviously must park well away from most of its hotels and have hotel shuttle carts or whatever port your bags in.
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Apr 16th, 2018, 06:24 PM
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Got it...my husband really wants to stay on MSM, so...we will stay, 1 nite
(Hoping we'll be pleasantly surprised!)
Never thought of Michelin... thank you, both.
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Apr 16th, 2018, 06:36 PM
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kja
 
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I could be wrong, but I don't think you have any particularly good options for either lodging or food on Mont St. Michel -- and even so, I would recommend spending the night there, as it can be truly magical after day trippers leave, and it's a delight to see the abbey before day trippers arrive. Just don't expect much. FWIW, I wouldn't spend a lot of time looking for options. I'd check tripadvisor and booking.com for recent reviews of the hotels and pick the one within your price range that gets the fewest negative reviews on things that matter to you. JMO.
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Apr 16th, 2018, 09:07 PM
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For the D-Day sites, I highly recommend a full day tour led by Overlord Tours. Over the years they have been in touch with many of the soldiers and they helped to organize the 50th anniversary of D-Day. They use lots of photos and even letters to explain what happened and where. It is often rainy and cold, so bring warm rain gear! Also, if you get there a bit early, don't miss the Bayeux tapestry which is just steps away from where you will meet your tour shuttle.
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Apr 17th, 2018, 03:16 AM
  #13
 
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As far as I know, le Mont-St-Michel has no Michelin-starred restaurants. The closest one would probably be La Baie du Mont St-Michel in Pontorson, which has 3 stars.
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Apr 17th, 2018, 06:39 AM
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Few restaurants in France, a handful have 3 Michelin stars - does not mean there are no 'good' restaurants on the Mont - take the Michelin ratings in general.
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