Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   A few questions to help me plan for Normandy (

Iregeo Mar 27th, 2012 10:21 AM

A few questions to help me plan for Normandy
Hi all! DH and I have chosen to spend our 25th wedding anniversary in France. We will spend 4 nights in Normandy, followed by 6 in Paris. I've never been to Normandy and have lots of questions. I've ordered the new Michelin Green Guide to Normandy, which won't arrive until next month. I've done some research here, and continue to read the relevant threads. Not unlike many people here, we know we want to see much of the D-Day landmarks and museums, the Bayeux tapestry and Le MSM. A few questons:

1. We love history. Is 2 days of a guided tour of D-Day landmarks too much? Would 1 day guided and 1 day self guided be better?

2. What tour company/guide do you recommend?

3. Should we spend our entire 4 nights in Bayeux or split our time between Bayeux and elsewhere?

4. Can you recommend a romantic accommodation? (I have no idea what that really means!)

5. Can you recommend good restaurants?

6. We arrive at CDG on a Tuesday early afternoon (late October) and plan to head to Normandy, probably by train, right away. Our actual anniversary is Thursday, and we will return to Paris that Saturday. Would you suggest a 4 day itinerary? We are not adverse to renting a car in Normandy, and driving back to Paris, but feel we'll be too jetlagged to drive right after our flight from LAX.

I really appreciate your input.

apersuader65 Mar 27th, 2012 10:36 AM

I'd train to Caen or Bayeux and rent a car there. It sounds as though you're more interested in the D-Day aspects of Normandy. I would highly recommend the Caen Peace Museum at the north edge of town (on the way to Bayeux). We found it absolutely amazing. If your Normandy trip will include Mont St. Michel, you can easily drive from Bayeux or Caen in the early morning and arrive in advance of the crowds. It's a little over 90 minutes drive via the autoroute.

Iregeo Mar 27th, 2012 10:57 AM

apersuader, we'd love to see as much of the area as we can, but we know our time is limited, especially since our first day will be spent primarily getting there. Maybe I should take a day off of Paris and add it here.

waterdog Mar 27th, 2012 12:06 PM

Check out the other posts on Normandy. We opted for a one day guided tour of the D-Day beaches. It was very complete. If you are a student of the invasion, perhaps a second day might be good. We booked with Overlord Tours and were very satisfied.
As for restos in Bayeux, Le Pommier and La Rapiere are very nice.
As in the other posts for a hotel, we liked the Villa Lara, but others have their favorites as well.
It was our first visit to Normandy, but not our last.

Iregeo Mar 27th, 2012 12:17 PM

Thanks to both of you. waterdog, how long did you spend in the area?

apersuader65 Mar 27th, 2012 12:29 PM

Given your schedule, (I'm assuming a 12:00 to 2:00 arrival) I'd take the RER to GdNord, transfer to GSt. Lazar and catch the train to Caen. Across the street from the station is two different car rentals. I'd rent a car, and go to the Peace Museum. I'd also consider the Day pass, which includes a 24 hour pass to the museum, as well as a 5-hour tour of the beaches.

If you did the day pass, you could do the beach tour on Wednesday morning from Caen. Once you'd completed that tour, I'd then head up to Bayeux or one of the small towns around Bayeux that have hotels. We choose the IBIS in Port-en-Bessin, which was on the water of the port, and a few hundred yards to the Channel and enjoyed it well enough. Then Thursday and Friday would be free time for the Tapestry in Bayeux, and you could do a self guided tour of the area as well. MSM is just 90 minutes from the Caen/Bayeux area and you could easily head out there as well. If you'd rather, you could head east towards Honfleur.

I think for the history/D-day focus, your schedule is more than adequate. I'd actually suggest more time in Paris!

frey78 Mar 27th, 2012 12:31 PM

My wife and I spent about 4-5 days in Normandy before continuing onto Brittany. We flew in and out of CDG. We stayed one night in Honfleur (beautiful), one in Bayeux (more beautiful), and two in Dinan to explore the Mont-St-Michel area. We went west from there.

We mostly did a self guided tour of the region - depending on how much time you have, I would recommend driving through the lovely little town of Arromanches and spending a leisurely afternoon at Omaha Beach. Caen is worth it for the huge museum, but the town itself is big and drab.

Honfleur also has a neat avant garde museum dedicated to Erik Satie.

If you rent a car straight from CDG, it's worth your while to stop by Giverny on your way to Normandy. The Monet gardens are just stunning.

iris1745 Mar 27th, 2012 12:40 PM

Her is a little information about Normandy while waiting for the Green Guide.

Gretchen Mar 27th, 2012 01:31 PM

It would be SO much easier to rent at CDG and just start out. You can go all the way to Bayeux if you want, or you could go to Rouen or even Honfleur for a nice evening.
The Green Guide has a very nice tour of the beaches, and you can easily do it yourself. Arromanches has a nice little waterfront for a pleasant lunch by the sea.
I'd go to the library and get the old one to start your planning. It won't be that different.
I always recommend making reservations for a great dinner at le Petite Bistro in Bayeux. And of course, don't miss the tapestry.
I think your 4 nights are fine. We spent a night in Rouen, one in honfleur and 3 in Bayeux, and had sufficient time. We drove back to Chartres, and then on to Orly to turn in our car. I always like to do my outside Paris travel first as you are doing.

Gretchen Mar 27th, 2012 01:32 PM

Can you change your flights so you consolidate your days and spend them in paris?

apersuader65 Mar 27th, 2012 02:23 PM

I doubt traveling via car from CDG after a 12+ hour flight from LAX would be really a good idea, especially with the 8 hour time differential - jet lag will likely be a greater problem

Iregeo Mar 27th, 2012 02:41 PM

You're right, apersuader. Maybe in our younger days ;)

Gretchen Mar 28th, 2012 05:22 AM

Ummmm, we did it and were in our early 70's. It isn't very far to Rouen--nor to Bayeux, via the "big" road. But to each his/her own. I like to get started, and consider that a LOT better than taking a train into Paris, a metro to another train, and then a train to somewhere else, rent a car and find our hotel. But...... that's me.

waterdog Mar 28th, 2012 06:31 AM

Iregeo - We were in Bayeux for four nights last week. We initially flew into Paris, stayed a night and then took the train to Bayeux. The train is an easy 2 hours and was non-stop to Caen from Paris St. Lazare with Bayeux being only a few minutes more.

We did not feel like driving after the flight, some do, everyone has a their own opinion on this. We would have taken the train on the day of arrival, but the connection would have been tight. In retrospect we would not have made it as it turned out due to various delays. For the train we had PREM tickets which were not refundable or changeable.

For us Bayeux was a good base. We had the two tours and then rented a car for our own exploring for the thrid day. The hotel location was on Place du Quebec in the center of town. The Bayeux Tapestry was a very short walk away as was the Cathedral. We then went back to Paris for two days before returning home last night.

BTW, another restaurant we liked was Au Petit Normand.

LauraLF Mar 28th, 2012 07:35 AM

We visited Normandy 2 years ago. We only had two days(2 nights) in Normandy based in Bayeux and wished we had more. I agree Bayeux makes a great base. Our tour guide was Dale Booth(just google his name or search for Normandy D-day tours). He was fabulous and for us having a guide was wonderful. I'm sure you could do lots of research on your own but it was nice(especially for me) that someone else did the research and knew exactly where to go. He gave lots of interesting stories, showed us a few out of the way places that made it the highlight of our trip.
We took the train from Paris to Bayeux and did not have a car, although if we had stayed longer and had more time it would have been good to have one.

laurie_ann Mar 28th, 2012 08:22 AM

If you really think you will have jet lag I would spend the first night in Paris and then leave in the morning for Normandy. You can have a leisurely walk around Paris (the best "cure" I know of for jet lag is fresh air and exercise) rather than bumping around on two or three or four different transportation methods to get to Bayeus.

Also as a resource for Normandy you might enjoy the historical version of a D-Day map available from Michelin. It's known as Map 102 and has been republished since its original version in 1947. (It's available from Amazon.)

Iregeo Mar 28th, 2012 08:31 AM

Thanks to all for your recommendations. A lot of good information here to follow up on. Of course, I am only in the very early investigation stages!

Regarding the drive v. train issue: DH doesn't sleep much, if at all, on flights, so I wouldn't want him driving from CDG. While I do sleep, I know how tired I am on arrival and don't think I'd be sharp enough to drive. Gretchen, no disrespect intended. Driving would be my first choice. Just not sure it's the best one, for us.

That said, waterdog raises an excellent point that I need to look into first. We arrive at CDG at 11:30 a.m. on a Tuesday. I have no idea what the train schedule is, and whether we'll even be able to reach Bayeux by train that day.

I'm off to research that now...

Iregeo Mar 28th, 2012 08:33 AM

Great idea, laurie ann. That may be the way to go.

apersuader65 Mar 28th, 2012 10:08 AM

Iregeo, try to search for tickets. Depending upon how far out your dates are, you should get a pretty good idea of the train times. Looking at the site today, the times are the same as last March when we went. Looks like the 1:45 train would be possible. To be safe, you could certainly make the 3:10 train. You'd get into Bayeux at 5:45 or so, or 5:25 for Caen. Either way, it's too late to do a tour of the Caen Peace Museum that day.

Given your times, I'd rec. training to Bayeux and getting your car and hotel. The next day, visit the tapestry, then in the afternoon go to Caen Museum for the Day Pass - it gives you entry into the museum and includes a tour of some of the beaches, which appears as though you can do the next morning. That would give you the rest of the day on Thursday and all of friday to tour on your own.

Good luck and enjoy!

Iregeo Mar 30th, 2012 02:10 PM

From reading here, I understand that we want to see MSM in the early hours and/or late hours, to miss the midday crush of tourists. While I'm not crazy about jumping on a train after jumping off a plane, I still think it might be a good use of our time if we arrive at CDG about 11:30, clear customs and catch a 3 hour TGV train to Rennes,arriving near MSM late afternoon/early evening. We can then spend that evening and the following morning touring the Mont, before we drive towards Caen/Bayeux to begin the D-Day portion of our trip.

What do you think?

Do you recommend any hotels for 1 night in on or around MSM?


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:27 PM.