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Brittany and Normandy: questions ad nauseum

Brittany and Normandy: questions ad nauseum

Apr 15th, 2008, 07:12 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 143
Brittany and Normandy: questions ad nauseum

Sorry to double post, but I realized our first thread (http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...2&tid=35121038) was not in the France forum, so keeps sinking. My sister (mowrites) and I are planning a trip to France with three nights in Paris, four nights in Normandy and/or Brittany, then one more night in Paris. We're all set for lodgings in Paris, but are a bit overwhelmed with the Normandy and Brittany options. Is it reasonable to try to visit both regions in four days, or would you recommend picking just one?

We generally try to follow a two-night rule -- that is, that we stay at least two nights in one place -- though it's not always practical. We're trying to figure out if there are two towns or cities we can pick that will allow us to see a lot without feeling like we're sprinting from place to place. We would definitely like to see Mont-St.-Michel, though I've seen conflicting comments about whether to stay there (if we did we'd presumably have to violate the two-night rule, as it doesn't seem like a good home base). I keep fluctuating on the D-Day beaches because of time. Other than that we've seen so many nice towns referenced here and elsewhere -- it's hard to narrow it down. Quimper seems like a nice place to stay, but perhaps not central enough. Dinan, Bayeux, Honfleur, and Rennes also sound lovely.

We will be renting a car and are considering taking the train from Paris to Rouen or Caen or some other place rather than picking up the car in Paris. Any thoughts? (I'd originally thought we might want to skip Rouen as being too big a place to buzz through, but I've read some advice to take the TGV there and rent a car.)

We also want to be sure we can get back to Paris fairly early on the last day, so we can relax a bit there on the day before we fly home. (So, in other words, we shouldn't stay as far as Quimper or thereabouts on the 4th night.)

Finally, how would you estimate driving times in these regions? For example, in Ireland I wouldn't expect to average more than 30 to 40 miles an hour on average (and some places much less). I checked distances between places on mappy and for each combination I put in they indicated the vast majority of the distance was motorways, which suggests you can make decent time. But I've never driven in France.

Thanks in advance -- I know this is a lot of questions. And thanks to those who commented in the prior thread.
Doriana is offline  
Apr 15th, 2008, 08:15 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
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I don't like to do one-night stays either, but on our trip last spring, we picked up a car at Gare du Nord about 1PM, drove to Giverny for a few hours till they closed, made a quick photos stop at Les Andelys (Richard the Lionheart's castle), then continued to Honfleur, getting in very late. Spent the next day in Honfleur (get up early to see the harbor in mist! 6AM), drove to Bayeux in the mid afternoon (with a quick stop at the Pegasus bridge), stayed 2 nights in Bayeux, then continued to Mont. St. Michel for one night. So my original plan which was to stay in Bayeux for 4 nights morphed into 1 night each in Honfleur and Mont. St. Michel, and 2 nights in Bayeux. With a lot of tweaking, it all worked out and we even to got to have a private tour of the landing beaches on the day we continued onward to Mont St. Michel. BTW, we stayed on the mount, and I thought it was really worth it. Especially since we had it to ourselves in the evening and got to run around on the ramparts at night and see it all lit up.

I did it because I really wanted to see all these places and this was the only way I could figure out to do it without backtracking too much. It was hectic. Really depends on whether you want to squeeze in whatever sightseeing you're interested in, or whether you want to take it easier.

I think to add Brittany to the mix would really be too much.

I'll let others answer the question about driving times, but check out www.viamichelin.com. We found that info to be pretty accurate.

If you want hotel info, just email me. [email protected] Or look at my reviews on TripAdvisor. Same screen name.

Have fun!
MECindylou is offline  
Apr 15th, 2008, 08:35 PM
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Thanks! How was driving out of and into Paris itself?
Doriana is offline  
Apr 15th, 2008, 09:46 PM
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I was so concerned about the same thing...we arrived on the Eurostar from Londond and didn't want to waste time doing the metro or train to another location and then getting a car, but I was also worried about driving in Paris, finding our way, etc. I posted ad nauseum about it on a few forums.

Well, we decided to buy a GPS since we had been told it wasn't possible to get a car with it unless we p/u at CDG, and buying one seemed like a better idea than renting one (moeny-wise). So, I almost had a heart attack when the rental car guy told me the car had GPS. I'm sure he thought we would be happy with the upgrade, but I was thinking, "We just spent $700 for nothing!"

But I digress. I've gotten over it...pretty much.

There are probably a million posts about this subject around, but I'll just say that if you're able to pick up the car more towards the outskirts, and you think it's not going to be a really bad traffic time (not sure how you figure that out - maybe post a new topic!) it should be OK. The GPS did help. It took us right out in a seemingly direct fashion to a periphery road, past La Defense (that looks so cool!) We did have to sit in about 20 minutes of stopped traffic, which was bugging me because I wanted enough time at Giverny. Having the GPS made us worry less about getting lost and getting stressed in the city.

BTW, if you do get a GPS, they work great sometimes, but other times, they can lead you astray, so use a map, too. One person drives, the other navigates with the map. When in doubt, follow the maps and the street signs.

Also, I noticed you said you wanted to see the D-Day beaches. I don't know how many are in your party, but if you have 3 or 4, it might be a reasonable option to have a private guide. We had one, and it was great! Not only did we buzz around without getting lost, wasting time, etc., we learned so much more than if we did it on our own, and we got to work it out so we could tour all day and then drive to Mont St. Michel after dropping him off at the Carentan, so we didn't have to drive all the way back to Bayeux...This was part of my intricate, non-time-wasting plan to fit everything into 4 nights.
MECindylou is offline  
Apr 16th, 2008, 04:33 AM
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If we do try to fit in both Normandy and Brittany, is Rouen worth the trip? I have read both positive and negative comments about the city.
mowrites is offline  
Apr 16th, 2008, 05:38 AM
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Rouen is on the way from Paris to the D-Day beaches, so it is easy to make a stop there.

Rouen is a quaint historic town and historically significant (Jeanne d'Arc was burnt on the marketplace, today there is a monument).

It is a good place for a stroll and maybe sipping a cup of coffee in one of the restaurants and cafés around the market square. It may be enough to spend there an hour or two.

I personally find the Seine valley quite attractive. The small town of Jumieges has impressive ruins of an abbey.

I hope I could help you with these remarks.
traveller1959 is offline  
Apr 16th, 2008, 05:49 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
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We rented a car a car at the Europecar office at 8 Ave. Foch (right by the Arc de Triomphe). We left Paris late morning (maybe about 10 or 10:30 am) and 2 hours later after a very easy drive on almost all expressway roads, we were at the Memorial Museum in Caen. It couldn't have been any easier.

All in all, we found the driving in France to be very easy. For most of our travels in Normandy and to Mont St. Michel we were on expressways until we were within a short distance of our destination.
Momof3sons is offline  
Jun 21st, 2008, 01:25 PM
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sglw is offline  
Jun 21st, 2008, 01:55 PM
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We just did our driving trip through Normandy in April. If you're doing 4 days you definetly need to just limit you trip to one region. We took 12 days to do our trip (included 3 nights in Paris). Rented our car at the airport upon arrival and then headed toward Normandy. We didn't find navagating the ring that bad since we come from a major city (Phoenix) where the traffic is horrible during rush hour anyway. As ME Cindylou said, we ended up doing several 1 night stays simply because we didn't want to backtrack either, although we did stay 2 nights in Bayeux to see WWII sights. We spent the night in Rouen after doing Giverny and Les Andlys and we actually enjoyed Rouen very much. Stayed downtown at the Mecure which is not a real upscale chain, but the location could not be beat. Plus they had an underground parking garage that once we parked, we never needed our car again. We walked all over and really enjoyed it so I would recommend stoping. We stayed in Honfleur which was a cute port town and then stopped at the Caen museum before heading for two nights to Bayeux. From there we headed to Mont St. Michel and while we didn't stay on the Mont we stayed up in the area. Went to Dinan and cut down through Angers all the way down to Amboise and stayed there. Dropped our car off in Versailles after seeing Chartres and other stops and then headed into Paris. So - you can definetly use up your 4 nights in Normandy alone.

Speed limits on the highways if you took the toll roads was 80 - 120 KMP depending on the weather conditions. Just like being on an interstate here. Side roads and small towns made the drive longer, but I enjoyed that too. If time is a factor plan your route with the toll roads. Any quesitons, feel free to e-mail me
patandhank is offline  
Jun 21st, 2008, 02:29 PM
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We just got back a couple of weeks ago from both Normandy and Brittany--19 days in all.

If you see nothing else, do see Omaha Beach and the American cemetery--both easy to find.

If you click on my name and scroll back a couple weeks, my report starts "Paris When it Sizzles/What the Germans saw at D-Day" etc.

We also spent many "one nights" in order to hit everything I wanted to see. We spent one night in Honfleur, two in Bayeux, one near the causeway so we could see Mont St. Michel, etc.

If you only have 4 days I would not try to do Brittany. Check my report.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Jun 21st, 2008, 08:45 PM
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travelgirl2 is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2008, 12:52 AM
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We just got back from 10 days in Brittany and did see Mont St Michel as well. You can read our trip report and see our pics here:


I would have HATED Mont St Michel if we hadnt stayed the night. It was mid-May and we arrived at 3pm and there were HORDES of tourists...it was hard to even walk up the road, felt like we were swimming up stream. However, at 6pm everyone was gone and we basically had it to ourselves. The next morning we got up early and went to the Abbey and had it to ourselves. It was wonderful. Plus we got some amazing night shots of it all lit up. I would definitely say stay overnight.

Happy Travels!
jamikins is offline  

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