getting from London to Normandy

Apr 26th, 2011, 05:12 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 1
getting from London to Normandy

I am living in Southern California and would like to visit London in 2012. I would also like to visit the WW II beaches in Normandy.

I would like a European's opinion on how to get there from London (my American license would not allow me to drive) and if I should go to Normandy on June 6th or avoid that day.

Thank you.
Jim_Jerling is offline  
Apr 26th, 2011, 05:46 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 18,992 [scroll down and choose 'London to Normany']

We're also from SoCal. If your California DL is valid, you can drive in France. An International Drivers Permit is recommended (available at AAA) but not required. I would rent a car after you arrive in France and have a good Michelin-type road map. Some people bring GPS or rent a car with navigation, but a good map works. We found driving in Normandy easy and enjoyable.

June 6th could be good and bad. Obviously, it will be more busy than another day, but the observances would probably enhance the visit. I do hope you're planning more than one day for the D-Day sights, however.
Jean is offline  
Apr 26th, 2011, 05:57 PM
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"(my American license would not allow me to drive) "

What gave you that idea -- unless . . do you have a restricted license? An IDP is not required - one is required in some countries -- but not in either the UK or France.

But you don't need/want a car in London and whether you need one in Normandy is up to you. Driving is one option but there are tours and buses to all the DDay sites.

(Both of us who have posted are actually in California but if you'd prefer a European's answer, you may have to wait a while. It is currently 3AM in London and most of our UK Fodorites are tucked in bed )
janisj is online now  
Apr 26th, 2011, 07:43 PM
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I'd love to help you out but I'm not a European. Oh...wait, I do hold a European passport, so I guess it's ok.

Why won't your American license allow you to drive? Mine has for more than 30 years.

There are several options for getting to Normandy - boats to the coast of France, the Eurostar to Paris and then trains or a rental car or a tour from Paris.

If you don't already have accommodations reserved for June 6, I'd steer clear of trying to visit on that day - obviously, the busiest of the year. Normandy, even the WWII sites alone, deserves at least 2-3 days, preferably longer if you're planning to venture beyond the D-Day sites.
StCirq is offline  
Apr 26th, 2011, 09:03 PM
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The trip is in 2012. Still time to book lodging...
Jean is offline  
Apr 26th, 2011, 09:12 PM
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Oh - and in your planning - do factor in that the 4 days prior to June 6 will be major celebrations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. A flotilla of 1,000+ boats on the Thames, the late May Bank Holiday moved to the first weekend in June, . . . Ah - but I guess I should wait for the Europeans to tell you about that.
janisj is online now  
Apr 27th, 2011, 01:13 AM
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It may take an American to know about the Queen's Diamond Jubilee next year, and the effect it might have on visitors to Europe. I certainly haven't a clue, and don't even know what I shall be doing most of this coming Friday, when there is a wedding on.

However, I have been to Normandy, and visited some of the D-day sites.

I would certainly recommend that you take one of the organised tours. We were a private party of seven, mixed British and American and had two successful days with Overlord Tours last summer. Our guide, Stephane, was a mine of information, was able to point out quite minor buildings which were the scene of important events, and knew the way from one site to the next. He explained what happened at each location, and left us to do some exploration on our own.

We did not have priveliged access anywhere, but making the same journey under our own steam would have been much more time-consuming, and we would have learnt so much less. There are other organised tours, and I can only say that we were very happy with the one we took.

Will you be travelling on your own? If so, the best route would probably by train using the Eurostar and going via Paris. If there are several of you, it might be worth hiring a car and using the ferry from Portsmouth to Caen or Cherbourg. You would then have the experience of crossing the Channel, just as they did on D-Day, but with all the comfort of a large ship. You could take the ferry as a foot passenger, but the practicalities of making the whole journey by public transport and ferry might be inconvenient.

If you hired a car in England, there should be no problems in taking it to France provided you inform the hire company. You will have the added excitement of driving a right-hand drive car on the right-hand side of the road, and you would certainly need to make the return journey to get the car back to England.

Our tour left from Bayeux, and we stayed at the Novotel on the outskirts of the town. It is a rather bland 1960's building with a restaurant which suited our purposes and is near to the D-Day museum and the big British cemetery. There are other hotels nearer the town centre with access to restaurants and other attractions, and the town itself is very attractive.

It would probably be best to avoid the week around 6th June, since the area will be very busy. A summer visit, when the days are long and the weather more settled, would be best. I don't think you cannot be moved by visiting the invasion beaches and seeing the human cost paid to achieve the world we have today.
chartley is online now  
Apr 27th, 2011, 02:13 AM
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The biggest problem is that Normandy isn't that easy to get to from London. There's the odd flight from Stansted to Dinard & Deauville or go to the south coast and take a ferry from Portsmouth but the easiest way to get to Normandy is to start from Paris
alanRow is offline  
Apr 27th, 2011, 02:39 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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Another alternative (assming you're just confused about this licence thing) is to get the train to Calais-Frethun or Lille, hire your car there,then drive. Savesdealoing with Paris traffic.

Note that no-one's actually admitted any real knowledge about June 6. There's an AWFUL lot of Norman beaches, very few local residents, lots of holiday accommodation Londoners or Parisians probably won't be using (though ther's a proud tradition in the more dissident parts of London of escaping to Nrthern France to avoid royal festivities) - and 2012 isn't a significant WW2 anniversary.

The only real objection is possible difficulty finding anywhere to stay (those beaches can absorb millions of people: there never are millions at a time). If you can find accommodation now, there's obviously no problem: if you can't you won't go anyway.

Don't assume it'll get less crowded earlier or later. May's stuffed with European holidays the French turn into very long weekends: real holidays start in July. These days, Normandy's main job is to provide the Northern French and Southern English with places for short holidays - and June's the big hiatus between Easter/Whit and proper summer holidays
flanneruk is offline  
Apr 27th, 2011, 08:44 AM
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We are planning to take the Chunnel train from London to Calais in late July and rent a car, then drive to Honfleur. Is there a disadvantage to doing it this way? I looked into alternatives but they all seemed worse: would have to spend the night in Portsmouth to take the ferry or go all the way into Paris on the Chunnel then take a train from a different station to Normandy.

I am also looking for suggestions for 1 or 2 day tours to the battlefied sites. Battlebus now only does private tours as do some of their former guides. Overlord tours is the only one I could find that has 2 day tours but I would like to compare itineraries.
FromDC is offline  

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