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Half day tour of Normandy: my very brief report about a very brief trip

Half day tour of Normandy: my very brief report about a very brief trip

Jun 20th, 2012, 02:25 PM
  #1  
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Half day tour of Normandy: my very brief report about a very brief trip

I wanted to put in my two cents worth for anyone else considering this.... it is so counseled against, I wanted to present a different opinion.

Yes, if you have the time, try to spend two or three days in Normandy to really do it justice. BUT, if you don't have the time and you want to do the tour, you should definitely do it.

I did the tour today and was disheartened in my initial research in the adamant opinions against it and the cost and difficulty of doing it. I did it anyway and loved it. I thought it was very worthwhile and like others, felt it was a highlight of my trip. I also read that the tour would be about 250$ but my day ended costing about $140.

I highly recommend doing a professional tour rather than winging it on your own unless you have vast knowledge of the history of this event. For the average person, there is so much more depth of information the tour guides have that make it worthwhile.

Here is what I did:

Rather than book with RailEurope which would have been $90 round trip, I booked directly with SNCF which was $72 round trip for the same journey. Train is much better than bus; I saved 1.5 hours of transit each way, 3 hours saved round trip. It is the best way to get there, imo.

Here is the link: http://www.voyages-sncf.com/?rfrr=Fo...d_body_accueil

I booked the 10:10 am train which got me there at 12:14 pm at Bayeux and allowed me to sleep in till 8 am rather than the 7 am bus which would have meant getting up at an ungodly hour.

I booked a tour that started at 1 pm (they picked me up at the train station at Bayeux) and went till 6 pm. It was an air conditioned mini bus with 7-8 people which was a perfect size. We went to Omaha beach and the American cemetary (which was the highlight of the experience) and Pointe du Hoc which was also amazing. Standing amidst the rows and rows of absolutely symmetrical thousands of grave markers on the immaculately kept grounds overlooking the Normandy coastline and beach as the Star spangled banner played was a very moving experience. The Memorial building was riveting as well and I was torn away after 50 minutes there. Of course, I would have loved to have more time and also do the museum in Caen but doing the day was better to me than not doing it at all. I hope to return in the future with more time to devote to this lovely area.

The tour was 60 euros plus tip so my total cost was 132 euros plus tip. I booked the 8:07 train back to Paris which gave me over two hours to have dinner in Bayeux. We ate at Renne Mathilde with a gorgeous view of the cathedral and had a fantastic camembert pizza and tagliatelle carbonara which was exquisite. The desserts were outstanding as well (crepes with hot chocolate, roasted almonds, bananas, and whipped cream). Bayeux is a charming lovely town and has a museum called Tapisserie (?) as well which would be worth visiting as well.

A link to my tour: http://www.viator.com/tours/Bayeux/N.../d909-3193NSTB

I was very happy I did this tour and think anyone with interest in history and/or WW2 would deeply appreciate it. Again, it would be optimal to spend a few days here but one day is better than none. It is a very worthwhile experience.
ncounty is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 02:59 PM
  #2  
mms
 
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I am so glad you had a great trip! On our first trip to France, we too only had one day to see some of the Normandy area and while busy, it was so worth it. Yes, one day trips are long and can be expensive, but if that is all the time you have and want to do it, then I don't see why people are so against it. We have been back several times and have enjoyed more time around Normandy, but still yearn for more.
mms is offline  
Jun 20th, 2012, 03:23 PM
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Thanks for your report. We saw the beaches, Pointe du Hoc, and the cemetery on our own. I'd love to have spent more time in the museum at Caen, but my travel partner (my sister) wasn't up to standing or walking for an extended period. Perhaps I'll give it another try some day.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Jun 21st, 2012, 12:45 AM
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Thanks so much! I found the link to the trains from a post you made YEARS ago, mms.... around 2006 or 2007.

I didn't get to Caen museum this trip, Peg, but really want to see that next time.
ncounty is offline  
Jun 21st, 2012, 03:08 AM
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Short but interesting trip - short & interesting report. Merci.
MarnieWDC is offline  
Jun 21st, 2012, 03:19 AM
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When there's a will, there's a way. I think a lot of people try to discourage others simply because they are not as interested by the destination as the person trying to get there by any means possible. The one thing to which you could obviously not do justice was the Caen Mémorial. I was there once for about 2 hours and was dragged away by American friends who got bored with it. I could have easily spent an additional hour or two and keep promising myself to go back alone one of these days.

On the other hand, whenever I go to the cemetery in Colleville, I am always ready to leave before anybody else. This is not out of disrespect or disinterest, but I have been visiting these places all my life -- all though northern France but also Belgium and Luxembourg, so Colleville just doesn't have the wow factor for me anymore, especially compared to the WW1 cemeteries in Verdun or even Hamm Military Cemetery in Luxembourg, where General Patton lies. I know that D-Day was an incredible symbolic moment, but I am afraid that the beach experience has been 'hollywoodized' by too many films and people tend to forget that the eastern interior of France is soaked with much more blood and sacrifices of the American and other armies than this relatively small section of Normandy.

Oops, I didn't mean to rant -- sorry!
kerouac is online now  
Jun 21st, 2012, 03:19 AM
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Ncounty thank you for this short trip report. Were you traveling from Paris?
Cindywho is offline  
Jun 21st, 2012, 03:47 AM
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Yes, I was traveling from Paris. Thanks for pointing that out! I just assumed I had written that and now realize I hadn't.

I hope to spend a good half day at the Caen when I return on my own some day, kerouac.
ncounty is offline  
Jun 21st, 2012, 05:11 AM
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I'm glad you had a good half-day trip to Normandy--it's an amazing place isn't it?

We were fortunate to have several days in the area, including time in Bayeux to see the Bayeux Tapestry (which is what is housed in the Tapisserie museum that you mention). It is a fascinating piece of handiwork/history and the museum is excellent. I would definitely recommend it for anyone going to Normandy.
longhorn55 is offline  
Jun 21st, 2012, 05:34 AM
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Yes, it looked fantastic, longhorn55. We will definitely see the Tapisserie next time. I was surprised my 15 yo son had heard of it since I hadn't. He said he learned about it in art history this year. The whole center of town is SO charming; I am looking forward to spending a night there next time.
ncounty is offline  
Jun 21st, 2012, 06:49 AM
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We spent nearly 4 hours in the Caen museum in March '11 and felt rushed at the end as closing time was approaching.

I wholeheartedly agree with Kerouac's thought that many try to discourage your type of trip because of their own disinterest. Glad you stepped out on your own and enjoyed your trip!
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Jun 21st, 2012, 07:37 AM
  #12  
mms
 
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We visited the museum in Caen the first time in 2001. Our kids were elementary school age and even they were engrossed in it. I remember our DS not fidgeting at all, lol.

I too think Kerouac's comment was spot on. Also, some people think if you cannot allot x amount of days for something then it is not worth going to. I say go see what you want even if the time spent isn't ideal. Nothing ever is, so make the best of what you have and enjoy
mms is offline  
Jun 26th, 2012, 05:34 PM
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Ncounty- if you were traveling from Paris how did you get there that fast?
Cindywho is offline  
Jun 27th, 2012, 12:24 AM
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It is a fast train, cindy. That is why I posted this; it is the best way to go, imo. The train only takes about 3 stops on the way to Bayeux and takes about 2 hours each way. The bus takes 3.5 hours each way. I could have taken an earlier train and had even more time there but I had a sleepy teenager who had just returned from China and needs 10+ hours of sleep per night.
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