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Help: Short jaunt to Brittany/Normandy in July

Help: Short jaunt to Brittany/Normandy in July

Old Dec 29th, 2018, 11:30 PM
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Help: Short jaunt to Brittany/Normandy in July

We fly into Paris on Tuesday July 23 arriving 8:45 am. We then have 6 nights before we have to be back in Paris to check into our hotel the following Monday.

Because i can’t take the heat and also because we’ve never been to the NW corner of France, I’d like to head out to the sea where we can enjoy cooler weather, beautiful coastline, great seafood and some easy sightseeing, including some typical towns of the area.

I know it would be easy to spend much longer there, but how can I maximize our time without going at a dizzying pace? For example what towns/cities can I choose that will satisfy my wishlist without being too difficult to get to and too far apart? And are we going to be jockeying for a room by the beach with half of France? After a long flight, is it going to be a major pain to get a train to say, Rouen?

After some initial research Im thinking of perhaps including St. Malo Dinan, Rennes...any other ideas?
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Old Dec 29th, 2018, 11:33 PM
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I would much appreciate any help. Caregiving is limiting my planning time these days, but I’m looking forward to a relaxing break for 2 and a half weeks in France.
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Old Dec 29th, 2018, 11:47 PM
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Hi, natylou - Although my pace would not likely have suited you, I saw some wonderful places on my trip to that area in 2011. I didn't write a trip report, but you'll find my more-or-less final itinerary, and some GREAT advice from fellow Fodorites, in this old thread:
Seeking Diverse Experiences in Western France – Please Critique Itinerary!

I don't think you'll have a problem getting to Rouen (which is a delight, IMO) by train after your flight. And FWIW, I was disappointed in St. Malo, which I thought too stage-setty; others love it. In contrast, I adored Dinan, Ploumanaç'h, Honfleur, ...

Hope that helps!
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Old Dec 30th, 2018, 05:29 AM
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There are dozens of places where you can chill out by the sea, see some famous historical sites, eat great seafood, visit museums and galleries and markets, etc. Those would include Bayeux, Caen, Honfleur, Deauville, Trouville, Arromanches and all the towns along the D-Day beaches, Rouen, St-Malo (my reaction was the same as kja's), and plenty of others. If you want to include Brittany (where Rennes is located), that opens up a whole new spectrum. There are lots of websites and guidebooks devoted to NW France.

Not sure I understand your question about getting a train to Rouen once you land in Paris. This should be arranged ahead of time. So should your lodgings - yes, you will be competing with thousands and thousands of visitors at that time of year.

And how do you plan to travel around once you get there?
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Old Dec 30th, 2018, 05:55 AM
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We spent a brief four nights in Brittany/Normandy in October at the tail end of a 6-week European trip. However, with a car, we did see a lot, although, of course, it was merely an introduction for us for future travel there. Our one day with American D-Day sites was fantastic and probably sufficient for us. Please be aware that 2019 is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, so, at times, there may be bigger crowds and perhaps more events. Mont-Saint-Michel was certainly a highlight. We had two excellent apartments, via airbnb, in Dinan and Bayeaux as our bases. Our trip report, if interested, is here: Brittany/Normandy/D-Day 4 nights. October
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Old Dec 30th, 2018, 06:08 AM
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23rd July is entering high season. The likes of Honfleur, Ouistreham, Bayeaux, St Malo, DInan will be filling or filled up, but generally unless you are part of a large group getting meals will be easy but remember the French eat lunch 12 to 1 (as a start time) only in very busy places (like St Malo) will you find dining in the afternoon. I'd book rooms in the next few months. Do look out for gite (gite-de-france) or B&B especially using the google maps features as staying in the countryside can be a real pleasure. Chambre-d'hotes is also interesting, a B&B of a type and can include table-d'hotes (where you eat with your hosts).

I've never enjoyed Deauville or Trouville but hey each to their own.

Traffic can be slow between towns and certainly down on the beach roads.
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Old Dec 30th, 2018, 09:09 PM
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Kja thanks for your answer. Your planning thread has some wonderful ideas, thanks for the link. I’m going to read it again and take some notes.

St Cirq, thank you, it seems we won’t have a difficult time to find some great places to visit. I should add that we want to take the train to Rouen, then rent a car for the duration until we’re ready to return to Paris.

My question about the train was not worded well. There doesn’t appear to be any trains leaving directly from CDG for westerly locations. It seems that we would have to get into Paris to Gare du Nord to get the train to Rouen, which in turn takes approximately 2 hours. We may also have a few hours waiting time. This will be after a 14 hour flight. So I’m battling with the decision to stay in Paris one night to recover from jet lag, or to bite the bullet and go straight to Rouen.

Whitehall, thanks for the heads up. I think we will leave the D-Day beaches for another visit, and perhaps Mont-Saint-Michel also, because of summertime crowds. Thanks too, for your link; I will be most interested to read your report.

Bilboburgler I shall certainly be making reservations as soon as I have an itinerary. After reading these trip reports again, I think I’ll feel more focused on which areas I want to research.

Point taken about the traffic; it would suit me to do less driving around and more relaxing in a great town or two, but still want to see some of the coastline.
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Old Dec 30th, 2018, 10:08 PM
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OMG, a 14 hour flight!?! Ouch!

I think people differ in how we would try to manage that. I must admit that I prefer to push on if at all possible, so that I can really sleep and relax once I do get where I’m going, but I know that others feel very differently. I didn’t see it if you said where you would be starting, but I’m sure you know that the research shows that traveling east is generally harder than traveling west, so take that into consideration. And with such a short trip, note that another option – if it makes sense given your constraints – would be to go to Rennes ASAP and then work your way east (rather than going to Rouen and then moving west). Rennes is, IMO, a charming city, well worth spending a night or two.

I’m glad you found my planning thread useful! From what I can tell, most of the options discussed in that thread remain much as they were.

And FWIW, if you are interested in the Côte de Granit Rose, I loved my stay (and meal) at the Hotel des Rochers, which still gets very positive reveiws. It offered easy access to that stunning section of the coast; and to tiny Tréguier with it's non-rectilinear cathedral cloister; several of the fascinating calvery closes in the area; and even some of the intriguing prehistoric stone monuments in the area. If I'm ever fortunate enough to return to Brittany, I can easily imaging roosting there for a few days.
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Old Dec 31st, 2018, 03:19 AM
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kja gives you good advice. We love Normandy but have always found train connections from CDG difficullt, involving as you have already found out, a stop in Paris before moving on. Having had an unfortunate experience using the RER to get into Paris with our luggage, we take the taxi (now 50 euros standard fare, I believe) to the appropriate train station and move on from there. Again, kja's advice to bite the bullet and make your first Normandy stay as far west as you intend to go, is spot on. Then work your way back East to make your final stop before or in Paris and fly home.

Normandy (and Brittany) are among our favorite destinations anywhere. Summer markets in the area are fantastic. You are in for a treat.
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Old Dec 31st, 2018, 04:05 AM
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StCirq—I’m confused by your comment that the train to Rouen should be arranged before arrival at CDG. We are also flying into Paris and immediately heading to Rouen. I thought that since it is an IC train, we could wait to buy tickets upon arrival since there is no price savings. That way we don’t have to worry about flight delays making us miss our train. Is this incorrect?

Hope I have not hijacked this thread and that my question is helpful to the OP.
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Old Dec 31st, 2018, 06:38 AM
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Digby, I was assuming, maybe stupidly, that the OP would choose to get on a TGV at CDG and get to Rouen through either Massy or Lille, which to me would be simpler than going into Paris to the Gare St-Lazare (NOT the Gare du Nord!) and catching a train from there. If you did the latter, it would be an IC train, but there are also discounts to be snagged on them for booking in advance. It's the TER trains that never change prices and offer no reservations.
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Old Dec 31st, 2018, 09:42 AM
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Yes book either of those three routes StCirq gives early to get discounted fares before they disappear - lots of discounts on TGV trains but like StCirq says not as much on IC trains which for folks landing and taking trains out is great as you can just buy a ticket on the next train from Gare St-Lazare which you can easy reach by airport shuttle from CDG or not too hard via RER trains. You may want to return your car at say Rennes and blast back to Paris via TGV after touring Brittany.
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Old Dec 31st, 2018, 10:34 AM
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kja, palenq, St Cirq, thanks for the info. I don't know what websites I've been looking at, usually stick to OUI.sncf app, but maybe I need to look elsewhere. I HAVE now seen there is a direct train from CDG to Rennes, which might be the thing to do, as it makes sense to me to get as far west as possible. Then we could stop at Rouen on the return.

JulieV thanks for that, are there any favorite spots of yours that you would recommend?
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Old Dec 31st, 2018, 03:32 PM
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I did find three direct TGV trains to Rennes - a nice city but also close to MSMichel, Dinant, St-Malo, etc. One departs about 8:45am - 12:45 am - and about every four hours. Do that and drive in a loop towards Rouen where you can return the car and take train to Paris - Giverny is quite close to Rouen. Booking TGVs early could mean a huge discount - anyway check www.trainline.eu also for French tickets at same price as on oui.sncf and easier for some to use. www.seat61.com has great tips n booking own tickets online - general info trains BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com.

Be sur IMO to stay overnight at MSMichel so you cann glimpse the Mount all illuminated at night from across the bay (a hotel cluster is there) and from walking around the island at night after tour buses have left- they used to have a son-eet-lumiere of sorts in the old abbey with each room illuminated with special effects and piped in mood music.
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Old Dec 31st, 2018, 04:53 PM
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You will have a car? My favorite coastal town is Veules les Roses. It won't take long to visit, but a walk up or down the steep hill to the coast takes you past a rushing river, old mills, a watercress field, half-timbered houses, restaurants and tearooms, down to a beach, part of which is sandy.

Varengeville sur Mer sits above the coast. It's a wealthy, shady, spread-out town. It has two wonderful gardens, the English-style walled garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll, and Vasterival, which takes an unusual tack in arranging shrubs and trees for long views. Vasterival requires reservations. The Manoir d'Ango is nearby, well worth a visit.

La Maison Henri IV à Saint-Valery-en-Caux is an amazing half-timbered house. We visited Eu and Le Treport and enjoyed both but don't highly recommend them. I think you could skip Dieppe. We're not fans of St Malo but most people seem to love it. We didn't like Honfleur purely because of the crowds. Architecturally it looked very interesting so I think our timing was just off that day.

I think Mont Saint Michel is one of the greatest sights of France. We went once and barely remember details of our visit but we did love it, and now when we catch sight of it from our car it is still a thrill.

There’s a lot of inland Normandy to discover, but that’s for your next trip!
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Old Jan 1st, 2019, 04:37 AM
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To answer the question about favorite spots in Normandy and Brittany, I have to say many. Unfortunately they can be crowded but the one everyone (else) loves that we find most crowded of all and our least favorite is Mt. St. Michel. You are getting good advice to stay not on the Mont but across from it to see the views. I would also say to go as late as you can (someone else may know more about the tides to advise you) so that the crowds will be diminished. So that aside, here are our favorites--with dining recs for our favorite places within the towns.

Cancale--right on the sea with a town above it, but crowded like so many places --We like Surcouf,and Quirien to dine. Place is a bit hotel poor but we've been satisfied with Mere Champlain
St. Malo--Bistro du St. Malo has great vibe and good food. Put me in the group that really likes this town.
Honfleur--our favorite. Brave the crowds at the Saturday market to see one of the best in France IMO. Dine at Cote Resto by St. Catherines church on the square and at , Le Vieux Honfleur on the Basin
Fecamp--see the Benedictine liquor headquarters, fabulous building
Etretat--hopelessly crowded but the views are spectacular, dine at the modern and beautiful with gorgeous views Huitries
Trouville--fun, if crowded, be sure to get off the main street and over to the beach, Dine at Les Vapeurs,on the main street
Other fun seaside villages and recommended dining opportunities are:
Deauville
Houlgate
Cabourg
Dinard
Dieppe--Marmite Dieppoise
Bayeaux--Lion d'Or, a hotel down a ways from the main street but walkable
St. Aubin sur Mer--Close Normand (this is a hotel directly on the beach just north of Caen. It is old, inexpensive but very clean and well run with delicious meals included--a trip back to the past with a good location for exploring the WWII cemetaries and landing beaches.
I second the rec for Varengeville where we loved the garden Moustiers.
Brittany and Normandy are among our favorite destinations. Enjoy.
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Old Jan 1st, 2019, 10:51 PM
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Kja, Hotel des Rochers looks like a beautiful spot, thank you.

Coquelicot i will put those two towns on my list. They both look wonderful.

JulieV I really appreciate your suggestions, and especially restaurant recommendations.

I think I’ve narrowed it down a bit to a night in Rennes, two nights on the Emerald Coast and three nights perhaps Honfleur or close by. Then drop the car in Rouen and have a quick look around before taking the train to Paris.

I can see a return trip at a slower pace in the future at a slightly quieter time.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2019, 07:23 PM
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You might add a night to Rouen, which has much to offer. You could, perhaps, take it from Honfleur, which is charming, but very small. Just a thought!
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Old Jan 3rd, 2019, 01:15 AM
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Not to step into Paris and St Lazare or Montparnasse stations, you may indeed take direct trains from CDG airport to Brittany (Rennes or Nantes) and then change train if you want to reach other parts of Brittany (St Malo, Vannes, Brest, Quimper...). Two or three bases are probably enough for the time you have, not to be in a permanent rush, and then the north coast of Brittany (including the Emerald coast) is the most convenient to combine with Normandy, with Mont St Michel at the "border" between the two regions. You may find some additional ideas about places to visit on the Breton side on Itineraries in Brittany
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Old Jan 3rd, 2019, 01:43 PM
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Kja that’s a good suggestion, I might just do that, although we’ll have a full 10 days in the city (Paris) after this. But I’ve got to see that famous cathedral in Rouen for sure!

Shamouel thanks for confirming my itinerary is a good one. Lovely website, thanks.

Now I’m wondering where to stay along the Emerald Coast where we can be overlooking the ocean without being too far from St Malo and Dinan? I fear the Côte de Granit Rose may be a bit far.

Last edited by natylou; Jan 3rd, 2019 at 01:46 PM.
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