Help with Normandy Itinerary

Dec 4th, 2005, 06:56 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2004
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Help with Normandy Itinerary


Was wondering if someone might be able to comment on my proposed itinerary to Normandy/Brittany and Paris. I have not yet nailed down any firm dates, other than arrving somtime after between June 15, 2006, and departing before August 20, 2006. This is our family’s first trip to France (Mom/Dad/Son – 14/Daughter – 13). None of us speak French. I am particularly interested in knowing if we are allocating too much time, or not enough time at some of our stops, and if we are missing any “must see sights”. (Also--would this trip be much better/easier in June as opposed to July or August?) Our plan was to fly into CDG and rent a car the morning our arrival.

Day 1 – Arrive early AM at CDG – Rent a Car—Drive to Versailles; See Palace and Park. Evening in Versailles.

Day 2 – Drive from Versailles to Houfleuer, stopping at Lyons-la-Foret and Rouen. Evening in Houfleuer. (Will we have time to really see much in Rouen, or do we need a full day?)

Day 3 – Make a day trip from Houfleuer to Fecamp and Etretat Return to Houfleuer. Evening in Honfleuer.

Day 4 – Morning in Houfleuer, then drive to Bayeaux stopping in Caen. Planned on spending 3-4 hours at the Memorial Museum in Caen. Evening in Bayeaux.

Day 5 – Battlebus Tour of Normandy Beaches. Evening in Bayeaux.

Day 6 – Bayeaux to Mont St. Michel. See Tepestry in morning at Bayeaux and then depart for Mont St. Michel. Arrive towards end of the day after crowds have (hopefully) departed. Spend evening at Mont St. Michel.

Day 7 – Morning at Mont-St. Michel to Tour and the depart in AM to St. Malo. Evening in St. Malo.

Day 8 – Drive from St Malo to Paris, return Rental Car, and spend 4 nights in Paris.

Thanks for any insight you can provide.
stephenandrew is offline  
Dec 4th, 2005, 07:11 AM
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Trying to see Versailles the day you arrive is a good way to collapse from exhaustion. The palace and grounds are vast, and unless you'll have had a relatively short flight you won't be in shape to drive around Paris and then hit Versailles. Especially not in August, when everything will be mobbed!

Your route to HoNfleur is a bit iffy also, as you'll be driving from south of Paris back up to Normandy. I'd be inclined to put that at the beginning of the trip rather than on Day 2.

Are you planning to spend the night in Tours?
Underhill is offline  
Dec 4th, 2005, 07:13 AM
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I think this is doable. You might consider putting Versailes at the end of the trip and take the RER from Paris ( it is only a 20 or 30 minute ride and a short walk to the Chateau from the train station in Versailes).

Do you have a special reason for St Malo? An alternative could be Angers. The Chateau of Angers is worth seeing and then heading to Paris.
Randy is offline  
Dec 4th, 2005, 07:30 AM
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Hi--Thanks to both of you for the suggestions. Seeing Versailles at the end of the trip(from Paris) was something I had considered---given your suggestions, I think it mightbe the most sensible thing to do. If so, should we drive and stop in Rouen after arriving at CDG? We have no reason in particular to stop in St Malo--I was under the impression it was worth a day from what I had read. I will take a look at Angers instead. Again, thanks!
stephenandrew is offline  
Dec 4th, 2005, 07:47 AM
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I agree with some of the other posters re Versailles. Add another day in Paris and see Versailles while you are there.

From the airport, drive directly to Lyons-le-Forêt and spend the night there. On the way, you might want to visit Monet's garden at Giverny. On day 2, visit Rouen on the way to Honfleur. If you have time, you can follow the Seine, visiting the old abbeys, particularly the ruins at Jumièges.

Bayeux makes a good place to stay. Make sure that you allow some time to wander around the old town. Forget anything that you may have read about the Battle of Normandy museum. It was once an excellent museum, but is now a shadow of its former self due to a dispute between the founder and the town of Bayeux.

As I read your Day 7, you plan to spend the morning on a tour of Mont St. Michel, not visiting the city of Tours, which is not really on your route. St. Malo is worth visiting, but you might want to consider the alternatives of Dinan or Fougères. In fact, depending on when you leave Mont St Michel, you might stop in St. Malo and then spend the night in one of the other Breton towns before heading to Paris the next day.

I think that you would be far better to travel in June than in August, when the roads will be crowded, the seaside resorts packed, and much of Paris closed for vacations. Temperatures will be more pleasant in June as well.
laverendrye is offline  
Dec 4th, 2005, 09:07 AM
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If you are interested, here is a web site with pictures of my trip to Angers a few years ago.

I would also recommend June for your trip.
Randy is offline  
Dec 4th, 2005, 09:27 AM
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Hopefully your tour of the D-Day beaches will include town of Arromanches. The prefabricated harbor that was constructed there was critical to the success of the invasion.

Your itinerary is a little high speed, but most of those drive times are not bad. I am more reluctant to leave the car unattended, when full of our stuff, than you seem to be.
Dec 4th, 2005, 10:36 AM
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Dinan is a very interesting town and I enjoyed it a lot more than St Malo, which was very crowded when I visited in September.

Aside from that, I would advise dropping the car somewhere in the region and taking a train to Paris. Save a long autoroute drive and confusion in Paris. Plus the train would be something different for the kids to experience.

If you are determined to drive in, getting further advice would be a good idea.

I don't get how Angers fits into this. I would also keep an open mind about Versailles with your only having four days in Paris.
RonZ is offline  
Dec 4th, 2005, 03:02 PM
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Hi--we did a similar trip several years ago. A few observations on yours...

We did our route in reverse order from yours. Took the train from Paris to Dinan (via Rennes). Loved Dinan, a great taste of Breton and an easy place to get over jet lag. Since you mentioned you don't speak French (which is not a problem, IMO) we found English to be more prevalent in Breton than other regions of France. Rented a car in Dinan (easy drive out of the city) and then worked our way along the coast. Dropped off the car in Rouen and took the train to Paris (easy connection). Rouen is a fabulous must-see if you love history and architecture, but traffic and parking make driving difficult. Dump the car - the city was made for walking.

You are wise to be arriving in Mont St Michel in the evening and then leave the next morning.

If you're an oyster lover, have lunch in Cancale. Yum!

The highlight of our Normandy travels was visiting the American Cemetary above Omaha beach. We arrived near closing time, when they do a short memorial service. An emotional experience.

To each his own, but on a 1st trip to Paris and having only 4 days, I would seriously consider NOT going to Versailles. If you must, then move it to the back end.

We much prefer June over July/August for our French travels.

39Steps is offline  
Dec 4th, 2005, 04:02 PM
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I think this is ambitious, although certainly doable.

I agree with the suggestions re Versailles and think stopping at Lyons-la-Foret and Rouen on the way to Honfleur won't be as easy as you think. Just getting to Rouen's historic core and parking the car will take time. Personally, I think it's worth stopping in Rouen, but you might want to choose between Lyons-la-Foret and Rouen. I guess if it were me, I'd pick up the car and drive directly to Rouen for the first night. You could make a short stop (and lunch) at Giverney on the way.

I think Day 4 is exceptionally rushed. You can "see" the Peace Museum in Caen in 3-4 hours, but if your kids (and you) really get into the invasion story and the displays you could go overtime on your schedule. Don't forget the need for lunch. (It might seem that I'm overly interested in lunch, but we often find we don't plan for it and then get hungry when nothing's open.) I always factor in a little extra time for navigating foreign roads and cities (two that day).

The lack of French won't be a problem, although you should certainly learn the basics of politeness and have a phrase book.
Jean is offline  
Dec 4th, 2005, 04:42 PM
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I am interested in this thread, as I'm also trying to work out an itinerary for Normandy from Paris(or CDG). I had thought of taking train to Rouen, then picking up car there. I'll be solo, and just can't handle the airport car pickup thing, and driving the autoroute alone that first day. I liked 39Steps way, picking up in Dinan, and may look into that, as I never thought of going in that direction, and leaving the car off in Rouen. I've been obsessing about all these decisions! Good luck with your plans, stephenandrew, and keep us posted.
Sue4 is offline  
Dec 4th, 2005, 04:46 PM
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We visited France this past summer. Normandy was our first stop. After arriving at CDG, we rented a car and drove to Giverny. After spending one night there and seeing the fantastic gardens, we drove to L’Isle St. Marie, a lovely castle that we used as base for day trips. From there, we took day trips to Honfleur, Mt. St. Michelle, Bayeux/Rouen, and the D-Day sights. We were there a total of 5 days. Normandy is just a lovely area. I would not go to Versailles before Normandy. It is NOT on the way!

Enjoy your trip,
walkteach48 is offline  
Dec 4th, 2005, 06:58 PM
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Interstingly, we did this exact trip in October. Our itinerary worked very, very well for us:

Into CDG, pick up car, drive to Clecy (in Normandy). Two nights at the Moulin Du Vey (thanks for the tip, Jody!), which allowed us to base ourselves outside of the major tourist towns and have a lovely drive through villages each morning and afternoon.

Rounne, Caen one day. The museum in Caen is very small and took only about 2 hours.

Bayeaux and Arromanche next day. Allow plenty of time for the tapestry--we had a slow-moving line in October--I can only imagine what it will be like in summer!

Mont St. Michel: We planned to do a quick stop there and ended up spending the night, to get the full affect of the lights at night. Spectacular. THis also allowed us to take our time wandering up the steps and through the cubbys. This was my husband's favorite part of our trip, BTW.

On to Brittany. We stayed at the Le Goyan in Audierne (again, for a different atmosphere). It sits on the Finistere River and the service was wonderful. We were in Brittany basically to visit Quimper (we've collected the pottery for about 20 years). At the end of the week we drove back to CDG, dropped off the car and took the RER to our rented apartment in the 11th. Spent a fabulous week there.

Have a great trip!
MelJ is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 11:09 PM
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sglw is offline  
Jun 30th, 2008, 03:29 AM
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I see this is years old but someone is interested so will comment.
Versailles, plus the drive to get there is too too much.CDG is on the northern side of Paris.
Try seeing Giverney on the way to a first night in Rouen. Drive up the north side of the Seine for a lovely drive. An afternoon and a morning in Rouen for us was lovely. The museum there has a wonderful Impressionist wing which we enjoyed.
In the afternoon we drove to Honfleur up the Abbey Road (get a Michelin Guide to Normandy) to Honfleur.
Caen and Bayeux seem fine. A good day tour of the battle sites is OK. We did it ourselves in a couple of nice days with nice lunches on the sea side.
We returned through Chartres and returned our car at Orly.
Gretchen is online now  

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