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Itinerary Advice - France - Paris - Normandy - Brittany - October 2013

Itinerary Advice - France - Paris - Normandy - Brittany - October 2013

Old Jun 24th, 2013, 06:39 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2013
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Itinerary Advice - France - Paris - Normandy - Brittany - October 2013

We (retired couple) are planning a two week vacation (14 nights) to Paris, Normandy and Brittany in October. We enjoy traveling independently and we are fine with making our own arrangements. We've booked the air portion of our trip, but we need to get serious about the land portion. We have been to Paris before (we spent about 10 days in Paris) and we loved the city, but we would like to spend some time travelling in France on this trip also, specifically in Normandy and Brittany. I do not have a problem driving (a stick shift) and we really like the versatility that using a car can provide.

We have traveled throughout the USA and Canada and in the British Isles without reservations (those times were in spring or autumn - not during high tourist season) and we liked the flexibility it gave us. Maybe France is different and we will need to make reservations (one of the reasons why we are traveling again in October is to hopefully avoid large crowds). Can we travel to Honfleur, Bayeux, Dinan, etc. without reservations, or should pick a place to stay and make reservations?
1. We are planning to pick up a car somewhere other than CDG (possibly Versailles, Vernon, Caen, ??) to avoid driving in Paris, then travel to Giverny and on to Honfleur. Our itinerary, as it stands right now is:

1. 1st night / Paris (get some rest)
2. 2nd night / Paris
3. 3rd night / Head out of town / See Giverny / stay in Honfleur
4. 4th night / Honfleur
5. 5 & 6 nights / Bayeux
6. Drive to Mont Saint Michel from Bayeux / Stay in Dinan for 2 nights
7. ?? 2 more nights in Brittany / Paimpol area / Carnac area / ??
8. back to Paris for 4 nights.
My ancestry is Celt (Irish, Scot, Welsh), thus my interest in Brittany. Where else would you recommend that we stay in Brittany for the other two nights at the end of our car Journey?
We hope to spend some time (limited as it may be) in the French countryside and stopping in small French cities or villages, or along the coast. We would like to stay in B&B's or small French hotels. They seem to provide a better chance to interact with local people and other travelers. In the past we have been given some wonderful recommendations about what to see, where to eat, etc. from inn-keepers and other guests in places where we have stayed. We avoid large hotels that cater to tourists and the size of the room doesn't matter very much to us. We feel that we are just there to sleep. We both speak a little French (very little) but what we don't know about the language we make up in effort. We slaughter the language, but the French people always seem to appreciate the fact that we actually try and they quickly help us with directions, menus, etc.
Thank you very much for your help.
crossen is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2013, 06:46 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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We had been to France on numerous occasions, but had never spent time in Brittany, until we went (in our case September) a couple of years ago. I'll just post a link to the trip report I submitted after the trip, which also includes a couple of days in Edinburgh prior, and a couple in Strasbourg, after. Otherwise it covers some of the same ground as you're proposing.

Gardyloo is online now  
Old Jun 24th, 2013, 07:38 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
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no trip report..but some "familiarization" pics (not very good ones)of East and Central coast Brittany..a few shots on west coast. Dinan is very picturesque and Dinard, is well, "different" as a beach resort. Walled city of St.Malo is compact and colorful with ocean views. We found the coast from Dinard westward to be very scenic, winding roads but sparse traffic in October...some misty days with ccasional sun.

I recommended (in the pix) a very nice country-side lodging between Dinan and Dinard...also one in La Baule if you drive that far west. We rented our car in Caen, turnd it in at the RR station in Rennes, stayed in Bayeux for three nights to do all the D-Day scenes (Chateau Sully, just 2 kms. from Bayeux).

Enjoy your trip.
tower is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2013, 07:41 AM
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In October you don't need to reserve ahead but understand that you'll need to allow extra time at the end of each day to wander each town or village to look for accommodation. I might suggest you do some research ahead of time and have a short list of places to check in each destination but at that time of the year you'll always find something. The tourist offices will also be happy to assist you.

In regards to your itinerary I think it looks quite reasonable. Consider exploring the Pays d'Auge during your Honfleur portion to see quaint villages and pretty landscapes, not to mention the cheese and cidre visits. Perhaps you've seen my threads about visiting Normandy and Brittany but if not I'll post them again. These threads will cover some of the highlights in each region, including all the places you mentioned and they also have links to tourist office websites:





In the Brittany link you'll find links to 2 trip reports I wrote about exploring Brittany with one vacation near Dinan and the other exploring Carnac/Gulf of Morbihan.

You could easily spend the extra days just staying in Dinan and exploring that area. It's hard to recommend Paimpol or Carnac vs. anything else as there is so much to see and do so I really think that's a personal decision you have to make based on your interests. If you feel a connection to your Celtic heritage then perhaps visiting the megalithic sites in and near Carnac is a good choice.

Concerning car rentals, just rent a car somewhere near Porte Maillot in Paris and it's a straight shot right down Avenue Charles de Gaulle and directly onto the A13 autoroute to Normandy. Very simple. From there about a one hour drive to Giverny. Sounds like a lovely vacation you've got planned.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2013, 08:00 AM
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Just be warned Normandy and Brittany can be rainy and windy and cool in October. There's a reason why it's off-season.
Mimar is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2013, 08:14 AM
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We did a similar trip a couple of years ago during the second and third weeks of October. During the second week the weather turned cold and rainy. I know that you could find this kind of weather earlier, but if you could do the trip in mid- to late-September, I think your chances of good weather would be better.

On your way from Giverny to Honfleur, you might consider stopping in Rouen, perhaps for lunch. Among the other sights in Rouen you’ll find the Gros Horlage (the giant astrological clock), the famous Gothic cathedral, and beautiful half-timbered houses. In addition, you will find there the spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, next to which is a modern church named after her. There are also lots of nice little restaurants on the square next to the Joan of Arc church, our favorite being the “Carpe Diem” restaurant.

Instead of spending two nights in Honfleur, you might consider adding a night to Bayeux, which we thought was a great little town. If you and/or your husband are D-Day buffs, you could easily spend two full days visiting all those sights. The town itself offers the amazing Bayeux Tapestry, dating from around 1100 and commemorating the Battle of Hastings; the 12th-century Gothic cathedral (which they were cleaning when we were there, so it might be done now), and the D-Day Museum (which we liked better than the one in Caen).

The town also boasts great restaurants, including La Rapiere, La Fringale, Le Petit Normand, Le P’tit Restro, Le Lion D’Or, and the Hotel Reine Mathilde Restaurant.

If you search this forum, you can find a lot of recommendations for B&Bs and hotels in Bayeux.

Personally, I would make reservations ahead of time for a hotel/B&B room and also for any D-Day tour you might like to take. But I would also make sure that you could cancel if a problem were to arise.

Enjoy your trip!
tom18 is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2013, 09:11 AM
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When in Honfleur, have dinner at the Manoir du Butin.
RonZ is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2013, 05:32 PM
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You are going to have a wonderful trip no matter what you choose!

Another option would be to travel west along the northern coast of Brittany as far as Ploumanac'h and the Rose Granite Coast, then head south, visiting some of the Celtic parish closes (perhaps Guimiliau and/or Saint-Thegonnec) on your way to Carnac.

I second the idea of stopping in Rouen on your way to Honfleur - it has some amazing architecture!
kja is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2013, 05:59 PM
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We did a very similar trip a few years ago. We flew into CDG, picked up the rental car and drove to Giverny and spent one night. Drove on to Honfleur for two nights and then to Bayeux for two nights. Went to St Michael on the way to Dinan where we stayed for three nights. We turned the car in at the train station in Rennes and took the train back to Paris for a week. It was a perfect amount of time in every place and I think you have a good itinerary.

This past October we repeated some of the trip - drove from CDG to Honfleur for a couple of nights, spent one night in Dinan (we love Honfluer and Dinan) on our way to Brittany where we spent a week mainly in the Morbihan. Brittany is very scenic and lovely, and we enjoyed our week very much.

I think though with just a week, I would concentrate on Normandy and just do the eastern part of Brittany. You will have plenty to do and see without adding another area.

We always make reservations as we don't like to spend time looking for a place to stay. I will be happy to give the names of the places we stayed if you're interested.

Have a wonderful trip!
blh is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2013, 06:03 PM
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Why not just leave from CDG to Normandy--even only to Vernon for the night. Rent the car and go.
we went to rouen the first night. Then Honfleur, and Bayeux, and then finally back to Paris to end the trip.
Gretchen is offline  
Old Jun 25th, 2013, 07:03 PM
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Thank you all for the wonderful recommendations you have given me. Some of you might remember that I started out thinking that this trip to Normandy and Brittany might be a train trip. After reading the previous posts I decided that it would be much more enjoyable a trip if we rented a car. I have really struggled with the idea of taking a train to Vernon from CDG and renting a car there, or staying in Paris for a few days to make sure I am well rested before we hit the road. Gretchen, probably a few years ago there would be no decision. We would be on to Vernon in a heartbeat. After a few health issues though it might be best to take a more conservative approach, just to be safe, but the decision has not been made to yet stay in Paris right after we land. I’m interested in how difficult (or maybe how not difficult) it might be to leave from CDG via rail to Vernon. I hate the thought of wasting a lot of time hauling our luggage into Paris, staying a night or two, then hauling our bags again to a train station (or a car rental location) and heading out of town. It seems like we could be wasting a lot of time. Besides, I don’t think we will be able to check into a hotel in Paris until the afternoon, and our flight arrives at 8:00AM.
A few months ago I looked at your trip report and pictures from your holiday to the Dinan (or was it Dinard) area FMT. Great pictures and a great report. I am reading every thread I can find in this forum, as well as few other places, about where we are planning to travel, including where to stay in Paris. I’m not sure how accurate the descriptions are at Booking.com or Trip Advisor, and I have found a few websites which provide information about B&B’s. Again, thanks you all your wonderful advice!
crossen is offline  
Old Jun 25th, 2013, 07:16 PM
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Vernon is a speck on the map. Doubtful you could rent a car there, certainly not an automatic. Picking up a car in Caen makes no sense to head to Giverny, and again probably no automatics. Drive from CDG or go to Rouen.
StCirq is online now  
Old Jun 25th, 2013, 07:46 PM
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When I explored options for a trip a few years ago, I believe I did identify car rental options in Vernon, but I chose to rent in Paris instead because it just seemed simpler. I wasn't about to rent a car until I'd had a chance to get over jet lag at least a bit, and so I planned to stay in Paris for a few nights. It was easier for me to rent the car in Paris than try to get to Vernon first. Depending on where you stay, you might not even have to get your luggage to the car rental agency -- you can probably leave your luggage at your hotel, pick up the car, and return for your luggage. Or, like me, you can take a taxi from your hotel to the rental agency.

As for your arrival, do check with your hotel -- they might be able to arrange an early check in. At the very least, they should be able to hold your luggage once you do arrive, even if they can't check you into your room.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Old Jun 26th, 2013, 05:45 AM
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Thanks StCirq and kja. This info really helps!
crossen is offline  
Old Jun 26th, 2013, 06:45 AM
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Drive from CDG; the only trouble is the car pick up point is an underbasement in a massive roundabout. To get out you have to be prepared to go round and around etc. It seems scary but stay calm and keep going (windows open, lots of fresh air) and you are away. You don't even have to drive that far and could find a hotel on the Seine for your first night (jet lag recovery)
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