Just back from Bayeux, Normandy

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Jul 1st, 2003, 05:57 AM
  #1
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Just back from Bayeux, Normandy

Many thanks to all who helped us plan a fantastic trip. Here are just a few highlights and lessons learned:

--We stayed at the Black Swan Mill, a 13th century restored mill set on 8 acres. We were there for two weeks. It is just minutes from the Bayeux town center. It is perfect for family reunions or two families traveling together. It has multiple units. The one we stayed in (the mill) had three large bedrooms, a kitchen and den, but the other hold as little as four or as many as 12. The owners are British and were wonderful and helpful. We have kids and they spent most evening on the large yard playing baseball.

--Bayeux is an excellent base for travel all over Normandy. We visited all the D-Day museums, beaches and cemeteries, but also traveled to Caen, Rouen, Mt. St. Michel and Falaise.

--We took the train from Paris to Bayeux on a Saturday and it was practically empty. It was a two hour ride and very pleasant. No one even asked for our ticket (though I did learn on the return that we should have punched the ticket at the station). There are continuing strikes for the trains, but they seem to be on Tuesday and often other businesses will close to support the strikers.

--Everyone was pleasant. We encountered no anti-American sentiment, particularly in Normandy. Those folks know that tourist dollars fuel the economy.

--The American cemetery is a powerful and beautiful place. It makes you understand the profound losses suffered and the courage and selflessness of those very young men. The German cemetery is way off the beaten track, but also lovely. Many of their dead were young teenagers.

--Almost everyone had some English, so even though our French was poor, we did not have trouble communicating.

Lessons learned:
--We had difficulty with ATMs in Paris and Normandy. We called our bank and they had no record of the ATM inquiries. We eventually just tried to take out small amounts, less than $100, and were successful. But it was pretty hairy there for a while when four ATMs refused our card and we had no Euros.

--Buy your train tickets at the station. We pre-ordered via phone from SNCF and ordered a carte enfant. We recieved the carte enfant, but no tickets. They had no record of our reservations when we arrived at the station to travel to Bayeux and we had to buy new tickets. Of course when returned home, we had a bill for the tickets on our Visa statement, which we are now disputing.

--Internet access is difficult. In Bayeux, there's a computer at the post office and the tourism center. It's 5 euros for 30 minutes. Every day there was a line to use the computer and many days it was down.

--Air conditioning in Paris was important. The days we were there (early June) it was over 90 degrees each day. We stayed at Hotel de Fleurie (which was perfect, but a little expensive for five people)and the air condition was great. On the way back we stayed at the Ibis at the airport, which was the size of a cabin on a cruise ship, and could not sleep due to the heat.

Overall, a fantastic trip. I can see why people fall in love with Paris and with France. This was our first time, but certainly not our last.
insight is offline  
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Jul 1st, 2003, 06:18 AM
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Wow---trip sounds fantastic! Could you tell us more about your day trips--how you ge there, what else you saw, and where you ate? I'm dying to revisit this region--I've been to the D-Day landing beaches but nothing else, and we are leaving on a French driving tour on Saturday.

Thanks for all your info!
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Jul 1st, 2003, 01:33 PM
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I'm also anxious to hear more about Bayeux and your experience. Our family is going over on 4 august for 13 days and will spend the first 5 in Bayeux at Lion D'Or. Planning to tour that area for a couple of days, then to Mont St Michel, St Lo and St Mere Eglise. Will stop at Giverny on the way back. We'll have a rental car (my husband will already be in France meeting us) and we are staying at a colleague's apt in the 12th while he is on holiday for our last 6 nights. How old are your children?
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Jul 1st, 2003, 04:38 PM
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"Those folks know that tourist dollars fuel the economy." Please let me believe the Normandy locals remember and appreciate the sacrifices made 59 years ago. This was the impression we got when we visited in 1997. Of course, tourist revenue is tourist revenue, but the Normandy people seemed to treat Americans (and not just their dollars) very kindly.
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Jul 1st, 2003, 05:56 PM
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Regarding day trips: We never drove more than two hours and were able to visit many places. Here are a few:

Mont St. Michel: Defies description. There is a good highway that goes almost to the site. The Abbey is a hike, almost straight uphill at times so not for those who have difficulty walking. I believe it was 14 Euro for the two adults and kids/students were free. There's is a tourist area directly before the site where you can eat, but we stopped at Avranches and visted the Patton monument, the basillica and the museum, which has a number of collections.

Falaise--This is close to Bayeux. There's a great statue of William the Conqueror and the remains of his birthplace castle, which is under renovation. There's a big field outside perfect for a picnic.

Caen--Less than one hour away. This is a larger town with a castle and several museums, a beautiful church and the his and hers abbeys where William and Matilda are buried.

Rouen--This is a about a two hour trip. The town center is beautiful and contains the site where Joan of Arc was burned. The cathedral experienced extensive damage during the war and the restoration continue. There is an armada of tall ships visiting Rouen June 28-July 6. We just missed it, but the town is decorated with many flags of different countries in prepartion for the event.

As for where we ate, we really had a lot of picnics. We had three picky kids with us who were not adventurous eaters, so we mostly ate at small cafes where they could get a crepe or a pizza.

Hope this helps.
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Jul 1st, 2003, 09:56 PM
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Thank you! Your descriptions have been very helpful!
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Jul 31st, 2003, 10:39 AM
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Thanks for the report. The place you stayed sounds lovely.

We visited Normandy last fall, staying at a rural B&B not too far from Bayeux (closest town, Villers Bocage), and found it convenient to all WWII sights. I'll second your difficulty with ATMs, except we also had the problem in London! We found that we had to withdraw fairly small amounts to get the thing to cooperate.

As for internet access, we found a place in Caen not too far from the tourist office.
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Jul 31st, 2003, 04:01 PM
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Maybe I missed the mention but it is worth mentioning again - don't miss the Bayeux Tapestry Museum !
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Aug 25th, 2003, 09:42 AM
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We found the Bayeux tapestry fascinating, and are so glad we visited. If you have any interest whatsoever in history, it's a "must-see."
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Aug 26th, 2003, 03:53 PM
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I second this - Bayeux tapestry - the beauty of the design layout and audio - makes this a NOT TO BE MISSED - experience.
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Aug 27th, 2003, 09:56 AM
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How did you find/book the Black Swan Mill? Is is a Gite de France or part of another group? Cost?
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Aug 27th, 2003, 06:33 PM
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We went to Normandy in May. Also encountered no hostility at all. In one restaurant, the owners spoke no English at all. The menu was not the usual so we had trouble figuring out what was offered. We were eating early (7:00) and were the only ones there so no one to ask. The owner called a friend on his cell phone who could speak English. The friend interpreted the menu for us. Talk about going our of one's way. I would second Mount. St. Micheal. It was beautiful. Mass was being held at the time we were there. I swear I felt a wave of peace and serenity come over me. We had a private guide take us through the D-Day beaches and memorial. It was worth it. Also went to some of the towns on market day. Went to Versailles for one day. Would go back again because I would like to explore the gardens in more depth. We went to the tapestry also. It was worth the trip. We also went to a church with stained glass windows that told a story. I can't remember the name, but it is famous for its windows. In general, we had a great time with the French going out of their way to help us. One more thing, go into the really big supermarkets. It is amazing what you can buy. Eat lots of french bread. We ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
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