London to Normandy -- best route option?

Jan 7th, 2010, 01:31 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 70
London to Normandy -- best route option?

Hi all,

I've plowed through a number of these great Normandy trip reports in the Europe forum with many helpful tips for our planned spring break trip to Normandy and Paris (we live in London). We are aiming for 3-4 days in Normandy and want to see several of the WWII sites (beaches, US museum, etc), plus Mont St. Michel, tapestry, and whatever else we can in that time. Hope to base ourselves at a single hotel, of which several on the board come recommended. Then finish with 4 days in Paris at a friend's apartment near St. Sulpice.

I would like to start booking the trains/cars/whatever well in advance, so what would be the best option for getting to Normandy from London, among the following not-so-attractive options?:

1. Eurostar to Paris, switch stations, train to Bayeux or Caen, rent car -- seems like a long travel day shlepping our stuff and two kids around France.

2. Eurostar to Paris, rent car Gare du Nord, drive to Bayeux -- not thrilled about the challenge of having to drive out of Paris & suburbs given the traffic.

3. Eurostar to Calais or Lille, rent car -- too far to drive to Bayeux?

4. Ferry to a Normandy port (from Portsmouth?), rent car -- Not ideal as daughter is prone to motion sickness, and I long ago swore off the Dover-Calais ferries I took in college.

5. Other possibilities?

Option 1 seems best to me as I prefer to avoid driving in or around Paris, and that way we could rent and drop the car in Bayeux or Caen and rely on the train in and out of Paris. But the station switch in Paris is not ideal either, so wondering if there is another way to avoid Paris altogether until the back end of the trip. Also, the Eurostar to Calais only operates early in the morning or late in the day, so it is not a good option, and in any case Calais appears to be a long way from Bayeux.

ClarkB is offline  
Jan 7th, 2010, 02:00 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 17,193
Why not just drive?

Chuck your stuff into a car. Then either go through the tunnel, or get a ferry from Portsmouth to Caen. You can easily drive via the tunnel from London to Caen, say, in a short day: getting there by public transport (unless you go through the hasle of flying to whichever Normandy airport still has flights from SE England) will take longer.

There's no such thing as a "best route". There's probably a route that meets your needs best. But only you know what those needs are.

Personally I can't see the point of public transport then hiring a car for such a short journey if you're living here already. You presumably can: think about what that point is, and the optimal route will be self-evident.
flanneruk is offline  
Jan 7th, 2010, 02:41 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 2,162
If you already had your own family car in London it might make sense to drive. Michelin shows the route where you take your car on the ferry as 149 kilometers and 7:10 hours. If you would have to rent a car in London to drive to France it might make sense to take Eurostar to Calais then rent there. According to Michelin it is 345 kilometers and 3:15 hours driving time from Calais to Caen (on the Eastern edge of Normandy really and you want to do Bayeux and MSM which are further west but you could also consider including Rouen which would be on the way). Train from Caen to Paris is direct also, depending on which you were going to do first, Normandy or Paris you can do it in either direction.
laurie_ann is offline  
Jan 8th, 2010, 12:02 PM
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Thanks, but no, we don't own a car here, and it seems pointless to rent one in the UK with right-hand drive only to take it to France and have to drive on the right. I'm fine driving on the left in the UK, but I think it would be a bit daunting in France with the steering wheel on the wrong side (although the Brits obviously do it). So I'd rather pick up the car over there, it's just deciding between picking it up in Caen, Calais, or Paris.
ClarkB is offline  
Jan 8th, 2010, 12:43 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 2,162
I would think with a family then you would enjoy the flexibility of a car, picking it up in Calais and including Rouen on your way to the rest of Normandy (Joan of Arc stuff and the great medieval timbered architecture) and then dropping it in either Caen or Rennes (depending on if you plan to get as far as MSM or not) and training on to Paris for the balance of your week.
laurie_ann is offline  
Jan 8th, 2010, 12:48 PM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 666
We took the train from London to Portsmouth and then the ferry to Cherbourg, where we rented a car. It was as easy as could be. The ferry was very stable and no-one got sick.
cferrb is offline  
Jan 8th, 2010, 01:08 PM
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If you don't want to take the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Caen, then I'd recommend #1. You can get from London to Caen or Bayeux by train in under six hours. IMO, that's not a long travel day. If you're packing light and can easily schlepp your own luggage, you can take the four-minute ride on the RER E from Magenta (connected to Gare du Nord) to Haussmann - St-Lazare and walk to Gare St-Lazare. Or simply take a taxi between Gare du Nord and Gare St-Lazare.
TimS is offline  
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