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Need advice on Honfleur, Bayeaux, MSM itinerary prior to Paris

Need advice on Honfleur, Bayeaux, MSM itinerary prior to Paris

Old Jul 16th, 2022, 04:49 PM
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Need advice on Honfleur, Bayeaux, MSM itinerary prior to Paris

After 17 years, we are finally returning to Paris at the end of October. Paris was our very first overseas experience on our honeymoon, and we spent 5 magical days there. We've been hooked on travel ever since. We hit all the touristy stuff you'd expect the first trip, but this time around we plan on taking in Paris very slowly and may skip any kind of itinerary - other than doing a lot of research on good places to eat (suggestions also welcome). I'm ashamed to admit, but I didn't have a very sophisticated palate or drink wine the first time around, so I plan to make up for what I missed this trip.

However, the first part of our trip will be a little busier as we would like to add a few days in the Normandy area to see the WWII memorials and visit Mont St Michel. I know MSM is touristy, but it got canceled on our honeymoon and I've been regretting missing out ever since. We are thinking that we'd like to rent a car from CDG and start the trip in Honfleur. We both sleep well on planes, so there is no concern for us on driving after a long flight. Any feedback on the itinerary, including whether the Normandy beach activities look reasonable in one day and which museum we should visit given the time we have?

Tue 25th Day 1 Honfleur: Arrive CDG 7:00am, rent car and arrive in Honfleur about 10:00am, explore at a leisurely pace
Wed 26th Day 2 Bayeaux: Arrive Normandy Beach about 9:00am, visit Arromanches-les-Bains, Omaha Beach, American Cemetery, Pointe du Hoc. Dinner in Bayeaux
Thu 27th Day 3 Mont St Michel: Tour Bayeaux, see tapestry and leave about 3:00pm to drive to MSM, stay on island
Fri 28th Day 4 Paris: Walk around MSM in the morning and leave about 10am, drive to Paris, return car
Sat 29th Day 5 Paris
Sun 30th Day 6 Paris
Mon 31st Day 7 Paris
Tue 1st Day 8 Paris: Versailles? We visited in 2005 when they were renovating the hall of mirrors, so may decide to go again, but haven't decided which day
Wed 2nd Day 10 Flight out of CDG at 9:00am

I always get the best advice on Fodors, so thank you ahead of time for any suggestions you may have!


Last edited by 7sconnolly; Jul 16th, 2022 at 04:51 PM.
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Old Jul 16th, 2022, 06:29 PM
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The pre-Paris part seems rushed to me, even if you can sleep on planes.

I really don't think you'll reach Honfleur by 10:00 a.m. Maybe 11:00, definitely by noon.

Day 2 is a very full day with quite a bit of driving. Were you planning on taking the fast route from Honfleur or driving along the coast to see the British and Canadian landing beaches? No interest in the (excellent) Peace Memorial Museum in Caen? FYI, there are other museums, monuments, German batteries, etc., you'll pass that you may want to stop and see... esp. the German battery at Longues-sur-Mer between Arromanches and Omaha Beach. The monument and museum at Utah Beach (beyond P-du-H) are also very good.

Day 3. If you could reach MSM by 3:30 p.m., you could observe the low tide (3:59 p.m.).

Day 4. The high tide would be at 9:36 a.m. I think I'd look at the possibility of returning the car after MSM and taking the train to Paris... unless there was something/place you wanted to visit on the drive.
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Old Jul 16th, 2022, 07:09 PM
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We just started researching the Normandy beach area, so I didn't realize there were two routes. I would say that we'd probably prefer to do the more scenic drive. The museum in Caen does look interesting, I just didn't think we had the time, so that's why I thought I should ask for advice.
Thank you for that tip about the tides! I'll look into returning the car near MSM as well - would Rennes be the most logical?
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Old Jul 17th, 2022, 05:26 AM
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not visiting St Mere Eglise?

you may think you sleep well, you may still suffer micro-sleeps in the car, the effects of jet lag are complicated, probably more important to ask which aricraft you will be on, is it one that maintains you at sea-level pressure or one that leaks a bit and takes you up to 12,000 feet of pressure?
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Old Jul 17th, 2022, 08:00 AM
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Wow - three one-nighters in a row immediatly after arriving!!! Sounds like our first trip to Europe in 1977. My mother & sister bailed out on us after about a week. My wife said she would never go on another trip with me again. Now we normally spend 2 weeks in just one place, before moving on.

Attached is my Normandy & Brittany itinerary.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jul 17th, 2022, 08:40 AM
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I encourage you to add more time to Normandy and itís sites. Go on a tour of the American sites. Visit the Canadian and British beaches on your own. Yes to seeing the Tapestry. Another day is needed if you want to visit MSM.
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Old Jul 17th, 2022, 09:12 AM
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There is always a concern of driving so far after a long flight. I don't care how well you think you sleep on a plane you are tired, and jetlagged. Please don't do it, for yourselves and for others.
Take the train to Bayeux, stay there, then rent the car the following day. Bayeux is a pig of a place to drive in and to park in in my experience.
Remember the days are getting shorter by late October and the weather can be wet and windy so have a plan B.
You need more time for Normandy as others have said. Can you extend you trip? Or cut time from Paris if you have no specific agenda for the city?
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Old Jul 17th, 2022, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by 7sconnolly View Post
We just started researching the Normandy beach area, so I didn't realize there were two routes. I would say that we'd probably prefer to do the more scenic drive. The museum in Caen does look interesting, I just didn't think we had the time, so that's why I thought I should ask for advice.
Thank you for that tip about the tides! I'll look into returning the car near MSM as well - would Rennes be the most logical?
I think you need to make some basic decisions. What is the first priority? The D-Day sights or other pretty scenery or just a little bit of everything? Three one-nighters in a row is moving fast. There aren't set routes between points. You can stick to main roads/highways or you can explore your way along secondary roads. It all depends on your interests, how much time you have, how you like to travel, etc.

It's your trip, but for me MSM is too much of an outlier with the time available. After the wow! of seeing it on approach and observing the low/high tides, I don't think the island itself is all that interesting, and the tiny "streets" can be mobbed with tourists until early evening. I would want at least one full day (two nights) in Honfleur; otherwise, I'd leave it for another trip and pair it with Etretat and perhaps Pont Audemer, Rouen, etc.
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Old Jul 17th, 2022, 01:52 PM
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Thanks for all of your helpful feedback. Our main goal was to revisit Paris and see MSM, so I think we're going to do some additional research on the WWII sites and determine what we really want to see while we're in the area. While we have a deep respect for the history and sacrifice, we aren't WWII history buffs and I don't really want to spend more than a full day in that head space. We will certainly heed your warnings regarding driving with jet lag and look into taking a train to our first destination. Thanks again!
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Old Jul 17th, 2022, 02:23 PM
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No firsthand help except for Bayeux in your MSM area...I took a train from Paris for the tapestry...it was about a 15-min walk from the station.

Pre-covid, Versailles had fountain and/or light shows on some Saturdays... something to look into? We took the RER there.

Looking forward to hearing how it goes.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2022, 06:46 PM
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We did this trip in September 2018, you will love it!
I think you are shortchanging Normandy, I would eliminate Versailles(since you have already been there) and use that day from the Paris end for Normandy.

I totally agree with not getting your car the first day. You will be fatigued and that is not a short drive. I would take the train to Rouen(nap on the way) rest, browse, have an early dinner( Loved La Petite Auberge!) The next day, pick up your car, and you are fresh and ready to go.

I would go to Etretat, first see the beach, then go up to the cliffs. It is gorgeous! Head on to Honfleur, see St. Catherines, Notre Dame de Grace, browse the shops, have lunch on the water, then head to Bayeux.

Spend 2 nights in Bayeux. We LOVED Le Petit Matin! Now you have the flexibility to adapt your visit according to your interests and the weather. Definitely see the Tapestry! We are similar to you, we were very interested in the World War 2 sites, but not as extensively as others. We booked a half day private tour with Bertrand Saudrais. We loved his French perspective. He picked us up at hotel at 1:00 and the tour lasted until 6:00. The personalization and flexibility and information he provided was so worth it! He made sure we were at the lowering of the flag at the American cemetery, if you can keep dry eyes when they play taps, something is wrong with you! We had time in our schedule to visit Caen and other sites but we decided to continue on to Paris and added a stop to Giverny along the way.

Of course, you would continue on to Mont St. Michel. I would recommend keeping you car and driving into Paris. I think returning the car, getting to the train station, struggling with luggage on the train, getting from the train station to your hotel would be a hassle. We returned our car to a place near our hotel in Paris. My husband dropped off me, our friend and our luggage at the hotel, and the 2 husbands returned the car walked back. It was painless! Have a great time!
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Old Jul 23rd, 2022, 02:59 PM
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I too would add a day to Normandy, and cut if you must from Paris. Etretat, Dieppe & Deauville all worth a drive-by. This time in Paris we are finally seeing the Musee Carnavalet (history of the city museum), Musee Marmotton, Promenade Plantee (big fan of the Julie Delpy trilogy of it), the Passages (good indoor activity btwn 2d-9th arr), Buttes Charmont in the 19tharr, you should see Gehry's Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois Bologne for sure, but I love all his stuff. See if these are to your liking. We also loved Auvers dur Oise, but that was en route to Normandy, and are big VanGogh fans. Barbizon & Fontainbleu is pleasant day trip from Paris too.
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Old Sep 13th, 2022, 07:52 AM
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"Attached is my Normandy & Brittany itinerary.
Stu Dudley"

Hey Stu! Wanted you to know that I downloaded your Normandy & Brittany itinerary and we have been using it for our short trip to those regions. We have stayed (and eaten) at one of your hotels so far and have another booked as well. Today was our drive to Treguier and the environs - again thanks to you. We have really enjoyed everything you've recommended, thanks so much for the detailed suggestions!
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Old Sep 16th, 2022, 08:16 AM
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First, jet lag impacts everyone differently, with age and distance being large factors. Luckily, we fly business to France, and I sleep well on the flight and wake up somewhat invigorated, but that vigor doesn't last more than 8-10 hours. For your trip, when you arrive in Paris at 7:00 am, it will be dark out. Sunrise won't even come until 8;26 am, so getting adjusted to the day may be a little easier if your body has at least some rest on the plane. I would also recommend that you move your bedtime up an hour every couple of days in the week/week and a half ahead of your flight. This will effectively reduce the number of time zones you are adjusting for, which will lessen the impact.

I would also analyze my priorities in Normandy, and consider adding a day. Your itinerary has a pretty wide swath of Normandy involved. I would also suggest you consider identifying one hotel as a base (somewhere near the middle) and you can visit the various spots via day trips. Picking Bayeux would give you a good opportunity. Depending upon your jet lag comfortability, I'd consider taking a train to Caen, getting your car there and keeping day one pretty short on the driving. That would allow you to get your rental car in Caen, drive the 15 minutes to the Peace Memorial in Caen and then take a tour there. 3-4 hours total will put you leaving there with about 45-60 minutes of daylight to drive the 30 minutes to Bayeux and check in to your hotel. Or you could skip the Peace Museum and get to Bayeux in time to see the tapestry on day one? A dinner in Bayeux and an early bedtime will get you fully prepared for your first daytrip.
Day 2 You could easily get to Honfluer that morning and tour at your leisure. Depending upon the amount of time you spend there, it could allow time to return along the coast and finish at Arromanches for the day. It's just a 15 minute drive back to Bayeux from there.
Day 3 could be a trip to the American Cemetery in the morning (that is the best time to see it IMO) and move to Pointe du Hoc for the afternoon. You could have an early dinner in Grandcamp Maisy which is just a few clicks west of PdH. Return to Bayeux from there.
Day 4 could be a morning at the tapestry and then head to MSM, but I would encourage you to consider the German cemetery at La Cambe which is on the way from Bayeux to MSM. Then you would still be on schedule to be able to stay on the Mont at night if you wish.
Day 5 could be viewing MSM in the morning, driving 90 minutes to Rennes to return the car and catch a train. Trains run about hourly starting around 8:30 and its' a 90 minute to 2 hour train ride to Gare Montparnasse in Paris, so you could be in Paris by 1:30 pm.

Planning the trip is as much fun as the trip for me, so have fun in your preparations and your trip.
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