Need advice on trip to Normandy

Old Jan 21st, 2005, 05:21 PM
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Need advice on trip to Normandy

My husband and son are planning a trip in May to Normandy and then Paris.

They arrive in London at Gatwick airport. The plan is to somehow get to Plymouth, take a ferry to Cherbourg, rent a car, then on to the beaches for a few days staying somewhere.

On to Paris after that for a few days, chunnel to London, overnight in London and then back home to the states.

How do they get from London to Plymouth?

Can I book ferry tickets from the states or should they do that when they arrive?

Where to stay while visiting the beaches?

If they drop the car, can they train to Paris and where from?

As you can see I am in the early planning stages and need lots of help.

Thanks to all.

sylviam is offline  
Old Jan 21st, 2005, 07:56 PM
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Unless there is an unquenchable to cross that way to get to Normandy, I'd recommend using the coach service - - http://www.london-luton.co.uk/kiosk/pdf/coach_707.pdf - - to get from Gatwick to Luton, in well under half the time it will take to get to Plymouth; then in a short flight on Ryanair.com for tuppence, they'll be in Dinard. Plan all their "Norman conquests" from there.

And most people (here? everyhwere?) seem to turn up their noses at the use of the made-up word "chunnel" to refer to the Eurostar train service that runs through the channel tunnel, or to the tunnel itself, for that matter.

Best wishes,

Rex
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Old Jan 21st, 2005, 09:36 PM
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My son and I really enjoyed staying in Arromanches at the Normandy beaches. Nice beach town, you can see the remains of the artificial harbor created for bringing in supplies after d-day.

It might be worth renting a car in the UK and dropping where they get the ferry. If they are interested in WWII, there is a great tank museum at the army armor training area (don't remember the location, but I think it was south of London, halfway to the coast.

If the focus is France/Normandy, thier itinerary will end up killing quite a bit of time in transport links getting to/from London. It would be worth looking into open-jaw flights so they could leave from Paris.

Definitely want to do advance purchase of ferry tickets if they go that way; walk-up is normally more expensive.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2005, 04:07 AM
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Hi Sylviam.
I'd heed Rex's excellent advice to fly with Ryanair. Currently, for example, London Stansted to Dinard for May 10th is only £3.99 plus tax.
According to their website, Brittany Ferries don't operate the Plymouth to Cherbourg route in May (November to March only). I don't know of anyone else running this route - perhaps someone can correct me? Brittany Ferries do run from Portsmouth to Caen - the best route for central Normandy.
Why not fly one way Ryanair to Dinard, pick up a car there and then drop off in Charles de Gaule, Paris at the end of the holiday and return with Easyjet to London Luton?
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Old Jan 22nd, 2005, 07:14 AM
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Unless they want to spend time in England for some reason, I would suggest just flying into Paris. The invasion sites are conveniently seen from Caen or Bayeux, which are both easily reached from Paris by train. Many people recommend staying in Bayeux as it is a scenic village that was not damaged in the invasion. Caen, by contrast, is a city that was largely destroyed in the invasion, but still has attractions, notably the peace memorial (a museum many consider a must see) and the remains of the ducal chateaux (William the Conqueror's castle). I believe rental cars are more widely available in Caen. It is a university town and we enjoyed our stay there. I would return the rental car there and take the train back to Paris.

There are a large number of groups that offer guided tours of the invasion sites. I visited their web sites and did not find one single tour that covered all the areas I wanted to see, and I don't like being tied to someone else's schedule, so I just made a list of what I wanted to see and hired a taxi for the day.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2005, 04:38 PM
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We spent 5 days in Normandy two years ago with our 2 teenaged sons. Stayed in Bayeux at Lion D'Or. great place, parking is gratis inside their courtyard and its close to the major attractions. We toured the cathedral and tapestry on our own. Drove to Utah beach and Mont St Michel on our own as well. HOWEVER - for a really good tour of the D-Day beaches, I would recommend a tour of some kind. We used a personal guide named Michael Chilcott. He's a retired British Army Colonel and lives in the Bayeux area - runs a B/B. We had him exclusively for our family of 4. The tour was totally customized to what we wanted to see and when we were late getting to our last site, he extended the tour another half day at no extra charge. I cannot tell you how much more you will gain by having someone, anyone as a guide. I dont' think we would have gotten half the information by buying a book and reading as we drove. We also stopped at the Peace Memorial in Caen on our way back to Paris - this took a half day and I think we could have spent more time. My younger son commented to me today that he really wants to go back to Normandy since there is so much he will understand now and appreciate more (he was 15 at the time of the trip). Its an unbelieveably beautiful and informative area.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 09:22 AM
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Thanks for everyone's reply. And Rex, as always you give great advice.

The plan to take the ferry from Plymouth had something to do with the invasion route, which I do not understand.

My son is the war buff and he also wants to see Verdonne(sp) and also want to go to London to the war museum.

As my husband does not want to spend as much time and has been to London many times, the thought is now they should fly into Paris. They would spend a few days in Paris and then visit the beaches and sites of the invasion. My husband would fly home from Paris and my son would go onto London.

They will rent a car somewhere on this leg to see the beaches. How do they get to Verdonne (sorry for the butchering of the spelling)?

Also, I would assume open jaw for my son into Paris and out of London would make sense. I do not, howeve, think my son realizes how expensive London will be.
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Old Jan 24th, 2005, 09:01 AM
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Just make sure that the Plymouth to Cherbourg route is running.
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Old Jan 24th, 2005, 09:32 AM
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Nice hotel near Bayeux is the Chateau Bellefontaine--beautiful setting, reasonable in price, and within walking distance of the center of Bayeux.

Consider seeing the famous tapestries in town.. Lion d'Or serves nice meal. Ialso recommend the Peace Museum in Caen.

The American cemetery at the Normandy beach is one of the most moving sites I have ever visited. Tears can come to your eyes as you visit the immaculately-keptn nearly 10,000 graves and hear a carillon playing "My Country T'Is of Thee".

Good luck to your husband and son.

Anthony
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Old Jan 24th, 2005, 09:46 AM
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Verdun (sic) is a (series of?) World War One battlefield site(s) not located particularly close to Normandy at all. Much closer to Belgium (and see also Ypers or Ieper) or more precisely, closer to Luxemburg.

Getting from Normandy will surely best be accomplished via Paris (mandatory with any publictransportation - - I suppose you might be able to avoid Paris by car if you were starting, say... at Dieppe... a stretch, but conceivably, could be considered one of the sites of the Battle of Normandy).
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Old Jan 24th, 2005, 01:04 PM
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I'd opt for the flying into Paris option. The ferries take a long time to load and unload and the fastest one is about three hours.
We took the ferry into Caen last year and will again in April. The Plymouth route is shorter (and also sold out when I want to go!). Fly and rent a car for Normandy but take the train or fly to and from the area. I'd fly for our next trip but will be camping and need all the gear!
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Old Jan 24th, 2005, 01:13 PM
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I would fly in and out of Paris, and make Normandy, Verdun, and London day trips. Since their time is limited, I would recommend against a ferry (or at least the shortest ride, from Calais to Dover).
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Old Jan 24th, 2005, 04:02 PM
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Thanks everyone. Is it possible to get to Verdun via train from Paris? As I said my son is a war buff so WWI would interest him as much as WWII.

Also, is it best to train from Paris to Caen and pick up a car in Caen?

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Old Jan 24th, 2005, 04:23 PM
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There is train service between Paris and Verdun, but since the battle was spread out over a 20-mile front, having a car is probably a good idea.

The American beaches in Normandy are all west of Bayeux (Arromanches on the coast), and there are any number of guided tours you can pick up at the train station or downtown in the Tourist Center. Caen was in a bitterly contested sector where the Brits nailed down the Allied left flank, an objective vital to the success of the invasion.
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