Need help with Normandy Itinerary

Old Nov 17th, 1999, 04:39 AM
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Need help with Normandy Itinerary

My husband and I are going to be in France for the first time for 8 nights from March 4 to March 12. We arrive at CDG in the am and plan to rent a car (suggestions needed on ease of driving from CDG - we have driven in Italy and London so we aren't exactly chicken but...) and drive directly up into Normandy. We plan to stay in Normandy - in one location - for three nights, then end up in Paris for five nights. I need assistance with towns/villages in Normandy that would be a good central location. My husband would like to stay at Mont St. Michel. Many people have said that it is a terrible tourist trap - but what I need to know is if that is true in the evenings (for example, one of our favorite places is Assisi, Italy in the evenings when the tourbuses of pilgrams leave) or does the Mont empty out at night. Also, what sights or experiences do people love in that part of Normandy - we are planning to day trip to some of the WWII sights and Bayeaux to see the tapestry -- what else would you suggest? Thanks, Cat
Old Nov 17th, 1999, 05:52 AM
jo ann
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Hi, Cat!
Like many, I am having "hellweek" at work with busyness (not a typo) and must leave in an hour for the airport yet again, so why do I find time to scan Fodor's? (it gets me through!!!)
I did a bike trip in Normandy a few years back, and while this must be short or I'll miss my plane:
The Bayeux museum and tapestry are terrific! To see how little has changed in 900 years is terrible and wondrous at the same time.
I'm sure you're planning the cemeteries and landing sights, as an American I knew ahead of time about "our" cemetery. Well, the bike planners were Canadian so headed us to that cemetery also, which was so much more touching and emotional for all of us! So I highly recommend that you go there also.
Honfleur was charming and great fun -- the history of it (first Champlain left from there to "discover the new world", then they sent trappers from there to make the $ for France, then soldiers to protect the trappers, then any unmarried young women they could cajole into marrying the trappers and soldiers). Lovely!
Also, of course, try the calvados and all of the apple desserts; I had the best creme brulee of my life there; there are traces of the impressionists in the areas they loved; we spent a lovely couple of hours at a goat farm, seeing all the stages of the life of a cheese and sampling cheeses and local wines.
Since we only biked 35 - 50 miles per day, we really were centrally located. When I return from this trip, I will try to look up specifics on my trip and send them to you. The names of the exact villages elude me at the moment. It is a truly lovely part of France; like most, the only bad part would probably be if you tried to overbook your time.
Re driving: my husband was worried about driving in the Paris area and points south, but found even Paris to be a cakewalk. I think you'll find no problems.
Old Nov 17th, 1999, 07:31 AM
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I agree stay away from Mont st. Michel
Stay in St. Malo ( which is close to Mont St. Michel )or Honfleur
Other chocies is Deauville or Trouville which beautifully located on the water and wonderful. Beautiful architecture .. Very neat.. They are twin cities a samll bridge seperating..check them out
Old Nov 18th, 1999, 10:14 AM
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Another vote against staying at Mont St-Michel (even if the site is THE MUST SEE in Normandy - btw Britains pretend it's in Brittany).
Deauville is quite expensive, and full of Parisians during week-ends. Saint-Malo is probably a bit far away if you plan to spend time in Bayeux and visiting WWII sights. From Honfleur, you can leave for Mont Saint-Michel in the morning, then go to St-Malo and drive back the same day. It's a wonderful excursion.
When driving back to Paris, i suggest using smaller roads along the Seine, especially from Honfleur to Rouen (buy a Michelin Map and follow the "green" roads AMAP!). On the way to Paris, Les Andelys is a lovely sight overseeing the Seine, with the ruins of a 12th century castle.
Great site about Normandy at
Have a nice trip!
Mat (born in Caen!)
Your online guide to Paris **
Old Nov 18th, 1999, 10:39 AM
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We spent five days seeing Normandy in September.We landed in Paris and spent the first night at Chartres which was very interesting.
We enjoyed spending one night at Mont St. Michel. It is lovely and not crowdwd at night and early in the morning.
We then spent a night at a 500 year old fortified farm b&b mentioned in Karen Brown's book. It was close to the German Cementary and to the beaches.The owners cooked dinner for us, and we very much enjoyed that. We spent another night at Bayeux which I don't much recommend because Bayeux has gotten very congested and crowded in the past few years. We then drove to Honfleur which is a charming town. We stayed at L'Ecrin Hotel, one of the most delightful of our whole trip. You may want to rethink staying all three nights at the same location. The distances are not far, and the roads are good and not crowded. Most days we only drove a very leisurely hour and a half and very much enjoyed the sights and the chance to stop at every battle field that my husband noticed.
Old Nov 18th, 1999, 01:17 PM
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Another vote to stay in Honfleur which is so very picturesque. There is a small hotel called La Ferme outside of Honfleur which I would recommend, although I don't have any idea what the current rates are. Could be very expensive. My favorite memory of Normandy was a picnic we bought and ate by the roadside while watching the peaceful Norman cows! It's a wonderful place to relax and a great contrast to Paris. Mt. St Michel does empty out at night, but it's still too touristy to spend a whole 3 days and not a convenient base to explore Normandy.Don't leave out Giverny, Monet's home, and Chartres with its wonderful cathedral.
Old Nov 18th, 1999, 05:46 PM
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We hired a car in Bayeaux and toured the area. Arromanche is very interesting and has an excellent museum that chronicles the invasion. Pont du Hoc and the nearby Cimeterie du Mer(I think) , the American cemetary, are other places to visit. There are pill boxes and tunnels that give a good idea of how difficult the assault was. As Americans you will be treated well, as they are forever grateful.
Old Nov 20th, 1999, 05:44 AM
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Cat---The absolute highligt of our last trip to France (May 98) was the weekend in Normandy. This included a visit to Mont St. Michel, which just the sight of it from the road blew me away. Agree that is awfully crowded as the day goes by and that it loses some of its appeal, but to reiterate, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. From there we stayed at Trouville and visited Deauville. Matt is right on the money. Both towns are very charming and definitely worth the time. I loved the walk by the beach in Trouville at night; very romantic and beautiful. On Sunday mornings, the town has a dreamy flea market, an obvious favorite among locals. Great food, crafts, and other goodies (this may be a fair weather event, though). Let me know if you need a hotel recommendation in Trouville. Deauville is a little more expensive. It is the town where Coco Chanel had her first clothing store and it remains very artsy, fashion-oriented. Very much worth a visit, the beaches are great. The best food and pastries we had during that trip was in that region. The visit to the D-Day beaches was an unforgettable experience. I could go on that topic forever. Very touching experience, please read as much as you can about the topic beforehand.

Driving was not bad at all. Again, a good map is definitely a wise investment.

Your trip sounds great. Please feel free to post or e-mail me directly if further details are needed.
Old Nov 22nd, 1999, 05:21 PM
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When people say to avoid Mont St. Michel I'd almost be willing to bet they day tripped there. You are right. After the crowds leave, it is absolutely magical at night. St. Malo is just as touristy, but I like that too. Agree with all on Bayeaux and the tapestry. Don't miss stopping at Cancale and letting some local person open fresh oysters for you -- even if early in the morning. What a wonderful memory. Of course. the big American cemetery is unbelievable. We rode back in silence for an hour, so moved! Honfleur is a wonderful town. I'd probably make that my base if I had it to do over again, but would never miss spending a night at Mont St. Michele, especially when they have the late night sound and light show.
Old Nov 22nd, 1999, 07:34 PM
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Another vote here for Les Andelys - - might be windswept and blustery in March, but that's half the point. And yes it can be "done" on you way "to" or back "from" wherever you make your base in Normandy.

You can imagine being a monk when you go to MSM and at Les Andelys, you can imagine being a Norman soldier in the 12th or 13th century or one of Richard Coeur de Lion's troops and feeling very smug at what a tremendous position you have for defending all the Seine around the bend there.

This is kinda vigorous terrain to cover here, by the way - - you have to have a car, and you have to get out and hike up and down a bit to get to the ruins of the castle. A cool 2 hours, IMHO.

Best wishes,

Old Nov 23rd, 1999, 07:28 AM
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Another thumbs up for Mont Ste. Michele. We drove in as the tourist crowds and busses were leaving on a Sunday late afternoon. I'm glad we didn't miss it and and very glad we spent the night. Walks around the island after dinner were incredible. Also, had an incredible sunset.
Old Nov 24th, 1999, 05:25 AM
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Greetings to the previous posters and hope you're checking back on this:

I'm planning a similar three nights in Normandy after arriving at CDG and your recommendations have raised some additional questions. Honfleur sounds charming but is it too far to do the landing beaches as a relaxing day trip? Is actually staying overnight in Mont St. Michel that wonderful or is it better to visit late in the day and then stay elsewhere? And one really dumb question--can you drive into Mont St. Michel? I don't want to have to carry my luggage across the bridge and up a hill to a hotel. Thanks.
Old Nov 24th, 1999, 06:10 AM
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There is a parking lot on the island although you need to check the tides to make sure you'll be ok. You do have to haul your luggage into the "town". I would suggest packing a bag for one day rather than carrying all your luggage. Well worth spending the night - have dinner then wander the island in the dark with the abbey lit is stunning.
Old Nov 24th, 1999, 06:10 AM
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There is a parking lot on the island although you need to check the tides to make sure you'll be ok. You do have to haul your luggage into the "town". I would suggest packing a bag for one day rather than carrying all your luggage. Well worth spending the night - have dinner then wander the island in the dark with the abbey lit is stunning.
Old Aug 27th, 2000, 08:05 AM
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Hi All

for those of you that stayed on the Mont, could you recommend any hotels and give an indication of price range for a double room?

Many thanks

PS I will be visiting in May and am thinking of staying 2 nights in Honfleur and 2 nights elsewhere though this is not fixed...

Old Aug 27th, 2000, 11:49 AM
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My wife and I did a similiar trip in July. Flew into CDG and drove to Normandy. Good roads, no problems. We found a great B and B outside of Caen. Only four rooms in large old Manor home. Rooms were large and very nice.Country setting near an old church. Easy drive into Caen and on to the Normandy beaches. $60.00 US per night including breakfast. We went from there to the George V in Paris at $500.00 per night and enjoyed the B and B more. We also traveled to Mt St Michel for a day trip with no great difficulty. The owner of the B and B is American and answers emails for reservations. The hotel was also written about in Karen Brown's Small Inns of France. Name is Manoir des Tourpes. Owner Michael Cassady. Email is [email protected]. Good luck. Normandy is a beautiful area.
Old Oct 16th, 2002, 11:06 AM
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Old Oct 17th, 2002, 12:02 AM
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I have visited the Normandy area several times and would not recommend 1) renting a car and driving and 2)making St. Malo your base. It is very convenient to take a train from Paris CDG to Normandy. You could make charming Bayeux your base (as we did) and see all the important Normandy sites in the area, including Mont St, Michel, DDay beaches, British war museum, and of course, the famous Bayeux tapestry. There is a great local tour company called "Bus Fly" in Bayeux that offers full-day and half-day tours of the sites in the area. You can see the Mont St. Michel in a day and be back in Bayeux by late afternoon, then choose another day to see the DDay beaches, etc. The tour prices are very reasonable, not to mention that you will save money on a rental car, gas and trying to drive all around those areas yourself. Train travel is the way to go!
Old Oct 17th, 2002, 05:13 AM
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Thank you for your comment about visiting Cancale early in the day.

It was a place I wanted to see (and try the oysters), but it lloks like my schedule will call for me to be by there early.

How early would it be worth stopping by?


Old Oct 17th, 2002, 09:55 AM
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Bus fly tours is out of business and was bought out by Normandy tours. English speaking guides are very good. Web site is
Full day tour is 70.00euros and last aprrox. 8 hours.
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