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Normandy base help please - D-Day & Food trails

Normandy base help please - D-Day & Food trails

Old Jun 26th, 2022, 06:24 AM
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Normandy base help please - D-Day & Food trails

Where is the best base to see both the D-Day sights as well as visit some of the surrounding farms along the trails (camembert, Neufchatel, cider, calvados)? Will try to tell you our interests below. We are couple in our early 50's.

We'd like to see D-Day sites including:War Museum, Omaha Beach, American Cemetary, Arromanches, Pointe du Hoc, Longues-sur-Mer
Please lmk if there are any musts we shouldn't miss (we're not interested in the Tapestry, multiple museums, churches etc., we would like to see war remnants along the AtlantikWall,etc)

For the trail, we'd like to visit a few farms, do some tastings, have lunch etc. Any recommendations here would be great too.

We're foodies (work in biz and travel for food - higher end & very casual with character- just want to be really good - not into fancy with foams etc) , and read that staying in/near Honfleur is best for restaurants and in/near Bayeux is best for D-Day.
Should we split it up and stay in Honfleur and then Bayeux? If so how much time do we need in each? Or should we just stay in one spot and make that our base?
We also want to visit Mont Saint Michel and didn't realize how far it is so plan to stay a night there.

We will be arriving in Paris, head out to Normandy, last night in Mont Saint Michel and then fly out of Nantes.
Thanks in advance for any advice!



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Old Jun 26th, 2022, 07:55 AM
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Yes, split up and stay in Honfleur and Bayeux. Te:tapestry, c.1044. Story of William the Conqueror. A long narrow tapestry that tells the story. Very interesting to see and follow. Doesn’t take long so please reconsider.
We loved the food in Normandy as it features our favorite foods: cheeses, lamb, seafood especially mussels and sole, and wonderful apple desserts!

Last edited by HappyTrvlr; Jun 26th, 2022 at 07:58 AM.
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Old Jun 26th, 2022, 11:03 AM
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Hi, I know a few things about the tapestry but I'm also very ignorant about it. I know it is not a tapestry, I know it was made in England under William's queen. This means it has to be made after 1066. I also know it has been dumped in a cow shed and dragged around northern France, including being hidden from the Germans.

Look at the roads, they can be slow. Neufchâteau cheese is not worth the visit. The Camembert route is interesting. Don't miss out on mussels and oysters.
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Old Jun 26th, 2022, 11:55 AM
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I just got back from Normandy a few weeks ago. We split our time between Port-en-Bessin (a great base for D-Day sites, and convenient to Bayeux), Mont Saint-Michel, and Honfleur. If you are interested in my experience, you can click on my name to get to my profile and my trip report.

I'm not a foodie, but there were some higher end options near Port-en-Bessin that I was aware of but didn't try (the Botanist and Chateaus de Sully are on the short road between Port-en-Bessin and Bayeux).
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Old Jun 26th, 2022, 02:15 PM
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Attached is my Normandy & Brittany itinerary with lots of info about sites & restaurants in Normandy. There is a Mont St Michel section also

Stu Dudley
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Old Jun 26th, 2022, 04:53 PM
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We just returned from Brittany and Normandy also. You can get a wealth of information from Stu Dudley's report. Thank you Stu. We stayed in Bayeux for 3 nights at the Tardiff Noble Guest House. It is a lovely facility and a block from the Bayeux Cathedral. We especially enjoyed our meal at Le Pommier.; wonderful seafood.
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Old Jun 27th, 2022, 05:38 AM
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Thanks for your responses, do you think we need more time in Bayeux or Honfleur?
And which area is more conducive for the best of the food trail?
We'll see if we have enough time for the Tapestry - it's most about seeing the things that interest us the most within our limited time and we just returned from Italy where we spent a lot of time in museums & churches so we're looking for a different experience.
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Old Jun 27th, 2022, 05:59 AM
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We stayed in Dinan and Bayeux during a brief Normandy visit a few years ago. I apologize for not including photos in this trip report: Brittany/Normandy/D-Day 4 nights. October but we came away with many beautiful memories as well as photos. And, we were able to see and do a lot in a few short days.
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Old Jun 27th, 2022, 06:57 AM
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StuDudley,
Thank you for sharing your amazing and thorough trip report. I hope you can help with some questions after reading through:
- I had Camembert on my list - curious why do you recommend skipping it?
- If you had very limited time would you spend more time in Honfleur as a base or in/near Bayeux? Would you definitely split up the time vs spending all time in Bayeux as a base (bc we want to see D-Day sites) or is Bayeux too far from the best of the cheese/cider/calvados towns?
- Since you didn't have any remarkable meals in Honfleur (we were interested in staying bc we read it was great for foodies), would you recommend staying inland in one of the cheese trail towns vs in Honfleur and then moving over to Bayeux?

Thanks in advance!
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Old Jun 27th, 2022, 07:28 AM
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Also, for anyone who has traveled there during summer many hotels don't have air conditioning and while I see averages are cooler there at night, iwould we be advised to choose a place with AC? (does it get hot in the rooms at night)?
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Old Jun 27th, 2022, 08:02 AM
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The actual town of Camenbert is not as nice or as interesting as the other famous cheese towns (see my itinerary). We enjoyed the exhibitions in the other towns. Plus, IMO, Camembert may be more famous than the others, but we think the others are superior cheeses (the US loves McDonalds - but are they the best burgers?)

The last time we visited the WWII sites (we have visited them 2 times) we were with my father in law. He participated in the D-Day landings and wanted to see everything. "Everything" took us about 1 1/2 full days. We've stayed in the Pays d'Auge for a week & visited Honfleur, stayed in Honfleur itself for several days, and in 2019 (our last trip to Europe before Covid) when we stayed near Rouen for 2 weeks - we visited Honfleur and surrounds for a couple of days. I think there is more stuff to do & see around Honfleur. The Pays d'Auge, costal towns, Etretat, etc. So maybe 2 days in Bayeux & the remainder in Honfleur. We did not have dinner in Honfleur in 2019 - so my food comments are obsolete.

When we were near Rouen for 2 weeks in June 2019, the weather was a tad rainy & mild. We then went to Dinan for 2 weeke - and it was a scorcher. 90s. Our gite had thick walls, but we needed fans to keep cool. The prior year in June it was a scorcher in Vannes in Brittany & also near Concarneau. Prior to Covid, we've been in France for 1 month in June and 1 month in Sept. I think all Junes from about 2015 to 2019 have been scorchers. My wife & I actually joke about it!!! June is suppose to be mild. This year, there was an "all time" scorcher in France in June. AC for hotels!!

Stu Dudley
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Old Jun 27th, 2022, 09:10 AM
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Thanks for your advice Stu, I think we're definitely going to chose our lodging around which has air conditioning. I'm now remembering sweating through a night with no A/C in Lucerne Switzerland during a heat wave in which my Swiss Chocolates melted into a puddle through the night. It's not worth taking the chance, I value my sleep too much.
Good point about the cheeses..What was your favorite cheese in the area? Our favorite french cheese is Brillat Savarin but it's appears to be off the track of our trip.
We had originally planned to see Etretat but given limited time decided we'll probably skip it since it seems to be in the opposite direction of the other things we'd like to see but lmk if you think we should rethink that.
Since we don't plan to see all of the D-Day landings, should we instead plan to base the whole time in Honfleur or do you still recommend splitting it up given your experience?
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Old Jun 27th, 2022, 09:14 AM
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We've been to Normandy (D-day) three times with different groups of friends/family. I would recommend the Ibis Port en Bessin to stay. It has air conditioning. Very good access to all the standard American Sites. D514 pretty much is the road through all of the sites on the Omaha side and it runs right through Port en Bessin. Just past Point du Hoc is Grandcamp Maisy and it had a wonderful restuarant when we were there in 2019 called La Trinquette. Limited hours but great food. I would recommend that you consider researching the Utah Beach side of the Channel as well. It is just a few more miles down the road and it has several wonderful sites. Sainte Marie-du-Mont, and the Utah Museum were worthwhile for sure.
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Old Jun 27th, 2022, 10:24 AM
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How many days to you have? When are you going?

We spent 5 nights in Port-en-Bessin, one night at Mont Saint-Michel, and two nights in Honfleur, which I thought was a good allocation based upon our available time. That allowed us to spend one full day (24 hours) devoted Mont Saint-Michel, about 2.5 days devoted to D-Day, a half day to Bayeux and the tapestry, a day to the Pays d'Auge, and a day and a half devoted to Honfleur.

We had a private guide for a full day for the American D-Day sites, then did the British on our own in a day (really about half a day), and spent another half day on D-Day when we stopped at the D-Day Experience Museum outside Carentan on our way to Mont Saint-Michel. For some folks, that would be too much; for others, not enough. If you are a real military history buff, you could spend several days just checking out the remaining German fortifications. And, there seems to be an endless number of D-Day Museums (we went into 3).

On the Pays d-Auge, I had two things planned (a lunch in Beuvron and the tour of the Graindorge dairy in Livarot), and thought we might just see something as a target of opportunity along the way, but a very rainy drive between Livarot and Honfleur kind of pushed that thought aside. If you want to really focus on this, you'll have to do some specific research on what's open to the public and what you want to see. There weren't a lot of opportunities that we saw from just driving by.

As to Mont Saint-Michel, I wouldn't necessarily plan my itinerary around it, but if you happen to be there at a time where the tide is high enough to completely surround the Mont but not close the causeway, that's ideal, and probably worth spending some extra time to see the cycle. On the other hand, if you are going to be there when it's a low tide coefficient (meaning that even at high tide, the water doesn't completely surround the Mont), then you may not want to spend as much time there --- just enough to see it without the crowds (which an overnight stay will allow you to do, whether you stay on the Mont or at one of the hotels inside the parking area).

Regarding restaurants, do you need to have restaurants within walking distance of your accommodations (i.e, will you be drinking and not driving)? If so, you will limit yourself to what is at hand in town or relatively close by. Honfleur has a plethora of options. There were some highly rated places in Caen, but we didn't spend any time in Caen. Bayeux seems pretty touristy, so I don't know if it has any real memorable food options in town, but, as I mentioned early, Chateau de Sully between Bayeux and Port-en-Bessin is highly rates. Le Pave d'Auge in Beuvron is also highly rated.

Last edited by twk; Jun 27th, 2022 at 10:28 AM.
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Old Jun 27th, 2022, 10:31 AM
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Favorite Normandy cheese is Livarot. Favorite French cheese is Epoisse from Burgundy.

Etretat is 45 mins from Honfleur.

I hate one-nighters - but you could leave Honfleur early, visit the Caen museum, Pegasas bridge & museum, Arromanches, Tapestry, Bayeux museums, then stay in Bayeux. Next morning, more Bayeux museums, cemetery, Pt du Hoc, & stuff west of Bayeux. Maybe skip Ste Mere Eglise. Then head to MSM - leaving the Bayeux area by 3PM to arrive at the Mont & check into a hotel by 6:30 (parking is difficult if you are staying on the Mont).

Caen is 45 mins from Honfleur & Bayeux is 1 1/4 hrs away. You you could do 2 day trips from Honfleur. But that makes a long drive to MSM.

Stu Dudley



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Old Jun 27th, 2022, 01:26 PM
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I would second the Peace Museum recommendation from Stu. It is one of the best war history museums (other than Musee de L'Armee in Paris) in France, IMO. Very well curated and organized.
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Old Jun 27th, 2022, 03:51 PM
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We stayed in Bayeaux. The town has some nice restaurants, and I found a shop that specialized in apple liquors. They may have had Calvados, but I tasted some other apple liquors and bought a sweet one. I wish I had purchased more😉
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Old Jun 27th, 2022, 04:26 PM
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We're going to Normandy for 6 nights total into Paris and out of Nantes. We were considering
2 nts Honfleur
2 nts Bayeux
1 nt Mont Saint Michel (should we def stay overnight or carry on to another area - was thinking Saint Malo or Dinard? If we do stay overnight do we stay ON MSM or off of it to be able to see the view at night)?
1 nt somewhere in or on the way to Nantes (our flight is at 11:40am) - any suggestions here?

We typically do things on our own vs a tour but I'm wondering if we should plan at least a half day one for D-Day sites? My husband is a history buff but he doesn't like being inside museums. That being said we will definitely plan to go to 1 or 2 based on some of the reco's here.
I think we'll plan to avoid Caen bc it's big and maybe not spend much time in Bayeux since it's touristy. We prefer small villages or waterfront. We will have a car and so plan to drive including to dinner wherever. I'm not a big drinker so not worried about drinking and driving.

Stu, we hate 1 nighters too. Not sure if there's a way to avoid that here.
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Old Jun 28th, 2022, 04:48 AM
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My favorite D-Day places are:

Pointe du Hoc
Arromanches
Couloire de la mort
Museum of the Atlantic Wall in Ouistreham
The American Cemetary in Colleville-sur-mer

I do not care at all about the Bayeux Tapestry. I am also one of those people who thinks French cuisine gets much better south of the Loire.

Using one place as a base means a lot of backtracking in a very spread out area. We rented a gite for a week, but in this case it didn't work out as well as I wanted.

Aside form the D-Day sites, Honfleur is beautiful and unique, Etretat is magnificent, but best to keep in mind the tides if you want to do even a small hike. A trail can be fine going out but submerged when you want to return. Beuvron-en-Auge is a photographer's dream. The ruined Abbey in Jumieges is spectacular.

There are designated tourist 'trails' (by road) for apples/cider and seeing thatched roof villages.

Given your interests, I would visit the website for Beinvenue a la ferme, which lists throughout France farms that are open for tastings, meals, and to purchase products direct from the producer. Tons of intel on this site:

https://www.bienvenue-a-la-ferme.com/

Last edited by shelemm; Jun 28th, 2022 at 04:57 AM.
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Old Jun 28th, 2022, 05:12 AM
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Originally Posted by JES28 View Post
We're going to Normandy for 6 nights total into Paris and out of Nantes. We were considering
2 nts Honfleur
2 nts Bayeux
1 nt Mont Saint Michel (should we def stay overnight or carry on to another area - was thinking Saint Malo or Dinard? If we do stay overnight do we stay ON MSM or off of it to be able to see the view at night)?
1 nt somewhere in or on the way to Nantes (our flight is at 11:40am) - any suggestions here?

We typically do things on our own vs a tour but I'm wondering if we should plan at least a half day one for D-Day sites? My husband is a history buff but he doesn't like being inside museums. That being said we will definitely plan to go to 1 or 2 based on some of the reco's here.
I think we'll plan to avoid Caen bc it's big and maybe not spend much time in Bayeux since it's touristy. We prefer small villages or waterfront. We will have a car and so plan to drive including to dinner wherever. I'm not a big drinker so not worried about drinking and driving.

Stu, we hate 1 nighters too. Not sure if there's a way to avoid that here.
The reason that folks recommend an overnight stay at Mont Saint-Michel is that the Mont is choked with daytrippers from about 10:00 to 4:00. If you want to see the abbey at night, then an overnight trip is the way to do it -- keep in mind that in the summer time, it doesn't get dark until rather late. I personally think you are better off staying off the Mont - the view of the Mont from the mainland is the one that is iconic, not the other way around. If you stayed on the Mont and wanted to see it at night, you'd have to walk down to the bridge and then back up to your hotel, whereas, if you stay at one of the hotels on the mainland, you can catch a shuttle bus to the drop off point on the bridge anytime up until midnight. You don't say when you are going, but the abbey is open at night in July and August, so that increases your options, if you are not absolutely requiring a night time view of the Mont -- you could arrive late in the afternoon, see the Mont, and drive on to St. Malo or somewhere, but I think that would be pushing it.

2 nights in Honfleur and 2 in Bayeux is probably fine. I looked at some of those farm trail options, but fitting them in to the trip was not as easy as I would have hoped. There was one place west of Bayeux that really interested me, but they were not open for visitors at the time we could make it over there (can't remember if it was a days of the week thing, or seasonal, but I think it was seasonal and that they only opened for visitors in the summer).
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