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Normandy Beaches Advice

Old Mar 2nd, 2009, 07:58 PM
  #1  
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Normandy Beaches Advice

We're planning a bike trip in Burgundy this summer. We plan to spend some time in Paris, but I am also anxious to perhaps make a sidetrip to Normandy for a visit to the D-Day sites.

I'd really appreciate advice on how to perhaps incorporate all this. I see many recommend renting a car at CDG and driving right to Normandy, which I am somewhat reluctant to do. I just think the driving/navigating in a foreign country adds a level of anxiety I'd rather avoid. My initial thought was to arrive in Paris, go to Normandy, then do the trip in Burgundy, winding up with a few days in Paris before heading home. Thoughts?

Thanks.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2009, 09:02 PM
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It's certainly possible to do the Normandy WWII sites without a car. There are companies offering day tours from Caen and even from Paris. But I would encourage you to re-consider driving yourself. If you're concerned about dealing with Paris traffic, you might train to Caen and rent a car from there. Having a car will give you so much more flexibility and allow you to spend more time at the places that really interest you.

Once you get over the initial discomfort of driving in France, I think you'd do just fine. I do, and I'm the original timid driver. And you might consider putting the Normandy visit at the end, after your bike trip in Burgundy. By then you will probably feel quite comfortable and relaxed about French roads, signs, round-abouts, etc.

Here are some photos from the sites, if you're interested: http://gardentouring.fotopic.net/c786658.html
julia1 is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2009, 09:15 PM
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There is no reason to drive if you do not want to. It is quite easy to take the train from Paris to Bayeux. Stay a couple of days, take one of the tours that are offered there. I recommend Battlebus, but there are others that are good too. They do require reservations ahead of time and I would make them as soon as possible, as they fill up fast. They only take 8 people at a time and you should arrive in Bayeux the day before, as they leave at 0800. We did the 2 day American Experience and were just blown away. We are hoping to go back and do the British Experience and the Canadian Experience tours too. They are that good!
http://www.battlebus.fr/
Mainhattengirl is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2009, 11:51 PM
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The French road system is very good and easy to navigate but you should stick with your comfort level and take the train if you're hesitant about driving. If you're coming from an overseas flight it would be more relaxing to take the train to Normandy and have a tour pick you up at your hotel (or other meeting point) the next day. Bayeux is a more charming town than Caen and you can book a tour that originates there. The D Day sites are a very moving experience and well worth the trip to Normandy.

I would go directly to Normandy, then continue to Burgundy, and end up in Paris at the end of the trip.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 05:53 AM
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Another reco for Battlebus tours; they do a great job.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 06:01 AM
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Driving in Normandy is pretty much a no-brainer, but if you're willing to give up the flexibility it allows and really are fearful, there are tours: Battlebus and others given by the Mémorial museum in Caen are reportedly great. DO find a way to see the museum in Caen, though. And yes, Bayeux makes a great base.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 06:41 AM
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I don't really have a problem with the driving, I just hoped to leave all that to someone else so I could just focus on the experiences. My sister lived for a time in Caen and she said driving was easy, but thought we'd more enjoy not having to do it. I've so much good stuff about the Battlebus tours, I was already convinced we would do that, eliminating again the need for a car.

Does anyone know whether trains to Caen/Bayeux run directly from CDG? Or will we have to go into Paris proper first?
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 07:32 AM
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I don't know of any direct trains - only connections through Paris (in at Gare du Nord, out at Gare St-Lazare).

A hybrid approach would be to take the train to Bayeux, hire a car with driver/guide at the Tourist Information Bureau, and go where you want to, when you want to. I think the commercial tours are restricting and overpriced. When you use an independent, it costs probably 70€ for a carload.

If you want a canned history lecture, then Battlebus and its clones are your cup of tea.

With a good GPS that you're practiced with, driving yourself is a piece of cake. We use Microsoft.com/AutoRoute on a laptop.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 07:48 AM
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Trains for Caen/Bayeux leave from St. Lazare. From CDG you can take the RER to Gare du Nord, then transfer lines to St. Lazere. Or you can take one of the airport shuttle buses or a taxi to St. Lazere.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 07:57 AM
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Just wondering if Robespierre has been on any of these tours, especially Battlebus? On what does he base his derogatory comments?

Funny how the passion for what our guide was presenting kept oozing through "his canned history lecture". At no time did we ever feel like this was a script, nor a lecture.

I am on several other travel forums and have never, not once, heard anything but high praise for this company. Not one person has said it was boring or that it wasn't worth the money, or anything like that. People, being people, would much rather complain than praise, so the fact that this company only gets praise and compliments says something.
Mainhattengirl is offline  
Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 08:45 AM
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...the fact that this company only gets praise and compliments says something.

As I implied above - if you want to be spoon-fed whatever history the tour operator thinks is important, and pay exorbitant rates for the privilege, go for it.

If you want to set your own itinerary and control what you see and for how long, a car and driver is the way to go.
Robespierre is offline  
Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 09:16 AM
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I think it would be a shame to visit an area that represents freedom and to be herded around for a canned tour.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 09:21 AM
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Well said. Not to mention that the DVD is far cheaper.
Robespierre is offline  
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