Normandy/Brittany

Aug 23rd, 2010, 08:06 PM
  #1  
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Normandy/Brittany

I've read all the recent posts regarding Normandy however I still have a question (or two, probably more): We will have five days in the area and are thinking that 2 days in Bayeux, 1 day in Mont St Michel & 1 day in St Malo would be good. Where would you add for the one extra 24 hrs? And, can anyone recommend good B&Bs in these three areas? We will be there the later part of Oct, will reservations be necessary or could we 'wing it'? We plan to rent a vehicle at CDG which is much cheaper than renting in Caen and we will save on the train tickets...why does it appear most do not do this? Am I missing something? Thanks
bridgetS is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2010, 08:41 PM
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We stayed at a B&B between Cancale and St. Malo. If interested, check its name in my trip report (Ghent, Normandy & Brittany).
Michael is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 04:10 AM
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Just to respond to the car rental part of your question--we rent our car from the airport also. The benefits start right away. We have no luggage worries; everything we won't immediately need goes in the trunk. We don't have to carry luggage, find a taxi or train station, make any connections, get in any lines, buy tickets, or struggle with expressing ourselves. Our route is (mostly) our choice, so we can go directly or indirectly, take the autoroute or the back roads. Within an hour we can stop at a patisserie along the Seine. I've never compared costs with taking a train somewhere and renting a car there, but I'd think the savings on train tickets alone would really pay off if you're a family.

I can think of two major concerns--will you be rested enough to drive? Can you handle the busy traffic?

Many times I've seen warnings about the dangers of arriving on a long flight and immediately getting into a strange car and braving the airport exit traffic and autoroutes, and I agree that's a problem. It works for us because my husband is an intrepid driver. He drinks a lot of coffee on the plane. When we pick up the car, he figures out the car's lights, gears including reverse, windshield wipers, etc. before we leave the rental car lot.

Exiting the airport is tough unless you're used to heavy traffic. Everybody but the rental car driver knows where they are going and zips confidently in and out. We usually make an extra loop around the airport till we're sure where to go, and even then we've been wrong.

I believe we have a 100% record of leaving the airport the wrong way. Even with printed directions in hand. I am not a good map reader and the French indicate only the general direction on their road signs--not Route 66 West, which you could see on a map, but "Rouen," "Meaux," and other major towns and I often have no clue which is east, north, west, up, or down.

I encourage you to try it. Avoid the autoroutes. Get onto a scenic road (green roads on the Michelin maps) as soon as you can, and your vacation starts right then. You're in the real France, not autoroute France.
Coquelicot is online now  
Aug 24th, 2010, 04:18 AM
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Coquelicot has offered great advice. You might like to spend your "extra" night en route to Bayeux. Maybe Honfleur although that might be a little far for leaving the airport. We went to Rouen, planning on Giverny on the way, but just went on.
Staying on the secondary roads (N, I believe) is much better also. More to see, and not difficult at all.
Gretchen is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 05:12 AM
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Le Chaine d'Or in Petit Andely is an easy drive from CDG and makes a good first night stop on the way to Normandy after an overnight flight. Bucolic setting along the Seine and great place to relax.
grandmere is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 06:10 AM
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You'll be visiting a lovely area, where I spent 10 days in June and could have spent more. Five days will give you a good intro and might tempt you to return for more. I agree with you about the car--picking it up at the airport makes great sense. We took the ferry over from Portsmouth to Le Havre, picked up the car there, and dropped it off at CDG on our way to Paris. No problems!

In Bayeux I can recommend the B&B Le Petit Matin, not far from the Cathedral. They have only 3 rooms to let, in a lovely townhouse, and serve excellent breakfasts as part of the price. Very nice owners. For dinner we ate at Le Fringale, not far from the tourist office. A good meal, reasonably priced, in a very friendly setting. The tapestry, the Cathedral, and the Battle of Normandy Museum will keep you busy for a day; you might consider a D-Day tour on the second day. There are several that base out of Bayeux; we took the 1-day Battlebus tour that focused on the American-related sites. Very worthwhile, with only 8 people maximum and a knowledgeable, interesting British guide.

Some places you might consider for your extra day:

--Overnight in Giverny. It's a sweet place after all the garden visitors leave--and you can visit Monet's garden at the end of the day or early the next morning, both great times for photography and much less crowded than mid-day. We stayed 2 nights there, at Le Bon Marchechal, another nice B&B with just 3 rooms, right in the heart of the village. Really comfortable and not on anybody's radar. We spent the evenings having drinks and dinner at the wonderful Hotel Baudy, really the only game in town after the gardens close, with a very pleasant outdoor dining area. Giverny off-hours really surprised me!

--Honfleur. Beautiful, picturesque town with plenty to keep you occupied for a day (museums, shops, walks, boats, architecture). I can recommend the B&B Cour Sainte Catherine, a rambling 17th-century courtyard building with a charming organized jumble of a garden and a very friendly owner. We enjoyed dinners at L'Homme du Bois and L'Hippocampe, both in town.

--Dinan. We rented a house here so I can't recommend a specific B&B, but we the town is beautiful and engaging, with excellent restaurants (I recommend La Mere Pourcel), markets, bars, a beautiful church, a fabulous harbor area, and great walks in the vicinity (especially the one up the Rance River to Lehon (you can also rent a boat for the same trip).

You might also consider a day on the Granite Rose coast. We drove from Dinan to Ploumanche for the day--it was a full day's trip but was worth it for the striking scenery and a great coastal walk, punctuated by a wonderful lunch of delicious langoustines at a small restaurant by the water.

I loved the old part of St. Malo--especially the bracing walk along the ramparts. We enjoyed an excellent meal at Le Lion d'Or--my shrimp and scallop salad with mushrooms was one of the best meals I had on this trip. Cancale was another nice spot, with lots of restaurants serving great oysters and other types of seafood, and a beautiful coastline to walk.
aprillilacs is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 07:04 AM
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aprillilacs took the words out of my mouth for the extra day suggestion. I'll second a vote for either Honfleur, Dinan or Côte de Granit Rose (Ploumanach).
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 07:32 AM
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In Bayeux, check out the B&B Aggarthi at the following link: http://chambresdhotesbayeux.com/version_anglaise.htm
tom18 is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 08:13 AM
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We like to rent from the airport. We spent a week in Paris, then took a taxi to CDG to pick up the rental car (easier we thought than picking up in the city and driving through the city).

We thought about training to Caen and picking up a car, but, like you, decided to save the train fare (for 4 people) and just pick it up in Paris. The drive was no problem.
travelgirl2 is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 12:14 PM
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The best meal we had on the trip we went to Paris and Normandy was in Bayeux at Le Petite Bistro, across from the cathedral. Make reservations.
Gretchen is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 12:23 PM
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We like to rent from the airport. We spent a week in Paris, then took a taxi to CDG to pick up the rental car (easier we thought than picking up in the city and driving through the city).

This is adding unnecessary cost to the rental (taxi + 37€ for airport pick-up). Pick up the car at the Porte Maillot and you will be on the west side of Paris.
Michael is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 01:31 PM
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So many great suggestions. We did conclude that a long drive right after the flight would not be a good thing. Now we are thinking about going to Versailles, walking around for hours then drive to Honsfleur & spend the nite. My next question: Honsfleur, Trouville or Deauville? I've read that they all have something to offer. Thank you so much!
bridgetS is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 02:01 PM
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I know many people here love to pick up car at the airport - but not I!! However, I usually go to France solo, and much prefer the smaller roads. And with no navigator except myself, the train works best for me. Getting onto those crowded expressways from the airport after flying all night would totally freak me out.

When I went to Normandy a few years ago, I trained to Rouen and picked up car there. I had a lot more time than you do for this trip (2 weeks), so I spent 2 nights in Rouen without the car. I loved driving around Normandy - it's just beautiful, as is Brittany. I did the same kind of trip to Brittany the following year, and trained there before picking up car.

Your question re Honfleur, Trouville or Deauville: Honfleur, most definitely! I wasn't impressed with Trouville or Deauville, but adored Honfleur. It is a beautiful, charming little town. I also liked Bayeux a lot, even though I stayed at a place in the countryside near the beaches.

For Brittany, I much preferred Dinan to St. Malo. The parking was very difficult in St. Malo, and it just didn't have the charm of Dinan. As other have said, the Cote de Granit Rose is gorgeous. I'm sure you'll love both Normandy and Brittany, and will want to go back to spend more time in both areas.
Sue4 is offline  
Aug 24th, 2010, 02:01 PM
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This is what I would do. Pick up car rental at CDG and drive to Giverny. Tour Monet's garden getting plenty of sun(jet lag) and lite lunch across the rode at cafe. Drive to Honfleur and spend the night, have Dinner on the Quay, relax and enjoy the city with a light walk. In morning drive to Caen and visit the Peace Memorial(a must for D-Day visits), then on to Bayeux.

BTW driving to Versailles on the 1st day is not a good idea
cbo86 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2010, 11:47 AM
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Update: How 'bout drive to Versailles, this will keep us up and walking, then drive to Giverny, spend the nite? Next morn drive to Honfleur, spend the nite. Then on to Caen for morning at the museum, to Bayeux for the afternoon and one or two days? What do you all think?
bridgetS is offline  
Aug 25th, 2010, 12:01 PM
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If you do go to Versailles, stop before visiting Giverny. Visit the Money garden the next morning and then drive on to Honfleur, possibly going via the route des chaumes.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...7624436592493/

I believe that the pictures are geo-tagged so that you can find them on a map.
Michael is offline  
Aug 25th, 2010, 12:02 PM
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Monet, not Money.
Michael is offline  
Aug 25th, 2010, 12:45 PM
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Michael your pictures are so beautiful! I didn't go to Honfleur. Now I must return to Normandy.
Micheline is offline  
Aug 25th, 2010, 12:52 PM
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Dinan absolutely
Any of the castle towns in Britany
Falaise
Trouville and Deuville nah a bit of a waste of time unless you like casino
St Mere Elgise is of interest if you want a different slant on WW2
bilboburgler is online now  
Aug 25th, 2010, 12:56 PM
  #20  
 
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Picking a car up at the airport does cost a bit more due to airport pickup charges. Good point, Michael. To us, it's worth it to start out on an easy expressway with (usually) clearly marked signs.
travelgirl2 is offline  

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