Normandy Itinerary

Jun 13th, 2001, 06:58 AM
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Normandy Itinerary

My husband and I are planning a trip to Belgium and France in September. I'm trying to finalize the itinerary so that I can start making some hotel reservations. We are planning on spending a few days in Brussels and Bruges, then moving on to Normandy and Paris.

Originally we were going to take the train from Bruges to Rouen (picking up a car in Rouen), but according to the sncf website, we'd have to go through Brussels and Paris. It seems like it would be easier to drive. Are there any known issues with picking up a car in Bruges and dropping it off in Normandy/Paris? Is it an easy drive?

Once we're in the Normandy area, there's a lot we'd like to see - Rouen, Honfleur, Bayeaux, the D-Day Beaches, and Mont St. Michel. Is it possible to fit all this into 4 days? I don't want to underestimate the driving times or overestimate what is possible to do. I was thinking something like this:
Day 1: Stop in Rouen on the way to Honfleur from Bruges.
Day 2: Visit Honfleur and D-Day Beaches on the way to Bayeux.
Day 3: Visit Bayeux and drive to Mont St. Michel
Day 4: Spend the morning in Mont St. Michel before heading to Paris by way of Giverny.

Of course, I'd prefer to stay in just one hotel in Normandy and make that our home base, but I just don't see how that's possible - unless we're driving all the time. As it is now - this is a lot of driving for my taste.

Are there any must sees on my itinerary that I'm missing? Or anything that I could pass on? Mont St. Michel seems to get mixed reviews...

Our plan was to drop the car off at Charles de Gaulle airport and finish up our vacation with a little less than a week in Paris.

Any suggestions to improve the itinerary? Does anyone have any hotel recommendations for the area - something nice with a private bath that costs around $150/night? I'm looking for recommendations in Brussels, Bruges, and Paris as well. Thanks in advance.
Jun 13th, 2001, 07:19 AM
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I haven't done your itinerary, but
why not in Normandy base yourself
in Caen or Bayeux and do daytrips from there? You'd do more sightseeing and less packing/unpacking and driving. My family recently based near Caen, and took an excellent guided tour in a small van to the D Day Beaches.
Tour was operated by BusFly tours; they have a website or you can email me for the details. They also offer tours to Mont St Michel. Family also spent a day in Bayeux which they highly recommended. Bayeux also has tour companies that offer D-Day and Mont St Michel tours.

Or you can drive yourself to the beaches from Caen or Bayeux or another base, and still return to your hotel at night

I understand that Mont St Michel can be very crowded, and that it is awesome.
I don't think you should plan on seeing
Giverny plus driving on to Paris, all in one day.
Jun 13th, 2001, 07:33 AM
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Kim - for a Paris hotel suggestion - check out the Hotel de Fleurie. Fodor's lists it under F on this website (Paris Hotels). My rave is there with others. I LOVED THIS HOTEL. A FANTASTIC LOCATION halfway between metros Odeon and Mabillon and just 50-80 feet off Blvd. St Germain on Gregoire de Tours in the 6th. Two blocks down to the left is place St Germain with Cafes Deux Magots and Flore (& others), two blocks to the right is Blvd St Michel. Notre Dame and the RER C are a quick walk away. The hotel itself is small (34 rms) charming and friendly. Our regular double for 950f was an adequate size esp. for Paris. The room had a modern bath, comfy bed, nice artwork, AC, TV, and the softest towels. The cold buffet breakfast for 50f is bountiful - cereals, cheese, ham, yougurt, fresh squeezed o.j., basket of breads, jams, hot beverages, fresh fruit salad and also whole fruits. There are lots of special touches around the hotel too. It met all my expectations and I will stay there again.
Jun 13th, 2001, 07:47 AM
mimi taylor
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Good mornig Kim, Mont St M. is so crowed, and I think The sight of it from a distance is incredible. It gave me a rush! I felt the same way about the Pont du Gard, seeing it emerge as we drove close. It would be a shame to rush Giverny, because besides Monet's house and gardens there is also The American Museum and gardens And a favorite of mine, The Ancient Hotel Baudy where all the American artists stayed. These days it is no loger a Hotel but a museum and restaurant with dining outside as well as in the original dining room. Ther is a new splendid book called A TASTE OF GIVERNY that has some beautiful pictures of the BAUDY. Also a picture of my favorite restaurant in that area ,THE MOULIN DE FOURGES-mimi
Jun 13th, 2001, 07:56 AM
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Kim, You have a nice trip planned. My two cents worth would be:
1. Bruges to Rouen, have lunch, visit then on to Honfleur for first night.
2. Honfleur to Caen for two nights. Visit all you can from this location.
3. Stay overnight at St. Michel. Too crowded during the day, night time is magical.
Next day to Giverny and Paris.
It is a doable.
Jun 13th, 2001, 07:58 AM
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We're heading to Normandy at the end of June and are planning to spend 4 days there. We decided to base ourselves in Fougeres (which is actually in Brittany) to visit le Mont St-Michel and St-Malo and a few other towns. Then we will move to Bayeux for two days to visit the museum in Caen and the WWII sites. Actually, I'd love to go back to Honfleur because it's so lovely, but it doesn't make a sensible base for the WWII sites. So, yes, you could stay in one place and take in all the sites, but having visited Normandy a number of times in the past, we felt it would be more practical to divide the time between two places - to make for less driving time each day.
Jun 13th, 2001, 08:14 AM
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Hi, Kim. About the car rental: yes, there could be a substantial cost to picking up a car in Belgium and dropping it off in France. Many companies charge extra drop-off fees. To avoid this perhaps you could take local transportation from Bruges to somewhere just across the border into France (Dunkerque? Calais?) and pick up your car there. There must be a Belgian train, or even a bus, that does that route. On the other hand, France has a hefty tax on car rentals (19.6%) that you might avoid by picking up the car in Belgium. To compare I recommend you visit or to check the various possibilities.

Your itinerary for Normandy looks doable, but I agree with Elaine that trying to do Giverny on your way back to Paris from Mt. St. Michel is a bit much. That could be done as a day trip from Paris if you have the time. You can check driving times, get recommended routes, and even gas and toll costs at:

I think you are planning to see the highlights of Normandy and could not do any more in 4 days. Although Mt. St. Michel is a bit out of the way and very touristy, I think it is one of the must-see places in France. It's best if you can get there early in the morning before the tourist buses arrive, or you might want to consider spending the night there.

I agree with you that it is more pleasant to have a base from which you do day trips, but with your itinerary I don't think that would work very well. With a budget of $150 per night you should have no trouble finding nice accommodations in Honfleur, Bayeux and Mt. St. Michel. You might want to visit this site for hotel possibilities.

One final thought: you might want to consider doing this trip in reverse. You could take the train from Bruges, through Paris, to somewhere near Mt. St. Michel (Rennes or Dinan?), pick up your car there and work your way back to Paris. That would avoid the long drive back to Paris from Mt. St. Michel and would allow time to see Giverny along the way. Check the sncf site for time and cost.

Hope this has been helpful and I wish you a bon voyage.
Jun 13th, 2001, 08:37 AM
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Kim: The comments by "herself" are right on. Much like we did, although we were able to spend a little more time in the area. Giverny is an easy daytrip from Paris by train. Why not buy the extra day in Normandy? We also did that; early train out and back to Paris by late afternoon seeing all of Giverny we wanted. If you do this, take a look at Dinan (close to Mont St. Michel)with the extra time. One of the most charming Towns you will find in all of Brittany. A half day with their renowned crepes for lunch would do it. By-the-way, the crowds at "The Mont" dissapate by 6:00. You have plenty of daylight left and the "glorius" evening to enjoy. If they have the evening light and sound tour, take it. Memorable! A wonderful part of France. You are going to have such a good time.
Jun 13th, 2001, 12:30 PM
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Wow! I just checked out the difference between picking up the rental car in Belgium vs. Anywhere in France. It's going to cost us $600 more to pick up the car in Bruges! Betty suggested getting across the border and then picking up the car in France. It seems like all the trains go back through Brussels. Any suggestions on how to avoid this? I think the Thalys will take us to Paris directly from Bruges, but that's all I can find right now.

Thank you to everyone for all your advice. I think I'm going to look into spending 1 night in Honfleur, 2 nights in Caen, 1 night in Mont St. Michel. I also liked the idea of reversing the itinerary so that it would be easier to do Giverny on the way back to Paris.

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