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Normandy/Paris Travel Ideas--Will this work?

Normandy/Paris Travel Ideas--Will this work?

Old Jul 31st, 2002, 11:00 AM
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Normandy/Paris Travel Ideas--Will this work?

Hi all:

We are going to France for the first time in October. We have been doing some research and trying to learn a bit of the language (I know how to ask for a glass of wine!) and we have a hotel already reserved for Paris.

However, as I am a country girl, I really wanted to see more than Paris so we have opted to take the first few days and travel to Normandy--with four objectives in mind: visit the WWII sights, Bayeaux Tapestry, Mont St. Michel and Rueon (I feel a strong connection to Joan of Arc--she was my confirmation saint--a woman who defied convention is always to be admired--if not necessarily emulated in all ways.)

So, at first I thought we could just take the train from the airport, (we arrive @ 9:00 a.m.) and go straight to Rueon where we could spend the balance of the day seeing Joan related sights and trying to battle jet lag. I'm a big believer of not taking naps and getting outside into the sun as a way of dealing with the first day. I know I'll be fuzzy but I think it will work.

Second day, we plan on getting up, renting a car and driving to Caen, visiting a few things and then heading the Bayeaux for the night. Third day, visit the beaches and the tapestry and then drive to Mont St. Michel where we want to stay on the island for the night. Fourth day, drive back to Rueon, return car, take train into Paris and settle in for duration of the trip (another week).


Are we insane? I have the impression the map is deceiving and the time to travel from one spot to another may be longer than it looks.

What are the recommended hotels on Mont. St. Michel? I've gathered some info on places to stay in/around Bayeux but any futher info would be appreciated.

How nervous should we be about driving all around like this when we don't know the language? Will be find it hard to find our hotels (we normally follow directions well). Should we wait to rent a car until we get to Bayeaux?

I know some of these are "fuzzy" questions--please don't respond if you feel these questions are beneath you.

Old Jul 31st, 2002, 12:26 PM
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You'll have to go into Paris to catch the train from Gare St Lazare to Rouen. None of the buses nor the RER stop there. Do yourself a favor and get a cab right to Gare St Lazare (I wouldn't trust the shuttle, because you'll need to be at the station at a specific time to catch a train). There are trains about every 1/2 hour or so to Rouen (www.sncf.com will give you the schedule) and they take between 1 and 1 1/2 hours. By the time you check into your hotel and get something to eat, it's going to be around 2 o'clock. That should give you enough time to see a good chunk of Rouen. Now, you'll probably wake up in the wee small hours the next morning - uh oh no car rental place will be open. Instead, take the train to Caen (2 hours), and arrange for a car from there.

Driving is easy; get a good map (Michelin prints good ones, or contact the French Tourist bureau - they usually have free ones) which have some of the international symbols and general rules of the road. French drivers are very aggressive, but are very much in control of their cars (mostly). Speeds are high on the autoroutes; country roads are often 1 1/2 lanes wide and there's usually a combine in front of you (you will learn the universal groan "oh no FARM EQUIPMENT") which accounts for drives taking longer than planned. You can map your itinerary and get the times at

Exits are marked, signposts "so many miles to X", main roads and routes are numbered. Driving isn't very difficult (they drive on the right - I'm assuming you're American or Canadian, so it's the same side we drive).

If you get lost, you've got your map and your itinerary. If whomever you ask for directions speaks no English, pointing, miming and diagram-drawing usually is enough.

We didn't stay on Mont St Michel, but rather at a small motel-like hotel at the end of the causeway. Inexpensive, clean, but not much atmosphere (great view of the mont at night, and in the early morning mist). If you do a search on this forum Mont St Michel you'll find hotel recos.

Your trip sounds wonderful, a week in Normandy isn't nearly enough, but a year isn't either. You're not too rushed, and you can always adjust your days as you go along.

P.S. If you drive from Mont St Michel to Rouen, leave yourself enough time to take an inland route so you'll see a little of the interior of Normandy.
Old Jul 31st, 2002, 12:39 PM
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I just recently returned from a driving trip around Paris and then staying in Paris for acouple of days. You are thinking aout driving 160 to 200 km per day and then approx 350 to 400 km back to Rouen. Driving in France is simple and the autoroutes are fast. The secondary highways were our first choice and we travelled the same distance as your plans on them almost exclusivly. In seven days we drove 1750 km. Your plans are probably for 1000 to 1200 km. driving is a great way to see the countryside. The directional signs can be confusing, they don't use directions ( north south etc) the signs ask you to know what cities or towns you will pass through. It wasn't difficult to get used to and getting "lost" can be fun. Enjoy.
Old Jul 31st, 2002, 12:42 PM
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A class act as always. Thanks for the information. I have been debating the merits of getting the car in Rouen or Caen--thought the drive might be quite lovely and didn't want to miss it--but love the convenience of not having to drive. I would assume, though, that the train from Rouen to Caen would be picturesque as well. I assume trains are regularly scheduled btw the two places. Again, thanks much.
Old Jul 31st, 2002, 12:46 PM
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Thanks to you as well! I really appreciate your comments. I agree that getting lost can be fun--but my husband is not quite as adventurous and I don't want this to turn into a high stress event if a wrong turn is taken--the more I know in advance, the better. I'll just get a good map. Thanks again!
Old Jul 31st, 2002, 01:31 PM
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We drove from Paris to Bayeux last year and only spent three nights there when we should have allocated five or more. We took a tour of the battlefield sights one day and would recommend you look into doing the same. We got much more from the tour than we would have visiting the various sights on our own. Bayeux is a wonderful town with good food, a magnificent catherdral and the museum that houses the tapestry. We also drove to Caen one afternoon to see Pegasus Bridge and its museum, worth a trip as well. There is much to see and do in this area, I'm anxious to return. Good luck
Old Jul 31st, 2002, 01:48 PM
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I've mixed feelings about your itinerary. It is doable, but it seems nevertheless a little rushed (but then I'm a lazy ass and I hate being rushed), especially on the thrid day, when you expect to visit Bayeux, the beaches and then head to Mont-St-Michel. It will be very tight and you won't have much time to enjoy your visits.
Old Jul 31st, 2002, 01:57 PM
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like the ideas on your trip and if you need another place to see DINAN or st malo are not far from mont st michel. i really enjoyed dinan and highly recommend it
Old Jul 31st, 2002, 02:10 PM
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I think it's generally a good itinerary, but I was going to say exactly what Clairobscur said - Day 3 covers a lot. It takes at least a half-hour to see and appreciate the tapestry (that's bare minimum), so you won't even be on the road probably until about 10 am or after. The beach road is a narrow affair and there's usually a fair amount of traffic on it, no matter what time of year. It goes right through the center of many small towns, which makes it slow going. The American Cemetery is worthy of at least an hour, and each of the other beaches and sites merits at least a half-hour. Then you need to get to le Mont-St-Michel. It's a lot to do in one day.
Old Aug 1st, 2002, 07:08 AM
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Thanks to all for responding--I really appreciate the comments. Now we are thinking that we'll take an early train from Rouen to Caen, see a few sights, then pick up the car later that day, drive to Bayeux and see the tapestry that day. That would leave the next day for the beaches entirely and then driving to Mont St. Michel.

Again, thanks for the comments! Any others?
Old Aug 1st, 2002, 07:55 AM
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A couple of tips for viewing the tapestry. When we were there two years ago, I used the rentable audio thingie, available in English, which added a lot to the experience. When you go into the museum there's a short film about the tapestry that I thought was very well done. In addition, the seats are comfortable, so you can rest for a few minutes while you watch. Then you walk though an area where there's a complete mock-up of the tapestry. I think you can skip this, since the real thing lies just a few steps ahead and your time in Bayeux is short.

We stayed at the following inexpensive B&B in Bayeux, which we loved. Col. Chilcott is well-known for his battlefield tour, which we skipped in favor of exploring on our own.

Le Manor des Doyens
St Loup Hors
14400 France
From US: 011 33 2 31 22 39 09
[email protected]

Another time we stayed at this B&B, a beautiful 500 year old farm house close to the battlefields. A photo of their home is the screen saver on my computer. Not much English is spoken, but we had no trouble communicating with the owners. Awesome dinners are offered. Herve roasted lambchops in the huge fireplace and everything we ate was from their farm.

La Ferme de la Riviere
Saint Germain du Pert
14230 France
From US: 011 33 2 31 22 72 92

Bon voyage

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