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Notes/Highlights of May Trip to Normandy, Paris

Notes/Highlights of May Trip to Normandy, Paris

Old Jun 26th, 2005, 07:16 PM
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Notes/Highlights of May Trip to Normandy, Paris

The question that I obsessed about here as to where to meet my cousin and his wife [hereafter known as TCs( the cousins), C (cousin), CW (cousin's wife)]at CDG was much easier in the reality than in the planning! They arrived at Terminal 2B a couple of hours ahead of us and simply took the shuttle to Terminal 1, where they were waiting for my husband and me when we exited the baggage claim area. It was their first trip to Europe, and I wanted to get it off to a good start, and we did, despite the ugliness of Terminal 1, etc., that I and other posters had lamented about! Jet-lagged and happy to see each other, we went to Europcar and found our rental, which turned out to be a Renault Laguna wagon instead of the Passat that we had requested. Perhaps they're the same size but it looked like a mighty small car for 4 people and their luggage. Everything fit *just* fine, and we were off to Les Andelys, after C programmed his (newly-purchased-and-carried-with-him) Magellan GPS for France. We had told him that maps had served us well on many trips to Europe, but he thought we needed this, and we quickly got accustomed to this luxury (never difficult to do that,right?) and now sing its praises.

We arrived at La Chaine d'Or in Les Andelys in less than two hours w/o incident and found a chain across the entrance to the courtyard where you park the car. I went to the hotel entrance and could not get anyone to answer the door. I returned to the car where we sat, wondering what to do. In a few minutes a man came by and started to enter the courtyard, so I explained to him that we had reservations, etc. He looked at his watch and said that they don't open the doors until 2:00 pm, and it was only 1:50! He was very friendly (found out later that he was the owner) and did allow us to park the car, and off we went on foot to a recommended creperie for lunch. We had a laugh over TCs' first introduction to business in France!

(This was supposed to be only highlights and notes but see that I am getting carried away with my favorite stories of the trip; this may have morphed into a true trip report)

More later.
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Old Jun 26th, 2005, 08:03 PM
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How bizarre! We arrived around 1:00, and the chain was down. Good thing the owner happened by just at the right time. Where you there on the days when the restaurant is closed for lunch? That might be the answer.
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Old Jun 27th, 2005, 04:49 AM
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Yes, it was a Mon.; that's probably the reason. It still seemed funny that we couldn't even walk into the hotel! We were early in the season (May 9), and there were only 2 other tables of diners in the evening.

Chaine d'Or was booked upon your recommendation, Underhill, and it was a lovely place in an idyllic setting along the Seine; merci for the suggestion! Only slight negative would be that the room smelled a bit musty, perhaps b/c of location so close to river and also the room may not have been used much recently. I would certainly return, and it's a super location for a short-ish drive for those heading to Normandy after arriving at CDG.
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Old Jun 27th, 2005, 06:24 AM
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Looking forward to more of this, as I'm planning trip to Normandy next year. Please do write a full trip report! That was quite strange that you couldn't get into your hotel to check in until 2:00. Must have been quite disconcerting. I can understand the restaurant being closed, but not the reception for the rooms.
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Old Jun 27th, 2005, 05:12 PM
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Sue4, it would have been really strange in a large city, but given the size of the hotel and the village, it kind of made sense, in retrospect, but certainly bewildering for a few minutes. And, of course, with this trip I was always thinking about how everything was sitting with TCs, who agreed accompany us to France in a split-second decision, probably never having thought of it as a place they wanted to/would visit! This aspect made the trip all the more fun for me, showing them the place I love, but I was also eager and a bit anxious for them to like France and vice versa!

We had dinner that night at the beautifully decorated (elegant country French) Chaine d'Or restaurant (required to have dinner there, as hotel guests). It overlooks the Seine, which at this point is an ambling river in a bucolic scene, very different from its position in Paris. Dinner was delicious and relaxing; we all had the prix fixe for 53 euro. I've forgotten exactly but CW and I had fish, and the fellows had duck. Check out the menu and hotel at www.chainedor.com.

The next morning we left for Honfleur by way of Lyon-la-Foret (charming typically Norman village) and Rouen. We walked around and toured the cathedral and then found a place that makes hand turned and decorated faience de Rouen, Fayencerie Augy. The owner and master artisan was very willing to talk to us about his product and invited us to peek into the atelier. CW and I bought a few pieces of the beautiful faience.
www.fayencerie-augy.com

Honfleur is picture-postcard beautiful. We stayed at a B&B, La Tour Ste. Catherine, which was highly recommended by Dave in Paris (merci, Dave!) The Giaglis' could not be nicer and more accommodating. Our rooms were in separate buildings and could only be reached by steeeeeep steps, but the rooms were spacious with a large modern bath with nice heavy towels. Breakfast the next morning was in a room furnished with antiques, included in the price of 72 euro! We asked Mme Giaglis for a recommendation for a restaurant that serves regional fare, and she immediately suggested Le Bouillon Norman and made a reservation for us. It's a very small bistro-type restaurant and very popular with locals; folks w/o reservations were turned away. We began the meal with moules in a delicious broth, and I finished off my dinner with yet another tarte aux pommes. I highly recommend the Giaglis' B&B and Le Bouillon Norman! www.giaglis.com

I wish we had allowed for more time in Honfleur; I can well understand how folks go back time and again.
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Old Jun 27th, 2005, 05:19 PM
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hi grandmere!!!
waiting for more.
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Old Jun 27th, 2005, 05:33 PM
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Oh, good, grandmere--
I was hoping you'd write your trip report !

Our trips sounded like they paralleled each other in a lot of ways.

I'm eager to hear more!
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Old Jun 27th, 2005, 09:08 PM
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Grandmere, thanks for the report. I've thought of staying in Les Andelys but haven't gotten there yet. One problem though: the website for La Chaine d'Or is incorrect. It's www.lachainedor.com. Without the "la" you reach a vineyard in the US.
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Old Jun 28th, 2005, 04:53 AM
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Thank you, Shellio; I knew something looked wrong with it. I think I was getting it confused with the email address, which omits the "d"!

Marcy and Cigale, thanks for the encouraging words. I'm doing this report piecemeal(no pun intended)so will move on with it when I have a chance either here at work or at home this evening.
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Old Jun 28th, 2005, 12:21 PM
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Hi Grandmere,

Just a small adjustment. the Giaglis bed and breakfast is the Cour St. Catherine. The Web address is just as you gave it.
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Old Jun 28th, 2005, 12:28 PM
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That's what I get for doing this while away from my notes, info; thank you for the correction, Dave.
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Old Jun 28th, 2005, 05:43 PM
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Movin' on:

The next day, Wed., May 11, we traveled on to Bayeux, via Beuvron-en-Auge (suggested by M. Giaglis), which is another charming little typically Norman village. We wandered around a bit, and soon it was time for lunch. C saw a restaurant and walked in as we followed w/o looking at la carte. It was lovely (Pave d'Auge--Patricia Wells recommends it, I found out after returning home); in fact, more lovely and time consuming than we would have ordinarily chosen for lunch while "on the road." But it was a relaxing two+ hour lunch in an old building that oozed of Norman charm and fine food, with amuse-gueules, amuse-bouches, and all the rest. I'd certainly recommend it for a leisurely lunch or dinner. Our half cost 68 euro, or $86. Since, as I've mentioned before, we were ahead of the season, there weren't many diners, but I can imagine that it fills quickly during later spring and summer. It was more similar to the restaurant at La Chaine d'Or ( in Les Andelys) rather than the bistros we more often chose, not in terms of quality of food but the presentation. And the ambiance was more "floral chintz" rather than the more spare look of the bistros. Fun to experience the variety!

We then drove on to Hotel d'Argouges in Bayeux, where we stayed for three nights. It's a comfortable, well-located family-owned 2 star ((probably b/c of lack of elevators), nicely decorated, with very friendly staff. Our double for the 3 nights and breakfasts (extra) came to 295 euro or $372.

We planned too much for the time we had in Normandy, but we did get to the places we really wanted to (except Etretat). Where I wish we'd spent more time would be the backroads, stopping at cider mills, etc. But I don't know what we'd have omitted, certainly not the D Day Beaches or anything else we saw. Another trip is needed to do the byways, as always!

I'm just going to briefly mention the spots we did visit since everybody knows about them anyway:

Bayeux Tapestry-interesting; could not be in Bayeux and not see it although we did kind of hurry through it as soon as we finished our D Day tour.

Memorial de Caen-very worthwhile; a must see.

Battlebus all day (8:30am-5:30pm) tour of D Day beaches, etc. Very, very interesting and moving. The guide (in a mini van, max of 8 people; we only had 7) was very well informed, and we stopped at 7 or 8 places. We reserved in advance online to make sure we got the tour and the day we wanted. www.battlebus.fr
We promptly rented the Band of Brothers dvds as soon as we returned home.

Mont St. Michel--CW and I walked up to the Abbey, and it was a glorious view, although I think the awe-inspiring aspect of the Mont is seeing it as you aproach and depart in the distance.

M. Giaglis (back at B&B in Honfleur) had suggested that we drive along the coast to Cancale and St. Malo after MSM, rather than visiting Vire and Fougere, as some had mentioned here. It was a scenic ride, and we had oysters in Cancale ("the best in France" acc. to Monsieur G), and I was glad to at least have stepped into Brittany, which we really hadn't planned to do. St. Malo is a port town, of course, with the old city still with its fortifications. I don't know if we "should" have visited Vire and Fougere instead, but we enjoyed what we did.

One night for dinner in Bayeux we walked to Le Petit Bistrot, recommended by the hotel, and it was a wonderful little place owned and run by a young couple: excellent food, need reservations. The food was beautifully presented with long springs of herbs artfully placed here and there, and my tarte aux pommes that night was a flat sweet biscuit with a whole baked granny smith apple on it and perhaps another biscuit perched on top. 77 euro ($97) for two.

We had dinner in Caen one night b/c we just ended up there in the evening; I found a restaurant in my Normandy book, and the GPS led us there, and it was a wonderful little (read tiny) find. We had no reservations and had to wait outside for 45 min.; I don't know what possessed us to wait but it sure was worth it; I guess we saw the happy crowd inside. It's another place owned by a young couple: Le Bouchon du Vaugueux on 12, rue de Graindorge, a pedestrian street. Paper on the tables, la carte on chalkboard on wall. Highly recommend! Can't find the Visa charge for this meal; guess we paid in cash. It was similar in price to the other bistros I've mentioned--around $100 for two, with 3 courses, coffee, and wine/cider.

By now we're up to Sat. and time to drop the car off at Caen and take the train to Paris. I had many tartes aux pommes (and can tell you which was the very best) and a glass of dry cider each night with dinner. Wish we could get that cider back here!

By now TC believed that we are not disliked by the French; they (TC) are both very outgoing and friendly, and C made conversations with many, especially every dog/dog owner we met, and we have pictures to prove it, even if I can no longer remember these canines' names!
Part of my underlying agenda accomplished!
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Old Jun 28th, 2005, 06:09 PM
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see a couple of typos in the re-reading: approach, not aproach and sprigs of herbs, not springs.
(And reading this is probably more annoying than reading the typos!)
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Old Jun 28th, 2005, 09:54 PM
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Grandmere, I enjoyed your report because it's the next part of France that I plan/want to see.

We did stay at Chain d'Or before we doubled back south, however. I hope your stay was better than your arrival! We had planned to leave right after breakfast and were a bit worried that the gate might not be unlocked yet, but it was. As for any mustiness, my husband immediately throws open all the windows wherever we stay (apparently no matter how cold) so I didn't notice any. Do you also recommend the b&b in Honfleur, and the Hotel d'Argouges?
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Old Jun 28th, 2005, 11:57 PM
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Great report Grandmere. Thank you!

I'm curious: It's clear you enjoyed Les Andelys and your dinner at La Chaine d'Or; I know from stopping that the town is in breathtaking surroundings; numerous Fodorites swear by that part of your Normandy itinerary; yet I'm mildly skeptical, mainly about time, since more "important" Normandy destinations can easily be reached in a day from Paris. If you had it to do again, in the same amount of time, would you still spend the night in Les Andelys, or spend one more night elsewhere at one of the other places you stopped?
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Old Jun 29th, 2005, 04:48 AM
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Hopingtotravel, I would definitely recommend both the Giaglis' B&B in Honfleur and the Hotel d'Argouges in Bayeux. Our room at Giaglis' was up steep, winding stairs, and the Hotel d'Argouges had no elevator either; that could be a problem for some.

The M and Mme Giaglis are very cheerful and helpful. I didn't mention in the report that we had a little difficulty finding the B&B ( embarrassed b/c we even had a GPS!) b/c we mistook the sign at the bottom of the street, and after we called, Mme. sent M out in the car to find us. CW and I were on foot at that point, and my husband and C were in car- they went wrong way up the one way street (my husband told C that the one way street sign meant "no parking"--many laughs about that later); can you see why I am embarrassed to tell that part of the story? The Cour is in a great location for seeing the old part of the village.

The folks at d'Argouges were friendly and helpful,also. The accommodations were fine; the usual bathtub w/o shower curtain. I'd stay there again, also. Great location; able to walk to everything we did in Bayeux.

DIP, back to your question when I return from a meeting!

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Old Jun 29th, 2005, 08:16 AM
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Thanks Grandmere. If it's many years before my husband lets us return to France, those winding stairs may become a consideration.
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Old Jun 29th, 2005, 10:09 AM
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Hopingtotravel, maybe you could use winding, steep staircases as an incentive to get him there before many years!

Dave, that's an interesting question. On one hand, it would have been doable to drive farther that first day, perhaps to Rouen, since TCs wanted to see it; that would have enabled us to get to Honfleur earlier or go there via Etretat the next day. If we'd gone all the way to Honfleur that first day (given the sleepless night on the plane, I think it would have taken its toll on us. If we'd been in the middle of a trip, stopping so soon after Paris wouldn't have made sense in the conservation of time, of course.

On the other hand (and isn't there always one of those!), having not slept on the plane, it was really nice to arrive at Chaine d'Or, walk to the very Norman creperie/restaurant, and then return for a nap and shower before the relaxing dinner, all the while in a lovely setting. It did not feel like a waste of time; what did feel that way, however, was the unexpectedly prolonged lunch in Beuvron-en-Auge a couple of days later, albeit in a very charming restaurant. C was hungry and by the time we got in and were seated, it seemed too late to get up and leave. To me, it was a "destination restaurant", not a place you drop in to eat a bite before getting on the road. But once I told myself to chill and enjoy it, it was fine and all part of the experience.
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Old Jun 29th, 2005, 12:10 PM
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Thanks. I agree that overnight stop makes a lot of sense coming directly from the airport on arrival.
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Old Jun 29th, 2005, 01:25 PM
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thanks Sue, great report. The Pavé Bevuron-en-Auge is the best restaurant in the area(if that woman/chef/owner is still there.) It's a lovely village. Next door was a santon maker. (I bought a hedgehog and rooster) Another great dining spot is at the bucolic "Deux Tonneaux." in Pierre-en-auge. Did you go to Trouville? Normandy's homes and restos are over-decorated compared to other areas
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