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Paris - Normandy - Mont St. Michel - Paris (transportation logistics)

Paris - Normandy - Mont St. Michel - Paris (transportation logistics)

Dec 1st, 2010, 10:28 AM
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Paris - Normandy - Mont St. Michel - Paris (transportation logistics)


I have found threads where people planned to follow the first part of his same itinerary, but do not see the results of how it went. Please advise if you have done this. Our family of four (two boys 11 and 13) arrive in Paris (CDG) from the US at 8:45am on a Sunday in July.

We would like to rent a car and leave directly from the airport for Normandy, visit the beaches and spend the night there. The next day we would spend more time in Normandy, then go to Mont St. Michel and the spend the 2nd night there. The next morning we would leave our car in Rennes and take a train from there back to Paris where we will spend 5 nights before taking the train to Nice for the end of our trip.

Mainly, I'm wondering about the logistics of the first leg of our trip. Is it best to rent a car at the airport or if it would be better to take a train close to Normandy (Caen?) and rent from there? Is Rennes the best place to return the car to and take the train back to Paris?

Thanks so much for any advice!
kanne is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 10:41 AM
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What about jet lag? I would first of all suggest you take a day or two out to recover from it. It is no fun driving whilst sleepy.
Train is going to be a better option if you want to leave for the coast as soon as you land.
ribeirasacra is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 10:42 AM
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I think you would have to go into Paris to get a train to Normandy. We rented a car and went to Rouen, and along the coast and then to Bayeux for a few days.
I think your itinerary is a bit too elided, particularly the first day.
You could drive to Bayeux, perhaps see the Tapestry, have dinner and go to bed. Then go to the beaches the next day. I think you really may need another day to do MSM and then train back to Paris. It is definitely not doable the first day with jet lag. The second day I suppose you could do several beaches and go to MSM. MSM is a "wonder" but I also "wonder" if your family would enjoy just "Normandy" more.
Gretchen is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 10:54 AM
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I think your plans are too ambitious. Are you sure your kids will sleep on the plane and be awake when you get to the beaches? Don't forget to factor lunch into your schedule.

If one of your reasons for seeing Mont St. Michel is to experience the tides, you'll want to time your visit accordingly. Personally, I'd skip MSM and go slower in Normandy.
Jean is online now  
Dec 1st, 2010, 10:58 AM
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Two points:

Have you driven a car after a sleepless night on an overnight flight before? I know some people aren;t subject to jet lag - but it;s not something I would ever contemplate (the most we ever do is and hour and we've done a LOT of road rips)

I think you're not allowing enough time to actually see anything. If your plane lands at 8:45 by the time you've gone through Immigration, collected you luggage, gone through Customs, headed to car rental, got a car and tested it out - it will be after 11. then driving to Normandy will take you about 3 hours. so you can arrive at 2 pm and starving or stop on the way to eat something and it will be 3 pm - so your day is mostly gone - and you will be crashing.

So you can see a little of the beaches, or the memorials or the tapestry - then head to Mt St Michel the next day. If you want to avoid getting there late (remember these are local roads - we've ben held up in a line of cars by a hay wagon doing about 10 mph).

I just think you need another day to do this - as in a full day in Bayeaux and then head for MSM.
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 11:02 AM
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Thanks for the replies. Yes, I've considered jet lag - but was hoping we might be energetic since it was the beginning of our trip! Originally we were going to stay in Paris for 5 days, then do the Normandy/Mont St. Michel loop. However I am wondering if we might appreciate "settling" into our Paris apartment a few days into our trip, when we're in greater need of a home base/laundry.

Also, if we did Paris at the beginning I believe we would still need to return to Paris from Mont. St. Michel before taking the train to Nice. I doubt we would feel like taking two train trips in one day, so we would have to stay in Paris one more night than I had hoped.

I'm not sure if my thoughts make sense to others, but I do appreciate the advice!
kanne is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 11:07 AM
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I really don't know how anyone, especially with kids, could fly all night, jump in a car and drive to Normandy, and "see the beaches," all on little or no sleep. And I'm a very energetic person who keeps going the day I arrive in Europe until about 10 pm. Even if your kids sleep all night on the plane and make it through Day 1, you won't be able to get them out of bed until noon the next day.

Some other points:

Renting a car for two days is typically as expensive as renting for three. If you planned this trip differently, you could take advantage of that.

You'd have to go into Paris to get a train to Normandy...more schlepping around with tired, dazed kids and luggage.

There are trains from Rennes to Nice. Granted, it's a long ride. Should give you at least one idea for how to reorganize this.
StCirq is online now  
Dec 1st, 2010, 11:13 AM
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Thanks for the timeframe for immigration and driving. Even if we arrived late in Normandy I'm assuming we would spend a good deal of the next day at the beaches and not be in a hurry to get to Mont St. Michel. I've read that arriving at MSM mid-day would be terrible timing with the crowds. I was hoping that if we arrived in the late afternoon and spent the night (including some time there the next morning)- that would suffice for a good visit of MSM. We would not be in a big hurry to train back to Paris later that day.

That being said, perhaps I do need to scrap this mad dash at the beginning or our trip. My boys will likely sleep on the plane, but I'm not so sure about myself or our driver!
kanne is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 11:15 AM
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Thanks StCirq. I will look into the train from Rennes to Nice.
kanne is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 11:15 AM
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kanne says: "Yes, I've considered jet lag - but was hoping we might be energetic since it was the beginning of our trip". The key word is "hoping" - what happens if aren't so energetic.? Personally, I'd spend a day/night in Paris before driving off to Normandy. At the very least consider driving only part way. the first day after a transAtlantic flight that arrives early in the AM can be brutal - better to take it easy.
RoamsAround is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 12:22 PM
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If there is a time to try that drive, its a Sunday morning in summer. Go here and plug in your destination
Stay on the toll roads, and its a breeze. The CDG to Normany drive has a few quirks, like just getting out of the airport. Then you have a few Hollywood freeway moments until you clear la Defense. After that its easy, just stay awake rounding Caen.

I wouldnt try going to the beaches the 1st day as others have suggested. Stay in Bayeaux and go to the Cathedral and Tapestry Museum instead.
FrankS is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 01:18 PM
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Sort of along what St. cirq may be suggesting, and what we prefer to do--I like to do all my travelling outside of Paris first, and then end in Paris. It is an easy cab ride to the airport from a hotel. So maybe go to Nice, and then train to Paris to finish your trip.
I am not a MSM fan, and I wonder what your children will find interesting--not that it couldn't be for them, but the time to do it is a fairly big investment for your trip.
Eat at Le Petite Bistro in Bayeux--make reservations.
Gretchen is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 01:22 PM
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I also like to save Paris for last. I tend to shop a bit there and don't like to schlepp purchases via car or train all over the country.
Judy is online now  
Dec 1st, 2010, 02:16 PM
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MSM is totally worth the effort! In 2006, we flew into Paris/Orly from Rome arriving 10:45a, picked up our rent car, got on the road by 1:00p and drove to MSM, arriving around 5:00p. We shopped a little, drove to dinner off the Mont with the reward of a spectacular lit-up vantage point on our return (truly one of the most awesome sights to behold!), enjoyed walking all around the Mont with the feeling like it was our own private island exploring the ramparts and secret places, rose early to enjoy the sunrise, toured the church and was on the road by 1:00 and arrived Paris at 5:00p to start our four days there. It was truly one of the highlights of all the places we've been in Europe! In fact, we are returning to Italy and Paris next June, bringing our 12-year-old son with us this time, and he has requested that he get to see MSM, so we're doing the same thing all over again! There's something so neat about being on the Mont at night when you have the place to yourself (OK, it's certainly not private, but there were lots of times we walked and didn't see a soul.)

Highly recommend arriving MSM late afternoon, spending the night, watching the sunrise, and getting out of there before the crowds arrive!! Seems like a lot of fuss for just one night, but in my humble opinion (and my husband's and the other couple's we travelled with) one of the most "worth it" things we did! I can't wait to go back!
Happy Planning!!
Burley is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 02:19 PM
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Normandy is a very special place, first, of course, because of the history, the beaches and cemeteries. But the villages and the area are all very beautiful and you shouldn't be "sleepwalking" while you tour there, you'll miss too much of the countryside's beauty.

We were there last year with our 13 year old and stayed at a fantastic B&B called Ferme du Pressoir, a working farm. My son would get eggs from the chicken coop every morning and the owner of the B&B, Odile, would cook marvelous yummy breakfasts. Can't say enough about this beautiful place or about how much my son loved exploring the farm. The rooms were exquisite and very modern. I wrote a Trip Report about all this and our stay in Paris as well (Our Month in France). Good luck with your trip, it will be fantastic for your sons as well.
jobo is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 02:21 PM
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Forgot to mention. We rented a car in Paris and drove to Normandy. It's really quite easy once you get out of Paris. Once you get on the "peripherique", the roads are very accessible right through to Normandy. But I'm not sure if it is more difficult from CDG.
jobo is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 03:34 PM
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You could reverse your trip. Take the train from the airport directly to Nice. After your time there, train again to Paris, spend time. Then rent the car (or train to Normandy and pick up the car), drive around Normandy and back to CDG. Or drop the car in Rennes and take a train to the airport.

I don't know how long you have for this trip, but I think you're trying to cram in too many sights. As Jobo indicates above, kids prefer to stay longer in places. They like to getting acquainted with the ice cream seller and the boulangerie, spending time on the beach instead of speeding from sight to sight. In fact they may turn rebellious if you follow through on your rush trip to Normandy immediately on arrival.

I know how hard it is to cut things out. Who knows when you'll get back and there's so much to see. But less is more, especially with kids.
Mimar is online now  
Dec 1st, 2010, 03:54 PM
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Tagging on to Mimar's suggestion, you could fly onward to Nice after you arrive at CDG.
Jean is online now  
Dec 1st, 2010, 05:34 PM
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If you arrive at Mt St Michel I do;t know when you're going to see the sights. It's a long, stiff climb up to the top - and then touring the Abbey is a lot of flights of stairs up and down. Probably will be closed by the time you get there and then you will have to do the following day - and then you'll be pulling into Paris fairly late at night.
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 1st, 2010, 06:43 PM
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We rented a car at CDG and drove to a B&B in Normandy, close to Arromanches. We settled in and then drove down to the beach and saw quite a bit. We spent the next night at the same B&B and saw the local D-Day sights. The next day we went to the Bayeux museum early and then drove to a gite near Mont St Michel. We went to Mont St Michel that night to watch the tide come in and explore the town (the cathedral was closed already) and then went back early the next morning and were there when it opened. We left after touring the Mont and drove to our gite in Brittany.

We did not want to go into Paris to catch the train to Normandy so decided to drive. That worked fine for us (and we had traffic because it was a weekday). We were tired but stopped for lunch for a break. I too recommend 2 nights in Normandy and staying on the water (Arromanches is great) if you can. I would think your boys would enjoy the beach and there is fascinating history there. I don't recommend you go to Mont St Michel twice like we did, too much for the boys. And you probably want to skip the Bayeux museum.

Unless you want to see Rennes you might just want to drive back to Paris and save the train fare. The car gives you freedom to see something you missed in Normandy on the drive back.

Another idea would be to stay in Normandy the whole time and do a day trip to Mont St Michel. It is a little less than 2 hours I think each way. You could leave Normandy after lunch and get there around 4 or 5 pm. See the Mont and drive back. Then you are back in Normandy to see more before your drive back to Paris.

Have a great time!
AZKathy is offline  

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