Rennes or Rouen?

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Sep 15th, 2018, 06:43 AM
  #1
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Rennes or Rouen?

Hello.
Planning for early summer trip and looking for help which of these two cities (or thereabouts) I should be concentrating looking for lodging. We will be arriving in Paris around noon and taking the train to either of this two cities. We'll be in this area maybe 4 or 5 nights. We will be renting a car once we get there. Places of interest we'd like to see are WWII sites - Caen memorial, American cemetary, etc. Time permitting I'd like to tuck in Rouen Cathedral or Étretat or Mont St. Michel.
1. Are these WWII sites within driving distance from either cities?
2. Will it be better to take a tour bus from Bayeux then be driving to these sites?
3. I kept reading people stay at least a night at Mont St. Michel. Can this not be a daytrip from either city?
4. Lastly (for now ), we'd like to do a little bit of biking, 1-2 hours. Any recommendations where we can do this?
Thank you!!
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Sep 15th, 2018, 07:03 AM
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I'd take a train Caen and rent a car - very close to D-Day beaches but if want to see Rouen cathedral take train there and drive - and probably closer than Rennes - neither Rennes nor Rouen are good bases for your places but Bayeux near Caen is and yes stay overnight at the Mont.
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Sep 15th, 2018, 09:50 AM
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They are two extremely different places, so I'd do some more reading before you decide.

You can use www.viamichelin.com or any number of other sites, or a paper map, to calculate distances between places.

Neither city is ideal for visiting the WWII sites, but they are "do-able" from either.

Up to you whether you spend a night on le MSM. I've been there a number of times and never spent the night, but many people seem to thoroughly enjoy the experience.

I would wait until your plans are more focused than they are right now before I'd think about bike rentals. It's almost always easy to rent bikes anywhere in France.

You haven't said what time of year you are taking this trip. It can make a lot of difference.
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Sep 15th, 2018, 09:53 AM
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any area in France can be good biking but I think in your case maybe renting one in Bayeux and cycling to nearby D-Day beaches - I've done that but yes when are you going?
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Sep 15th, 2018, 10:13 AM
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Thanks for the replies. We are heading either late June or early July. Biking from Bayeux to D-Day beaches sounds a great idea!
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Sep 15th, 2018, 10:14 AM
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I think Rouen is a bad choice no matter what, given your interests. Rennes is only good for visiting Mont St Michel, and since you mention that as an afterthought, probably forget Rennes also.

Forget Mont St Michel if you stay in Rouen. Now in theory you can do the WWII sites from there, but it's a drive of a couple hours at least. Honfleur would make more sense as it is closer to the WWII sites, and only about an hour drive to Rouen and 45 min to Etretat.

I think those WWII companies do an excellent job on planning itineraries, getting around and knowledge. But they pickup in Bayeux as far as I know, as least all the ones I know (whic admittedly is only two, both wellregarded--Overlord and Normandy Sightseeing Tours). If you do a full day tour with them, yhou'd have to get to Bayeux pretty early. From Honfleur, you could do it if you dont' mind having to be there by 8 am. That wouldn't be a big deal to me, but I don't ever sleep late.
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Sep 15th, 2018, 11:57 AM
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There are several bike tours from Bayeux to the nearby D-Day beaches and lots of info on doing it on your own too but I think a bike tour led by expert may be worthwhile.
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Sep 15th, 2018, 01:24 PM
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Having thoroughly enjoyed both Rouen and Rennes, I'll second everything StCirq said.

I'll add that I did spend a night on MSM, and was glad I did, as I thought it enchanting after day-trippers had left.
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Sep 15th, 2018, 01:39 PM
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@Christina thank you for suggesting Honfleur. Looks like a charming town from what I've googled so far. I will definitely consider. We are early risers so we can def. get there by 8:00.
Once again thanks for all the wonderful suggestions and tips!
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Sep 15th, 2018, 01:47 PM
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Admittedly I haven't taken an organized tour of the WWII sites in Normandy, always did it on my own, but I have read enough to think that there are tours that originate from Le Mémorial in Caen that are well respected. Or at least there have been in the past. Might be worth looking into.
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Sep 17th, 2018, 04:08 AM
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Honfleur is adorable and nicely located for what you would like to do. It’s about an hour drive to Étretat and Bayeux and a bit more to Rouen.
i decided to do a tour of the Normandy Day sites. We used Overlord which left Bayeux at 8:15. It was an excellent tour. In the summer Rouen did a fabulous light show on the Cathedral.
we did stay overnight about 15 minutes outside Mt st Michel. We did that so we could visit at the evening/night when there were less crowds. And that proved to be the case.
its a lovely area. Enjoy your planning and your trip
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Sep 18th, 2018, 12:12 AM
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For the main places related to the D-day landings, it is better to stay in towns close to the coastline in Calvados, around Bayeux and Caen.
Close to Mont Saint Michel, there are also important places related to WWII : American cemetery of St James, German mausoleum, Saint Malo, Avranches... To reach those places, you may stay right on MSM, in neigbouring towns, or in Rennes / St Malo.
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Sep 18th, 2018, 08:51 AM
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Yes Bayeux makes a lot more sense as a base For D-Day sites than Rouen/Honfleur - hit those towns too and then stay in Bayeux which also has a sweet cathedral and Queen Matihlda's famous 1066 Tapestry of the Norman Invasion and conquering of England.
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Sep 18th, 2018, 09:10 AM
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Are you planning on moving around or staying in on place and using it as a base? If you’re moving around, definitely spend the night a Bayeux for the WW sites. Lots of bike tours from there or you can do one on your own. My suggestion of Honfleur is that it was approx 1 hour from most of the places you mentioned and you can base there.

We took the train from Paris to Rennes. then we spent 1 overnight near Mt St. Michel, 2 nights in Bayeaux and then stayed in Honfleur followed by Rouen. But with only 4 days, you might want to base in 1 place or 2 at the most.
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Sep 18th, 2018, 10:07 AM
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In Normandy main cemetery of Germans is astounding. Very sober (hey, they lost) but as gripping. (10 kms or so from US cemetery)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Cam...n_war_cemetery
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Sep 18th, 2018, 11:03 AM
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I am looking for a base then drive around to mostly WWII sites. Rennes or Rouen just came to mind because we are taking the train from Gare du Nord and I figure those are the nearest town we can get a car rental. Bayeux does sound a great option.

One other question for those that had donethe WWII tour. Do they give you enough time to wander around or are they rush?

Thanks once again!
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Sep 18th, 2018, 02:52 PM
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Depends on the tour but most I've heard about yes give you time to wander around but be sure to ask that question. Best IMO is to get a Michelin Green Guide with excellent motoring tours of sites and do your own with all background needed. And rent a car in Rouen or Caen and drive to Bayeux but stop at the Caen Memorial on way out of Caen towards Bayeux - great orientation with large relief map of whole area and great info on the whole area - the best such memorial/interpretation center many say.
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Sep 18th, 2018, 04:57 PM
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If you're arriving by train to Gare du Nord, I'd recommend walking through the station to the Magenta RER E station and taking it directly to St. Lazare. It's a 4 minute trip. I'd concur with PalenQ, train to Caen, rent a car there and stop at the Caen Peace Museum first. Then head to Bayeux or any of the small towns along the coast that have hotels. DW and I always stay in Port en Bessin at the Ibis there, great location, great seafood restaurants nearby, and easy access to the D-day sights as well.
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Sep 18th, 2018, 10:00 PM
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The Overlord tour we did was 8 hours and did allow time for wondering. Normally we don’t do tours, but I felt it would be more efficient to have someone takes us around. We did have the Green Guide and it does provide a lot of info, but it doesn’t provide the “color” that you can get from a good guide.

Have you checked where the trains leave Paris from? We went first to Rennes and our train left from Montparnasse Station. There was one direct train from CDG. Our train fromRouen to Paris came into St. Lazare. Perhaps it’s changed for next summer.
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Sep 19th, 2018, 04:34 AM
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There is no real need for a tour in Normandy. Sites are well indicated, and I knew much more than the guides I overheard when visiting museums.
We had based ourselves in tiny villages - no need to be in a 'big' city. We had our own car, which is something I recommend for the region (renting a car, not having yours ...). There is more than just WW2, I remember visiting some abbeys that were absolutely charming.
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