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lanejohann Dec 2nd, 2013 02:25 AM

suggestions for a base in france -rouen to st malo in 4 days
Hi Fodorites
Need some help here...please!
OH daughter and I have four whole precious days together in France...February next year

we would like to see something of regional France and have chosen this north-western region to explore

OH has booked us a car and we are looking at booking an airport hotel for our first night ( coming in from our Ireland leg of the trip) thats a Sunday and we will be arriving late at night

we looked at the map and have decided on:
Bayeaux -esp to see the Bayeaux tapestry
Mont St Michel

We would love to have a base rather than keep travelling each day but that doesnt seem to make sense if we are going to be doubling back along the same roads
Would it be more sensible to do a loop...say down as far as Tours...or is that just too ambitious?
we have: full day Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (but we do have to be in Paris Thursday evening because OH is flying out early Friday) Daughter and I will stay in Paris for another 9 days doing the usual touristy things that OH has done before

So given that the days are short in winter what can we realistically expect of this trip?
Can anyone suggest a base from which we can spring each morning? Or suggest places we can bed down each night...we will need triples ...dont know if thatll be a problem..
Should we book now or take our chances? Are places closed in winter...? Do B and Bs function?
Anys ideas would be much appreciated!

Gretchen Dec 2nd, 2013 04:40 AM

I think you may have had another thread. For info--"OH" I think means "other half/husband/wife".
You could drive up the Seine a way, for scenery, and then to Rouen. Look around if you want--the cathedral, town square are great. The museum has a wonderful Impressionist wing. Out of Rouen is the Abbey Road--a string of Medieval abbeys that are interesting. We went on to Honfleur for the night (but from Rouen overnight).
Honfleur to Bayeux (note spelling for reference purposes) is a fun drive through cheese and cider areas.
Spend the next two nights in Bayeux.
MSM may be a bridge too far, depending on what you want to see of the Normandy beaches. And Tours is for sure.
You could return your car to Orly, going to Paris via Chartres.
Have you considered letting DH take the train to Paris or CDG (not sure from where) and you and DD continue for a day or so before returning to Paris for the remainder of the trip.
The Hotel Bayeux in (well) Bayeux, has triples--and maybe quads. Very economical and pleasant hotel with a secure car park next to it.

bilboburgler Dec 2nd, 2013 06:01 AM

"MSM may be a bridge too far" LOL

Mimar Dec 2nd, 2013 06:58 AM

Yes, you have a lot packed into a short time. Day 1 it will take time to pick up the car, then drive to Rouen. Rouen itself deserves at least a half day. You mention Caen. It was mostly destroyed in WWII, so not that interesting. The Peace Museum is very interesting, and it's on the outskirts of Caen, just outside the ring road. We spent most of a day at this museum. And it's close to the road to Bayeux. Bayeux makes a good base for visiting the WWII landing beaches -- but you don't mention these. The tapestry takes only an hour or so, but we went back to go around again.

It's a good time of year to visit MSM, not so many people. But you still have to park, walk over the causeway, then climb up the town, then repeat going back. So it will take some time.

The real problem with this trip, in addition to short days, will be the weather. It's likely to be rainy, windy and cool. And the countryside will be in winter mode, so not so scenic. I'd concentrate on the towns and museums this time of year. Or save this trip til you have more time and better weather.

Gretchen Dec 2nd, 2013 07:07 AM

I concur about Caen, and maybe particularly since the beaches haven't been mentioned. I TRULY hope the OP will go to at least some of them--Arromanches, Omaha, and the American Cemetery, in spite of the weather.

Michael Dec 2nd, 2013 07:15 AM

After Rouen I would base in Honfleur rather than Caen and devise my own loops to visit the W.W.II sites (if that is your intention) and the Bayeux tapestry. Honfleur to St. Malo is an easy day's drive.

Gretchen Dec 2nd, 2013 08:07 AM

Honfleur in February would just not be all that pleasant. It is worth a visit, and maybe even an overnight, but then on to Bayeux for a base for the beaches and certainly the tapestry.

lanejohann Dec 3rd, 2013 02:53 AM

ok thanks for all the info folks
(noted spelling of bayeux..thanks lol)

the landing beaches...not the focus for me...but thats probably because i havent researched it yet...have been deep into early british history and havent read up on WWI or II

Gretchen...OH wants to spend one night in Paris with us before he leaves us and I cant extend this part of the trip without him
the reason we have so little time is because initially we were going to spend these days in Paris together before daughter and I were to head off on a nine day tour of southern France..but this tour was officially cancelled a couple of days ago...
we decided to use OH's driving skills (lol) and knowledge of French and venture out a bit...unfortunately it is only for four days...

so..maybe we stay in Bayeux and that will do us...if the weather is fine then we might venture further afield
the tapestry is a must-see for us ...we had better check the opening times for that museum

would it be better if we caught a train from paris to say caen or bayeux and hired a car there?
thanks everyone!

lanejohann Dec 7th, 2013 01:16 AM

just to tweak this part of the trip appreciate it if someone could look over this bit before i book accommodation
we have decided to stay at the ibis roissy cdg hotel and hire a car..the train leaves at noon so thats a waste of a car it is...just hope there are no blizzards

we are thinking of driving to rouen...staying for a few hours but given that it gets dark early...perhaps we should just overnight in rouen then move off to caen

explore caen then drive to bayeux for the night and use bayeux as a base for the next two nights

is there another route we can take to get back to paris on the thursday?
thanks folks!

Gretchen Dec 7th, 2013 03:06 AM

I think others have mentioned that Caen was destroyed during the war and the big draw there is the WWII museum.
I don't see the need to overnight in Rouen. The distance to Bayeux is not great, and it is fun and scenic if you take the secondary roads.
You might like to stop at a fromagerie on the way.
I do hope you will visit some of the beaches--their historicity is mammoth.
Return to Paris via Chartres and return the car at Orly.
DO get the Michelin Green Guide to Normandy and the Michelin map of Normandy.

StCirq Dec 7th, 2013 09:58 AM

What do you mean "the train leaves at noon."? The train to where? There are usually several trains a day to just about anywhere from Paris. What rail site are you using?

I love Rouen (great history, great food), but I agree there's no need to break up this already rather rushed trip with an unnecessary overnight.

Christina Dec 7th, 2013 10:51 AM

You can't really get a train from CDG to Rouen or Caen AFAIK. YOu have to transfer at least once because that is a TGV station -- probably the best route would be CDG to Le Mans, one transfer, then go to Caen. I think you can get to Rouen with only one transfer through Amiens. There should be a train around 10 and then 1 pm to go through Le Mans to Caen, at least on weekdays. Maybe less on Sunday or Saturday.

That just isn't a good place to get a train to those places. There are plenty of trains from Paris St Lazare to Rouen direct, definitely one or more before noon. But that still involves a transfer, so not sure it is better than going through Le Mans or Amiens.

lanejohann Dec 7th, 2013 05:36 PM

thank you kind folk of fodors!
I was looking to book the mercure near the cathedral at rouen but i see you have talked me out of it
OH is convinced he wants to pick up the car from CDG airport and head off to Rouen and forget the trains

so now:
MONDAY we drive to there somewhere we could stop for breakfast in case the airport hotel food doesnt appeal? a nice village/ town on the way to Rouen? any little detours we should consider along the way or is it just best to get there as quickly as we can?
look around Rouen and drive on to Bayeux and settle in for 3 nights (?)using this as a base to explore

I did want to see least to have a look at William the Conqueror's tomb/ burial place ( I was told it's only the resting place of his femur but that's still pretty awesome :)

We will see the beaches...Gretchen, thanks for pushing the point :) i said before, my head is consumed by early British history at the moment thats why im not researching at the moment but Ill post a separate thread and ask for help in planning some excursions from Bayeux

Again, I thank each of you who have contributed to my post...I so appreciate your gives me no end of confidence to make the decisions in order to get the most out of, (yes, St Cirque :) our very rushed trip to regional France! I wish we did have more time but that will come hopefully when we retire with good health and funds!

...for the mo..we will continue to just rush here and there !

indy_dad Dec 8th, 2013 02:13 AM

Not sure how relevant my summer trip will be, but perhaps you can get a few ideas from the photos

Gretchen Dec 8th, 2013 03:21 AM

As I have suggested several times, get the Michelin Green Guide (NOW!!). You can drive to Rouen along the east side of the Seine for a little while and enjoy some scenery, unless you just want to "go".
Out of Rouen there is the Abbey Road--a string of medieval abbeys that are interesting for a few. The road runs along a high ridge.
I'd have a light breakfast at the hotel and get on with the trip--your time is not great. There is always lunch and dinner in a cute little place.

FrenchMystiqueTours Dec 8th, 2013 04:09 AM

France doesn't really do breakfast so you're unlikely to find a breakfast restaurant. Breakfast in France is usually coffee, juice, croissant, jam, butter, baguette and that's about it. Your hotel is likely your best bet for breakfast and some hotels offer more in terms of cereal, yogurt, cheese, cold cuts/meat and maybe eggs.

But you can stop at a boulangerie along the way and buy quiche, sandwiches and other things for your breakfast. If you're driving from CDG to Rouen and want to follow the route suggested by Gretchen on the eastern/northern side of the Seine then from CDG take the N104 which turns into the N184 then get on the A15 which after a few km turns into the N14. The N14 turns into the D14 which turns into the D6014 and goes into the center of Rouen. Just after the N14 turns into the D14 (around exit 14) you'll be in the countryside and you can stop at a boulangerie in any village on this route. I'd suggest getting off at exit 15 and stopping in the village of Vigny for a boulangerie, as there is an absolutely magnificent château you can view (it's private so you can't go inside).

PetrosB3 Dec 8th, 2013 04:55 AM

I've done the same trip as you will do. I've been to Rouen, Honfleur, Mont St. Michel, St. Malo, Tours, Chateau du Brou. The best destination was Honfleur, you MUST go there, it's a picturesque medieval fishing port, this is how I imagined Normandy before visit it. Also, do not stay more than a day in Mont St. Michel, it is a unique place but EXTREMELY touristy, and a day is more than enough.

StCirq Dec 8th, 2013 11:33 AM

I would forget about "stopping for breakfast." You may find a nice little café along the route, but it will be the same coffee and croissant or tartine as anywhere else in France - might as well grab it at the hotel, where you actually might have more choices.

And Honfleur has been around since the XIth century - it's not just medieval. It was the launching point for de Gonneville, who discovered Brazil, and for Champlain, who founded Québec. Le MSM IS medieval, and of course it's touristy - it's been one of the world's primary pilgrimage sites since kingdom come and exemplifies all that that entails - just like in medieval times there are hawkers selling cheap souvenirs at every turn. If you can think of it in its historical context, it begins to make sense.

Christina Dec 9th, 2013 09:51 AM

I was on a WWII day tour last summer based out of Bayeux, and there were a couple people on that trip who were staying in Caen and really liked it. They said the chateau there was very interesting. The guide told them it was actually mostly restored, as the original was damaged in the war, and they didn't even know it. But apparently it was still interesting to see.

PalenQ Dec 9th, 2013 11:58 AM

When driving to Mont Saint Michel be sure to stop by Avranches, a nice regional town overlooking the bay and from where you can see the glorious Mont levitating seemingly above the sands far in the distance - a good view is from the garden of the Bishop's Palace in the town center and also from the shores of the bay itself a few miles from town.

Then drive on side roads right along the bay with the Mont mesmerizingly looming in the distance - you can understand the mounting anticipation medieval pilgrims must have had when approaching their long awaited goal - that are having their prayers answered, etc.

You can stay on the Mont and that is special but there is also a gaggle of motel-style hotels right on the bay opposite the Mont where the causeway comes out and seeing the Mont gloriously lit up across the bag at night is so so special!

Pontorson also has a bevy of hotels but to me it is nothing special as a town - it is the railhead for the Mont however with buses scooting the six miles or so to the Mont.

In season check out the special effect sound and light show in the ancient abbey - Les Merveilles de Mont-Saint-Michel I guess it is called - to me as special as the day time tours of the same environs but not nearly as mobbed.

Anyway do not just drive and drop by the Mont during the day and fight elbow to elbow up the only gauntlet from the entrance from the car parks (or new people mover if every put in operation) and take the mobbed tour of the abbey - stay overnight and enjoy one of the 7 Wonders of the World as it is gloriously illuminated at night and there are far far fewer tourists about!

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