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Jannyklm Jul 14th, 2011 06:55 PM

What is the best way to visit Normandy from Paris in 5 days
We are staying in Paris for 4 days and then going to Versaille, Giverny and Normandy, We will have 5 days for the latter. We have been to Paris several times but have never seen the Normandy area. We were going to rent a car at CDG, return it there ,and stay near the airport the last night, Any advise about how we should do this? Should we stay near Giverny the first night and then head north? If so where should we stay as a base for 4 days near Honfleur or Le havre? We would like a charming place to end our days with good restaurants but not fancy. Thanks for any help,

StCirq Jul 14th, 2011 07:03 PM

Hard to say what the best way is, or where you should head, without knowing what draws you to Normandy. Are you going to see the D-Day sites? On a cider tour? Want to visit the beach and eat great seafood? Tour the countryside? Normandy is a relatively huge province - so big it's divided into haute and basse - so it really depends on what your interests are.

Andrew Jul 14th, 2011 08:19 PM

When I visited Normandy (for three nights) a couple of years ago, I simply took the train from Paris to Caen and rented a car there. I didn't want to stress over driving out of/around Paris. Driving in Normandy was very easy and stress-free, really. (And wow, it's beautiful countryside!)

You can also train from Paris to Bayeux instead of Caen - Bayeux has the tapestry plus it's closer to Omaha Beach if you're headed there like I was. When I did it, rental car options were better in Caen so I trained there instead of Bayeux. It's only about a 20 minute drive as I recall out to Bayeux from Caen plus you might wish to visit the Mémorial de Caen (museum) that many World War II buffs see.

Jannyklm Jul 15th, 2011 02:20 PM

Thanks, to everyone, CtCirq, This trip is planned because we want to see the D-Day sites. But, then I always like to see picturesque towns and get a feel for the area. Cider won't be a draw. We want to stay in a town which would be convenient to visit the D-Day sites, Mont Saint Michelle, and then just some picturesque towns in the vicinity. We haven't ruled out taking a day tour to Giverny and Versaille and then head north from Paris.

Andrew, We could take a train up to the area and rent a car but some of the car rental offices are closed on weekends and have short hours so didn't know if that:s going to be difficult. At any rate, we do want to have a car in the Normandy Beach area. Of the following, Caen, Bayeux, Rouen, or Honfleur does anyone have a place to base ourselves a few days to accomplish our plans? Thanks

StCirq Jul 15th, 2011 02:29 PM

Caen was bombed to smithereens in WWI and so is largely rebuilt - and ugly - but it has the Mémorial museum, which IMO is absolutely essential to visit. Rouen and Honfleur are both very much worth visiting, but neither makes a good base for seeing the D-Day sites. Bayeux is best for that, though it's not exactly a hop, skip, and a jump from there to le Mont-St-Michel.

Since you have 5 days, I would highly recommend that you add St-Malo, Fougères, and Vitré to your list of places to visit. Also might want to plan your loop from Paris to include stops in Alençon and the Vallée de la Misère.

Andrew Jul 15th, 2011 05:28 PM

As I said, I rented in Caen because there were better car options. I returned my car (I think it was Europcar) in the morning before the rental agency opened - or was it the night before? - and just parked my car out front and dropped my keys in a dropbox, so it wasn't a problem at all. It seemed routine for them for people to return cars off-hours, but some agencies are different I suppose. The only thing you may have to worry about is that they are open when you arrive.

I'm one of the few people who liked Caen and didn't care for Bayeux so much. I spent two nights in Bayeux and one in Caen. Yes, it's true that Caen was bombed out during WWII and was largely re-built, but it's also a lively, thriving town. Bayeux by contrast - the old town, anyway - seems like the kind of place that's almost 100% devoted to tourism. I noticed that the place seemed empty after 17:00 when the locals went home and at night all you saw were other tourists. I hate that when I visit a place. On the other hand, it's true that Bayeux is well preserved and is many hundred years old, so that aspect of it is very cool. The "feels like a museum" part didn't appeal to me personally, though. But I take it I'm in the minority opinion on that.

Jean Jul 15th, 2011 06:07 PM

We liked Bayeux as a geographic base for the D-Day sights, but I agree with Andrew that we didn't see many locals out and about in the evenings. We very much enjoyed our hotel there:

Others here have highly recommended the Churchill and the Lion d'Or.

If you don't stay in Bayeux, I would still recommend a stop there to view the Bayeux Tapestry.

ChallengerGrey Jul 15th, 2011 06:29 PM

We did this last year: stayed in Paris around the Lourve for 3 nights, rented a car drove to Rouen then onto Le Harve. We didn't care for Le Harve, but enjoyed the bridge that takes you over the water, then spent a couple of nights in the most lovely little town called Deuville, right on the beach.

The next day we drove to Caen and toured the WWII museum, and took a D-Day tour. We drove back to Honfleur for dinner (it was wonderful meeting the locals) and back to Deauville. After shopping the next day, we drove back to Paris where we had an apartment for another 5 nights in the Latin Quarter. Loved the apartment.

ParisAmsterdam Jul 15th, 2011 06:55 PM

Don't pick up your rental car at CDG... aside from costing an extra 40 euros for the privelege you have the added cost and hassle of getting to the airport.

If you plan to leave Paris outside of rush hours it's not a difficult drive... pick up the car and use Google maps to plan your route out of town and you'll be fine. Or train to Caen as suggested... you're better off spending the money on train fare in that direction than in going to CDG.

Check with Unless you rent with Hertz or Avis there's no extra charge for dropping at a different location.

klondiketoo Jul 16th, 2011 04:01 AM

Just wondering what constitutes "Rush Hour" (les heures de pointe) in Paris?

Don't mean to highjeck your thread...We will be leaving am. from Gare Montparnasse and returning afternoon/evening at Gare du Nord.


ParisAmsterdam Jul 16th, 2011 07:32 AM

Roughly 7-9:30 (AM) and 4:30-7:30 (PM)

On a Sunday morning before 8 you have the roads to yourself.

georgiegirl Jul 16th, 2011 07:52 AM

This is exactly what we want to do next June.
Jannyklm, would you mind report back after the trip?

Jannyklm Jul 16th, 2011 09:58 AM

Thanks for all of the info. Georgiegirl, will do.

stricky Jul 16th, 2011 10:34 PM

If you plan to do a D-Day tour, I highly recommend Overlord tour ( We took train to Bayeux (stops in Caen first) and stayed overnight at the Hotel Churchill. This hotel is walking distance from train station, though there are cabs there. We met the tour (only 6 of us) just across the street the next morning for a full day tour. We made a 7p train back to Paris (CDG) the next day. Only regret that we didn't arrive in Bayeux early enough to see the famous Bayeux tapestry before it closed. That too is just one block from this hotel.

Jannyklm Oct 8th, 2011 12:05 PM

what would be the best place to pick up a car in Paris to head toward Giverny?

nini Oct 8th, 2011 01:00 PM

We picked up a car at Hertz Gare Nord and two right turns put us on the Blvd/Rue that goes to the Periferique. One left turn and you are on your way to Normandy-very easy. When you reach the Perif you will see the huge flea market. We rented the car on a Sunday so maybe that was why it was easy-no traffic at all.

LynFrance Oct 8th, 2011 07:29 PM

There is a Hertz office/garage in the Carousel de Louvre on the Rue de Rivoli that we have used several times.

Renting a car with a GPS can be very helpful around Paris!

Sue_xx_yy Oct 8th, 2011 08:26 PM

After we explored the D day sites, it was a simple matter to drive to Versailles where we dropped the car and caught a train back into Paris.

So you could likewise use Versailles as a car pickup point, and drive to Honfleur via Giverny for your first night. Driving hours, about 2.5, plus train and car pickup time.

Then drive to MSM (Mont St Michel), doing the Bayeux tapestry en route. Yes, I know this seems strange assuming you'll be coming back to Bayeux anyway, but we did it this way as it is a very efficient use of time. It also ensures you don't arrive in MSM too early, as in before the worst of the crowds have left. Spend your second night on or near MSM. (I recommend Ducey, it was a charming place.) Total driving hours, about 2.5 hours.

Drive back to Bayeux for 2 nights - your third and fourth- I promise you you will have no trouble filling the 2 days with D-Day sights (we had 3 nights, and filled the time easily). Total driving hours - 1.5 hours MSM to Bayeux, plus time driving to the various D day sites over this and the next day.

On your fifth day, head back to Versailles/Paris. This is where it gets tricky. When we toured the palace, we arrived before 9 a.m and didn't leave before 3 p.m. I frankly think that Versailles is better done as a day trip from Paris, rather than en route to or from Normandy, so that you won't be rushed. So, assuming you do this,then on this day you drive back to Versailles, drop the car and head back into Paris by train for your fifth night. Driving hours, around 3.0

Use the remainder of the day for some last shopping or cafe hopping in Paris.
The next day, you commute to the airport and fly home.

You will note that this involves moving around a lot, but frankly the magic of places like MSM and Honfleur are in the evenings. I know it is nicer in some ways to 'base' in a single place, but moving around can be worth it, too.

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