I’m tentatively planning a trip for next summer. We’ll be going from Bruges to Bayeux in Normandy. It sounds like the options are train (transferring trains and stations in Paris) or taking a train to Lille and then renting a car. We’ll want a car for the Normandy portion of our trip anyway (have driven in Europe many times and are very comfortable with it). I’m leaning towards a train to Lille and then driving to Bayeaux. Are there other options I’m missing or things to consider?
Seems like a perfectly good plan to me. Renting a car in Lille that is.
I don't see a problem with that
It's the best option in my opinion. There is nothing special about the drive (boring motorways, the only highlight being the Normandie bridge crossing), but it is less of a hassle than going to Paris, crossing town to Saint Lazare station, and taking another train to Bayeux.
You're likely to have several train changes within Belgium, so look over the results of your ticket search on the Belgian Rail website for the best result. Lille has an excellent art museum if that interests you. I personally would not want to drive from one side of France to the other. I would not pair those two destinations, since you suggest there are no intervening stays.
Note that the two stations in Lille are connected by a long passage, so you don't care which one you end up at. (You may be offered confusing Lille destinations.) I once took the conventional train from Antwerp to Lille, and it had three trains and two layovers of almost a half-hour each. Of course you have to check French health entry requirements as of the actual trip date.
@Tim, Bruges to Lille is quite straightforward by train. There is typically one transfer in Kortijk, and it is well-timed.
You arrive at Lille-Flandres. Car rental offices are either there or 1/4 mile away at Lille Europe, and it is very easy to drive out of town from there.
It is true that the drive takes 4.5 hours without stops, which is longer than I thought. If you want to break it, Amiens is worth an overnight or sightseeing stop; so is Honfleur; or Etretat a bit further from the highway.
One other small issue about getting the car in Lille is that although Lille is in France the local drivers act much more like Belgian drivers (it is on the border). So be prepared for imaginative and novel definitions of personal lane control, an inability to use turn signal indicators, and often a car in the fast lane cutting all the way across to the exit without warning.......
Once you understand their mindset it isn't too bad.
When I drive to Normandy from my place in the Netherlands (not so far from Bruges) most of the time the route I follow in France is Lille, Arras, Amiens and further Rouen.
Between Arras and Amiens I take even being a bit boring and having speed traps the N25.
I prefer driving around Rouen at the westside to avoid the busy traffic there. So follow north of it the A29 to Le Havre, exit for A151 and A150 to toll free Pont Gustave Flaubert in Rouen and further A13 to Caen / Bayeux.
Doing the trip Bruges to Bayeux this way in one day will give little room for visits, depending what you want to see planning two days will be better, more relaxing to my idea. Arras is worth a stop btw for it’s two main squares, really lovely.
Thanks everyone! This is helpful. I think we’re just prepared for a long, boring drive that one day. It is what it is. Good to know it will be easy to get out of town from Lille.