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Normandy to Amsterdam by train

In late June my wife and I will be leaving Bayeux traveling to Amsterdam. We need to be in Amsterdam for a 1:30 departure of our barge. We'd like to take the train and get most of the way to Amsterdam and overnight there to be in position the next day to get to the barge with plenty of time. Any suggestions for towns to stay in. Looking for an easy arrival and departure, so no big cities. How about somewhere in Belgium? Northern France? Any interesting places come to mind? Thanks.

Posted by
512 posts

Pat,

Just a couple years ago I was in Bayeux and Amsterdam. One idea is to stay in Bruges, Belgium. It's a medieval market town about an hour or so west of Brussels. It's a small and quaint. Other logical ideas include Antwerp, Belgium, and Rotterdam, Netherlands. They're moderately big but smaller than Amsterdam.

Posted by
20461 posts

I don't think there is any way to avoid the cross-town station transfer in Paris (St Lazare to Nord). Maybe Gent, Belgium, which is a short train ride away from Bruges.

Posted by
2487 posts

Gent is another alternative. Livelier than Brugge, which is only 30 mins away on frequent trains. You do need to change trains (in Brussel on your way in; and Antwerpen on your way out) to get to Amsterdam.
If you want something really quiet, consider Mechelen (Malines). Right in the middle between Brussel and Antwerpen, and served by the Intercity train to Amsterdam.

Posted by
1005 posts

I'm not sure what you mean by " Looking for an easy arrival and departure, so no big cities." The best connections with the most departures are going to be in bigger cities. For example, you could stay at a hotel near Brussels Central Station and see Grand Place and other central sights, and still make your barge departure easily the next day, thanks to all the high-speed trains between Brussels and Amsterdam. Antwerp and Rotterdam are also on the high-speed Thalys line. If you stay in Ghent or Brugge, you'll have to transfer and the regional trains will be slower.

Posted by
66 posts

Thank you all for those quick replies. I appreciate all of you regular posters with your knowledge of the train system. The Travel Forum is so helpful.

I realize that we will need to connect in some big cities. I was trying to convey the fact that I'd like to make the overnight stop as painless as possible by not going into a large city like Paris. But if we can find a city stop where the train station is close to a few hotels that would be fine. Our goal is to stay in Bayeux in the morning and tour a little and then leave right at 12:00. So we need to find a destination after a 4-6 hour train ride. So T. from Seattle, Brussels might be the answer.

By the way, how do you make that cross town transit from Gar du Nord to St. Lazare?

Posted by
512 posts

By the way, how do you make that cross town transit from Gar du Nord to St. Lazare?

I made that transfer once. You have two options: Take the Paris Metro or a cab. If you take the Metro, you'll have to use European coins -- not bills -- in the machines to buy the tickets and decipher French. I love to ride on the Metro, but it might be easier just to take a cab to transfer between the two stations.

Posted by
7569 posts

I agree about arriving a day early for any cruise (of any sort of boat) departure.

An issue is trains that are "off the main line". That might apply to Brugge. But surely you want to see Brugge if you have never been. I also like Gent, but more people will ask you if you went to Brugge.

A halfway measure would be to sleep in a nice place like Den Haag or Leiden, which are both good for two days, but are so close to Amsterdam that there is little to worry about for the barge. I would NOT stay in Haarlem because I don't like it nearly as much as our host, Rick, does. The laziest train access stop might be Antwerp or Brussels, both of which are good for two days.

Posted by
20461 posts

By the way, how do you make that cross town transit from Gar du Nord to St. Lazare?

Acually its the other way around, St Lazare to Nord. Most direct is the RER E. There is an underground walkway to the station Haussmann-St Lazare. The the first train to the next stop, Magenta, and again an underground walkway to Nord. The trains go at least every 8 minutes and more often sooner, and only takes 3 minutes. DB gives an allowance of 15 minutes for the walk on each end. So make sure you have at least 1 hour to make the transfer. 1.90 EUR per person, buy tickets from the machine or the ticket window.

You can also take the 43 bus which runs between the stations. And a taxi always works.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

Going from Gare du Nord to Gare St Lazare , as pointed out, can be done by the RER , Metro and the bus, two of them...#43 and #26, if the taxi is not an option. It's nice by bus if you want to avoid the crowd in the Metro, I've done it more than once.

"Northern France?" Numerous interesting places come to mind, just depends upon the level of your interest in northern France, which I find captivating and fascinating. Of the three major cities from the Somme River to the Belgian border, I like Amiens the best, but I know Arras the best, both historically and culturally. The centre ville in both are worthy as respects to architecture. Both cities were in the thick of the fighting in WW 1 and 2. You see plaques to that effect as you walk through the centre ville. Getting around the small towns in northern France is done best by car...Cambrai, St Quentin, Bapaume, Albert, Vimy, Douai, Lens, Neuville St Vlaast, Fricourt, etc There is a rental car company left of the train station in Arras as you exit.