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Best Route London to Normandy?

Hello all, family of 4 (2 adult children 18 and 21) doing London (5 nights), Bayeaux (3 nights) and Paris (5 nights) in late June. Thoughts on traveling from London to Bayeaux? We are considering renting a car for Normandy to get around the sights, and have seen that Caen is a good spot to rent a car.

Originally I thought we would take the Eurostar to Paris and Paris to Caen, rent car, and drive to Bayeaux, but saw on another thread there is a direct flight from London to Caen, which would save time, and possibly money.

All input welcome!

Posted by
21709 posts

Take the Eurostar to Lille, first stop after the tunnel, pick up a car there. No need to go all the way to Paris and then back.

Posted by
1154 posts

We did the Portsmouth to Quistreham, the ferry port, then a shuttle to Caen, fetched our rental car across the street from the Caen railroad station then drove around 15 miles to Bayeux. We used aquacars.co.uk from London to Portsmouth and it was door to door for less money than train tickets and hassling with luggage. A car is a must to see the Normandy sights, assuming you mean the D Day museums and beaches. We also did a day trip via the four lane motorway, Bayeux to Pontorson/ Mont St. Michel, leaving early to drive the 90 minutes and arrive at the opening to beat the crowds from the tour buses. We've also done the Eurostar to Paris for 3 nights, take the train to Caen for our rental car then returning to Paris for 2-3 nights. We prefer to fly into and out of London Heathrow and enjoy the Eurostar. Eurostar tickets go on sale 6 months prior to your travel dates and get much more expensive if you wait. Check out tripadvisor.com Bayeux forum or Normandy forum for tips on what to see there. Good luck.

Posted by
1063 posts

"We used aquacars.co.uk from London to Portsmouth and it was door to door for less money than train tickets and hassling with luggage."

Well I'm seeing advance train tickets from Waterloo to Portsmouth for £9, I doubt a car service was less than that.

Posted by
21050 posts

I've had bad luck with ferries between England, the Channel Islands and France. They do get canceled on occasion. I have to assume the Eurostar is more reliable.

Posted by
89 posts

Our lodging is set, so ferry is not an option. Deciding between train/Eurostar or flight.

Posted by
31471 posts

Kimberly,

This probably comes down to a question of time or money. The Eurostar trip to Gare du Nord, taxi (or whatever) to Gare Saint-Lazare and then train to Caen or Bayeux will be cheaper (especially with advance tickets purchased well in advance) but will take up the better part of a day once all is considered. A flight from London Southend to Caen using FlyBe is a shorter travel time but will likely be more expensive as there will undoubtedly also be charges for luggage. Of course you'd also have to include time for the usual airport hassles - transport to and from airports, check-in, security, waiting times, etc. The time for a flight will likely be 4 - 6 hours overall.

Posted by
5460 posts

If I had three days in Bayeux, I'd rent a car too. But note that there will be plenty of cars on the road at that time of year, and parking in the attraction lots, such as they are. Maybe that affects your travel plans. But the fact is that London and Normandy don't pair well. Ferries are obsolete (and not so close to London), and the other ways are tedious.

Posted by
4657 posts

Ferries are obsolete (and not so close to London),

Some of the cross Channel ferries are comparable to some modern cruise ships and the fast catamarans can hardly be described as obsolete.

As for being not so close to London, I can get the train from central London to Portsmouth Harbour in less time than it would take to drive from central London to Heathrow or Gatwick.

The catamaran from Portsmouth to Caen takes about 3 hours. The train from Caen to Bayeaux takes 55 minutes whilst London Waterloo to Portsmouth takes an hour. Therefore the journey of 5 hours (excluding transfer and waiting times) is not that different to the 6 1/2 hours by train from London via the Eurostar.

Plus, if the reason for visiting Normandy is D-Day related then a stop in Portsmouth visiting the D-Day museum and the departure points plus approaching Normandy by boat couldn't be more apt.

Posted by
31471 posts

Kimberly,

One other minor point to add. You won't be able to learn as much about the history of the D-Day sights by wandering about in a rental car. You'll learn far more and have a more memorable trip by taking one of the excellent D-Day tours available in the area (many depart from Bayeux - Overlord Tours is a big favourite with many). Keep in mind that the D-Day sights cover a front of about 50 miles and extend some distance inland, so knowing where significant sights are located and getting to them in a timely manner will take some time. Another option would be to hire a guide to travel with you in the car and this guide would be a good choice - http://www.visitdday.com/home.html .

When in Bayeux, you could also visit the excellent Museum there, and also see the famous Bayeux Tapestry which describes a much earlier battle.

Posted by
5460 posts

JC, I'm glad that the ferries provide jobs in Portsmouth. I wasn't saying the equipment was obsolete or uncomfortable. I was saying that the ride is often uncomfortable, and has been for 100 years or more. The travel times you cite are a measure of "obsolescence." Time to get to the ferry port from downtown London has to be added in. Even with airport or train security delays, there are faster and better ways to get across the English Channel today. If Paris didn't have multiple train stations (which is inconvenient for the OP's itinerary), the ferry business would be dead!

If I am not mistaken, some of the ferries take only cars. Research is needed for each vacationer's plans.

My wife was seasick for an entire ferry ride in 1977, and refuses to use a channel ferry again. (We've certainly been in London over six times.)

Posted by
89 posts

This is all very helpful--love the ferry debate!

From the research I've done, here are our options; times are travel only, waiting/transfers time not included. Is there something I'm missing for rail tickets? Using nationalrail.co.uk and en.oui.sncf/en. Leaning toward Eurostar or Flybe.

  1. Ferry Portsmouth to Caen $122 GBP/8.5 hours (daytime option only as our lodging is set)
    2.5 hour train London to Portsmouth $20 GBP
    6 hours ferry Portsmouth to Caen $102 GBP

  2. Eurostar to Paris/Paris to Caen $91 GBP + $47 Euro/5 hours
    2.5 hours Eurostar to Paris $91
    1 hour transfer to Gare St. Lazare $2 Euro metro ride
    2.5 hours Paris to Caen $45 Euros

  3. Flybe London to Caen = $91 GBP + Possible $23 GBP baggage fees/2 hours (we have only carry-ons on the transatlantic flight, so I think we will be able to do the same on the Flybe)
    1 hour train London to Southend Airport $20GBP
    1 hour flight London to Caen $71GBP (will have to arrive 90 minutes in advance)

Posted by
4657 posts

Ferry Portsmouth to Caen $122 GBP/8.5 hours (daytime option only as our lodging is set)
2.5 hour train London to Portsmouth $20 GBP
6 hours ferry Portsmouth to Caen $102 GBP

Where are you getting your estimate of 2.5 hours for the train from London to Portsmouth?

Posted by
89 posts

@JC nationalrail.co.uk
Tells me 2:18 to 2:21 to Portsmouth (5:00 or 5:30 departure). 1:58 if we leave at 6:15 but that's a little close for a 8:30 ferry departure.

Posted by
11238 posts

I would suggest that if you are taking the ferry from Portsmouth you actually give yourself time there. I really enjoyed the Historic Dockyard.

I will be making the same trip in April but I'm leaning towards the flight from Southend to Caen.

Posted by
4657 posts

JC nationalrail.co.uk
Tells me 2:18 to 2:21 to Portsmouth (5:00 or 5:30 departure). 1:58 if we leave at 6:15 but that's a little close for a 8:30 ferry departure.

That looks like the slow train from Victoria. Rather than wake at an ungodly hour and make your way to the station have you considered taking the slower overnight ferry? Get to Portsmouth late and board the ferry or spend a day in Portsmouth enjoying some of the fantastic sights.