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Best way to get from London to Normandy and Itinerary help!

I am planning a Trip for late August that starts in London and I want to go straight from there to Normandy and do a few days of sight seeing (Mont St. Michel, D Day Beaches etc). I don't want to go to Paris first because I am planning to fly out of there at the end of our trip. We are also planning to see Reims/Verdun next then go to Provence and end up in Paris. I need some help as to the best way to see all these places and end up in Paris (car/train etc). The whole trip will be about 20 days (incl. London) and I should add this is my first big trip to Europe. Also I don't know if I should cut out Provence this time because of the logistics, plus I'm sure the kids will get tired. I'm taking my two children with me ages 8 and 11 (my son the 11 year old is a Military History Fanatic so I can't skip the WWII beaches or Verdun). Thanks for your expertise!
Catherine

Posted by
2738 posts

The fastest, easiest route is taking the Eurostar to Paris and then changing trains (and stations) to get to Normandy. There is no direct way other than driving and using the car ferry. With two children, you might consider saving Provence for a future trip since you would spend valuable time just traveling. If you start in Normandy, Consider visiting Paris and then go to Reims. If you're leaving from CDG, you can take the TGV directly to the airport from Reims.

Posted by
31513 posts

catherine,

As the previous reply mentioned, the most direct route is to travel by EuroStar from London St. Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. From there you'll have to get to Gare Saint-Lazare via Metro, RER or Taxi. It would help to have some idea on where you plan to stay in Normandy? My suggestion would be Bayeux as it's a beautiful smaller town, has a great WW-II Museum and while there you can also see the famous Tapestry which describes a much earlier battle.

Especially as your son is "military history fanatic", I would highly recommend taking one of the excellent local D-Day tours. There are many in that area and some of the best are listed in the RS France guidebook. If you need suggestions, I can provide a few possibilities.

I'd have to spend some time to work out a suggested route, and I'll try to get back to this thread later tonight.

Posted by
25 posts

Phillip, thanks for the suggestion about getting to CDG from Reims. I think that it would work well. Also, do you know the best way to see Verdun from Reims? I was considering renting a car and once I got to Reims.

Ken, I would greatly appreciate any suggestions you have for an itinerary for Normandy/Brittany. I was thinking about 4 days there (If we cut out Provence). I also want to visit the Pillars of Carnac if it isn't too far and I can fit it in. Do you know anything about this area? I ordered the RS books and will get them in a few days. I would love any tour suggestions as I know it would add much more depth to our experience. We are planning on Bayeaux to see the tapestry. I was going to rent a car for this leg of our journey (Normandy/Brittany) and I was wondering how the drive is for a day trip to Mont St. Michel.
Thank you for all your time!
Catherine

Posted by
1157 posts

We took the ferry from Portsmouth over to Quiesteham, the port, and a bus leaving for the Caen Railroad station. Across the street from the RR station are 4 car rental places; we used AutoEurope, based in Maine. We drove to Bayeux, about 12 miles, and stayed the night at the Churchill Hotel. We met our D Day tour right behind the hotel and later went to our B&B south of Bayeux. www.bandbnormandie.com. we used our car to drive to Mont St.Michel, about 90 miles, toured around Normandie, then returned the car to Caen and took a train into Paris, no hassle. Check out www.seat61.com for train and ferry info for all across Europe.

Posted by
1807 posts

There is a high speed ferry ( Brittney Ferries) fromPortsmouth to Cherbourg. The schedule is limited, but Portsmouth was the departure point for D-Day and they do have a nice museum there. It's a train ride from London to Portsmouth and that particular ferry is 3 hours.

Posted by
31513 posts

Catherine,

I'd have to give some thought to an Itinerary, but if you're planning to rent a car in that area, you might stop in Caen and rent there (but still stay in Bayeux).

With D-Day tours from Bayeux, you'll have to consider both budget and the attention span of your 11-year-old history buff. Many of the tours are a full day (about 9 hours) while some firms also offer half-day tours. There are lots of suggestions in the guidebooks, but here are a few you could look at....

I can't offer any suggestions on Verdun, but I'm sure there will be information in the guidebook.

Posted by
6509 posts

There actually is another way too. You can take the train from London to Southend airport and fly to Caen. Total time is about the same as the Eurostar to Paris and then to Caen but if purchased well ahead of time the flight is cheaper than the train. There's only one flight daily and they don't fly on Tue or Thur, so it has to fit your schedule to be worth the hassle of airports. Just wanted you to know all the options.

Posted by
28087 posts

and speaking from experience, the Greater Anglia train from Liverpool Street Station to Southend Airport is overcrowded, stops at all stations, so is slow, and clapped out ancient rail rolling stock.

The C2C train from Fenchurch Station along the Essex shore (part of the way) is more modern, slow (even the "fast" trains), to Southend Central from where you have to walk up the hill to the end of the Greater Anglia line at Southend Victoria and go the 2 stops inland to the airport station.

Trust me, it is a faff. But Southend Airport is extremely small (it makes Temple, Texas airport which I used to use look like the big time) and only has 3 gates if I remember correctly, zero jetways, one perfume store, one WH Smiths, one part time sandwich stand, and one tiny lounge.

Security is reasonably fast for the very few passengers and everything is compact. The water coming out of the taps in the toilets after security is warm and there are no water fountains so when you refill your empty water bottle it will be nice and warm.

It will save changing trains in Paris, which isn't a really big deal, at least not for me.

Posted by
6509 posts

Thanks for the clarification Nigel. I would never do that route myself but just wanted the OP to know all the options. After your post I'm sure she will discard that option. Personally I would do the Eurostar and change in Paris.

Posted by
7133 posts

London - 4 nights
Eurostar service direct to Avignon - 3 or 4 nights
TGV to Reims - 2 or 3 nights (changing stations in Paris)
Pick up rental car and drive to Normandy - 4 nights
Return rental car in Rouen and train to Paris - 5 nights

Posted by
154 posts

I'm planning to go from London to Bayeux by trains in May.

I'm wondering how much time should a person allow transferring from Eurostar arrival at Gare Nord to St Lazare for the train to Normandy?

I want to get on the French intercites fare as soon as it's available next month and this information will help me sort out what I need to do about timing of departure to Bayeux..

Posted by
1994 posts

Your children might enjoy an overnight on Mont S Michel to be able to explore the ramparts after the crowds been gone, See the tide/flooding, etc.. It is a unique experience. If you decide to stay on the island, book your hotel early. There aren't many rooms available, and if price is important, the less expensive ones tend to go quickly.

Posted by
25 posts

Thank you all for your pertinent information and advice. I decided to take the train to Portsmouth from London and go on the overnight ferry to Caen and then pick up the car rental at the Caen rail station. From there we will tour Normandy, Brittany and the Loire and then drip the car off in Tours and take the train to Paris. This seems to be the best way!
Thanks!

Posted by
5630 posts

If you go to Normandy, don't miss the Bayeux Tapestry. It is the 900 year old story of the Norman invasion of England. It is amazing.

Posted by
10 posts

We did a similar trip when my boys were 9 and 12. We took the Eurostar to Paris, rented a car and drove to Bayeux. A very easy drive and pretty. We stayed 2 nights at Hotel Tardif, (really darling spot with cute dogs and they have a family room that can accommodate 4). From there we explored the D-Day area. They were not old enough for a tour, but in hindsight it was good doing it at our own pace. We visited the American Cemetery and Omaha Beach. Do not miss that. We then also saw the Mulberry Harbor at Arromanches and then drove to Pont du Hoc. All are doable in one day with your car. We discussed a lot of what we saw with the kids at a small lunch spot at a town between. Normandy itself is adorable. Don't miss exploring Bayeux and the Tapestry is so wonderful. Much more than you think and kids can walk around it with headsets and see the story unfold.

The last days we drove to Mont St Michel and stayed the night. I really suggest doing that as it's magical after the crowds leave and your kids are the perfect ages to enjoy the ramparts and and crazy bridges. Like mentioned above, book a night early. You'll have fun running around the island when the water is receded in the evening too. One night is enough there and so worth doing. They are the perfect ages. Enjoy. I do think Provence may be a lot to add. Perhaps check out Brittany which we didn't get to, but is so close! I wrote about that trip and some others with small guys here: http://www.northerncalstyle.com/2013/03/traveling-abroad-with-kids.html

Posted by
1 posts

I am also planning a Normandy trip, most likely getting a car in Calais. We've been to Normandy, to the D-Day beaches and the cemetery, but would like to see Bayeux and Rouen, maybe Caen. We then really want to see Mont Saint Michel and St. Malo. Would it better to stay in one central place and travel out, or maybe stay part of the time around Bayeux and then move down toward Brittany? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. We will be two parents and our young adult daughter. We like to tour some and also sit and relax in cafes.

Posted by
249 posts

Bayeux is a pleasant city to spend a few relaxing days with plenty of sights and exhibits of its own, and it a convenient distance from the Normandy beaches for sightseeing there. On my final day, I toured the Bayeux Tapestry exhibit in the morning and visited a few more Normandy sites before driving to Mont Saint-Michel. I arrived in the late afternoon and toured it in the early evening, which is a less crowded time. It's also fascinating to see it by day and then again with the lights at night.

If you can't book a place on the island, there are B&B's nearby. I stayed at a nice one only a few miles away with a nice view of Mont St.-Michel.