Is there an easy way to get from London to the WWII landing beaches without going to Paris first?
There are a number of ferry routes across the channel: https://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/ferry-routes
I don't know about "easy," but there are ferries from both Portsmouth (where there is much to see relative to WWII) and Poole. They go to either Ouistreham—which is near Caen—or Cherbourg. From Ouistreham there is a bus to Caen, and there are car rental companies in both Caen and Cherbourg. There are many reports of inconsistent reliability and cancelled, delayed voyages—so be flexible. I was once booked on a Poole->Cherbourg ferry. When I got to Poole, they informed me it was cancelled due to a strike in Cherbourg. So they put us on a taxi to Portsmouth ($$$?), where they had changed my reservation to the Ouistreham ferry. They also made arrangements with Hertz to have a car for me there rather than Cherbourg. A 2019 I had planned a rather unusual trip involving flying a plane from England and parachuting into Normandy for D-day. Thjere were all sorts of things that could, and did go wrong logistically. So as a precaution, I bought a 1st class, fully refundable train ticket on the Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel. As it turns out, my plans did change, and I never made it to England, so I was able to get all my money back on the ticket. That may be a good insurance policy if you run into unexpected ferry troubles.
The fastest way to get from London to Normandy is to drive (5h 45m). The downfall though is it’s costly to drive through the Euro tunnel, and if you’re unable to drop off your car in the UK, expect to pay a very high drop off fee in FR.
How about taking Eurostar to Lille and going from there to beaches? Is that doable without a car? Is it convenient or should we just go to Paris and then take another train to Bayeux? I am traveling with a 13 years old and wanted to just leave Paris for the end of our trip.
ViaMichelin gives 4 1/2 hours' drive time between Lille and Colleville-sur-Mer.
Add on the time to disembark from Eurostar, get to the rental car station and do the paperwork, get your rental car and get out of the city and that's at least 6 hours.
According to https://booking.eurostar.com/us-en/train-search?origin=7015400&destination=8722326&adult=1&outbound-date=2021-06-13 you can book a direct Eurostar train from London St. Pancras International to Lille Europe Eurostar (1h 30m).
Note: the longer you wait to purchase your Eurostar tickets, the more costly the tickets become.
If you look for trips from Lille to Bayeux many options will be via Paris, so I think the fastest way is to change in Paris.
Thank you all for your input. I think we will go to Paris before going to the landing beaches. Seems the most direct and convenient route.
It's not far from Gare du Nord (where Eurostar arrives) to Gare St Lazare (from where trains to Bayeux depart). It really is the most user-friendly way to go.
In 2010 after landing at LHR, we used a car service to reach St. Pancras to catch the Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord. From there we took a cab to Gare St. Lazare for the train ride to Bayeux. The most stressful part of this journey was the length of the taxi queue at Gare du Nord. Fortunately, on that day at least, the line moved quickly.
Gladys, yes it is possible if you really want to get to Bayeux without a car, by train starting in Lille and without going through Paris.
It will be slow and not save you much if any money.
There are trains along the coast but France is extremely Paris centric. The railways mostly go to Paris from various places and back out to other places, much like spokes on a bicycle wheel, with little linking the spokes. Before Covid that segment of the journey could be made by train, albeit creaky and with 2 or 3 changes avoiding Paris. Now in these days - I don't know what will be after we eventually get back to normal - it takes just short of 6 hours and involves a train from Lille Flandres to Rouen-Rive-Droite (Lille Flandres is a different station to where the Eurostar arrives at Lille Europe, about 400 metres away; Rouen is a lovely city but difficult to drive in for drivers) and then a bus to Caen, and then you pick up the train from Paris to Bayeux.
I will say that Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord, a short hop over to Paris St Lazare, and then settling in to the train to Bayeux.
If you don't want your grand-daughter to see Paris before you are ready maybe you could take a taxi and give her a light blanket. When my 9 year old niece visited me from Texas she had no interest in the scenery - she hid under her travel blanket in the back seat and played on her electronic device. If you asked her about French or Belgian scenery she'd have no idea.
Regarding the suggestion that London to Bayeux can be done in 5:45 by car using Eurotunnel, I'm (officially) a Eurotunnel Frequent Traveller so I do know what I'm talking about, and I have done the trip myself several years ago (but from the West Midlands near Birmingham). I looked at what Google Maps showed from Charing Cross (officially the zero milepost) to the Churchill Hotel in Bayeux (I've stayed there and loved it) saying 6:01. Don't believe it, not for a second. First, there is no highway from the centre of London to the M25 in the direction of Folkestone, it is all city roads until nearly the M25 regardless if you are on the A23 towards the south or the A2. Buses, pedestrians, traffic lights, one-way schemes, it has been said that depending on the time of day you will drive at between 4 mph and 9 mph in inner London. And Google Maps doesn't allow for that, nor for the waiting time to check in at the Eurotunnel and the requirement that you be there an hour before departure (used to be 45 minutes but Brexit took care of that and now with Covid and Brexit an hour is ambitious). Boarding starts 20 minutes before departure. In the year or two before Covid 3 out of 4 of the Eurotunnel trains I took left late and few arrived on time. (still love it though). Doesn't account for toilet or rest stops either. 10 to 15 minutes to off-load in France. Immigration and Customs (yup Brexit brought us Customs back again) is done before you board. A comment mentioned driving through the tunnel. It is a train tunnel, nobody drives through - there's no road. You drive into the train and stay in your car and drive off the train at the other end. Another thing that Google Maps left out was time lost at the Normandy Bridge, paying the very expensive toll and traffic. I take my hat off if you can do it in 7 hours, 8 is realistic.
The other thing about taking a UK car to France is that the driving position on the right hand ride of the car for England is the wrong side of the car for France. Better have a helper at toll booths and car parks because the driver won't be able to reach them. Tough to see when passing too.
I do it but I have years of experience doing it and always have a co-pilot for such things, and a device which pings tolls so nobody has to open a window or stop at the barrier.
London to Paris to Normandie is one of our favorite trips. We've done Heathrow to Portsmouth via a car service (aquacars.co.uk) for two days to see the D Day displays, HMS Victory, Admiral Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, and other historical sights. A ferry over to Ouistreham, a bus to the Caen railroad station to fetch our rental car, and about 20 miles to Bayeux. If no interest in a ferry, we've often done the Eurostar to Paris, stay two nights, then an early train to Caen for a rental car. Driving from Caen is easy and we toured the beaches and the American cemetery above Omaha Beach on our own even after a full day guided tour. Like any tour, we were hustled from place to place and only spent 15 minutes at the American Cemetery. We used our rental to also drive to Mont St. Michel, about 90 minutes. Lots of choices to mull over. Good luck.
So impressed with all the good advice and detailed options. Thank you for all the information. Gladys
Before they went out of business, FlyBe had a flight between London Southend and Caen. There is talk of the airline returning. They, or someone else, may start flights once both countries are fully open and it's tourist season.