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Welcome to Bayeux -- we're closed!

Welcome to Bayeux -- we're closed!

It's Monday in Bayeux, which means everything is closed. Almost everything was closed on Sunday, but Monday is the day this town says "screw it, we're closed!" and locks the doors. The restaurants are all closed, the shops are all closed, the bars are all closed. Well, almost everything is closed. Our hotel, Reine Mathilde, has its restaurant open and it's packed. Le P'tea Cosy, a wonderful little eatery next to the cathedral, also stays open and thank god for it. My wife and I managed to score delicious mushroom tartes along with a 50cl pichet of remarkable local cider, a few scoops of sumptuous ice cream and a pair of coffee drinks for 44 Euros.

Another place of note, also open, is the little kebab place called Bosphore, located on Rue Larcher. For about 5 Euros, you can feast on halal chicken in a number of different formats, including shawarma. This location seems to be a favorite of the locals and the line was out the door on Sunday.

A few notes on Bayeux:

  1. You can see the main sights -- the Bayeux Tapestry and the cathedral (there's always a cathedral) -- in about two hours. Wandering through the rest of the main tourist areas will kill another few hours. Do not budget four days here like I did. You will be bored, antsy and sans places to drink on Monday.

  2. This place is American and British tourism heaven. Also, Canadians. We were seated next to some Canadians at Le Petit Normand. Nice enough people, it seemed, until the topic of snow tires came up at their table. Then the discourse began. Apparently, in Calgary, snow tires are serious business and deserving of the kind of discussion generally reserved for Kant and Camus. The men compared tire plies, studded vs. un-studded, groove depth, air pressure; all in agonizing detail. Their wives drank wine and listened wearily. Tire wisdom was flowing freely, and the look of female suffering was growing, as was the wine consumption. Then the wine ran out. Not so the topic of snow tires, leaving me to suspect that there's a lot of Hitachi Magic Wands sold in Calgary.

  3. Pretty much every place to eat opens at 7:00pm and is instantly packed with diners sans reservations. Woe unto those who join their ranks. You might get lucky and score a seat, or you might end up gnawing off your own arm out of hunger. Reservations are your friend here.

  4. Bier: local beer is great, but avoid Desparados, a revolting concoction of tequila and watery beer that Bayeux appears to be a test market for. Seriously, do not order this swill unless your liver has been smarting off and you feel an urge to punish it.

(continued next post)

Posted by
352 posts

Tours:

We took two of them: the ever-popular Overlord Tour of Omaha and Utah beaches featuring the dashingly handsome and sufficiently erudite Yannik and a Cheese and Cider tour, booked through Viator, starring the charming Nina who was well versed in all things cheesy and from the farms of Normandy.

Overlord Tours is a safe bet for a D-Day tour. Yannik is a font of stories and information that add life into the sights along the coast. An indistinguishable little bridge was the scene of an epic battle between US soldiers and German Panzers, a foxhole is still preserved from the fight. Omaha beach looks like any stretch of coastline, complete with rental sailboats, leaving one to imagine the carnage wrought there 75 years ago without being overwhelmed by monuments. There's a visit to the American cemetery, then on to St. Mere-Eglise and then Utah beach. There's just enough packed into a day to be interesting without being overwhelming. Very much worth the money.

The Viator tour, titled "Full-Day Small-Group Cheese-and-Cider Tasting Tour from Bayeux", thus exhausting my daily supply of hyphens, was an unexpected treat. I was picturing quaint farms, cows and bucolic settings. I got all three, plus a visit to a cheese factory AND an amazing lunch of pates, cheeses, baguettes and cider. I also learned that there's four kinds of A.O.C. cheese in Normandy, all of which are rich and sinful and all of which I stuffed into my face without guilt. Then there was guiltless cider, guiltless pommeau, and guiltless Calvados. Well, I felt a little guilty sampling a 45-year-old Calvados knowing there was no way I was going to cough up 350 euros for a bottle. Rick Steve Tours would be well served if they incorporated this tour into one of their own.

-- Mike Beebe

Posted by
417 posts

It's not uncommon for many things to be closed on a Monday. We've had to plan around that as well. Sounds like you had an interesting group of tours, though.

On a side note - snow tires are pretty serious business where snowy and icy roads are common from Oct-March. There's been an extremely bad early fall snow storm in Southern Alberta - 90cm in some areas - so that may have precipitated the lengthy discussion on tires. Just saying.......

Posted by
3120 posts

Oh Mike, very funny review, made me laugh particularly point 2. But then, Canada is the Great White North, eh? You have to have lived in or near the mountains to know the benefits of snow tires....something some of us have on our cars longer than regular tires - October to May....so it matters.
Bayeaux is definitely small. next time, if not too far east, consider Deauville or Cabourg, at least they have casinos......

Posted by
2604 posts

With your Sunday and Monday luck you probably haven’t spotted La Reine Mathilde with is windows covered up. If they open tomorrow drop in to see and taste some wonderful pastries, coffee and hot chocolate.

Posted by
7804 posts

Thanks Mike! I love your reports!

Come on over to N Idaho and we can discuss snow tires too. I need new ones this year. My tire guys eked another year last year by lowering the pressure a bit but I was nervous the whole season so I’m making them take my money this year. I’m going for the Nokian Hakkipiilitta (I think the “i’s are in the right place) studless again. I don’t know about the ply-I let Monte and Dave pick. Yes, Idaho got snow over the weekend but not as much as the east side of Glacier and up in to Canada. 5 FEET in some areas! Are you snoring?

I love pommeau! Did an apple product tasting on a Road Scholar tour but not on the Rick Steves tour I did there. The apple orchard was planted on Advanced Landing Ground 6, near Utah Beach I think, that was used in the days following the landings.

Thanks!!

Posted by
17176 posts

Hysterical as always, Mike. I'm sorry about the strategic error of basing so long in Bayeux. For others heading that way and depending on public transportation, I suggest splitting the nights between Bayeux (for a D-Day tour and the Bayeux sights) and the less physically attractive Caen, from which trips to Cabourg, Deauville/Trouville, Honfleur and Falaise are possible. (The point of going to Falaise would be to see the very good museum about civilian life during the war; it covers Resistance activities.)

I don't know where I'd suggest travelers with cars stay. Perhaps spending all their nights in Bayeux would work fine.

Rouen is a lovely possibility as well.

Edited to add: For future visitors, the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy on the outskirts of Bayeux (walkable for most) is open seven days a week. It is modern and excellent.

Posted by
4695 posts

I visited Normandy many years ago and spent two nights in Bayeux and one in Caen. Bayeux is a lovely, well-preserved town, but as Mike notes, it's a tourist town that is pretty dead at night. I disliked walking around at night to dark streets looking for other tourists. I prefer a more lively place, even if I'm alone just eating by myself. Sounds like things haven't changed at all since I visited.

I spent my third night in Caen, which was just the opposite of Bayeux: a lively, vibrant town where locals clearly spend time. Of course, Caen was leveled during the war and completely re-built, so it lacks the "old charm" that Bayeux offers, but at least it wasn't dead at night! I would have preferred to spend all my nights in Caen and just explore Bayeux for a few hours in the daytime.

Posted by
7754 posts

I love your very funny and informative trip report. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by
4158 posts

Mike, I've missed your wonderful reports. I guess I just haven't been paying attention.

We loved Bayeux, but it's more of a roll-up-the-sidewalks kind of place (you left a few hyphens for me) than the small town I live in. We were there for the RS Heart of France tour, and my husband and I decided to go for a stroll after dinner and have coffee in a nice sidewalk café to celebrate the great day we had had. Well. No cafés. Not one was open. Our guide had warned us that things tend to close early in Bayeux, but it was still daylight! We finally ended up in a bar tabac that deigned to serve us coffee. I asked (politely, in decent French) if there were any cakes to go with the coffee, and got a one word answer: "Non."

I would gladly go back to Bayeux; our stay there was short and filled with tour activities, so I missed the cathedral. And I would gladly revisit the Tapestry and its museum multiple times.

Thanks again for the report. I'll try to keep up with your posts.

Posted by
245 posts

I am LOVING that you tried some Desperados. I associate many things with that stuff, and none of those things are good ideas. It's actually been around a good long while in France, believe it or not!

Posted by
1861 posts

Mike, as always your report is a joy to read-you never cease to make me smile, if not laugh out loud. You definitely manage to (I'm borrowing from Eric IdleMonty Python here) "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", and let us in on it, too. Desparados does sound awful and I will avoid this at all costs! Thank you for posting.

Posted by
3283 posts

If you are still in Bayeux, I'd recommend a trip to neighboring Arromanches. I'm not sure why this little town isn't more popular. They have a pretty little beach with views of Normandy cliffs and the remnants of the D-Day, artificial harbor with a wonderful little museum next to the beach. The museum provides a lot of detail of the D-Day invasion especially how it pertains the the harbor remnants you can see from the museum. There is a wonderful, well priced small restaurant, Le Mulberry, that I'd highly recommend. Exceptional food! They operate a small inn, as well. Well priced with an incredible included breakfast and we parked right on the street next to the inn.

And I'll add that most in Minnesota, use an all weather tire. Snow tires are good on snow, less wonderful when it becomes packed down or becomes icy. The more you know. . . ;)

Posted by
1348 posts

Thanks for mentioning the cider, Mike -
I had recently noticed that there isn't nearly enough coverage of French cider, especially draft cider, on the RS forum -- the only cider-related mentions are confined to within Great Britain which is a shame.

Just last month I discovered a delightful draft rose cider called "Virtue Cider Rose" from a brewery in Fennville, MI
which just got started in 2011
https://www.virtuecider.com/whoweare

Regarding not finding enough sightseeing to fill your time, you need to get out of the WWII and Norman bubble, bud.
The Roman and Viking sites in the area would be enough to keep my eyes peeled for weeks. And don't make me go medieval on you, too.

Posted by
4309 posts

I always enjoy your posts, Mike, I'll never forget the one about all the pints you planned for the UK.

We spent three nights in Bayeux, I think, with one day for the town and one for the beaches (on our own). We spent more time than you did at the cathedral and tapestry, and never got to the WWII museum which I understand is very good. Learned nothing about snow tires there, so I envy you that additional knowledge. (My Subaru isn't supposed to need snow tires, I hope I never have to find out.)

Posted by
14045 posts

Love reading your stuff, Mike. You got me at cider . . . Bayeux is now on my list for my next trip to France, whenever that may be.

Happy, hoppy trails!

Posted by
2058 posts

We were in Bayeux the Monday before last and had the same experience! We met up with another couple at our hotel and eventually enjoyed a great dinner at the Villa Lara - and were seated earlier than expected because we were a party of four!

Posted by
1518 posts

Hey mike
Guess you made to Strasbourg and still with the wifey!!😎 there was no quietness in Paris this past Saturday, police and guards, rifles, guns, uzis, dignitaries, blue and red sirens everywhere, techno parade, yellow vest protests, fashionista week, former president chirac’s funeral and memorial, people and more people everywhere, cafes full, lots of wine and spirits flowing, along with the rain, fun and patience of vacations. Will post later about trip, boarding our long 11 hour flight for home. We’re ready.
aloha

Posted by
4075 posts

Much of Europe closes on a Monday, it’s not just Bayeaux. The cafe in my village in the UK closes on a Monday as it’s the only day in the week that the owners have to themselves. They work hard and I would not do their job with only one day a week off.

The French mostly eat at lunchtime, which is why many places don’t open in the evening and those that do open are likely to be filled with foreigners, not French people. Hence the Canadian discussion. As they eat their main meal at lunchtime, they don’t need cakes in the afternoon.

I was in France in June - even the last week of June is off season and most places had limited opening days and hours compared to the 4-6 week peak season starting c 7 July. It will be the same in September.

The French value their free time and have a better work/life balance than here in the UK, where people expect shops to be open until 10pm and on a Sunday etc. Not in France. We have previously been caught in France needing petrol at lunchtime and even the filling stations at the large supermarkets were closed! Luckily self pay pumps are now more common.

Posted by
352 posts

Thanks for all of your wonderful replies!

So it turns out snow tired ARE serious business. In Seattle, we deal with snow the ol'-fashioned way: leaving our cars in the middle of I-5 and walking home from there.

As per that beer that shall not be further named, I also encountered its horridness in Paris and Haarlem. Maybe it's a Halloween prank. I notice that Corona is making inroads in Europe (or trying to), so on behalf of people who used to drink that stuff, I do apologize.

I haven't written a book yet because I don't think there's a market for "pithy observations by part-time travelers" books -- and if there is, Uncle Rick already cornered the market. I appreciate the compliment, however.

Keep on travelin' because it beats sitting at home!

-- Mike Beebe

Posted by
7330 posts

I always love your posts Mike, and your brilliant humor... but... i’ve stayed a whole week in Bayeux at least 6-7 times and absolutely love it! We have a rental car and go exploring - hidden gems everywhere in Normandy.

You do have a rental car, right? 😂

Posted by
1348 posts

A prime example of the many things to do in Bayeux includes the annual prize ceremony for war correspondence journalism this year's ceremonies were this weekend, and there was an exhibit and various talks going on since the middle of July to recognize not just French journalists but from all over the world:

http://www.prixbayeux.org/en/

France24 has been doing stories about it for a few weeks:
https://www.france24.com/en/france/20191011-france-s-bayeux-calvados-prize-rewarding-war-reporters-1