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3 Day Normandy Driving Tour - Thoughts?

Hello,
I've been lurking on this forum and enjoying all the great advice that everyone provides. I'm going to France with my wife next month and we have set aside 3 days for a driving trip around Normandy. I was hoping to receive any advice you may have about our proposed itinerary, and whether people have suggestions for changes:

Day 1: Pick up car near L'arc de triomphe around 9am. Drive to Giverny. Tour Giverny and eat lunch. Then leave for drive to B&B in Ver Sur Mer. Perhaps stop in Caen or Bayeux, or have dinner in one of those towns?

Day 2: Morning D-Day half-day tour (or does anyone know a full day tour that ends early enough to still arrive in MSM by 5pm?). Lunch and then drive to MSM, in order to arrive in time to walk around MSM in the late afternoon. Dinner nearby but not in MSM. Thoughts on where to eat dinner near MSM?

Day 3: Breakfast and short walk in MSM early. Spend day driving to Rouen to arrive no later than 545pm in Rouen (car rental agency where we are dropping car closes at 6pm). Potential stops in Bayeux and/or Honfleur, just to walk around. Is it too much to stop at both Bayeux and Honfleur? Also, any other suggested short stops along the route?

I would be very grateful for any advice. Merci d'avance!

Posted by
6487 posts

More time needed at the WWII beaches. American, British and Canadian. Peace Museum in Caen is very worthwhile. I don't know where you are staying, the town, but Bayeux is a great place to stay. Also home to the famous Bayeux Tapestry, c. 1066, the story of William the Conqueror. Hongleur for lunch as you leave Normandy.

Posted by
547 posts

I agree with the above. We spent 3 nights in Bayeux at the Churchill Hotel. It was a great location for any Normandy touring. We had a day tour with Overlord, got home late afternoon to a nice meal in Bayeux and loved walking on the street near the cathedral in Bayeux. The next day we saw the tapestry, toured the British cemetery, the German cemetery and drove back to spend more time seeing the American cemetery and walking Omaha beach. We left the next morning to drive to MSM, arriving there in the late afternoon, touring the church there just as the tour crowds were leaving. We stayed on MSM, woke up to a nice breakfast and left to drive to the Loire Valley. We also toured Giverney (get your tickets online before you go to avoid the lines!!) and loved walking the streets of Honfleur and Rouen. We toured these 3 towns on our way to Bayeux. There is a website called THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VILLAGES IN FRANCE....I had done some homework and since we were driving I tried to put our stops in these small charming towns.....we found Gerberoy ( so gorgeous you think you are walking through a postcard....they have a rose festival every June) and Beuvron-En-Auge where we enjoyed an apple pastry in a sidewalk cafe. Stops like this added so much to our trip!
We thought the WW2 museum in Caen was great....it is time consuming but that is what we were there for. We also loved seeing Etratet......climbed the cliffs and saw the natural stone arch......incredible.
Have a great trip!

BTW......we were shocked at the beauty of the French countryside we saw as we drove!

Posted by
10 posts

All good tips, thank you! We would love to spend much more time but sadly are limited to these three days. Appreciate the idea re Giverny!

Posted by
11798 posts

Cancale isn't far from MSM (under an hour). They have the best oysters and great seafood generally.

I like to rent cars at the first place I need one then drop it at the last place I need one. You might consider training to Giverny, then train to Rouen, Caen or Bayeux to pick up your car. After MSM, you can drop at Rennes or Caen and train back.

Honfleur is different than Bayeux. I skipped it because I was going to port towns in Brittany but it is a really popular stop in Normadie.

Posted by
139 posts

Depending on when you're driving through, we ate in Avranches after a MSM visit. It's the town that has the museum that has a bunch of archives from MSM. You could lunch there on your way or maybe think about dinner there, it's about a half hour drive from MSM.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks all! We are picking up in Paris because we don't want to have to shlep our luggage on the train and around Giverny. Also we will hopefully get there sooner.

On the way back we will drop the car in Rouen where we are staying the last night, and then train in the morning back to Paris.

Does anyone have a tip on a good tour company for the D-Day tour? We want to do Omaha beach and they all look very similar so it is hard to choose.

Posted by
177 posts

We drove CDG to Bayeux last weekend and set the nav to no autoroutes, only scenic roads and wow, what a beautiful drive it was! Highly recommended. In fact, we came across beautiful ruins of a 12 th century monastery in the countryside and had an impromptu picnic with no one else in sight. A great way to add more to your trip when time is limited.

Did the D-Day beaches tour with Bayeux Shuttle and it was great. They had video on the tour buses from movies and vets which helped add context to what we saw. They are also the only tour company that has renovated a cafe complete with realistic period details---it appeared in a famous photo of American GIs in Life Magazine during the war--and they serve you lunch there. It was fun to recreate the Life pic with us in front of the cafe.

Posted by
139 posts

Avranches is not far away if one is planning on going from Bayeux to Mont Saint Michel as stated in the original post, it's on the way.

Posted by
126 posts

Perhaps the abbey ruins mentioned above are at Jumieges, a beautiful site to explore and picnic at. It is on the Route des Abbayes mentioned in the Frommer guides. The drive is along the Seine River. We took it in May on our way from Rouen to Bayeux. We also chose scenic routes and this was one of the best. The drive was at times magical. We didn't stop in Honfleur, but if you are in Bayeux, don't miss the tapestry. The line may seem long, but it moves fairly rapidly. Also, if you get to the American Cemetery about 5:30 p.m., you can witness a moving flag-lowering ceremony there. Since you are going from MSM to Rouen, I suggest you check out the Route des Abbayes on your way to Rouen. If you have spent the previous afternoon at MSM, you probably can skip spending the morning there. You will have been up to the abbey walked all over it, and come back down within 3-4 hours. An early start the next day gives you lots of time to enjoy some scenic routes to Rouen. IMO I would skip Honfleur if it means you miss the Route des Abbayes. Too many people skip this part of France. Whatever you decide, have a great trip!

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you all! Judy, your detailed response was super helpful, and I think we will follow it!

Posted by
2 posts

My husband & I are doing almost the same thing in August (I know, the worst month to vacation if Europe, but we are going with friends & are on their schedule). We will be leaving Paris and heading to the Normandy area for 2 nights. He does not want to drive, but I like what I am reading on this post and would like to try. Is there someplace we can rent a car besides Paris? Getting out of traffic at the Arc de Triomphe is abhorrent. He doesn't want to be caught driving anywhere in the city! We've heard horror stories.

So my 1st question is: what is the best means of transportation and route to get from Paris to Bayeux?

My 2nd question has to do with getting from Bayeux south to Burgundy, but I will put that on a different post.
Thank you!

Posted by
515 posts

Dianne, you might not have gotten a reply because your questions is in someone else's post. However, I highly recommend driving in and around Normandy. You will be extremely limited in what you can see if you don't have your own transportation. Other than a few small cities, is mostly rural, and is a great way to see the sights and countryside. As far as getting to Bayeux, there are trains from Paris Gare Saint-Lazare to Bayeux. You may want to consider taking the more frequent and direct trains to Caen. There are many more rental car options there right outside the station, and Bayeux is an easy 20 minutes away.

Posted by
139 posts

I found the driving in Normandy to be the most fun of my life. I enjoyed the lack of stop signs and traffic lights immensely. Traffic circles work well with the amount of traffic we ran into.

Posted by
1005 posts

Skip Giverny. Rent your car in Caen. There are four car rental agencies across the street from the train station--Hertz, Avis, Europcar, and Sixt. I'd stay in Bayeux and save Mont-St. Michel for another trip--too much driving.

Posted by
515 posts

Just an fyi re: Hertz in Caen. They are no longer across the street from the train station, although they are still close. If you exit the station and take a right out the doors, go down a short block until the first street on your right. Take a right there, go under the tracks, and the Hertz office is just on the other side of the tracks on your left.

Posted by
10 posts

Diane,

We had a great time with this itinerary and everything went off without a hitch except for the car rental place in Rouen!

We picked up at Europcar near the Arc and getting out of Paris couldn't have been easier. Just follow Google Maps or Waze and you will be fine.

Anyone else with questions, feel free to PM me.

Lindnuck