My friend and I have four full days in Normandy! We are taking a train from Paris to Caen, renting a car, and staying in or near Bayeux. I wonder if anyone has some advice on how to structure that time. We certainly want to tour the D-Day beaches, the cemetery and other WW II points of interest. We also will devote one day to driving to see Mont St-Michel. Should we use two days to see the WW II points of interest? Should we tour some of the surrounding towns like Rouen or Honfleur? We don't want to kill ourselves - we like relaxed touring days. Thanks for any help!
We had 5 nights for a similar trip but are very slow travelers. We drove to MSM from Caen and spent the night visiting the Mont in the evening and for dinner (we stayed on shore, bad idea). We then came back in the morning and visited the Abbey and then drove that afternoon to Bayeux where we stayed at the Churchill for two nights -- saw the Tapestry that afternoon, did an Overlord Tour of the WWII beaches all day the full day, and I visited the Cathedral in the evening. It is certainly possible to drive yourself to the beach sites, but we appreciated not having to do the homework on this occasion. One day is plenty to see key beaches, Pointe du Hoc, the American Cemetery and the airborne museum. We then drove to Honfleur for two nights; it is a charming little town but just being there in the evenings was sufficient. On the full day we drove to Etretat across Pont Normandie and walked the cliffs. IMHO not to be missed. There are many more things to see and do -- this was a good sample for us. Here is some of it; I never posted WWII site photos.
We stayed in Bayeux which was perfect. We took a guided tour to tne American beaches arranged by our hotel, Lion d’Or. Another day we toured the British and Canadian beaches and museums. We enjoyed the Bayeux Tapestry, c.1066.; don’t miss it.
Spent a day at MSM. We also spent a night in charming Honfleur on our way driving from Paris to Bayeux.
Good advice from janettravels and Suki. We also stayed in Bayeux (5 nights). One day for D-Day worked for us, with a guided tour. If you put something like D-Day tour in the Search field above, you'll find plenty of recommendations. We hired, and greatly enjoyed, Bertrand Saundrais. (http://www.executived-daytours.com/ (includes a button/link to TripAdvisor reviews.) That said, I've yet to see a negative comment on any of the guides or tours here.) Also, a Yes for Honfleur. We drove; got an early start; had a nice brunch on the harbour; felt we'd beat much of the crowd.
Our drive back to Bayeux from the morning in Honfleur was spent wandering around the Pays d'Auge (cider and cheese "routes). From a previous reply to a similar inquiry: "... With some planning we could have been more efficient, but still managed to have a great lunch in Cambremer ( http://www.auptitnormand.com/ ) and enjoy the charming countryside. Here's a helpful website site if you want an itinerary more specific than ours : http://www.calvados-tourisme.co.uk/en/discover/tourist-trails/the-cider-route.php"
Finally, we enjoyed MSM as a day-trip from Bayeux, but many of the regulars here speak highly of spending a night on MSM. We would probably consider that carefully were we to return.
My top recommendation is to take a guided tour of the Normandy beaches, as others have suggested. It makes far better use of your time than trying to find your own way and not really knowing what you're looking at.
I visited these places in Normandy and liked them all, but there are other good options: Honfleur, Deauville, Cabourg and Rouen. The first three are all coastal towns. Rouen is a city with a large historic area (mostly reconstructed after widespread wartime damage); it also has several intersting museums. Caen was blasted during the war and not much old architecture remains, but it has a castle and two abbeys. Bayeux, though touristy, is more picturesque.
In eastern Brittany I enjoyed visits to Dinan, Dinard, Rennes, Fougeres and Vitre. The latter two seemed less touristy than the others. St.-Malo is definitely overrun, but there's stuff there of tourist interest if you don't mind being one of thousands.
We stayed in Bayeux 3 nights.
1 full day tour (with Overlord) to Mont St. Michel
1 full day tour ( with Overlord ) to Beaches of Normandy and other town with
significant history of D-Day, ended at the American Cemetery.
We stayed at Hotel d'Argouges in Bayeux - perfect location in this lovely small town very walkable and things to see.
Already interesting suggestions. The coastal route between Honfleur and Deauville is very scenic and I liked a few years back driving along the coast between Étretat and Fécamp, visiting tiny beaches between the white cliffs there. There are also walking trails.
East of Honfleur Marais Vernier with it’s many Norman cottages is nice driving through as well as a bit further Vieux Port. You can also go to Rouen on the way back to Paris and drop off the car somewhere there. Worth a stop east of Rouen is Andelys and Château Gaillard for the stunning view over the Seine valley. Have to say Rouen is not an easy place driving through.
You can use the Michelin Departemental maps (yellow cover – 1/150,000) for planning with suggestions for scenic itineraries. Costing around €6 and easy to get in France, with Google Streetview you can see what to expect so having a map already now you can prepare at home.
We stayed in Bayeux five nights (four sight-seeing days): did the 2-day American D-day tour with Dale Booth, saw the tapestry and cathedral (and did laundry) and rented a car and drove to Honfleur for our 4th day. That worked for us - we're slow-paced (Dale said we get "sucked in" to museums) and plan to return another time for the British and Canadian sights. I think the answer to your question depends on your interests but you've gotten a variety of answers to help with the planning.
We had a rental car from Caen after arriving on the ferry from Portsmouth. We drove to our marvelous working farm B&B south of Bayeux, just outside of Villers-Bocage. Mont Saint Michel was about 90 minutes via a four lane motorway and we arrived early to beat the tour buses. We saw all we wanted then drove around the bay to Cancale for a great seafood lunch. Driving back we drifted along the back roads, stopping at little villages for cheese, Calvados, bread, and just to shop. We found no English speakers but with our rudimentary French and lots of smiles we had a great time with the local residents in the little village shops and markets. The beaches and Bayeux were around 15-20 minutes from Villers-Bocage and we did take a day tour of D Day beaches, then returned on our own to spend more time at places we barely hit, like the American Cemetery. With four days you should have a great time. We had a Michelin map and our own GPS with places to visit saved to the GPS so we drove right to most of the places. Driving the smaller roads you'll likely be the only tourist around.