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4 nights outside Paris incl Mont St Michel - advice please

My husband, 12 yr old son and I will be visiting France this Sept. We have 8 nights in Paris and then 4 nights before we head off to Switzerland. On our must see list is Mt St Michel.

Originally we thinking of 2 nights in the Loire Valley (Tours) before driving to msm via Le Mans. Staying overnight at msm then making our way back staying overnight in hornfleur then to paris. We're now thinking that this may be too much and perhaps it's more sensible to limit ourselves to Normandy.

Now Thinking
Day 1 Paris via Giverny (monet's garden stop), Caen for lunch and arrive msm late afternoon.
Day 2 abbey (before crowds); drive to Dinan. Explore. Back to b&b (nr msm)
Day 3. D day beaches. Drive back to Paris. Arrive late afternoon

Is this reasonable. It is our first time in Paris and am finding deciding where to go rather overwhelming.


Posted by
20 posts

Hi anna,
We were just in Paris over Christmas. We spent a week there and then 4 days in Bayeux. We rented a car and drove to MSM one day and to the DDay beaches another day. We have two small children and it worked out perfectly! We originally wanted to stay within the walls at MSM one night but after visiting, we're glad we didn't as there wasn't much there (just our opinion!).
Hope that helps!

Posted by
792 posts

I have only been to the Paris area once so far (I'm currently planning my second visit this summer!), here's what I can say from my limited personal experience:

Monet's home & gardens in Giverny is a MUST! Definitely DO go to Giverny on the way to Normandy. You will feel like you stepped into one of his paintings while touring his water garden! I'd plan to spend at least 3 hours for that wonderful experience. We took my 7 and 11 year old here in 2009. My daughter eventually used the experience for a book report on Giverny, complete with pictures of herself in front of Monet's home and in his gardens.

We also went to Mont St. Michel, arriving early evening and staying overnight on the tiny island. It's true there is not a lot to do/see on MSM, but what is there is - is magnificent (in my opinion). Just make sure to get off that main drag with all the little trinket shops! The experience is especially wonderful if you can wake up early in the morning (as I did) and have the place to yourself. I think I got up around 6 am and got to walk around all by myself for over an hour and watch the sunrise over the mudflats. My husband and I then got in line to get into the cathedral before it opened. The cathedral is a MUST as well! Arriving early evening when we did was also exciting; there were seagulls flying over the rooftops as dusk settled in, giving the place a most eerie and mystical look. I was entranced by Mont St. Michel, so much so, I'm going to visit again next summer since I'll be spending two weeks in Brittany in a home exchange.

The little bit I saw of Normandy in 2009, I fell in love with! We stayed in a charming B&B called Le Mas Normand (it was in R. Steve's guidebook). It was the first time my kids stayed in a B&B, and they absolutely loved it. My daughter especially loved the charming room with a view on the yard with cows, the delicious breakfast in the pretty sun room, and the owners dog who wandered the grounds. We loved the little town of Arromanches with the 360 degree WWII movie, the remains of Winston Artificial Harbor on the beach, and just the charming town center. The American Cemetary and it's museum was very moving and beautiful. We visited several of the landing beaches. It was a great history lesson for my kids; but it was also a fabulously beautiful area. The latter really surprised and delighted me.

I have not been to Dinan yet, but am looking forward to visiting it myself next summer.

I'm not great at critiquing peoples schedules because we like to take in the sights very, very slowly.

Posted by
8240 posts

A couple of years ago we did in late OCtober 5 days in NOrmandy. We had already done Giverny as a day trip from Paris and Rouen as a day trip from Paris so they didn't figure. We took the train to Caen and picked up a car (with 3 it makes perfect sense to pick up a car at CDG or on the edges of Paris and drive, since you will have been in Paris for over a week before and there is no jet lag issue) We did one night near MSM visiting in the evening and then visiting the Abbey the next morning. We wished we had stayed on the island itself.

We then drove to Bayeux for two nights staying at the Churchill which is very close to the Tapestry and Cathedral and to the stop for the Overlord all day tour of the landing beaches. Although we had a car we didn't want to do the homework to manage the visit ourselves, but we could have done so at that time of year. There was plenty of parking at the sites we visited. (late October) The tour included Omaha, Utah, Pointe du Hoc (IMHO the most interesting stop), Angoleme, the Airborne Museum and the American cemetery. We are not tour group people but really enjoyed this particular tour.

We then drove to Honfleur for two nights going to Etretat on the full day. You can see snapshots of most of this in my photo journal at:

4 nights 3 days gives you less time and we could have done with even more, but if you are selective you can do some wonderful things in that length of time. I'd head for Giverny early and on to MSM for the evening; while the Abbey closes early, you could enjoy the island and have dinner there and spend the night -- or if you are nearby view the Abbey from a distance at night which is stunning. by doing the Abbey early the next morning you would have time to head to the beaches that afternoon (imho one beach and Pointe du Hoc would be plenty and then the American Cemetery -- but of course fit to your own enthusiasm and interests) That would still give you time for the Tapestry (very cool) and even a visit to Rouen or Etretat the final day.

Posted by
12 posts

Of course, you must visit Mont St. Michel! Avoid the trinket shops by following Rick's advice. I stayed at a B&B within view of the Mont, La Jacotiere in Pontorson. In fact, I walked from the B&B along the pedestrian causeway to the Mont and back with no problem. (I am 60-something). Reember to try the "sable" biscuits sold in the region.Enjoy!