Will be there from May 7 thru May 14 this year (2016). Will spend first 3 days in/around Paris, a day in Versailles, maybe 2 seeing the Normandy beachhead areas and perhaps 1 around Mont St. Michel. Any recommendations for particular small towns to visit out or back. Flying into/out of Paris and renting a car.
The same old advice applies here. You'll need a car to visit the beaches and Mont St. Michel, but your best option is to train out of Paris to Caen and pick up your rental car there. Bayeux is a perfect little town to spend your time while you visit the beaches. Hire yourself a guide for a day or two from www.toursbylocals.com and have a great time.
I will echo Tim's comments. The train to Caen is relaxing and an easy way to get from Paris. We rented a car there; the company was right across from the train station. We stayed in Bayeux and found it to be convenient. With our car, we visited the Normandy sites on our own so we could see the places we wanted, and stay as long (or as little) as we wanted. We spent about 1.5 days visiting the beaches and related areas; although we could have easily spent 3 days doing so, we were comfortable with the time spent. We did not go to Mont St. Michel but a friend did; she found it to be a long trip and although it was interesting she would have been fine not seeing it.
Downing6153: Ditto Tim's comments. Take the train to Caen and rent a car from there. Although we have not been, there is a good WWII museum in Caen. We visited the Airborne Museum in St. Mere Eglise and it was one of the best I have seen. We also visited the museum in Arromanches which documents the artificial harbor construction using concrete caissons. Consider using one of the full-day tours to see the beaches and museums. Stay in Bayeux for quick access to the Normandy beaches and museums. Plan an hour or so to visit the Bayeux Tapestry in Bayeux during your stay. Bayeux has many good restaurants (use Trip Advisor for most recent reviews and recommended restaurants). MSM is a few hours drive from Bayeux--you can drive there, visit MSM, and return to Bayeux in the same day--albeit a long one. We stayed on the island for one night and thoroughly enjoyed the peace and quiet once the tourists left. If staying on MSM, arrange with your hotel for instructions for parking. Note that the shuttle between MSM and the mainland doesn't start until around 0800; so, if you are planning an early departure, you may have to have your hotel call the shuttle service ahead of time and ask for an earlier departure--I believe they will do this but I am not positive--I believe I read this on a flyer on the shuttle bus the morning we were leaving MSM. Anyway, I wish you a pleasant visit.
And I am going to offer an alternative: dump the car! There is a direct morning train to Bayeux from Gare St. Lazare (9:10am Sat & Sun; 10:10am Mon-Fri; no change at Caen) that will get you into Bayeux in time for the afternoon (half-day) tours of the Normandy beaches from the various tour agencies. The next day, take an all-day tour to Mont St. Michel; they leave just after 8:30am and return about 6pm. You can do this by spending 2 nights in Bayeux and still have time to appreciate the sights in Bayeux before returning to Paris. As the others have said, it is about a 3 hr. drive to the Mont; why not take the money you were going to use on a car and leave the driving to someone else? Even just doing Normandy involves a lot of driving if you were to go out to Ste. Mere Eglise, come back past the American beaches and the American cemetery and continue on to the British sector. To do full day tours of Normandy and Mont St. Michel would probably require 3 nights in Bayeux and your time seems limited. I did the 2 night trip to Bayeux twice last July with friends & family who came to visit while I spent the month in an apartment in Paris. I used Bayeux Shuttle (www.bayeuxshuttle.com) for my half-day and all day trips and the Normandy guides were very informative. The other advantage to using a tour company is you get a tour ticket for Mont St. Michel that allows you to bypass the usually long line to get into the abbey at the top of the Mont. The hotels I stayed in, the Churchill Hotel and the Hotel Bayeux both can arrange tours also. Bon voyage!
May 7 Arrive Paris. Train to Rouen (1 night)
May 8 Pick up hire car. Drive via Honfleur to Bayeux (2 nights)
May 9 Normandy beaches
May 10 Return hire car in Caen. Train to Paris (4 nights)
May 14 Depart Paris