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Advice on Normandy Itinerary

My mom, sister, a friend, and I are planning a trip to Paris and Normandy in March. We will have 8 full days and are thinking 4 in Normandy and 4 in Paris. We’ve all been to Paris before, but none of us have been to Normandy. I’m wondering if our Normandy portion of the trip sounds do able.

Day one – Arrive at CDG early in the morning. Rent car and drive to Honfleur. I’ve seen differing opinions on driving after a red eye. Any thoughts?

Day two – Leave Honfleur in the afternoon and head to Mont Saint Michel. Spend the evening on MSM. Sleep either on the island or somewhere near.

Day three – Spend the morning at MSM then head to Bayeux. See the tapestry. Spend the night in Bayeux.

Day four – D day beaches. Spend the night in Bayeux.

Day five – Take train from Bayeux to Paris

Would it be wiser to do this itinerary backwards? Should we start in Paris and take the train to Bayeux? We would have to drive from Honfleur to CDG the day we leave. Our plane leaves at 2pm. Does it seem like We’re trying to do too much in Normandy? Should we consider adding a day to that portion of the trip and losing a day in Paris?

Thanks for any advice!

Posted by
2558 posts

"Day one – Arrive at CDG early in the morning. Rent car and drive to Honfleur. I’ve seen differing opinions on driving after a red eye. Any thoughts?" I would not do it but everyone is different and maybe your driver will be fine. My husband, who sleeps well on airplanes and only sleeps about 4 hours per night on a typical week day and so got about as much sleep as usual, tried it once for a three-hour post-arrival at CDG drive after insisting that jet lag would not be a problem and I woke up in the car to see him drifting off and the car heading off the road with our two children in the car. Lesson learned. Now, he is the biggest proponent of taking the train or spending the night in Paris. I think our biggest problem was that there was a huge backup on the highway so the 3-hour drive turned into 6 hours on the road and that highway driving is basically boring. Anything over 60-75 minutes is IMHO too long a drive after a long flight

"Day three – Spend the morning at MSM then head to Bayeux. See the tapestry. Spend the night in Bayeux." Make sure to plan for the hours that the Tapestry is available for viewing. It's about 1 hour and 45 minutes from MSM to Bayeux and the museum closes at 5 or 6:30 so you want to be make sure that you leave enough time for the visit.

From CDG/Paris, if driving, I would do Honfleur to Bayeux to MSM and then drop off the rental car and head to Paris from Rennes.

I am confused as to why you have to drive to CDG from Normandy on your departure date. You say you have four days in Paris and four in Normandy and day 5 is the end of the trip to Normandy. Theoretically, that means that you are leaving on Day 8 so why would you have to drive to CDG from Normandy. As to driving to CDG on the day of your flight home, double the suggested drive time on the map and add 75 minutes to account for any problems for dropping off the car and getting to your terminal ahead of your departure time -- you should be there at 12 for a flight within the Schengen Zone or the EU and and 11 AM for other flights. Then use that to figure when you should leave wherever you are leaving from.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you for the info. And that is helpful advice about driving after a flight. I'm sure that was terrifying. Have you gone from CDG to Normandy by train? That sounds stressful to me and time consuming, but maybe it's not.

My thinking was to either do Normandy first and then Paris or Paris first and then head to Normandy. I wasn't really thinking of doing Paris to Normandy and then back to Paris, but maybe it's a good option.

Posted by
4263 posts

JHK's account is an example of why many people on this board advise against a long drive after an overnight flight. I'd suggest spending your first nights in Paris, where the penalty for dozing off is maybe a little embarrassment. Then take a train from Gare St-Lazare to Caen, where there's a rental car office right across from the station,

Now you're in Normandy, with a car, wide awake. Bayeux is a short distance one way, Honfleur the other, with the beaches basically in between. I'd suggest Bayeux as a base and Honfleur as a side trip, perhaps the same day you visit the beaches. We liked it but were ready to leave after a couple of hours. Overnight at MSM is a good idea if time allows.

A few years ago, we drove from Bayeux to Honfleur (for a couple of hours) to CDG. It took awhile but was quite doable. We might even have had time for a stop in Rouen if we'd tried. But our flight wasn't till the next morning, and we spent that night in an airport hotel. To drive from Bayeux (or Honfleur) to CDG in time to drop a car (which can take awhile) and check into your flight by 11:00 AM is a high-risk endeavor. I wouldn't want that kind of stress on my last day, or any day.

Since you've all been to Paris before, maybe that's where to cut back so you can have a pleasanter visit to Normandy. Hopefully you'll all be back for more!

Posted by
2558 posts

There are no direct trains from CDG like there are to Nice, for example, so you would have to go into Paris to catch the train. That is not a very stressful thing to me but others may not agree. In addition, one issue with train travel is that you should allow four hours between your flight’s ETA and the departure time for a train leaving from central Paris and the natural thought is that you could be in your rental car and almost there by the time that the train would be leaving. Our experience on the A6 was an epiphany – for me it taught me to stick to my guns more because I had wanted to take the train and for my husband it helped him learn how to slow down and not always be about the fastest way to get somewhere and to not just hear and ignore but really listen and consider. He mentions it all the time even now 4 years later. That being said, I would probably just take the train to Caen like Dick suggested and pick up the car there and base myself in Bayeux for two nights. I have been to Honfleur but I did it as a long weekend trip from Paris that included Deauville and Trouville and I don’t think that you need more than an afternoon there unless you have a deep interest in seaside towns. One suggested itinerary would be to head to Bayeux on Day 1 and just relax after you get there. On Day 2, go see the tapestry and then drive to Honfleur and have lunch and explore and then head back to Bayeux for the night. Then on the morning of Day 3 head to MSM at a leisurely pace maybe with a stop along the way so you arrive in the afternoon and then spend the night on MSM and head to Paris during the afternoon of Day 4, most likely from Rennes if you decide to go by train and not drive into Paris. You don't mention it but if you have any interest in the D-Day beaches, I would add a day to Normandy to see them. I was not interested in them at all but went because my husband wanted to go and I found the experience amazing on many different levels.

Posted by
207 posts

Dick and JHK made good points about trying to drive from Paris after a flight.

I took the train from Paris to Rouen, where I spent the night. Then next morning, I rented a car and drove to Bayeux and spent two nights there. I was able to enjoy the city and see the tapestry and visited the D-Day Beaches for all of one day and part of a second before driving to MSM where I toured in the evening and spent the night at a nearby B&B. I returned to Rouen the next day and took the train to Paris where I stayed several days.

Based on my experience and what I’ve read, I wished that I had rented the car in Caen as Dick suggested in his post. Driving to the station and rental agency in Rouen is confusing.

Bayeux makes a good base to see the beaches and Honfleur.

Have you considered spending 2 nights in Paris, then visiting Normandy before returning to Paris for your final few days? That does require at least one more hotel change, but it would avoid trying to drive while jetlagged on the first or second day.

Posted by
37 posts

We did this same trip in 2014, but had a few more days. We did Paris first for 10 days (it was our first time), then rented a car at CDG and headed to Normandy (2 nights in Bayeux, 1 night in Honfleur and the last night in Auvers-sur-Oise which is 30 min from CDG for an 11:00AM flight the next morning). We were at the airport 3 hours ahead, and it took every bit of that, we barely made the flight. Auvers-sur-Oise is where Van Gogh spent his last days.

We would definitely not have been up for driving after the redeye. The drive to Bayeux took about 4-5 hours without any hiccups (except having to stop to find a bathroom, which was not easy in the countryside). We spent 2 wonderful nights in Bayeux and wished we had 3. Spent a whole day seeing the D-day beaches, and then went back the following morning because we had not gotten quite enough. Managed to see the tapestry and have lunch before heading to Honfleur, but did not have time to linger in Bayeux. The drive from Bayeux to Honfleur took at least 2-3 hours, and we did very little stopping or pulling over along the way. I think you could probably drive from Honfleur to the airport in 2 hours if there were no hiccups along the way. Be sure to leave plenty of time for potential traffic jams, getting lost, returning car, etc.

Another option for you would be to do a day trip from Bayeux to MSM, that way you do not have to spend the time packing up and changing hotels. It would also give you a little flexibility as far as seeing the tapestry and D-day Beaches. Bayeux was delightful with wonderful restaurants, cider houses and shops. It is very walkable and charming, and the food is so much better than the food in Paris. The cheese, milk, seafood and produce from this area are absolutely delicious. Enjoy!

Posted by
4695 posts

Gidget, it would be nice to have your home city in your profile. Then we know something about your driving expectations. Note sub-par weather in March.

My actual advice is to delay Normandy to a future trip that only covers Western France! You cannot go to CDG from Normandy on flight day, it's crazy. Second choice, dual stays in Paris as mentioned by another. I see no reason to sleep on or at MSM. See more of Normandy and Brittany. Bottom line, swell abbeys and medieval structures are all over Europe. You'll see others.

Posted by
785 posts

My husband drove us from CDG to Normandy last June, stopping along the way several times (an early bathroom/coffee/croissant break, Giverny, and a lunch break. I stayed awake the whole time and there was enough to see, do, talk about that it was fine. Only you know if you can do that though. Be careful.
We stayed in Bayeux 3 nights, absolutely wonderful, did a tour of the beaches and other WWII sites (www.visitdday.com), drove to Honfleur on day 2. Honfleur was really pretty and my husband really wanted to see the Satie museum, but other than that, it was overly crowded and kind of anticlimactic. It may be better in March, not so crowded.
We turned our car in that night in Bayeux (you can only do this with Hertz in Bayeux), and took the train back to Paris the next morning. Super easy.