Need opinions please. My husband and I will be ending the Eastern France tour (our 1st!) in Aix en Provence on Sept. 24. From there we are heading to Bayeux for 2 nights, then 1 night at Mont Saint Michel, then back to Paris for a few days. I see the fast train from Aix to Paris, but then it gets a bit complicated with train/bus connections--for me anyway. I see some recommendations for renting a car in Caen and am wondering if that is a better choice for us. We normally do trains in Europe, bus a couple of times, and rented a car only once in Germany years ago. That was somewhat stressful since we did not know any German, but we managed. I'm ashamed to admit knowing little French either so don't know if that is a factor in choosing one mode of transportation over the other. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
If you want to see many sights between Bayeux and Mont St Michel (such as the D-Day beaches and/or Cherbourg), it would be important to have your own car. By the time you've completed the Eastern France tour you'll be well acclimated to European time and will have gained some familiarity with basic French, including road signs. Caen being near the channel ferry, you'll probably find that the rental car employees are pretty well bilingual. Buy and study the Michelin road map even if your rental car comes with a GPS (SatNav).
After Mont St Michel, where would you plan to return the car? If your next stop is Paris, I'd return the car at the airport-- either CDG or Orly-- and then use public transport into the city. Driving a rental within Paris just to get to a return location is totally not worth the stress, in my opinon.
I'm thinking you have luggage and do not want to be riding on a train for 8 hours just to get to Bayeux.
So, take the bus or taxi it is 30 minutes to Marseille airport.
Catch a direct flight Marseille To Rennes on HOP Air France.
Rent a car in Rennes drive to Mont Saint Michel. Drive to Bayeux and leave the rental car.
Take the train Bayeux to Paris.
The language is no factor.
Thank you for your thoughts.
I checked on rental cars in Caen and it appears that nothing is open on Sunday. We had planned to take one of the D-Day tours anyway so maybe it's better just to figure out the public transportation. We will just have carry-on luggage so that part isn't bad for the trains. The trip to Bayeux is pretty straight forward. It's the combination of trains and buses from Bayeux to Mont St Michel and then to Paris that looks tricky. I did look at the flights out of Marseille. Our hotels are booked Bayeux first, then Mont St Michel but I suppose that could be changed. Will think a bit more on this...
You probably can get a car on Sunday, if you go through SNCF.
They have a special deal with Avis so that you can get your car from the railroad station chief when the rental office is closed. You have to reserve it in advance, though.
I did this at the train in Auxerre last summer.
However, I think this just argues more strongly in favor of Jazz Travel's idea, above, that you should fly.
I don't know how feasible that is, but I'd continue to think about it. It could save you a ton of time.
Even if you end up driving from Rennes to Bayeux the first night--it's only about 50 extra miles.
We tried to do a public transportation trip similar to that and ended up renting the car. Have to say, driving in that area was the most enjoyable driving I can remember. Coming from an area with lots of traffic it seemed so much easier there.
Looked up what the various road signs meant and at google streetview maps for where we needed to switch roads, so kinda knew what to look for.
Apparently the train to Bayeux is having track maintenance which makes the trip difficult. If you can get a train to Caen and rent a car it would be perfect. Bayeux isn't big enough to have difficulty parking, I was there last September. Mt. St. Michel is much easier to get to with a car. I didn't stay on the island so can't give you advice about how to get your luggage to the hotel.
I'd probably return the car in Rennes and get a train from there.
Such helpful responses--thank you!
Brad, can you tell me how you got the information about track maintenance? And is it likely to be still an issue in September?
I worked out a public transportation plan yesterday after contacting Bayeux Shuttle and using hypothetical July dates on RNCF, just to see what we would be dealing with. This is what I found:
Aix en Provence to Bayeux 12:21-6:19 (5 hr 58 min) with a change in Paris,
Bayeux to Mont Saint Michel: Bayeux Shuttle one way 1 1/2 hours leaving at 1:45 arriving at 3:15,
Mont Saint Michel to Paris 11:05-2:54 with a bus to Rennes, then TGV to Paris
Does that look right?
So...I didn't think that looked all that bad. We still are considering the rental car, but flight plus rental doesn't appeal so much.