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CDG - Paris - Giverny - Versailles - D Day Beaches - Mont St Michel and south to Spain on a train.

Hello! Please help me if you can. :) I'm flying into CDG 6/24/18 with my teenage daughter. For sure we'd like to spend 2-3 days in Paris, visit Giverny, Versailles, D-day beaches and Mont St Michel. After this we will be heading to Spain to start walking parts of Camino Frances. I'm unsure yet where we will start, but right now I think we'll be starting in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port in France.

I was thinking it would be best to do Paris first, so we wouldn't be backtracking after MSM. After MSM, we could just head south on a train.

So my problems/questions: Should I rent a car out of Paris and drive to Giverny, Versailles and then to Normandy? And if I do that, where do I rent a car from in Paris and where could I drop it off near MSM? Or should we take day trips on the train to Giverny, Versailles and a train closer to MSM? From what I've read, Normandy seems like a difficult area to get around without a car. I went there with my ex over ten years ago, but we took a Battle Bus tour and I remember it being difficult to figure out bus transportation after that.

What's the best way to get from the MSM area to southern France? I'd prefer to do an overnight train, so we can use that as our hotel for the night.

Or should I do this all in reverse? Rent a car out of CDG, Normandy, day trips from Paris, Paris, return car and take a train out of Paris to southern France?

This will be by fourth time in Europe and I've been on trains before, but unfortunately my ex-husband was the brains behind the trains, so I need to figure this out on my own! And my daughter will be looking at me as the brains, so I just need a push in the right direction. Thank you if you can help at all.

Posted by Jazz+Travels
Chicago
2441 posts

It makes more sense to do the Paris Versailles Giverny and D-Day Beach Mount Michel first renting a car
and then back to Paris to catch the train south

Posted by epltd
1332 posts

Your opening paragraph is a bit unclear. Are you expecting to spend 2-3 days and see Paris, visit Giverny, Versailles, D-day beaches and Mont St Michel -- all in 2-3 days? Or, how many days do you have for the outside of Paris destinations?

Posted by jenmaehelms OP
4 posts

Sorry. 2-3 days in Paris seeing major sites. Days trips to Giverny (1/2 day) and Versailles (full day). Full day D-day and half day a MSM (heading in when crowds leave, overnight and then early morning at Abbey). So, that's a total max of six days, but I'm flexible with time as I'm in the beginning stage and don't have a flight booked back yet.

Thank you to the first responder. I figured out Rail Europe website and it looks like my only way down to Spain is thru Paris. I just thought I could just head south on a train, but I guess it doesn't work like that. I'm just trying not to backtrack, but it looks like I'll need to. I'm kicking myself that we didn't really know about MSM the last time we were in Normandy as we were so close! And now I'm going back to France and I'm guessing this will be my last chance, so I'm trying to figure out how to make it work. Thank you. :)

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
7107 posts

You may be right that the most efficient path to southwestern France is through Paris, but I would not use the RailEurope website. It doesn't always list all options, and it sometimes ignores the less expensive ones. I'd use the website of SNCF, the French rail company. If you find it awkward, you can switch to the Deutsche Bahn site, but only for schedules, not for buying tickets for travel within France.

You'll need to use Rennes as your origin since Mont-St-Michel has no rail station.

For reasons I cannot explain, the SNCF is routing me through Paris and is refusing to allow St- Jean-Pied-de-Port as a destination (I used Bayonne instead). The DB is giving me a westerly route that does not go through Paris, and it permits me to specify St-Jean-Pied-de-Port as my destination.

Posted by JHK
Palo Alto, California, United States
1552 posts

Just an FYI, overnight trains, with a few exceptions, are things of the past in the French train system. Also, do not use RailEurope. Buy from SNCF.com/en or trainline.eu. Do not accept routing to Rail Europe. Another FYI, nearest train station to MSM is Pontorson. It’s not an especially useful station but I thought I would mention it. To get SNCF’s website to get you information for St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, you should enter “St Jean Pied de Port.” It will not auto populate but it will give you results.

Posted by Adam
Boston
3533 posts

Driving from deGaulle to Normandy only makes sense if you are okay with jet lag. If so, you can have lunch in Bayeux or Caen the day you land, then do some sightseeing. But realistically, will you and yours be up for that? If so, good plan.

Otherwise, as you suggest, the logistics of Brittany > Paris > Pyrenees are compelling enough that you might consider it anyway, if you are up for the drive. I would advise adding an extra day in Normandy in that case just to acclimate. There's plenty to see and do there: museums in Caen and bayeyx, and of course the Bayeux cathedral and the tapestry created to hang there.

You might then leave MSM by car to Rennes and catch the TGV to Paris. This is probably your fastest route from MSM to Paris in any case. If you are in no hurry and like driving you can drive.

If you don't visit Normandy first, you can drive to Giverney from Paris on your way there. It's not really enroute, but close enough.

Getting to the Pyrenees from Brittany is going to be arduous. Paris is at the center of the national rail hub; you can avoid it but paradoxically those trips take longer. I'd suggest driving to the Loire and spending the night, but really that only makes sense if you spend two nights and see a few chateaux. Can you spare that kind of time?

I hope you can make all this work; it really depends on how nimble you are and what you can tolerate in a good cause.

Posted by JHK
Palo Alto, California, United States
1552 posts

Are you going back to Paris to depart?

Posted by jenmaehelms OP
4 posts

Thank you, everyone, for your VERY helpful advice!!

JHK, I will probably fly back home from a different city. I have my flight bought to get to Paris, but not the flight home yet. I haven't figured out 100% where we are all going.