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Driving in France-parking in small villages?

I am planning our April 2020 trip to France. Total of 12 nts on the ground. We want to do Paris and Normandy. We would rent a car from the airport at CDG and head to Giverny. Overnight there (in Vernon) then drive to Bayeux, stopping at some of the places along the way like Honfluer. My question is how easy is it to drive into these smaller villages and park your car? Are there pay lots?

Posted by
6719 posts

Depends on the town or village. Some small towns and villages will have free parking, but most likely it will be pay parking, either on the side of the street or in a larger lot. Just look for the blue sign with the white P. Most historic centers are vehicle free zones, but parking lots should be nearby. If you know which places you’ll be visiting, you can use Google maps to locate the parking lots ahead of time. In April you probably won’t have much trouble finding parking in most small towns.

Posted by
10289 posts

Honfleur and Bayeux are towns, not at all small villages. Honfleur has a series of pay lots as you approach. You don’t have to take the first one offered, as there are several. Bayeux is a little more problematic unless your hotel offers parking. Except for one lot beyond the cathedral, the whole town is 2-hour pay meters, with a break at lunch time.

Someone else will have to tell you about Giverny, as we haven’t been there since the weekend it opened to the public around 1981. We parked in a bumpy, dirt field across from the entry—suppose things have changed since then.

Posted by
778 posts

Ask the car hire company to make sure there is a parking disk in the car.

In many small villages you will not find pay parking, but blue edged markings which are (usually) for 2 hours free parking. Set the disk for the time you arrived and you'll be ok

Posted by
1229 posts

I parked on the street in Bayeux, several blocks from the center of town. Straightforward if you are willing to walk 4-5 'blocks'

Posted by
6113 posts

Parking at Giverny is free, but gets very busy if you aren’t there half an hour before opening or go in the afternoon when some have left.

We got caught out by the blue zone car parks - Hertz didn’t supply the clock that locals have to denote your arrival time. If you don’t have this clock, just write your arrival time on a piece of paper and leave it on the dashboard.

Parking in some places is “peage” ie pay but if you are prepared to walk a couple of minutes more, many places are free.

Posted by
7490 posts

Every place is different, but I've found that it's best to take the smallest car you can get that meets your needs. There are lots of narrow roads, and small parking stalls (especially in indoor garages.) I've had to fold my mirrors to get through very old archways. In rural areas, there are some 1 1/2 lane roads, where you have trouble passing opposing traffic, if there is any.

After getting a few cars without "Parking Clocks", I bought one in a stationery store (in Germany, I think) and try to pack it. I got a fancy, hard-plastic one, assuming the card-stock one would take a beating too soon.

I've only encountered this in Spain, but Rick (our host) has a funny stand-up routine about "Bogus Parking Wardens." It's actually nice to see that there is someone in the lot while your car (which has bulging suitcases against the flimsy cargo storage cover-panels) is parked. But you have to give the old guy a Euro or two. Don't be scared, he was wearing a beat-up "Yellow Vest" long before it was fashionable. That's the Bogus part!

Posted by
3122 posts

Watch for the lots with a vertical barrier that prevents buses & other tall vehicles from entering. Those are the cars-only lots, which is what you want. The barrier is usually bright red. If there's a cars-only lot and you instead park in the lot without a barrier, you've just taken up a bus space. As a result, you could get into an unpleasant exchange with bus drivers blocking you in and refusing to let you out. (This happened to us!)

Posted by
2004 posts

Years ago I have parked my car in Bayeux in Avenue Georges Clemenceau for free, even no disc required. Looking with google streetview it looks nothing has changed, but as said willing to walk most places has places for parking free and most of the time this way I make use of them. Have to say I travel off season so have little problems with finding a place, April if no event is going on will be ok. It was a ten minute walk to the Tapestry Museum and the cathedral.

Posted by
1443 posts

GoogleMaps is your friend. Pay lots often appear once you zoom in on a town. I see one right now on Rue de la Foulerie in Honfleur's town center. Anytime you see "PAYANT" on a sign, it's time to celebrate as a driver. It means a pay lot of some kind is nearby.

Posted by
16894 posts

If using Rick's France guidebook, the start of each chapter will usually include some advice on parking there, both in text and maps.

Posted by
2916 posts

Ask the car hire company to make sure there is a parking disk in the car.

I believe you can buy them in any town that has blue parking spaces. Or you can make one yourself. I have a file for that, but haven't tried it yet.

Posted by
8164 posts

small scenic towns in France have tourist economies and hence plan for tourists; most have town parking lots that are pretty well signed -- some are free especially in smaller towns. In larger cities like Bayeux the lots tend to be pay lots. Be sure you know all the parking signs/colors and meanings and have a parking disk if that is required for where you park. Every rental car I have had has had one in the glove compartment.

Posted by
16894 posts

Wil said, "if no event is going on," and that also includes "if it's not the weekly market day." If it is market day, then it may actually take place in a parking lot or create driving detours that your GPS has not anticipated.

Posted by
10289 posts

Though I remember using it in the 1970s and 1980s, we haven’t used our parking disc for decades. You may have no need for one.

Posted by
2004 posts

Bets - Now you remark this, I can’t remember too using a disc in France anyway since the late 90s. It’s payed parking or it’s free. But having a disc on board remains convenient to my opinion for likely the very rare occasion you will need one.

Posted by
778 posts

Our village - along with many others in this area and up into Normandy - has just gone over to the parking disk system, so it's definitely not dying out. Maybe in larger places where it has been changed for pay parking, but not here.

Which brings me on to another issue - don't rely on guidebooks, or even streetview, to determine what type of parking is available. It can change overnight.

Posted by
2004 posts

Even visited France 3 times last year it seems my info is not up-to-date enough, thanks for putting this right. Will keep my parking disc always in my cars glove compartment.

Posted by
387 posts

Honfleur and Bayeux are towns, not at all small villages. Honfleur has a series of pay lots as you approach. You don’t have to take the first one offered, as there are several.

A side note, but IMHO I suggest using lots where you pay as you exit instead of ones where you buy a ticket in advance. Or estimate your time generously. In Honfleur there are both kinds and I ended up turning at random into a prepay lot. I thought I'd be there for lunch and a bit of walking around so I paid for 2 hours. Turns out it is a delightful town and I wanted to stay longer, so it was a hassle to have to walk out to the lot and add time then double back.