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From Heathrow to Lower Normandy - Train or Ferry?

Hi-
I am traveling solo with three kids, flying into Heathrow, trying to decide if easiest to go Heathrow-Portsmouth (ferry) - Cherbourg - Hambye OR Heathrow-Paris (train)-Hambye.

Thank you so much for your help.
-Amy

Posted by
211 posts

I'd go with the train. Are you staying in London one night after a long overnight flight? If so, you could stay near St. Pancras to catch the Eurostar. The tube (Piccadilly line) goes from Heathrow to Kings Cross/St. Pancras.

Posted by
9110 posts

Ouch! The public transportation crowd is going to have a ball with this one, especially with the mob of runts involved.

Here's a few basics.

Cherbourg Ferry:
Carantilly is the closest train station to Hambye and it's about ten miles north. To get there from Cherbourg there's going to have to be a change about halfway down the Cotentin - - there might be a wait for the connection. depending on when you pull out of Cherbourg. The Portsmouth-Cherbourg fast ferry will take about three hours and the rail run south about two if the connections work. I can't estimate the Heathrow - Portsmouth time and have no idea how to do it. Remember there's a taxi or something at the very end in France.

Heathrow-Paris Flight:
I don't think the train out of Paris toward Coutances stops at Carantilly, so you'd have to take the train out of Montparnasse and get off at Villedieu les Poles - - which is about ten miles south of Hambye. Wild guess is that the train will take about three hours. If you fly into Paris, you're going to have to take the rer into Nord from Roissy which will take about an hour and then make a change to Metro 4 to get to Montparnasse - - there's a bit of hiking to make the connections, but it's a no-changer. There's still the taxi at the very end.

England-France Train
The Eurostar would be a viable option if you weren't already at the airport. You'd have to shuffle into London and you'd end up at Nord with the transitions noted above for the rest of the way. It might come back into play if you go back to where I said I don't know that it would take to get from Heathrow to Portsmouth.

My choice, with kids, is to either fly or Eurostar so that you wind up at Paris Nord and press on from there.

The other option is to get to Nord (or Roissy) and rent a car. That's going to be the absolute fastest (three hours or road time) and have least number of transitions. It might be the cheapest, or it might be a wash - - depending upon the kids' ages. The problem is I don't have the damnedest idea where to get rid of the car except maybe at Granville or Saint - Lo.

Posted by
154 posts

Hello

There is not an easy connection but here are some options:

A) I would check to see if any flights connect nicely with your arrive at Heathrow to get you to Paris. You can find flights within Europe using www.skyscanner.com. You will just want to make sure your flight is leaving from Heathrow since the budget airlines fly from multiple airports around London. I would also try to give yourself about 3-4 hours between landing and taking off again since you will have to go through customs and then check-in for your next flight. From one of the airports in Paris you will need to get into the city center to connect with a train to Normandy.

B) Also mentioned by other travelers, you could connect Heathrow with London then take the Eurostar train into Paris. The one nice thing is this goes into the center of Paris. I recommend buying this ticket in advance for the Eurostar because it is much cheaper the earlier your buy it. You will want to give yourself some time between landing and getting to the train station (3-4 hours again).

Once you arrive in Paris you need to get to Normandy. If you are planning to explore quite a bit of Normandy a car will give you a lot more freedom. I personally would take a train out to Bayeux or Coutances and try to rent a car in one of those towns. Using www.autoeurope.com will help you find if and how much a car rental would be in those towns. You can look up the rail connections between these options using www.bahn.com and I would also look over this page for tips on how best to use that site (http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/online-schedules).

If you flew to Paris you could pick up a car at an airport which would let you bypass Paris traffic but I personally would try to take a train as far as I could before I picked up a car. I probably would overnight in either London or Paris however because any of these options involve a lot of travel and connections to get you to Hambye.

Posted by
9110 posts

Should you try to incorporate the potential rental locations of the previous post into your plans, you will find that:
a. There is only one car rental location in Bayeux and it's the Hertz joint in the gas station about five miles from the train station.
b. There are no car rental locations in Coutances whose name you could recognize, could give you a rental contact in English, could rent you much more than a delivery truck of some kind. Your French better be pretty good if you want to tackle this one -- also I think Carrefour rents by the hour.
c. Autoeurope will only show your their goods. A matrix search with something like kayak.com will show you everybody's.

Posted by
1547 posts

I’m thinking more about this option: Metro from LHR to King’s Cross St. Pancras. Then Eurostar from St. Pancras to Lille (Europe), with rental car to Hambye is some 460km. Bring first kids and luggage to there and drop off car in St-Lo. Public transport to Hambye for one person or if somebody of the place where you stay will be so kind to pick you up at the car rental office, possibly for a reasonable fee.
Advantage of Lille against Paris is that the Eurostar to Paris takes almost an hour more and you don’t have to get out of Paris to hit the highway and that takes at least an half hour. From Paris to St-Lo with car is some 310km, so 150km shorter then from Lille. If you save time is not so directly obvious, but avoiding possible traffic jams in Paris is something to think about.
But you gain most with the train fares to Lille, way more cheaper and more available at different times of the day, possibly good to combine with your arrival time at LHR. The train station and car rental office in Lille are close to the freeway.
Have no idea if this option is cheaper then the one with the ferry, but I think it’s the least complicated and also cheaper compaired to other options, but do the math anyway.
The last stage of this trip is what makes it so difficult, if somebody can pick you up at a convenient location for going to Hambye, you can make it this way less complicated and gives more room to consider the different options.

Posted by
9110 posts

What we don't yet have:

From anybody:
time and method to get from Heathrow to the Portsmouth ferry port

From Amy:
1. Can the kids haul their own junk
2. Is spending the night twixt Heathrow and Hambye an option
3. Is making Paris the initial European entry an option
4. Is flying from Heathrow to Paris an option
5. Is using a rental car an option

Posted by
4 posts

Wow. Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses. I didn't know if anyone would respond at all, so I am sorry I wasn't detailed in my first post. More details: We land at Heathrow at noon. My kids should be able to deal with their own luggage (each will have small wheeled carryon). I plan to either stay the night at Heathrow, London, or Portsmouth depending on my route and then ferry or train to France the next day. My husband is picking up the rental car when he flies in to Paris a few days later, I will get picked up by friends at closest train station to the house we are renting, which I've been told is Villedieu les Pooles.
So far, I am leaning toward heading directly to Portsmouth via coach or train after landing at Heathrow (and getting thru immigration), staying the night then taking the 9am ferry to Cherbourg the next day. The tricky parts are getting from Heathrow to Portsmouth and then Cherbourg to Villedieu Les Pooles. Thinking ferry might be better for kids then multiple trains in a row.
Would still appreciate any advice you have.

Thank you so much!
-Amy

Posted by
4671 posts

I would get a direct coach from Heathrow to Portsmouth if there is one when you need to travel (www.nationalexpress.com). If not, there are half-hourly coaches from Heathrow to Woking, from where there are regular direct trains to Portsmouth. But Woking is well on the way, so if there is a through coach I'd stay on it instead of changing to train.

Posted by
1547 posts

Amy - I think the ferry is not a bad option. If of interest and time allows you can consider a visit to the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth, close to the railway station, not cheap btw.
If your friends can pick you up in St-Lo will save time and money to my opinion