Looking at a trip next spring (mid April to mid May) to include a driving trip. Starting from Paris, or maybe training from Paris to Rouen to rent a car (thinking "out loud"). Looking at maybe Honfleur, driving the cider route maybe, maybe along the coast, maybe as far as Mt. St. Michel, and then driving to the Loir Valley to have a base and see some chateaux, maybe turning the car in in Chartres or Versailles before returning to Paris. Looking to spread that part out in 20 days or so. This will be part of a larger trip. Is that amount of ground too much to cover in that amount of time? What places would you use as bases for these regions? Very early planning stages here. TIA.
We have done day trips to Honfleur, Rouen, Giverny, MSM, and St Malo by car from Bayeux. All within 2-3 hours of home base as I recall. We stay outside of Bayeux closer to Ryes, bit Bayeux is about 15 mins away. A house outside the city is great, but in Bayeux would be great too.
Plan for the Bayeux farmers market on Saturday morning.
We opted to stay overnight in Etretat last trip. It was very nice. Worth visiting if you're not afraid of heights. Not worth it if you are!
Be careful when researching routes and sights in the Loire Valley. The Loir is a completely different river.
Choose one base in each area and stick to it. Changing hotels to move 20 miles will waste a lot of your time. For the Loire Valley, anywhere within 10 miles of Tours will put you within a easy day's drive of most of the famous sights.
i definitely have the height "thing." Having suffered through The Road to the Sun last year, I know my limits.
I second the recommendation to use Bayeux as a home base. It is a lovely town, with some sights for when you get tired of driving around, but it is close to a lot of things to see in Normandy. Peter
Look at returning the car at Orly airport.
That's plenty of time to explore the Normandy and Loire regions. I suggest Bayeux as a base for Normandy, and two Loire bases -- Chinon (west of Tours) and Amboise (east of Tours). Tours is a pretty big city, worth a visit but inconvenient as a base because it will take awhile to drive in and out. I haven't been to Mont St-Michel in many years, but others here suggest spending a night there, on the Mont or very nearby, to avoid the midday crowds. That could be your only one-night stand.
Via Michelin is good for planning routes and estimating driving times, but keep in mind that its time estimates assume minimal traffic and no stops for any purpose, i.e. they're shorter than reality.
Tours isn't nearly the problem some people think it is. It's the perfect base for the touristic part of the Loire valley, and if you're staying in central Tours you're never further than 10 minutes from either the rocade (ring road) or autoroute (which is free around Tours).
My regular drive in Tours is a 70 year old car that has 70 year old brakes, no power steering, and a manual gearbox. The only place to avoid is the roundabout (traffic circle) here for about 30 minutes in the evening rush hour https://www.google.com/maps/place/47.397088,+email@example.com,0.7039514,18z/data=!4m4!3m3!8m2!3d47.3970879!4d0.7039055
I spent 4 nights in Tours last month in the old town and had no problems at all driving in and out of town. It worked fine for us. I found Chinon to be a bit underwhelming. It was very sleepy with not much open on a Saturday afternoon. Maybe you’re looking for that though? I’ve also based in Amboise on a previous trip and enjoyed it as well. I agree that changing bases is not a good use of time.
I forgot to mention that we have used Bayeux twice as a base for Normandy and would highly recommend it.
We stopped at MSM on our drive from Dinan (Brittany) to Bayeux and it was plenty for us. We spent the night very near MSM years ago as we drove from Bayeux to Amboise and were not that crazy about it. We liked it better last month as a short stop. The most impressive view is from off the island.
It's ten years ago, but I would not describe Chinon as sleepy. Restaurants may close between lunch and dinner, but Chinon is a nice place to walk around and select a dinner restaurant. The only problem is pre-booking fill-up during the height of summer season! Because of the town's public "cliff" elevator, a section of the ruined Chateau Chinon is actually visible when the attraction itself is closed for the day - if maybe, that's what happened to the Saturday Afternoon poster here. We enjoyed our pizza with duck gizzards in Chinon! The surprisingly visible-by-car nuclear power plant is a Homer Simpson bonus.
I'm not endorsing it, but we did stay in a rural Chateau-Hotel in Chinon, Château de Marçay, 37500 Marçay - Chinon. A car is essential for such a hotel. We also needed their borrowable fans for un-air-conditioned summer nights. (Later that week we went to a highway Target-sort of place to buy a 240 v. fan for other stays.)
To add to the East and West of Tours comment, the issue is that there are a variety of superb attractions on each side. By staying ONLY in Chinon, I knew we were skipping two of the most important Chateaux to the east. But the top destinations (for gardens) for us were Villandry and (modern gardens) La Chatonnière. I also wanted to see Azay, because of the history of Son et Lumiere (alas no lights our week of travel. And some Candelit Windows displays were sold out long in advance.) I didn't have a problem with prioritizing, say, Fontevraud Abbey over (magnificent) Amboise. You have to make choices.
sooo many choices! Thanks everyone for input!