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Normandy Beaches and Mont St Michel in One Day from Bayeux?

Hello,
I am planning my itinerary for a 3 week road trip in France with my mother. After a week in Paris, we will travel to Rouen, Honfleurs, Bayeux, the Loire Valley and the Dordogne. We will be arriving in Bayeux from Honfleurs in the afternoon, see the tapestry and stay the night. The next day, we will take a morning 1/2 day tour of the Normandy beaches. After lunch, we will depart for Mont St Michel. I read that arriving after 3 PM is preferred to avoid the crowds. We will go directly to the Abbey, have dinner and wander a bit in the evening. We will spend the night at an accommodation off the Mont (currently looking at Le Relais du Roy). The following morning we will be departing for the Loire. I know you could easily spend a full day at both sites, but I only have one day to devote to the DDay beaches and MSM and it would be difficult to choose one over the other. I think this plan is logistically "doable", do you think it would be too rushed?
Thanks! Melanie

Posted by
17140 posts

I cannot address Mont-St-Michel since I've never been there. With respect to the D-Day tour: I think a half-day tour is not a good idea. The invasion sites are some distance from Bayeux, so a really substantial part of any half-day tour is going to be spent just driving out and back. On a full-day tour you get much more time actually seeing invasion sites; it's not just double the time. Whether a half-day tour is better than nothing, I really cannot say. It would depend on what other options you have for that half-day: more time in Rouen? a visit to Vitre or Fougeres (picturesque towns south of Mont-St-Michel)?

Maybe you could add an extra day or two to your trip?

Posted by
4133 posts

While your plan is "doable," it is way too rushed. Please reconsider. If I were you, I would skip MSM and devote a full day to D Day sites.

Another suggestion: slow down. You have 3 weeks in France? Wonderful! Be sure to allow yourself enough time in each place to not only see the highlights, but also relax and enjoy yourselves.

A frequent tip on this Forum is to count nights, not days. Two nights in a town means one day there. And more time than you think will be taken up traveling and checking into and out of whatever housing you have arranged. And chances are the first and last days of your trip will be worthless for sightseeing.

When is this trip happening? If you have time, sit down with a map and a calendar, and see if you can plan to spend three nights (at least) in each of your destinations. I think you'll be glad you did.

Have fun planning, and don't be shy about coming back here to ask questions.

Posted by
956 posts

Well I'll give a vote for this plan being ok. I arrived at MSM from Bayeaux at 4p, and by the time we parked and started wandering the monastery it was closer to 5p. The monastery closed at 7p. Crowds were pouring out of the monastery and across the bridge as we were entering, so that by the time we were wandering the monastery, we were among a very few people in the whole place, and this was in July ("high season"). At 7p, we found a restaurant on the rock and ate until around 9p, then drove the 90 minutes back to Bayeux. It was a perfect visit.
I can't speak to the tour of the beaches because we self-toured, but if its early enough, and you can arrive comfortably at MSM by 4, I think its a good plan. A long day but definitely doable.

Posted by
111 posts

Hi Melanie,

To answer your question, yes, it's definitely too rushed. The beaches are spread out, taking about 20-30 minutes to get from Utah Beach to Omaha not to mention important stops between, i.e Pointe du Hoc, Angoville-au-Plain. You can easily spend a full morning at Omaha; walking the beach, cemetery and the museum located at the entrance. The Normandy beaches definitely should not be rushed, there are too many gems along the route of historical significance. We spent a week in Normandy a few years ago and it was a full schedule. Although it sounds like you may be taking a tour, so as rushed as it seems, a company will make it doable.

As for Mont St. Michel, as long as you factor in the drive between Bayeux and Mont St. Michel (about 2 hours), it seems doable. We woke up early, drove down and spent the morning touring the island and abbey before having lunch and heading back to Normandy.

Amanda

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you! This is my first post and I appreciate having the sound advice. This is a trip to celebrate my mom's retirement. We are planning on traveling next May, so not for quite awhile. I'm a planner and this gives me something to look forward to while I'm sheltering in place! Thank you for bringing me back to reality. I'll be mindful to not overdo it so we can enjoy our time at the sights and not feel rushed. That will lead to crankiness and mother-daughter spats on the road. I think we will plan on skipping Mont St Michel and take a full day tour of the Normandy beaches. My mom prefers a guide to share the history versus a self-guided tour.

Here is my itinerary, which is a work in progress.....feel free to critique. I appreciate your help!

Day 1 Travel
Day 2-7 Paris
Day 8 Pick up rental car at 7 AM. Travel to Giverny - Monet's Garden. See Jumieges Abbey on way to Honfleurs (I was going to add a side trip to Rouen on the way but I think this is too much)
Day 9 - Honfleurs harbor in AM - travel to Bayeux. See Tapestry. If time available, see Caen WWII Memorial Museum?
Day 10 - Normandy D-Day beach tour
Day 11 - Travel to Loire Valley. Chateau Miniere winery for tasting and picnic lunch. Tour Azay le Rideau chateau. Overnight in Blois.
Day 12: Loire Valley Chateaux (Chambord and Blois)
Day 13 - drive to Sarlat le Caneda. See Oradour sur Glane on the way
Day 14- 17 Dordogne (base in Sarlat)
Day 18 - St Emilion winery. Stay in Bordeaux.
Day 19 - AM TGV to Paris.
Day 20 - one more day sightseeing in Paris
Day 21 - depart

~ Melanie

Posted by
23959 posts

Mélanie,

I think that’s a far better use of day ten. I think you will appreciate that much more.

Many years ago when I was staying for a week in Normandy my wife and I drove to Mont St Michel for an afternoon. I didn’t want to get involved in parking and all the huge crowds that I saw so I looked at it from a distance turned around and went back. For us that was just wasted time.

I completely agree with the other poster that no matter how much time you allocate to the D-Day sites you won’t have enough time. In the week that we were there we certainly didn’t have enough time.

Make the most of what you’ve got is what I think.

Posted by
5934 posts

Day 9. Skip Caen Museum to be sure you see the Bayeux Tapestry. If you could give area another day, it would be much better.

Posted by
4302 posts

While I'm a fan of the Caen museum, not everyone is. There's a good museum in Bayeux that will take less time and fits your schedule better.

D-Day beaches vs. MSM is of course a matter of preference. Quite different sights, some would be more interested in one, and others in the other. While "doing" both would be possible in a long tiring day, I agree with others that one or the other will make for a better experience that day.

I think your second plan works well, though I'd recommend trying to work in Chenonceau if you can. If you want to give Normandy or the Loire or the Dordogne an extra day, you could give up that last full day in Paris, as long as you spend your final night there or at CDG (depending on when your flight goes). Have fun planning this trip!

Posted by
2504 posts

Andrew, HaHa, You don't know the ladies (women of different generations even) in this family or the friends there of. Multiple days doing WWII (and WWI) sites would not be enough, even with all the pre-reading. LOL. And our expert is a 35 year old woman...

Posted by
17140 posts

I'm a 68-year-old female and thoroughly enjoyed my full-day D-Day tour. As I noted before, a "half-day" tour doesn't give a visitor anything like a half a day of sightseeing because of the travel time involved.

I agree that the Peace Museum in Caen is not a good choice for a quick visit. I liked it a lot and would recommend it to many visitors, but it's the sort of place where you can easily spend a full day, and it's both crowded and expensive. It's not really set up for what would necessarily be a quick visit. The museum in Bayeux is excellent and much more manageable for a shortish visit.

One other thing: I'm not a wine drinker, so I didn't go to the winery in St. Emilion, but the town itself is very picturesque. I love that sort of place and happily spent several hours wandering around. The higher up you go, the quieter it is; it's not all as touristy as it appears down at the bottom near the parking area. If you happen to be there on a rainy day, though, be aware that there are some steep, cobbled streets that can be very slippery.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks to all for the additional input. While it may be presumptuous that two ladies would have no use for a full day at the D-Day sites, in our case, that may be true. Thank you for the helpful suggestions on the chateaux. Chenonceaux seems to be the overwhelming favorite. It does look charming so I will defer to your collective expertise. I read somewhere that Chambord was "can't miss" which is why I selected it. Auberge Le Bon Laboureur is a bit pricey since we are splurging on our hotel in Paris. I am looking for a mid-range accommodation. Les Manoir Minimes in Amboise seems to be in a central location and highly rated. I'm considering lunch at Le Bon Laboureur after Chenonceaux since it is in walking distance and looks fabulous.

Bordeaux is intended to be a stop over only in order to catch the TGV back to Paris. I will see if my mom is ok adding another day to our trip so we can possibly add Rouen or more time in the Loire. I would rather not give up any time in Paris since I am struggling to narrow that down too. I'll save that for a separate thread.

Updated itinerary:

Day 1 Travel
Day 2-7 Paris
Day 8 Pick up rental car at 7 AM. Travel to Giverny - Monet's Garden. See Jumieges Abbey on way to Honfleurs.
Day 9 - Honfleurs harbor in AM - travel to Bayeux. See Tapestry.
Day 10 - ½ day D-Day Beach Tour in the morning - Afternoon and evening??
Day 11 - Travel to Loire Valley. Tour Chateau Angers; Select a nearby chateau or Villandry Gardens? Overnight in Amboise (possibly Le Manoir Minimes).
Day 12 – Chenonceaux – lunch at Le Bon Laboureur – Caves Pere Auguste (wine tasting) – another chateau nearby or wander through shops in Amboise
Day 13 - drive to Sarlat le Caneda. See Oradour sur Glane on the way
Day 14- 17 Dordogne (base in Sarlat)
Day 18 - St Emilion winery. Stay in Bordeaux.
Day 19 – Drop off car rental. Early AM TGV to Paris.
Day 20 - one more day sightseeing in Paris
Day 21 - depart

Thank you,
Melanie

Posted by
17140 posts

The visitor center at Oradour-sur-Glane is very good. It can take quite a lot of time to absorb the information it presents. I spent so much time there that I--being tied to the public-bus schedule--didn't have as much time as I would have liked at the memorial site itself.

Be careful about driving after wine-tasting. Check the legal limit in France; it may be lower than it is in your state.

Posted by
7 posts

Important point, acraven. I understand France has very strict legal limits. That said, typically the amount served at a wine tasting is very minimal, at least what I experienced in the US. We would be having lunch, shopping and sightseeing before getting on the road.

I was allocating 3 hours to Oradour sur Glane. Do you think that is enough?

Posted by
17140 posts

I think that's about the amount of time I had. You'll be OK if you aren't the sort (as I am) to read absolutely every word of posted explanatory material. I have observed many times that I'm much slower than the average tourist in museums and at historical sites.

Should something change with your schedule, you might like to know that the city of Limoges southeast of Oradour-sur-Glane is worth visiting.

Posted by
569 posts

One morning we drove from Paris to Arromanches les Bains to the American Cemetery to the monument on Omaha Beach to MSM for dinner and a wander. It was a very long day. We spent 2 nights at MSM (on mainland) and then drove to the Loire Valley (Amboise). It took longer to get to Amboise from MSM than I anticipated. Your plan is doable but you will be rushed.

Posted by
964 posts

Hi Mélanie, I honestly think that you should add MSM back to your itinerary. I see that you have a question mark for your afternoon/evening in Bayeux. There’s not much to do there in the evenings. I would take the opportunity to drive to MSM and spend the night there. Three years ago, a friend and I spent 2 nights in Bayeux. We took the half day Overlord guided tour of the Dday beaches. It was a very interesting and humbling experience. The tour actually finished closer to 2 pm. If I were you, I would take the half day tour, return to Bayeux, have a nice late lunch then head to MSM. We actually stayed at Le Relais du Roy and I highly recommend it. I found out later that the restaurant there is one of the best in that area. We didn’t have time to eat dinner there because we wanted to get on the island right away much to my regret. The tram to MSM stops right in front of the hotel. The trams actually run till close to midnight. We got on to MSM around 7-8 pm and it was quite empty so we wandered about till it got dark. The next day, we woke up early and did the abbey tour. You definitely should get advance tickets for that. We then walked on the ramparts and watched as that main drag through the island filled with daytrippers. You can easily be on your way to Loire Valley by noon time. Please, please add MSM back to your itinerary! It is so worth the stop!

PS My sister stayed at Hotel des Minisme in Amboise and raved about it.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you, Claudette and Andrew. Now I'm reconsidering my original plan of doing the half day tour of Normandy in the morning, have lunch in Bayeux, drive to MSM late afternoon and walk around. I learned through my research that MSM is very steep incline and difficult for those with mobility issues. My mom will be 70 at the time of the trip. She is mobile but has arthritis. If there are no railings, I'm afraid the walk up to the abbey and also coming down with no rails will be challenging for her. I understand the shops and restaurants are on the first level and not difficult to access. We could skip the abbey and at least explore what we can, take pictures and have dinner at Hotel le Relais or on the Mont. Then we could be on the road early to the Loire. I heard seeing the Mont lit up in the evening is spectacular. Do you think it is worth the detour to the Mont if we don't enter the abbey?

Melanie

Posted by
455 posts

It is not only the steepness, but the one main road is cobblestone and crowded. I have seen young, healthy couples struggle trying to wheel luggage up that road. The two times I went, I immediately walked up the stairs at the base to the ramparts to avoid the crowds, and to get the nice view out to sea (which you don't' see from the road). Personally, I think it would be a shame to get all the way there, and not get a view of the abbey inside, or from the top and across the floodplains. And the shops and stores at the bottom are really underwhelming and pricey. That being said, MSM is certainly magnificent to see from a distance along the road or the causeway—and especially when it is lit up at night, or lit by the morning sunrise.

Posted by
5395 posts

A few random thoughts:
We stayed at Relais du Roi, enjoyed it. I wasn't ready to try the steep cobbled walkway up to the Abbey without a handrail (there was also a slight mist so the stones were slippery) but the island was worth seeing and the pathways along the walls were easier to manage. View of the island from the Relais at night is stunning.
Azay le Rideau is beautiful. Took me three trips to the Loire to finally see it. Chenanceau is also gorgeous.
For Bordeaux, turn the car in the evening before your morning train-- we drove around for hours looking for the rental dropoff.

Posted by
964 posts

I’m glad you’ve reconsidered visiting MSM! If your mom has limited mobility then definitely skip the abbey because from what I can remember it was quite a trek up. You can explore the main drag with the shops if you get there early evening. They do tend to close up when the crowds leave but the restaurants are open but you will need a reservation if you want to eat on MSM. I do remember as you walk on that main drag there’s a staircase with a rail on the right that leads to a rampart that’s you can walk along for a little bit. There’s also a little church you can explore on the left. RS talks about it in his book. Consider going in the evening to see it lit up and enjoy the sparse amount of visitors then return early in the morning to check out the shops and walk a bit of the ramparts. There’s also a small shopping center across from Relais du Roy where you can pick up souvenirs and food you can bring along for your road trip to Loire Valley. I found driving in that part of France pretty easy with the aid of GPS of course. You’ll encounter tolls that take cash or credit cards for payment.

Posted by
167 posts

MSM in the evening to us was very special. The daytime not so much..I would definitely go if you were to spend the night. When we were there they would have someone playing music while you looked over the mudflats and watched the sun go down.. It was quite reflective for us .

Posted by
760 posts

Hi from Stevens Point,
Both in one day. Don't try it.
Bayeux to the beaches. Sure. It is a nice drive. You can't see it all in a day, but you get a real good feel for the horribleness of it all.
Bayeux is worth a full day in itself. It is one of the few places in Normandy that wasn't leveled during WWII. Most of what you see in Normandy was rebuilt in part with the Marshal Plan money. Those centuries old buildings...new. But not in Bayeux. It is the real thing. Actually, we spent 10 days in a cottage outside of Bayeux and were not bored a single day. It is great little city, has museums that are pretty good, and THE BAYEUX TAPESTRY. My goodness, a pictorial history embroidered almost 900 years ago. Take a bird's eye view and Bayeux. Notice the eye shaped road running 'around the city? Bult by the Allies during the invasion. They realized that in medieval towns all the 'main' roads run into the main square and there was no way Allied Forces were going to get through the city. So they built a by-pass. It helped the invasion and preserved the main square from destruction.

If you manage to be in Bayeux on Saturday, their market is well worth going to.

MSM. I was turned off because of tourists. And I know I am one of the horde. What should be a religious site is one continuous t-shirt-coffee-house-restaurant-bnb-kebap establishment. Oops. I should be more positive. It is neat...it was once an island but now pretty much connected so busses can make it out there. Oops, there I go again.

I hate to say absorb the beaches. But by that I mean have a handkerchief handy. The cemeteries will rip your heart out. The big ones are overwhelming. As you drive around there are small ones are scattered all over the place and these little marked or noticed places hold between 1000 and 2000 graves. Usually identified by nation. Buried pretty much where they dropped.
Looking out across the beaches makes you want to weep. It is very moving.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
455 posts

What Wayne says about Bayeux and Normandy is true. And I agree wholeheartedly to not try to do both in one day. But I still think MSM is worth going to. Just do whatever you can to avoid the daytime hordes. And don't' cut short your Normandy beaches' time to do it.

Posted by
288 posts

We actually stayed at Le Relais du Roy and I highly recommend it. I found out later that the restaurant there is one of the best in that area.

We stayed there too and had dinner at the hotel. One of the best meals I've ever had in France! Note that the restaurant (like the others in the immediate area) is not open very late so check. We arrived around 4pm in the summer, parking in their lot instead of the large lots. By 4:4pm or so the crowds were really diminished since the bus tours had left. I don't think it would be hard for your mom to get around that time of day due to crowds, although there are lots of stairs in the Abby as I recall. Take a look at a video tour such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-5nKaVfWkk to see if it looks like too much. After dinner when it was dark took some nice pictures from the bridge, then back again for a quick visit the next morning before the large groups of tourists came.

Since you're going to Giverny you appear to like Impressionist art. One place you might want to visit on the way to Honfleur and after the Abbey is Étretat. Many Impressionists painted there since it has great light and was reachable from Paris. It's easy to over-schedule so what I'd suggest is figure out how to get there and then keep it as an option. Time running late after the Abbey, skip it. You have more time than you thought, make the drive. It's about 45 minutes by car from Étretat to Honfleur.

There is so much to see and do in France it's hard to make a choice! We spent almost 2 weeks just in the Brittany/Normandy area and there are plenty we'd still like to see.

Posted by
20726 posts

Keep in mind that the Normandy Beaches are not a single point but a huge area -- the landing beaches themselves are over 50 miles in length from east to west. And then the area of interest extending for another 30 to 40 miles back from the beaches so it is nearly impossible to see "the beaches" in a day or more. What you can do in a half day is visit one of the landing beaches and perhaps the cemetery. And that may satisfy your interests. Not everyone wants to see each beach in details plus the area museums.

Posted by
1533 posts

Hi Melanie,

What a great trip for your mom’s retirement!
We did a 22 night road trip in France in Sept 2018 (husband &myself- aged 63/67 at the time) and visited most of the places you have on your itinerary.

We did 2 nights Paris- have already been there multiple times
Picked up car and drove to Honfleur. 1 night. It’s a cute little town with a very picturesque harbor but other than that could be skipped. The church was interesting and we enjoyed a lazy afternoon people watching, etc but this is the 1 nighter we wished we had skipped (and added night to Bayeux instead).

Drove to Bayeux the next am- took our time. 2 nights
Visited Bayeux Tapestry which is a do not miss. We also walked out to the British Cemetery and the Memorial for Fallen Journalists that day. Bayeux is a very nice town, the cathedral is lovely and interesting. Visit the lacemakers across from cathedral. Be sure you have dinner reservations as we almost got shut out on both our nights- (Sun & Mon)
We stayed at the Churchill Hotel which is so-so- but the location was great and parking was easy.
Next day we took the all day Normandy tour with Bayeux Shuttle and were every pleased (included lunch). I can’t imagine trying to see those sights in just half day. It was a long full and very enjoyable, memorable day.
(I wish we had given Bayeux a third night rather than Honfleur as I said above)

From Bayeux we drove to MSM and took our time, getting “lost” a few times along the way- it was a really easy and pretty drive.
MSM- we stayed at Le Relais du Roy- excellent location with onsite parking and shuttle bus right in front.
Took shuttle over to the Mont and climbed up and up- yes it is steep and difficult and it was so crowded! We found a quiet spot near the little cemetery and had our picnic lunch, poked around a bit more - then left the Mont- honestly we felt the view OF MSM was better than the view FROM.
We had dinner across the street from our hotel- the hotel dining was not open that night- and then sat on the viewing stands to watch sunset over the Mont- that was just delightful. I am glad we stopped there and spent the 1 night. It is an amazing sight- so if that is something on your bucket list- go ahead and go.

From MSM we drove to Amboise- 2 nights. Happy with this choice- visited Amboise Chateaux, Clos de Luce that day then next day visited Chenonceaux- which was also a good choice. It was extremely hot so we bailed on plans to visit another chateaux- and don’t feel like we missed anything- we did drive by Chaumont.
The 3 chateaus we did visit were enough for us. YMMV
We stayed at Hotel Bellevue- steps to the center with free parking across the street. Highly recommend.

From Amboise we drove to Sarlat with a stop in Oradour sur Glane. We spent maybe 2-2.5 hours there - well worth the detour.
Sarlat was 4 nights and we loved everything about it.
Hotel Bon Encontre sits up above town, beautiful views/pool/grounds, great bkft. Also highly recommend.
So much to see and do in the Dordogne area. Don’t take any nights away from this bit of your itinerary!

After Sarlat next 10 nights were spent in St-Remy, Arles & Nice.

Posted by
1533 posts

continued...

Here are some thoughts-
Your trip now looks like this, 19 nights on the ground in France correct?

Paris 6 nights
Honfleur 1 night
Bayeux 2 nights
Blois 2 nights
Sarlat 5 nights
Bordeuax 1 night
Paris 2 nights

Can you fly home from Bordeaux rather than doubling back to Paris?
Could you do Giverny as a day trip- maybe take a night from end of your trip and move to first leg in Paris? Then pick up car in Paris and drive straight to Bayeux?

I agree with above- try to do 3 nights at least whenever you can.
MSM would be the exception- 1 night there is plenty or day trip from Bayeux.

Would look like this:
Paris 7 nights- w/day trip Giverny
Bayeux 3 nights- full day WW2 tour, day trip MSM? (Churchill Hotel runs a shuttle that anyone can book)
—Or Bayeux 2 then MSM 1
Amboise 2-3 nights- add a 3rd night here if you want to see more than 2-3 chateaus
Sarlat 5 nights
Bordeaux 1 night- haven’t been to Bordeaux so no comment although my sister liked it a lot much to her surprise ;)
Fly home

As someone said above there are so many great places to visit in France- we barely scratched the surface. Wanted more time in Normandy/Britanny, more time in Dordogne, more time in Provence.
The one area we were least fond of was the Loire Valley- although the heat wave may have colored our opinion!

Slow down.

Posted by
408 posts

Endless time driving. If it’s a once in a lifetime visit I guess go ahead. Why do you devote extensive time to Honfleur and Rouen. Spend a night in Rouen, lunch in Honfleur and move on.

In the end if you have goals to achieve and are prepared for days of driving go for it. Otherwise it’s an Overly agressive schedule.

Posted by
4706 posts

Day 11 is almost impossible, and no treat for your mother. 3 hours to Angers, 2 hours to Amboise, plus traffic, line for parking each chateau, walk on uneven overflow parking grass field to line for tickets in hot sun, un-air conditioned hotel, drive to meals, long French dining times? Once in a lifetime should be a treat, not a marathon.

Posted by
2901 posts

As is common when people post extensive itineraries, you have gotten lots of conflicting advice. I come down on the side of those who say skip MSM. As another poster said, it’s more impressive to see from a distance than to be inside. As I recall, the interior is rather austere. Also, I really hate places which require one to navigate a gauntlet of souvenir shops and fast food enterprises in order to reach them.

As to the Loire, one chateau I put on the don’t miss list is Angers. The tapestry of the Apocalypse is awe-inspiring.

Posted by
30 posts

I did a similar trip about 10 years ago. We stayed most places 3 night and I’m glad we did. We flew into Paris and headed right to Giverny, stayed in Honfleur 2 nights. Stayed 3 nights at a dairy farm near the beach’s and we were very glad we did. So much to see. It ended up my favorite part of the trip. The rest of our trip was similar to what you have planned with the exception that we went to Nice and Arles. We didn’t spend as much time as you are planning in Paris. I’m not sure I would want to go at the beginning and end of the trip. Large city congestion not my favorite. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
125 posts

I would just add a couple of things. If you can, visit the cathedral in Bayeux (but do not skip the tapestry). As for Saint Emilion, if you are not a wine drinker, I would advise skipping it. Although it is a picturesque town, there are many of those in France. We were there in April, and it took me half an hour to find a parking place. Needless to say, the place was jammed with tourists, and half the shops there are wine shops, and thus of little interest to you. I would recommend skipping Saint Emilion, and perhaps pick out something which interests you in Bordeaux, such as the cathedral or the Resistance museum. Peter

Posted by
175 posts

My mom, sister, and I did a similar trip a few years ago. We did a full day private guided tour of the D-Day beaches, and skipped MSM. For us that was the right choice; we hate, hate, hate crowds, and love history. We aren’t necessarily intense military history buffs but still found the entire day fascinating.

I saw you were considering staying at Manoir les Minimes in Amboise - our stay in Late August/early September 2017 was fabulous, can’t recommend enough!

I also saw some debate about which chateaux to visit. For what it’s worth, we were very happy with our decision to see Chaumont, Chambord, and Chenonceau. There were some amazing contemporary art installations on at Chaumont along with a garden festival with extensive displayed of themed garden plots. I agree Chambord is a must-see, the scale of it is incredible and being up on that intricate roof with all the spires was very memorable. And Chenonceau is so romantic architecturally and particularly interesting historically. Hope that input helps in some way!

Posted by
7 posts

My first post and I have received some terrific guidance. Thank you to everyone who provided input. I've taken the advice from your experiences and did some more research. I added a day to our vacation, altered the itinerary a bit to slow down but still see as much as possible on my bucket list. We understand this is a road trip and fully anticipate there will be a few days that involve a lot of driving, but I'm hoping I've planned it so that we have a detour to break up the day.

New draft of itinerary:
Day 1 Travel
Day 2-8 Paris
Day 8 Pick up rental car at 7 AM. Giverny. Lunch in Vernon. Travel to Bayeux. See the Tapestry.
Day 9 - Half day Normandy D-Day. Bayeux sightseeing afternoon.
Day 10 - Bayeux AM - travel to Mont St Michel in the afternoon to spend night. May or may not go to the actual island if it is crowded and full of tourist tat but I think seeing it from a distance at sunset will be amazing and worth the trip.
Day 11 - drive to Loire Valley. Villandry Gardens. Azay le Rideau. Overnight in Amboise.
Day 12: Chenonceau - lunch at Le Bon Laboreur - winery nearby - Clos de Luce
Day 13 - drive to Sarlat le Caneda. See Oradour sur Glane on the way
Day 14- Sarlat
Day 15 - Lascaux II, St Leon sur Vezere, Roque St Christophe, Ferme du Brusquand in Marquay for dinner
Day 16 - Dordogne loop - Roque Gageac, gabarre to Baynec, Jardin Marqueyssac, Castelnaud
Day 17 - Sarlat Saturday market
Day 18 - Monpazier enroute to St Emilion wineries (overnight Bordeaux)
Day 19 - AM TGV Bordeaux to Paris.
Day 20 - 21 Paris
Day 22 - depart

Posted by
11757 posts

Most people like markets. I'm not sure if you can drive where the Sarlat market on normal days? Mostly make sure you can get to your lodging. In Arles, the market and my GPS didn't get along. It kept trying to take me back to the main road - which was closed because the market was on it.

Posted by
17140 posts

There certainly could be signficant parking and navigating difficulties in Sarlat on a Wednesday. I was there on a rainy Wednesday (and Saturday is a larger market), but there were still quite a lot of people around. I arrived via public transportation, so I didn't pay attention to the parking situation. Definitely something to discuss with your lodging place.

I still feel that doing only a half-day tour of the D-Day sites is misguided. You'll spend a lot of time driving back and forth and not that much time seeing things.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks again. I am interested in the half day Overlord tour which include Longues sur Mer, Omaha Beach, the American cemetery and Pointe du Hoc. I was hoping this would give us the experience of taking in the history. I would like to spend time exploring Bayeux as well.
I am looking at an accommodation in Sarlat that is a 10 minute walk to town so we don’t have to deal with parking on a market day.
Now I’m thinking about cutting a day of Paris on the front end and spending another day in Dordogne to see Bergerac and Monpazier.
Also considering taking a detour to see Étretat on the way to Bayeux, as it looks amazing but we would only stay a short while.
Does anyone have experience renting cars in France? Curious if you can pay to have a second authorized driver so we can take turns? Picking up out of Gare Montparnasse a good location? I’m a confident driver but I want to avoid being in the thick of crazy Paris traffic that I’ve heard about. Maybe I should submit these additional questions as a separate post on this forum.

Posted by
17140 posts

Is there a particular reason you want to visit Bergerac? I spent a couple of nights there last year, primarily for convenient day-tripping to Sarlat. I could absolutely have missed something wonderful, but from what I saw it wasn't one of the most interesting larger places on my itinerary. I much preferred Perigueux, Cahors, Figeac and Brive-la-Gaillarde from the aesthetic standpoint (primarily picturesque architecture).

Posted by
4706 posts

The new 6/17 itinerary is doable. Note that some bookings like private D-Day are hard to get, and not changeable or refundable.

I hope you are not disappointed by the lack of significant scenery to view during the long car rides. It’s going to be ... transportation. I have not been to all the towns on your list, but I have driven the general route. Our travel style is mostly three nights in one hotel. That does not mean, for example, three nights at the D-day beaches. We allocated one full day to that, starting from our Bayeux outskirts hotel in the morning, and sleeping there again that night.

Posted by
964 posts

We rented a car in Lille as we were coming from Amsterdam and we drove down to Normandy area. Driving through that part of France was quite easy using our phone for navigation. We stopped in Etretat on our way to Bayeux and we were only there 2-3 hours but it was so worth it. Since you are driving from Giverny, it will take 1h 45 min to get to Etretat and then another 1 hr 45 min from Etretat to Bayeux. If you drive straight from Giverny to Bayeux, it will take 2 h 6 minutes so if you decide to stop in Etretat, build in an extra 1-2 hours to your driving time as a buffer. I’m using google maps for these estimates

Download the Rome2Rio app and use that along with google maps to navigate. We headed back to Paris for a few nights after Normandy and like you, we didn’t want to drive in Central Paris so we decided to drop off at Orly as it’s easy to pick up a cab to get back and forth from there. I’m pretty sure there was an extra driver fee but best to check with the rental company. We were dropping off on a Sunday and wanted to make sure we dropped the car of at an office that was open. We used AutoEurope for our rental. And if it hasn’t been mentioned yet and this can be an incendiary topic on this forum- get an International Driving Permit if you plan to drive in France.

Posted by
288 posts

Day 9 - Half day Normandy D-Day. Bayeux sightseeing afternoon.

Day 10 - Bayeux AM - travel to Mont St Michel in the afternoon to spend night. May or may not go to the actual island if it is crowded and full of tourist tat but I think seeing it from a distance at sunset will be amazing and worth the trip.

Everyone has different preferences but we've travelled to these places so here are some suggestions & thoughts.

The full day D-day tour went by quickly, but if you just want an introduction the half-day will do it. We thought Overlord did a great job.

I think the afternoon and evening is plenty of time to see Bayeux on day 9, so if it was me what I'd do is make tentative plans on day 10 to leave Bayeux first thing in the morning and visit more of Normandy. Sunset isn't until 8pm in May so if you arrive at Mont St Michel around 4-5pm there is plenty of light left but the majority of the daytrippers will have left. It will be easy to get on and around the island. With your current plan you may be arriving in the midst of the crowds.

If you leave Bayeux that morning I'd suggest the area little past MSM. Depending on your interests it could be a combination selected from Dinan, Dinard, St. Malo (or some of the other places listed in the Michelin Green guide). You can't do all of these, but one or two would work until leaving for MSM around 3pm or so. The reason I called the plans tentative is the only thing you'd be committed to is MSM that nite. If you do the research ahead of time and think you've seen enough of Bayeux then you go, if you're in Bayeux and want to spend the morning as you planned above then you just stay.