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Normandy & Brittany Thoughts?

Solo travel, fly to/from Paris Mid-May '22. 16 nights. Giverny, Normandy Towns/Beaches, MSM, and then Brittany towns. Paris will be a day or 2 on the front and/or back end. Overall general interests, WWII sites a focus. Assuming train to Normandy and then from Brittany. Not against renting a car if it makes sense to cover territory and fine with public transport, too.

Posted by
211 posts

Is there a question somewhere in that stream of consciousness?

Preferably, a specific question?

Posted by
6758 posts

Stay in Bayeux for your trips to WWII beaches . It is a charming town that was not damaged in WWII. On your way there, spend a night in historic Honfleur.

Posted by
648 posts

In connection with St. Malo, you might read All the Light We Cannot See before you go. It is brilliantly evocative of the wartime past.

Wife and I rented a car in Caen, and it was very easy and convenient to drive in Normandy (we did not go to Brittany).

[Edit: Another vote for Bayeux--a gorgeous little town, and you can see the Bayeux Tapestry there.]

Posted by
2095 posts

Currently in Brittany tonight - in Roscoff. We're driving, as we came from the NL. Having a car is definitely an asset as we've already been to Dinan, Saint-Malo, and La Roche‑Jagu. A car gives you a lot of flexibility in this area and we've gotten off the beaten path a few times. See a few recent posts here: https://bit.ly/3BR2x6z.

Upcoming, we'll be visiting Côte des Abers, Le Faou, Landévennec, Camaret‑sur‑mer, Locronan, Saint‑Cado et la ria d'Etel, Quiberon, Carnac, Vannes, Rochefort‑en‑Terre, Josselin, and ending our Brittany experience in Rennes, the capital of Brittany.. As you can see, a lot to do in Brittany! And we feel we could not easily see all of this without a car. Have fun!

Posted by
534 posts

Great trip and places. Two recommendations:

  1. Definitely get a car, this is rural France with minimal public transportation, and you will miss a whole lot if you try to get by without one.

  2. Make reservations very early. You are very close to the anniversary of D-day, which typically leads to every hotel, B&B, and restaurant being fully booked. Make your reservations tomorrow or earlier.

PM me if you want specific info. Have visited 8–9 times—all but one of which were on D-day anniversaries.

Posted by
13 posts

We're just back from two weeks in Brittany and a few years ago did Normandy and Brittany. A car is really helpful, but what we did this time was to fly into CDG, then take a TGV train to Rennes - two and a half hours I think - and spend the first night in Rennes before picking up the car at the Rennes train station and going on our way. Then reversed on the way back, drop off car in Rennes and get on train to Paris where you can stay a couple of days if you like. (We actually just stayed at the Sheraton in the terminal at CDG this time.) It's a LONG drive from Paris to Brittany so a fast train helps a lot, and also lets you skip the toll roads. And taking a train after flying in to get ourselves west of Paris while operating on not enough sleep was a good plan for us instead of trying to do things right away.

In Normandy we based in Arromanches les Bains (Hotel Marine is right on the beach and I'm a beach bum) but I know most folks prefer Bayeux (gorgeous cathedral and the tapestry is a wonder) which is a great place too. MSM is unique and St-Malo is breathtaking and the D Day beaches are fascinating. In Brittany we again focused on coastal spots two times - Erquy and Douarnenez for their proximity to the GR34 coastal path for hiking. We also spent a week in Quimper, with its lovely medieval old town, which is a half hour or so from a number of interesting spots (including more GR34 hikes) such as Pont Aven, Tregeur, Moncontour.

Two other places were for us fascinating stops - Vitre (near Rennes, so we stopped there after getting the car) and Carnac (rows and rows -but not circles - of neolithic standing stones). My interests are churches and beaches and medieval art and architecture. You may have different preferences - so figure out what you want to do and see and hit up the guidebooks! I'm sure you will have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
19208 posts

If you decide to start in the east and work your way westward, there are rail connections from CDG airport through Paris (change of station required) and Caen (good place to rent a car) to Bayeux. You do not travel through Rennes and the trip doesn't take 8 hours--it's more like 3-1/2. I believe there's only one car-rental place in Bayeux, and I don't know whether you can pick up a car there and drop it off somewhere else (like Rennes).

I've traveled through a good bit of Normandy and Brittany by public transportation. You can see a lot that way. I'm a big fan of a professionally guided tour of some of the D-Day sites for one day, which is a lot more efficient than an uninformed visitor will be, even with a car. After that, a car would be helpful to see other D-Day sites. There's enough to do in and around Bayeux that you might not want a car until Day 2 or possibly even Day 3 of your trip.

The car will also be helpful for making the shift over to Mont-St-Michel, and it will allow you to move around more conveniently than trains and public buses. You might be able to trim a few days off the back end of the car-rental by ending up with a couple of days in each of two cities back to back, like Quimper and Rennes for example.

Posted by
26077 posts

Mont Saint-Michel is a 1h 45m drive from Bayeux and 1h from Dinan. I would sleep in Dinan that night. St Malo is a 45-minute drive from Dinan. Giverny is a 4h 45m drive from Dinan.

If you want to do that (it is a long way along, and you go right past MSM again as well as Caen) it should only take around 3 and a half hours to Giverny.

You can take a train from Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport to Bayeux (8h) that requires a change in Rennes.

I don't know why you would do this. The easy way is RER into Paris St Lazare and train to Caen. Hire a car there for the short drive to Bayeux. The taxi ride in Bayeux also mentioned would take you to a petrol station, the only rental in place in Bayeux. Much much easier to have an easy train ride to Caen. It takes between 2 hours and 7 minutes and 2 hours and 15 minutes depending on the exact train. An hour into Paris or less on the RER. Nowhere near 8 hours. RER-B to Gare du Nord, included interchange short walk to Magenta and one stop on RER-E to St Lazare. Easy. Loads of car rental places at or near the Caen station.

The Artificial Harbour, called a Mulberry, is a very short drive from Bayeux in the cute small town of Arromanches-les-Bains, usually referred to only as Arromanches.

I’ve never been to Bayeux but people like it.

I am one of the people who has actually been to Bayeux and speak from actual knowledge and experience.

You can drop off your car in Giverny

I'm sorry but that is incorrect. There are several rental locations in Vernon - there are none in Giverny that I have ever heard of or seen.

You can also take a direct bus from CDG to Rouen (2h 45m) and sleep there for one night and the next morning take a taxi to Tourville-la-Riviere (20-minutes) to rent a car

I don't know why anybody would do that - there are Avis, Hertz and Europcar right at Rouen station. As far as the bus, there are occasional BlaBla Bus services (many not dropping in the city) and Flixbus services. Both only go a small handful of times a day, some as infrequently as once a day. Yes they are cheap, but in this case you may get what you pay for. There have been a number of reports of Flixbus services running quite late and not always have the drivers been reported as driving the most safe way. You can take the same RER connections above to St Lazare and then an easy train to Rouen-Rive-Droite.

Posted by
4953 posts

In 2012, we did this, clockwise. I don't mean to suggest that our itinerary is just right for you, but I'm pasting it below. The attraction names were for reference, we certainly didn't get to all of them. Fontevraud Abbey was a highlight, as was MSM (mid-day only, no overnight needed.)

03 Jul 12 Tue 10:16AM TGV 9802 from CDG Gare TGV Car 2/23-24
12:00PM Arrive St. Pierre des Corps(Tours)
(Backup 12:38 IC 14047/Austerlitz,13:33 TGV 8333 Montparnasse, 14:03 TGV 8441)
03 Jul 12 Tue 2:00PM Avis St. P, Reservation# xxxxxxxxxxx
->Villandry or Chenonceau, Château de la Bourdaisière
03 Jul 12 Tue to Château de Marçay, 37500 Marçay - Chinon
06 Jul 12 Fri Tel : +33 (0)2 47 93 03 47 [3rd DINNER 7PM]
Langeais,Villandry/Fontevraud/Chenonceau, Ambroise/Cadre Noir/rain:Orleans, Troglodytes
Gardens: Chateau de Villandry (1000 candles 6th), … de Sassy, Azay-le-Ferron, Richelieu, La Chatonnière
->Fougeres ruin,Vitré or Dinan, M.S.M evening

06 Jul 12 Fri to Villa Reine Hortense (bkfst extra)
08 Jul 12 Sun 19, Rue De La Malouine Dinard, 35800
+33299465431 Booking.com #xxxxxxxx
Dol-de-Bretagne menhir, M.S.M.,Dinan,St. Malo,Paimpol steam train/Beauport Abbey/moonlight walk
Gardens: Coutances, La Ballue,Chateau de Caradeuc, Jardin Thabor, … de Beaumesnil, … de Bizy ...Vitré
->Coutances or Cider Route
08 Jul 12 Sun to Chateau de Sully, Route de Port-en-Bessin
11 Jul 12 Wed 14400 Bayeux Sully, 33 (0) 2 31 22 29 48
D-Day Beaches, Tapestry, Caen, resort towns/Lace workshop/war cemeteries/Honfleur
Gardens: Chateau de Brecy, ... de Canon, … de Harcourt, … de Vendeuvre,
->Rouen
11 Jul 12 Wed 2:00PM Avis Return Champs Elysees, Paris
60 Rue De Ponthieu 75008(33) 01 43 59 03 83
Ecouen Medieval Mus/Jacquemart-Andre/
11 Jul 12 Wed to Hilton Arc de Triomphe 51-57, rue de
16 Jul 12 Mon Courcelles,Paris 75008 33-1-5836-6700
Conf: # xxxxxxxxx
16 Jul 12 Mon 1:10PM Depart CDG Term 1 UA 55

Some Notes:
Lots of boring driving time. All our non-Paris hotels had private parking.
St. Pierre des Corps car rental stations close for two hour lunch, firm, 12-2.
Chateaux hotels can have some compromises, despite history and faded glamour. We stopped at a big-box store to buy a box fan and 240v extension cord after the first Chateau stay.
Illuminations, Candleight, Son et Lumiere sell out far in advance, must be booked and paid before departure.
DO NOT return your car in downtown Paris, big mistake.
We went to a number of smaller public gardens that absolutely required a car.
Month of year makes a difference, especially in a coastal town like Dinard or St. Malo. Peninsula location requires narrow road drive in/drive out traffic each day. St. Malo parking was jammed because of big pleasure-boat marina event the day we visited.
D-Day beaches require extensive book research and planning, or paying for an expensive guide paid in advance. We didn't care for the guides we overheard, with binders full of laminated info and drill-sergeant delivery.
We had previously seen Giverny from Paris by train. Very hard to find time for a stop on the way back to Paris. Most "stops" are quite far from the highway where you see the "Historic City" sign at the side of the road.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/france/travel-to-mount-st-michel

Posted by
991 posts

My preference is to land and then drive to my furthest destination and work my way back. So Paris would be the last stop on my trip. Check to see if you can find a train route that hits all the places you want to visit and then rent cars along the way to visit your other places not on the rail (unless there is an easy bus). Otherwise, don't spend too much time driving or changing hotels. We enjoyed Arromarches and Cancale as well as MSM - lots of great choices along your main route.

Posted by
26077 posts

my comments 2 posts up, and acraven's just above mine are relating an earlier answer with many inaccuracies now removed.

Posted by
4946 posts

Go to WWII sites as well as Bayeux and don't miss the amazing 900 year old Bayeux Tapestry telling the story of the Norman conquest of England.

Posted by
12400 posts

"WW II sites a focus".......Since you're going to be in Giverny presumably with a rental car, you can get to La Roche Guyon, the HQ , ie Rommel's HQ. German Army Group B in 1944. The chateau is where it was at. I was there years ago. The chateau featured then an exhibit, a rather positive exhibit all in French, on Rommel's HQ. La Roche and Giverny run parallel to each other.