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Normandy itinerary

We will be in Normandy in early July for 4 nights.

Night 1: Bayeux (arrive from Bruges)
Night 2: Bayeux
Night 3: Bayeux
Night 4: MSM (day - explore Bayeux, Utah Beach Museum, arrive MSM around 4pm)

We are planning to hire a private guide to for a full day D-Day tour. We would also like to visit the Caen Memorial Museum.

Question 1: To get the best understanding of the history, should we do the museum first or the private tour?

Question 2: With Bayeux as a base, would the Caen Mem Museum and Rouen be reasonable for a day or does that feel like too much? (My son has been learning about the Hundred Years’ War in school and is interested to see the architecture and where Joan of Arc was burned on the stake. But I’m a little worried that’s a long drive and might be too ambitious).

Posted by
7567 posts

Just to confirm, you are sleeping near MSM, and plan to visit the interior of the Abbey the morning after Night 4? Be sure to check days of the week closings and extra weekend traffic. MSM is not "close" to Bayeux.

How are you arriving from Bruges? I'm guessing by car. I ask because (while I am not remotely as interested in WW II as your family is) there are quite a few war sites along the Belgian coast. I think that's related to the enduring popularity (well, beach time must be a factor too) of the shore Tram line that originates in Ostend (a quick train ride from Bruges.) Because they are less-visited than Normandy, you have to look them up.

The other reason is that if you are coming by train (which is not very direct), our host Rick has a Rouen car-rental strategy that involves hiding your bags in the trunk (if you get a trunk) and NOT taking the car out of the big rental company garage until you get a couple of hours in Rouen. I haven't done this, and I would certainly make a backup plan, in case your rental car is out in the open in a lot, instead. Don't fail to check for second-country rental drop-off fees.

I have not been to Caen, but I would note that there are staggering number of indoor and outdoor WW II sites to visit in the vicinity of Bayeux. You will not run out of significant things to see, even if you can't get to Caen. If you have skimped on book research, you should certainly ask your private guide to write down a list.

Note that parking lots around the Omaha Beaches can be very crowded in July, and you may have to cruise for a space every time you move the car. But a car is essential for your particular plan. We chose our hotel partly for easy parking and returning. We only devoted one day to WW II.

Posted by
203 posts

Thanks Tim

Yes. We are staying in a hotel on MSM the final night. Rome2Rio says it’s about a 1.5 hour drive from Bayeux. Obviously we’ll leave extra room there for getting lost, stopping etc. We plan to arrive after 4 and leave around 10 am the next day to avoid crowds.

We are planning to take a train from Bruges to Lille and then pick up a rental car there to avoid the second country fees.

For most of the DDay and beach sites, we will be with a guide, so we won’t have to worry about parking.

Posted by
15690 posts

Be aware....July 4th is probably the busiest day at the D-Day sites. I was there in October and my guide said that all of the parking lots fill up early and some people are turned away. Hotels book up months in advance. Traffic is ridiculous.

And remember, your guide has to be able to park if you want him to 'guide."

Posted by
203 posts

Thanks. We arrive in Bayeux on June 30. We will do DDay tour either July 1 or 2. July 3 we will stay on MSM. We will travel to Paris on July 4

Posted by
7078 posts

If you rent the car in Lille, you can stop in Rouen on the way to Bayeux. Park the car in an underground garage such as the "Cathédrale" parking lot, backing up against the wall so that the trunk is hidden from sight, explore for ~3 hours (which is plenty of time for cathedral + strolling the medieval streets), and keep going towards Bayeux.
It is not a short day, but there is a lot of daylight in early July.

Posted by
1170 posts

My two cents is the Caen "Museum" will eat a lot of valuable time and not be worth it. I don't know why Rick touts it so much except that it appeals to his personal political inclinations. There are much better and more convenient museums in Normandy. Caen has very little to offer and is well off the beaten path.

Posted by
1379 posts

Arromanches-les-Bains is worth a visit with a nice waterfront area and the Mulberry harbour ruins. The German gun battery complex at nearby Longues-sur-Mer is also a good stop.

Posted by
634 posts

Balso, thanks for the great tip about how to park your car if the trunk contains your bags! This is a gem of a suggestion and might save readers including me a great deal of pain! I don't think I would've ever thought of it.

Posted by
27417 posts

A full visit to the Caen museum will take essentially all day. I would definitely not try to combine it with a visit to Rouen (a lovely city). I like the museum, but plenty of folks find it large, expensive and crowded. It begins with the lead-up to the war (which I'd think would be good background info to have before your tour), covers the war period and then goes on to the Cold War. If your interest is primarily WWII, you could certainly skip the post-war exhibits.

The invasion museum on the outskirts of Bayeux itself is smaller and modern. I don't remember much coverage of the period prior to the war; perhaps someone else can confirm or correct my memory.

Posted by
1340 posts

I disagree with the one who said Caen has little to offer. You can see the grave of William the Conquérant, the Abbaye aux Dames, aux Hommes, the château, and a great art museum. Personally I have yet to do any of the WW1/WW2 museums.
Rouen also deserves a day to itself---there are fabulous museums and churches to see and some killer restaurants.
To me Caen and Rouen are major highlights of Normandie. You're also missing Honfleur and Etretat.

Just curious, why did you choose Bayeux? If I were you, I'd pick either Rouen, Honfleur, or Caen as my center base.

Posted by
27417 posts

Bayeux is more convenient to the D-Day sites covered by most tours, isn't it? Plus you have the cute historic district (that survived the war), the cathedral and the Bayeux tapestry. The tourist office runs walking tours, too.