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Normandy Slow-Pace Trip in Coming Sept

Hope to get advice and suggestions for a 2-month trip in Normandy area.
Besides, is it practical if I still take the trip in coming September though France has raised the warning to Level 4, and US embassy has issued a no-go warning?
Thank you all!

Posted by
7070 posts

What are your interests? Why specifically Normandy? Will you have a car for at least part of the time? While there is plenty to do, it is not a huge area and I would be hard-pressed to find 2 months' worth of places to visit, especially without a car. If you add parts of neighboring Brittany then yes, it becomes more interesting.

Broadly speaking, starting from Paris you could spend 3-4 days meandering down the Seine to Rouen, visiting Giverny, Les Andelys, Lyons-La-Foret on the way. Then, after 2 days in Rouen, perhaps a week touring the area between Rouen and Le Havre, including the various abbeys, Le Bec Hellouin, Honfleur, Le Havre itself, and Etretat. The coast to the east of Etretat is also worth exploring for a couple of days up to Dieppe.
That's 2.5 leisurely weeks.
I stop here because I know much less about areas to the west (D-Day beaches, Cotentin, etc.)

As for this September: when is your cutoff date to commit to the trip, or cancel? Now is too early to tell, but there is a risk of local restrictions by then (eg, a curfew)... The one thing to worry about at this stage is insurance: are you covered even with a no-go warning?

Posted by
21 posts

Balso: Thank you very much for your detailed response! I will certainly take your advice. Here are my answers:
-Interests: I visited France several times already, now I just want to do short stays in especially beautiful and quiet towns, mingling with local people, and, hopefully, practicing some French. Still remember my first self-driving tour without GPS and Euro, crazily over 7000km & 10 countries. Now I want the opposite, not to mention I’m retired for quite a few years, and kind of disabled.
*Normandy: This is one of the areas I have been dreaming of, and, my father-in-law (never met: older & deceased) was once an American paratrooper landed there.
-Your advice: I will certainly alter my plans and visit all the interesting places you named such as the Seine, Rouen, Giverny, Les Andelys, Lyons-La-Foret, the various abbeys, Le Bec Hellouin… I very probably would stay in Honfleur or Le Havre. Etretat should be a must, too.
-Dates: I really don’t need to worry about the dates as long as they are within September, October, and beginning of Nov since I only travel in spring and fall.
-Insurance: Will confirm.
-Safety: Though risks are inevitable in life, I’m indeed so worried for the first time due to the terrorists and Covid, but I feel reluctant to give up. Will see.
Thank you again!

Posted by
7070 posts

Now I get a better picture, so I'll elaborate further.

Beyond Rouen, if you are willing/able to drive, I think you could really enjoy a stay for a few days in a village along the Seine downstream from Rouen. La Bouille near Rouen is quite charming with at least one riverfront hotel. Further downstream, Caudebec en Caux and, especially, Villequier are also very charming (and better located for exploring the wonderful lower Seine valley).

Then, you could head onward to the coast, staying in Etretat or, for something less touristy, Yport or Fécamp.

Le Havre can be visited in passing on your way to Honfleur (unless you are passionate about postwar architecture - I really enjoy it but most people don't).
Honfleur itself is a good place to stay, but not for too long; there is very little to do there.

The coast west of Honfleur towards Caen has some charm with the fancy resort towns of Deauville and Cabourg, but I am not a huge fan. They are popular because they are the easiest-access sandy beaches from Paris. Maybe I am jaded because I have been there too often, I don't know...

As for what lies further west (beyond Caen) and inland (towards Argentan), I have less experience. You have the D-Day beaches of course, but also some memorials inland. There is one near Falaise where some severe fighting took place, and the Airborne Museum in Sainte Mere Église could interest you (not been).
And at the far western end of the region lies Mont Saint Michel.

Posted by
27414 posts

I took day-trips to Deauville and Cabourg. I enjoyed them, but I like late-19th/early-20th century architecture. Something that might be helpful for you is that coastal towns tend to be relatively flat.

Rouen has a lovely (rebuilt) historic area and several interesting museums. It's worth several days at a slow pace, I think, just for casual wandering around. (I'm retired too.)

The museum in Falaise is new and well-done. Its focus is on civilian life during the war (as opposed to troop movements, etc.); it does have a lot of information about the Resistance. I liked it a lot. One nice thing about the WWII-related museums in that part of France is that there always seems to be a lot of English-language explanatory material.

There's bus service to Falaise from Caen. Caen isn't the most attractive town, having been nearly totally flattened during the war and rebuilt in a modern style, but it's very convenient for side-trips to some smaller places, like Falaise, Deauville and Cabourg.

Two months is a rather long time for Normandy. You might consider including some places just over the regional boundary in eastern Brittany: St. Malo/Dinard, Dinan, Rennes, Fougeres and Vitre.

I haven't been to Le Mans, but it might be on your way back to Paris from eastern Brittany, and it sounds very worthwhile.

I've used Normandy and Brittany as escape hatches on mid-summer trips, because their weather tends to be coolish and dampish even in July and August. Although heat waves are possible, they are unusual and the grotesquely-bad weather doesn't usually stick around for more than 2 or 3 days. I'd check on weather patterns for October to be sure you're OK with the expected temperatures and amount of rain in combination with the shorter days. The Wikipedia entries for most cities of any size include a climate-summary chart. Here's the one for Rouen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rouen

I am not fond of monthly-average temperature data, because averages hide extremes, both good and bad. There's also the issue that the Wikipedia averages are usually based on a time period that cuts off in 2010; we all know the weather has gotten wackier since then.

When I know I'm traveling during questionable periods, I like to look also at the actual, day-by-day, historical weather statistics on the website timeanddate.com. Here's what timeanddate has for Rouen in October 2020: https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/france/rouen/historic?month=10&year=2020 . I always check at least the most recent three years, usually five, because weather can vary so much from year to year.

Posted by
21 posts

Balso,
Thank you very much for your new response with more details. I have actually noted down all the names of the places you mentioned, and I then need to change my way of staying, too: formerly, I thought I would just stay one month in Upper Normandy, and another month in Lower Normandy, trying to enjoy “fake-local” life since I am a Los Angeles driver, and I could easily drive in and out for other small towns. I have also selected Airbnb for monthly stays. Now I want to break them down to 3-7-days stays depending on how many places I want to spend the nights where I could feel more relaxed to enjoy them. I am going to, definitely, modify my plans for not missing them.
I will also explore some places of the Brittany area.
Thanks again!

Posted by
21 posts

Thank you! Acraven,
Really appreciate your taking the time to answer me in details! I read your message several times, trying to imagine the places you described, and the way you visited.
Yes, side-trips are always in my mind, but I was only thinking of driving, even checked the distances between A to B. Yet, your info of bus transportation is new to me, and makes me itch: Why not try different means to experience the life there more like a local person?
Also thank you for your thoughtful reminding of the weather: exactly, weather has a lot to do with traveling, not to mention we always need a good weather for picture-taking. It reminds me of my trip to Lithuania back to 2018. It was October, I sure took enough clothes, yet, it was unbelievably warm: 10 degrees Celsius higher than 2017! So, I will remember to check the weather often.
You are right, I could “kill two birds with one stone:” I will take away certain Normandy dates for Brittany.
Best,

Posted by
2021 posts

I agree with what Balso suggests, like to add some detail (so I repeat several names of places). With so much time to spend and slow pace, there is very much to enjoy, especially if you can be happy with al those little gems you can find in Normandy, there is plenty of it. With about 4 hours driving from my home, I have visited it many times and certainly come back as there is so much more to see and explore. What I describe here is the Seine part of Normandy I have visited over the years, the river is besides the industrial areas of Rouen and Le Havre outside Paris surprisingly charming.

First regarding jetlag be careful with driving after a long distance flight. In case you arrive at CDG and having a car you can take the N104 freeway running just north of the airport to Cergy-Pontoisse, and so avoid driving through Paris. You can make a detour to Senlis, Chantilly and Auvers-sur-Oise where van Gogh stayed the last period of his life. Places are not in Normandy, like part of the Vexin Region too, but to my opinion worth considering a visit on the way to Normandy.

From Cergy turn off to the A15 direction Rouen, turn off later to explore the Vexin Region, it’s a “Parc Naturel Régional” and means there are building restrictions and so countryside and places have kept their natural character pretty well. This region is much overlooked by most, but I enjoyed it and so think worth to recommend. A few years back I drove from Guiry-en-Vexin, via D159 and Maudetour-en-Vexin to Vétheuil along the Seine. From there scenic drive to very lovely La Roche-Guyon and Giverny. On the way back I visited Domaine de Villarceaux, a stunning parc with a 18th century château, free entrance and in September likely only a handful of French visitors. Further Omerville and nice Ambleville with it's château.

Les Andelys is the place for visiting the ruins of Château Gaillard, stunning view with the place along the Seine at the background. From there you can drive to Lyons-la-Fôret, on the way Écuis is not so bad driving through. In Les Andelys the narrow road to the ruins is not easy to find.

La Bouille downstream from Rouen is like Balso already notes indeed nice, from there you can cross the Seine with the free car ferry (fun and relaxing) to go to the abbeys of Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville and Jumiège. Not to miss to my opinion is Saint Wandrille-Rançon and it’s abbey east of Caudebec-en-Caux. Has still a living community and offer guided tours, but no idea if it’s French only. Further at the left bank of the Seine and worth seeing for their charming cottages, Azier and Vieuxport, the latter tiny but very lovely. Before reaching Honfleur is Marais-Vernier with it’s many cottages worth visiting too. It’s located in a valley and surrounded by a hill plateau. On the plateau there are places too, but I visited those in the valley and liked them. From Phare de la Roque, the most northern end of the plateau you can oversee the estuary of the Seine with Pont de Normandie at the horizon.

For driving I use Michelin (yellow cover) “Departemental” maps, with scenic routes, touristic info and with a scale of 1/150,000 very detailed. Necessary for navigating through the countryside and planning in your hotelroom. For Normandy you need number: 303, 304 and 310. Combined with a satnav will make driving (alone) much easier. Finally staying in B&B’s or Chambre d’Hôtes is good value for the money and a good way for a more local experience. Know that smaller places have most of the time a 30km speedlimit and so slow down your average speed and so moving around can take more time than anticipated.

Posted by
2021 posts

Things I think to see or do in that part of Normandy north of the Seine, what is nowadays named Seine-Maritieme.

The road (D211 and D11) between Fécamp and Ètretat is really scenic, the latter not to miss ofcourse, there is a nice ocean view approaching charming Vaucottes. Yport east of it is like Vaucotte worth a visit and maybe nice to stay there too. Was not really impressed with my visit to Fécamp in 2005 (however opinions differ here on the forum), but you can visit the Palais Bénédictine and the old production room of the Bénédictine liqueur. Had not the time to visit it, but looks interesting. Every Saturday morning there is a food market, local products are sold inside the market hall. Église Notre-Dame-du-Salut on top of a cliff offers a nice panoramic view, the same for Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde in Ètretat, both to reach by car.

Dieppe is havely damaged during WW2, but still there are some nice streets around the church. Not to miss is the stunning view from Église Saint Valery with Dieppe at the background. The place is not so easy to find, but to my opinion absolutely worth doing. There must be certainly more to see in this part of Normandy, but this is what I can say based on my experience.

Posted by
3622 posts

We did a Normandy/ Brittany trip one year, and I thought that Le Bec Hellouin was a super charming town.
Our daughter, who lived in LeMans for a year, recommended the pink granite coast of Brittany. We didn’t make it there; but from a description in a novel I’m reading, it sounds gorgeous. I’d almost go back just for a chance to see it.
Ah, so many places, so little time.

Posted by
21 posts

Wil, Thank you so much for your detailed msgs.: I added all the names you gave to the list I had modified after Balso and Acraven’s suggestions, checking the map all the time. Seems I’m supported by an expert team already!
I like the words “little gems” and will certainly explore along the Seine. Will check the booking of the said hotels…I’m also curious whether GPS would have the choice of Michelin map.
Your reminding of speed is very important: I often shared with my American friends of “enjoying speeding in Europe,” but I did get two speeding tickets (got a letter from Rome Police three months after I got back home…) Now I know I have to also drive slowly to match my “slow-pace” trip!
I will also visit Vexin Region. I’m actually unfamiliar with all the region names, so everything will be interesting to me. Usually, I would check online to find info such as “the best small towns in France” etc. Oh, I’ve just realized that every year there’d be a different list of them! That’s also why I always like to visit Europe: so different from rough America with its numerous exquisite places with long history and profound culture.
You mentions some view points which caused my attention a lot: habitually, wherever I go, I’d try first to find a commanding height to look at the strange place I’m going to explore.
Well, I though two months would be ok to see enough of partial France, yet, I am now afraid it might be really short!

Posted by
21 posts

Rosalyn,
Thanks!
I will remember Le Bec Hellouin (Balso also mentioned it, and it’s only about 30 miles from Honfleur).
Will also go to Le Mans, which is about two hours drive from Honfleur.
Since I have already decided to include Brittany, I will sure “follow your daughter’s steps” to look for “pink granite coast!”
You are indeed right: “ so many places, so little time (I mean even for my two-month plan)!”

Posted by
21 posts

Thanks! Bill,
I followed your instructions, and sent Stu an email. I understand it’s of 26 pages, so I’m well-prepped to do a new “assignment!”
BTW, I had no idea of the yellow and green maps. Then I did some online searching, and found they are more complicated than I thought: they are using red, orange, blue, green and yellow…I could first only learn that they are more detailed and local, but I will have to keep learn until I get a general idea. I wonder whether I could just use GPS instead?
I feel so lucky that my supporting team is growing!

Posted by
113 posts

Hi there -

We spent a full week in Normandy several years ago, so here are my suggestions for things to do/places to stay.

We stayed in Bayeux for the majority of the trip. It was LOVELY and staying in town was easy and allowed us to walk around and purchase a few simple meals of charcuterie/cheese/olives/baguette and wine that we enjoyed picnic-style in the courtyard of our b-and-b. We stayed here: https://www.manoirsaintevictoire.com/ and it was so fantastic/quaint that we still talk about it (plus it was super affordable at the time). The Cocteau room on the first floor of the turret had a kitchenette that made our picnic dinners easy. There also are many sit-down nice restaurants in town.

In Bayeux, we spent a few hours viewing the Bayeux Tapestry. It was fascinating and the audio tour add-on is necessary.

We took a full-day "Band of Brothers" WWII tour with historian Paul Woodage: https://www.ddayhistorian.com/

This was one of the highlights of our trip. Truly, a fascinating and unique day in which we accessed and viewed certain battle sites that the larger tours cannot. So, if you're going to spend some coin somewhere, I'd strongly suggest doing that on a private history-focused WWII tour.

Other sites that are definitely worth your time are Pointe du Hoc, the American cemetery, Omaha Beach, and the German cemetery. We saw these sites as part of a half-day tour with Overlord, although in retrospect, I would have booked a full-day tour at minimum and used a better, private guide option. We also took a day to drive to Juno and Sword beaches ourselves.

Beyond the tapestry museum, we particularly enjoyed the Utah Beach WWII Museum and the small one dedicated to the Mulberry in Arromanches.

We stayed 2 nights in Honfleur and enjoyed that town as a respite from many preceding days of heavy touring. We enjoyed seafood and cider here, and just ambled around the town. We stayed in a cute AirBNB.

Cabourg provide a nice stop to grab sandwiches, but I can see how it would be a nice half-day place to walk around and enjoy a sit-down lunch. It's a very quaint town. We spent a half-day in Etretat and hiked to the cliffs for pictures. It's lovely and one could easily spend more time there.

Lastly, plan on needing a car for most of your time in Normandy. The small towns are laced together by rural farmland and small roads. Be sure to enjoy some local cider, seafood, and excellent cheese!

Posted by
21 posts

Jen, Thank you for your useful information: I feel so lucky to have all of you helping me! I consider this is my lazy way to sit idle and enjoy other’s labor!
Yes, Bayeux would be one of my staying places.
I booked the hotel you stayed for three nights ( booking.com indicated only one room left) and then I would go to an Airbnb place. This hotel does get 9.9 rating compared to other 8 point, 7 point something!
I also found Paul for the WWII private tour, and sent him a msg.
I’ve made a car reservation though I am still comparing. I do need a car to cross between small towns like you described.
Now all I want, besides collecting all the info I can, is a better situation for traveling! September is drawing near. To go or not to go? I admit I’m somewhat panicking…
Thank you again!

Posted by
2021 posts

Not finished jet :).

Usually camera’s take care of speeding instead of policeman, so you have to look to the speedometer quite often.

From Honfleur you can take the scenic road – D513 – to Trouville-sur-Mer and posh Deauville.
Further west Cabourg as already said is nice, especially around the Casino, the same for Houlgate. Villers-sur-Mer isn’t bad either, the D513 runs along the beach there, so nice views. You will drive long distances through places so a lot of 30km speedlimits.

Last year after visiting the abbey of Jumiège I crossed the Seine there and drove further south for Le Bec-Hellouin. Due to covid there were hardly any visitors and with the sunset, the golden hour gave it a special atmosphere and so it was a memorable experience to walk around there for a while. Before dark I made an additional driving tour. Nearby Domaine de Champ de Bataille was already closed, but think the gardens are nice and worth seeing. Full ticket price is €27, garden only €13. Harcourt needs a bit cleaning up but is actually nice too.

Further south following the D130 – D23 and D133 to Bernay I made a stop in tiny but o so charming Fontaine l’Abbé, easily to recommend. Bernay is nice but I liked more Broglie, worth a visit to my opinion. But before going to the latter I made a detour to visit Château de Beaumesnil, lovely 17th century Louis XIII barocque style château. Of the original interior is not much left as most was plundered during the French Revolution, but for me it was charming enough to visit.

If you like horses certainly consider a visit to Haras national du Pin, the royal stud farm of Louis XIV, there is a (not so exciting) show outside and a museum. North of it Mont-Ormel with the Memorial Montormel at the top of a hill commemorates one of the key battles of Normandy of 1944. It offers a panoramic view over the surrounding land.

On the way north to Bayeux I visited the fortress of Falaise, impressive birthplace of William the Conqueror, you will learn more about him seeing the Bayeux Tapestry. There is also a WW2 museum about the locals during wartime. West of Falaise lies Norman Switzerland, a good place for outdoor activities like rock climbing and canoeing. Before reaching Bayeux I liked to visit Château de Balleroy, as balloonist Malcolm Forbes owns the place there is a little museum about balloons, but don’t expect too much. The chateau requires a little detour driving from Bayeux to Le Mont-Saint-Michel, best is to approach it via the D73 and see it appearing at the horizon.

The D-Day beaches are discussed here on the forum extensively so I have nothing to add. Last but certainly not least as Pays d’Auge represents for me and others quintessential Normandy. It’s roughly located north of Argentan between Caen and Lisieux and it’s worth to base yourself for while in one of those stunning places and use it as a base for exploring what is to my opinion one of the best parts of Normandy. Loads of half timbered houses, mansions and so on in all kinds of sizes and shapes, churches in the middle of nowhere like le Pré-d’Auge. Like to mention further Beuvron-en-Auge, Cambremer, Blangly-le-Château and much more. I stayed for a few nights near Beaumont-en-Auge. Very charming and from Place de Verdun a panoramic view all the way to the sea. Asked directions in nearby Bourgeauville, tiny stunning hamlet nevertheless it has a “mairie” , municipal building. It was closed but someone opened a window, think it was the mayor himself who helped me. Nearby Pont l’Évêque is not the best place, but attractive enough to visit. Locals know better than I do, worth hearing their advise.

There are also lovely castles like Saint-Germain de Livet or Château de Grêve Coeur, hadn’t the time to visit them, but think really worth to consider like also Manoir de Coupesarte, however question if it is open to public. The only thing I visited in Lisieux was Basilique Sainte-Thérèse, a place of catholic pelgrimage.

Posted by
21 posts

Thank you again, Wil!
Your msg carries a lot of details, and I am indeed amazed how you could remember so many particular things! Well, I tried hard to trace your routes on the map. Wow! About 25 new names of the towns and local interests, as if you were enumerating your family valuables!
I even feel troublesome recognizing the names, so I will have to spend more hours to know all of them. Though I am afraid I wouldn’t be able to see them all, it’s always better to be well prepped.
Great that you pointedly mentioned several view points because I do like views very much, especially the panoramic ones.
I’m still doing my routine prepping every day, though I admit I can’t be sure whether I would really make it this September: all my relatives and friends are discouraging me from going, and I only get support here, not to mention the valuable details from “every expert of my supporting team!”

Posted by
2021 posts

Thanks for the compliment. I can’t remember all of the names but with the help of google maps and streetview I can reconstruct the routes I followed bringing memories back alive and so many of the names, fun to do.

Actually you are a bit late for planning such a trip and still need to arrange so much, in this respect I can understand your relatives and friends. Think you have now a lot of info what to expect, otherwise you have to rely on your flexibility and creativity what can make trips surprisingly more intense (in a good way) and therefore (way) more adventurous and so more interesting (there is always a hotel or B&B room free that time of the year), if that's the style of travelling you like. But that's up to you, if you go or not remains ofcourse your decision. Know that September and October too the weather is in general good enough for travelling. November is usually cold and the weather more often not so inviting for outdoor activities and it gets dark early as Europe changes to winter time the last weekend of October. Visit coastal especially beach places like Cabourg and Deauville with good preferably sunny weather, as soon as the weather turns bad they lose their appeal and feel abandoned. Nevertheless to my opinon every period of the year has it’s charm.

There are several viewpoints from the hills around the bay and flatlands of Le Mont-Saint-Michel. If you are coming from Bayeux the first “Vue sur Le M-S-M” is in Avranches near the church, another one offering a clearer view of Le Mont-Saint-Michel is in Roz-sur-Couesnon. You drive along this place if you take the D797 from MSM to Cancale (famous for oysters) and St. Malo (btw scenic drive between the two) and drive as close along the coast as possible (D155 – D201). Visit MSM early in the morning or late afternoon and evening as the crowds are gone, likely in October lesser the case.
Le Mont-Dol is a rock in the middle of the flatlands, a bit touristy with it’s old windmill but excellent for views, certainly worth trying. West of Dinard-St.Malo nice ocean views from Cap Frehel and not to miss nearby Fort la Latte, a medieval fortress located on top of a cliff. And that’s the most western point I have ever visited in France. For all these fantastic views the weather must ofcourse cooperate, Brittany has a lot of stunning views too for sure, but I have no experience there. Just south of Dinan tiny Léhon with it’s ruins of a medieval fortress and old bridge is worth a visit. Nice spots around the Rance estuary like Saint-Suliac and maybe Mordreuc(?).

Driving on your way back to Paris as acraven remarks Le Mans has a surprisingly wortwhile old city centre and also nice to see from outside the ramparts along the Sarthe river. If race cars are of interest, you can visit the museum next to the entrance of the racetrack. Closer to Paris is Chartres famous for it’s cathedral and to my opinion charming Château de Maintenon (home of the second wife of Louis XIV) worth a detour. From there you can continue driving to Rambouillet, not outstanding to my opinion but nice. Think Versailles can be an option to drop the car.

The maps I talked about in a previous post are easy to get (the French version) in gaz stations and supermarkets like E.Leclerc in case you want to use them. You can print all the names mentioned in this topic, take them with you and discuss them with locals, who knows what they have to criticize or further to offer and adapting plans on the spot are needed? Finally do not underestimate distances, driving winding busy roads can be very exhaustive after a while.

I wish you happy travels and hopefully it will be a rememorable trip!

Posted by
51 posts

Thes are all excellent suggestions for Normandy. My family is from Caen, which is ironically the only city in Normandy I would not recommend for a visit, although the Chateau de Caen is worth a visit. To what has aalready been suggested, I would add...

What I do strongly recommend is allocating time for the Pays D'auge which is inland below Deauville/Trouville. This area is absolutely charming and it is where the cheeses, cidre bouche and Calvados come from. The village of Beuvron-en-Auge has top restaurants and inns. It is small in size but big in charm.

If you have a big budget, I recommend a stay at La Ferme Saint-Simeon which is on the Route de Trouville between there and Deauville (the aforementioned D513) .

Honfleur is of course worthy of a visit. Deauville is cute but if often oeverrun by Parisians during summer who use it as a weekend getaway.

To the west, don't overlook the Suisse Normande... the area around Villedieu-les-Poelles it is also very charming.

And of course no trip to normandy is complete without a visit to the Mont-Saint-Michel, and this year may be the very best time too see it without hordes of tourists in general.

Brittany and La Manche are also really charming. Dinard, Dinant, Quiberon and Cancale are super-cute.

Car is a must in my opinion. The charm is in visiting the little villages (patelins) along the way.

Posted by
21 posts

Wil,
Thank you again for your informative msg!
I understand time is never enough when prepping, especially I’m now making a big modification. Yet, you are right: this time, I have to rely partially on flexibility and creativity though, actually, I would always have a detailed itinerary before leaving.
Talking about the weather, though Sep and Oct should still be good, I can imagine the windy beach with a grey sky! I cannot ask for too much, as long as half of the trip days could be patronized by good weather.
I will try to get enough view points to please myself. Thanks! BTW, Étretat and Mont-Saint-Michel are the two musts, especially after I learned the stories of Christophe Leboucher, malvoyant et pêcheur, in Étretat, and Francois Saint James, resident lecturer & historian, in MSM.
As to Le Mans, formerly, I was thinking of paying it a visit from Honfleur (117miles), and now, since I have included Brittany, I would go from there as you said.
Well, I have added all the names of new places and interests to me while I’m also warning myself not to be greedy. I already realized years ago that there are just too many “pearls” on European land!
Oh, as to the rental car, I will pick it up at the airport, then I’ll just drop it there. Sorry that I got my driver’s license with a manual, but have never driven one since my first car. There are always not enough choices for auto ones.
Weird that: you and Bill gave me ideas about Michelin green and yellow maps, but my friends who have lived in Paris for years were surprised when I mentioned this!


Thanks: This should be a memorable trip!

Posted by
21 posts

Possum racing 47(?), Thank you!
Your msg is very helpful: I have added all the places to my list. I know I wouldn’t be able to see them all, but definitely will try my best to explore the “small in size but big in charm” ones like Beuvron-en-Auge. I checked online, it had only 194 people in 2015, but the world-famous artist David Hockney has chosen to live and work there! Oh, I love good local food,definitely would try to go some good ones there! BTW, September is a time for “tous au restaurant” so I might be able to learn more about it?
I guess it’s human beings’ nature to seek for what they don’t have? I have lived in Los Angeles for about 30 years, accustomed to a city with quite a few freeways across it, and numb of being stuck in the traffic jam on the parking-lot-look way, then those pretty small towns and villages have thus become very attractive to me!
Report: I checked La Ferme Saint-Simeon right away on Booking.com, unfortunately, there are no available days for my convenience. Anyway, I found the pricing is higher than I thought, so I had to think that’s my “sour grape.” Haha!
I also checked Pays D'auge and La Manche, and will need to adjust my days. Prepping now.
You are right, I do need to have a car with me all the time to feel easy and comfortable to see all the charming places.
Thank you again!

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10349 posts

If you looking to include Brittany, I highly recommend the very complete, excellent Michelin Green Guidebook for Brittany and a GPS. I have ridden with friends, born and living in Brittany, who would have trouble choosing the right road at country crossroads in the old days using only maps. Once off the high-speed divided road, the back road intersections can be confusing in Brittany.

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Bets,
Thank you very much! Yes, I have decided to go to Brittany too, but I wonder whether GPS could be just used instead of the Michelin Green and Yellow Maps. According to what you described, I would very probably get confused if I don’t have the maps at hand? Does this also mean many of the back roads are actually not available with GPS? Excuse my ignorance!

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388 posts

Weird that: you and Bill gave me ideas about Michelin green and yellow maps, but my friends who have lived in Paris for years were surprised when I mentioned this!

I should have added more detail. What I had in mind were guide books, such as those listed at https://www.amazon.com/michelin-green-guide/s?k=michelin+green+guide These are very informative and the smaller regional ones such as for Normandy list just about every town a tourist might want to visit

As for GPS, I suggest a map too. The GPS is great for getting to a specific destination but the map covers much more than you can see on the tiny screen so you can plan out a route for the day that doesn't involve backtracking. And the GPS may not make the same road choices you might; for example you might want to drive along the Emerald Coast in Brittany but your GPS will route you on a shorter and faster route.

One thing I'd add is that after all the planning is done, allow time for serendipity. For example driving along the coast we came by a small town that was having a market day. We parked, enjoyed visiting the market and a nice lunch. It's actually a favorite memory from the trip and completely unplanned.

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Yes guide books. The green Michelin books are for touring by car. Yes, my suggestion was to use a GPS in Brittany.

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2021 posts

It’s exactly what Bill G says, combining GPS with maps. Like to add that GPS for point to point navigation is safer and usually more efficient, maps can be distracting during especially solo driving. But agree with the benefit of maps. Yellow ones cost about €7 and think the same for the green ones too, the first anyway easy to get, lesser idea about the latter.

For exploring Pays d’Auge think it’s more convenient to base yourself somewhere centraly located like for instance Cambremer. I have the idea you want to visit it all the way from Honfleur involving a whole lot of to my opinion unnecessary time consuming driving, or am I wrong?

And maybe I am wrong too that you are booking everything at home, can be convenient but it will limit your flexibility for changing plans. Think once in Normandy you will have a better idea about the pace of travelling and places to visit and in some cases canceling a booking can be welcome. Finding a hotel or B&B is in September and October not a problem I think, but don’t want to push this as you always will see that sometimes it will be.

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9436 posts

I don’t have details or specifics for you but wanted just to say that we have stayed in Bayeux 7 or 8+ times and love it, we also love Hotel d’Argouges there. One of our favorite things to do is drive the 2 lane country roads and just explore. It’s amazing how many gems you will find.
There are some chateaux in Normandy, which we love touring. One (forget the name) had a nighttime candlelight tour that was really enjoyable. We also came across a farm from the 1600s that was open to the public (reminded us of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small) that we enjoyed immensely. If you stay in a hotel they can give you better info than I can on what gems to look for.

We also love Normandy for all the DDay sites and history. Our favorite WWII museum is the one in Bayeux. We do not like the one in Caen.

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That would be the Chateau de Balleroy with the candles. It is also famous for ballooning although I believe the ownership has changed more recently. I am not sure what sorts of events they do there nowadays...

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Bill, Thank you!
Your book and map recommendation is very good! Coincidentally, I have been to Barnes & Noble a lot these weeks, checking the tourism books, and bought some of them, but I don’t think I noticed the “Michelin “ words. Will go there again tomorrow.
Yes, I will sure “allow time for serendipity” since surprises happen only unexpectedly.

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Bets,
Yes, since I’m driving, I will use both Michelin maps and GPS. Thanks!

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Wil,
Yes, I’m much clearer now about GPS plus maps.
You are not wrong about my driving: I have to drive since I cannot walk for too long. If I don’t make a mistake here, you might think, for some places, I can just take public transportation? If so, then I would have walking issue. A car can always bring me as close as possible to the places I want to see.

I understand your suggestion of “flexibility for changing plans,” just similar with what Bill indicated, “allow time for serendipity.” Usually, I would always make a daily plan, but for every week, I would have a couple of flexible days. I will try my best to enjoy what I could get.
Thank you!

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Susan,
Thank you! Your experiences are exact what I’m looking for. I hope to go to that candlelight chateau( according to Possum, Chateau de Balleroy ), and see the same farm…I will ask the local people to get more info for vivid exploring and enjoying moments.
Since quite a few of you, my dear expert team members, have said positive things about Bayeux, I will stay there longer than other places. I have actually booked a very good Airbnb place (over 200 good reviews), but will also check Hotel d’Argouges…
Will remember even Bayeux’s museum is better…

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Possum,
Thank you for the chateau name. I will also remember to ask about possible events.

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9436 posts

Sounds good nnjj! I think you will love Normandy, the people there are super nice and welcoming towards Americans. I also have mobility issues and found Bayeux and other towns/villages (like St Mère Eglise) easy to get around on foot. Honfleur was a bit challenging on foot. I’m sure you already have, but the more you learn about the history of Normandy, including WWII, the more you will enjoy it. I hope you have a great time!

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Susan,
Thank you for your nice msg:
Glad to know people are nice there! One of my wishes is to mingle with the local people with some basic French expressions. No matter how beautiful the place is, no people, no life.
It’s so comforting that you understand my mobility issue: I will have to take full advantage of the car, and give up the places hard for me to reach.
Have heard quite a lot about Bayeux, so I have also changed my stays: longer days in Bayeux.
Yes, I have been learning about Normandy. The more I do, the more I feel interested in it.
I have read a book about Normandy by Rick Steves published March 2021, and also found another good book by Chris Newens…
I paid for the flights for Sept yesterday, and my heart has already begun the trip!
JJ

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2021 posts

Glad it's going to happen. Wish you a good trip nnjj!

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9436 posts

That’s wonderful JJ, planning is half the fun! And yes, I very much understand mobility issues, so smart to have a car.
I think you’re in for a great trip!

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21 posts

Wil & Susan,
Thanks for sharing: Yes, planning itself is a big process of learning, not to mention I was switching ideas like a little girl.
Well, I have to work on all the details, but they will be readily solved.
Thank you two and every expert-supporter here! BTW, I admit I haven’t actually digested every piece of info here, so would have to keep learning for sure!