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Nuts And Bolts on 9 day end of Oct/Nov Paris /Normandy

Solo traveling, vaxed. 64 yr old male. In excellelnt health. I need Pass Sanitaire, testing kits, masks, etc. Fly in/our Paris (Orly).
Main focus is Normandy area, beaches w/tour guide, Mont St Michel, towns (Caen, Bayeux, Honfleur, etc.) Maybe Giverny on the way north or south. I love trains, walking, or could rent a car if made sense. So, was leaning towards going north right from airport and then Paris on the back end. I had been to Paris many many years ago. Note: I am planning a return next May (hopefully).

Suggestions on all of it please: # of days where, places to stay in what towns, and itinerary breakdown. Places to eat. (vegetarian). TY ALL AGAIN! IN ADVANCE.

Posted by
4703 posts

You have a lot of questions that a guidebook would help you answer based on your own interests and choices. Your public library might have one or more to check out if you don't want to invest in one right away. Bayeux is a good base for exploring Normandy, including tours of the D Day sites and to Mont-St-Michel. Generally people on this board advise spending a night at MSM if you can, to avoid the midday crowds, but Covid may be keeping the numbers down.

Renting a car is a good way to explore in Normandy, but driving the day after an overnight flight, when you're jet-lagged and probably sleepy, can be risky for you and others. That's one reason to put Paris before Normandy on your schedule. There's good train service from Gare St-Lazare to Caen, where car rental is probably easiest.

I think you'll get the best value from this forum by asking specific questions to help you make specific choices. Hope you have a great trip.

Posted by
18914 posts

Most of the D-Day tours depart from Bayeux. If you intend to arrange a private tour, I suppose you'd have more flexibility. Caen was obliterated during the war and rebuilt in modern style with few vestiges of pre-war architectures and a distinctly finite list of places of interest to most tourists--a couple of abbeys, the castle, and the large/time-consuming/expensive Caen Memorial Museum, about which opinions are very mixed. (I liked it; many others find it overwhelming and too broad in its coverage, starting as it does with the pre-war period and extending into the Cold War era.) The Memorial Museum is well out of the center of the city, but there is public-bus service. Caen, despite its limited number of tourist attractions, is from the logistical perspective an excellent base for side-trips via public transportation to places like Honfleur, Falaise (interesting newish museum about civilian life, including the Resistance, during the war), and beach resorts such as Deauville/Trouville and Cabourg.

Trying to visit the places mentioned above (other than Caen itself) from Bayeux via public transportation would be a bit frustrating, I believe, because you'd have to add on the rail leg between Bayeux and Caen. It doesn't take long, but that probably will leave you cooling your heels for some time in Caen as you travel in both directions.

Bayeux does have some points of interest of its own, so allow yourself enough time there to do some things in addition to taking your D-Day tour. There's the tapestry, the cathedral, the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy (modern, very good, and much more manageable in size than the Caen museum), a British war cemetery and the attractive (not terribly large) historic center. I took a walking tour offered by the tourist office that was good (as such things usually are).

Public transportation from Bayeux to individual invasion-related sites is limited but not totally non-existent. I believe there are others on the forum who did some invasion-related sightseeing by taking advantage of local buses, but I did not and cannot supply any specifics. I imagine Rick covers this topic in his guidebook, but I would confirm any information you will need to rely on, because COVID may have changed things.

It isn't impossible to get to Mont-St-Michel without a car, but a car will certainly make it a lot easier. The Churchill Hotel in Bayeux used to (pre-pandemic) run a shuttle that made a day-trip possible. One did not have to be staying at that hotel to take the shuttle. That shuttle does put you at MSM during the typical day-tripping hours when it is, by all (pre-pandemic) accounts grotesquely and most unattractively crowded. Thus the recommendation for arriving around mid-afternoon and spending the night so you can see the abbey when it is relatively peaceful.

There is rail service from Bayeux to the station nearest MSM, which is Pontorson, then there's a sort of shuttle bus that goes to MSM. But neither of those services is frequent. If something happened that caused cancelation of the train you were relying on, you'd be up the proverbial creek.

I believe there may be some commercial tours from Bayeux to MSM, but again (like the Hotel Churchill shuttle service) you are dumped at MSM at the same time all the other day-trippers arrive, which (it sounds like) seriously degrades the experience.

Posted by
499 posts

Our family spent 3 nights in Bayeux in late November 2019. Our focus was the American D-Day beaches. We didn’t take a tour because they didn’t spend enough time in the museums. My husband likes to take his time! I’d say Bayeux is a good base. Cute town that wasn’t bombed, unlike Caen. The sites are quite spread out, and we found a car very helpful. If you do a tour, many are based in Bayeux. I would recommend at least a full day.

Many restaurants close completely during the off season in Normandy (we were told this is Sept-November). About half of the restaurants in Bayeux were closed, and several shops. We couldn’t find a single restaurant open at Omaha Beach, and had to drive back to Bayeux for lunch. Another day at Utah Beach, we had the same issue. We ended up stopping at the only bakery open in a small village and eating croissants and quiche in the car. Weather was cold and rainy.

We flew into Orly late (from Spain), spent a night by the airport and drove to Bayeux the next morning. The drive is easy but I wouldn’t recommend it after a transatlantic flight. You could take the train to Caen and rent a car. Bayeux has a car rental place based out of a gas station and not near the train station. We found that it would take at least 6 hrs from arriving at Orly to get to Bayeux by train, once you consider getting from the airport to the city to transfer trains. You might consider splitting your time in Paris, and doing the Normandy trip in the middle, depending how many days you have.