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Paris to Normandy beaches, Mont St. Michel and Versailles

Hello. My spouse and I will be visiting France, arriving on a Monday approx. 11:00 am., leaving Paris on Friday for Dubrovnik Croatia. This will be my last trip anywhere, as I've been diagnosed with a terminal illness and soon won't be able to travel. I've been to Europe many, many times in the past. Three places that I've wanted to see in France have been the D-Day beaches, Mont St. Michel (even if only from a distance) and Versailles. We arrive on a Monday at CDG, will not be renting a car. What would be our best options to visit the sites in France I've mentioned and would it matter in any certain order? I realize I won't get a lot of time at either of the places...I just want to see what I can and move on. I'm mobile and can move about, no restrictions there. Have tentative hotel reservations at a B&B in Bayeux, it can be changed. Jet lag doesn't affect us, we can hit the ground running. Any advice would be appreciated please. Should we go to the D-Day beaches first, Mont St. Michel second and stop at Versailles on the way back or reverse this order? Thank you.

Posted by
4132 posts

Candi, I am sorry to learn of your illness.

This itinerary, in such a short time, will really be easier, and will give you better access to Mt. St. Michel, if you and yours can manage a car, at least for the stretch in Normandy and Brittany. Or perhaps hire a taxi or driver between Bayeux and MSM.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Because you are arriving so late, I think visiting Versailles is probably out for day one. So you must proceed immediately to Bayeux in Normandy. You can get there in time for dinner by rail from Paris, earlier if you drive from deGaulle. Arrange (in advance) a guided tour of the D-Day beaches for the next day.

if MSM is a priority, I urge you to see it the right way, that is, by spending the late afternoon, night, and morning there, avoiding the worst of the crowds. It's about a 50-mile drive from Bayeux. You could rent a car or else hire a driver.

The next day, Wednesday, you'll need to get yourself to Paris. There is, I think, a bus from Pontorson (right by MSM) to the train station in Rennes, or you could drive there and return the car near the station.

Thursday is Versailles and whatever else you'd like to do in Paris, and Friday is on to Dubrovnic.

It's a lot of ground to cover, but if you make your reservations well in advance it is perfectly feasible in the time you have.

Posted by
676 posts

Hi Candi, I'm so sorry to hear of your illness. I can offer a few bits of advice from our trip in 2015. We trained to Caen upon arrival in CDG and picked our rental car up there and made the short drive to Bayeux to spend the rest of our day. It was very easy and would recommend it. We used Sean Claxton as our private guide for the DDay beaches and he did a wonderful job - highly recommend him. If you do not wish to spend the money for a private guide, I think there are several on here who have been very happy with Overlord Tours. The next day when you drive to MSM, you could stop and see a few other DDay sights along the way or some othe interesting things in the area. Do plan to get to MSM in plenty of time before the last tour of the church. We boot-scooted through town (fairly steep climb) and missed the last one by a few minutes. Lastly, we loved our day at Versailles. If possible, plan to go on the King's Apartments tour offered by Versailles itself. It costs a few euros more than regular admission and we found it to be a fabulous experience. You move through some wonderful rooms in a very small group which is intimate and a stark contrast to the crowded rooms in the rest of the palace. If planning to see the Trianon, Petite Trianon, or Marie Antoinette's Hamlet (which I also highly recommend) consider getting tickets to the little train that runs around the estate. It truly is a long walk to the Hamlet from the Palace (took us about 40 minutes and we weren't moving too slowly). We found it to be a long day of walking to see everything. If you wish to reference our trip report, it's here, I hope you may find it helpful. Best wishes for you having a stellar trip!

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/france-september-2015-normandy-and-paris-trip-report

Posted by
148 posts

Thank you for the replies. Unfortunately I need to plan this trip without a car as my spouse isn't comfortable driving in Europe. I'm not sure where to fit in Versailles into the trip.

Posted by
676 posts

I am not an expert for visiting without a car but others here or the Rick Steves guidebook should hopefully fill in the gaps. I believe you can get to Bayeux via public transportation fairly easily. You may try to get a custom tour that would take you to DDay sights then drive you to MSM? Wednesday morning at MSM then get back to Paris. Thursday, you can easily get to Versailles by the RER public transportation from Paris. I wish I knew more about public transportation to MSM...for what it's worth, driving in France was a pleasure. But I understand not wanting to.

Posted by
1540 posts

My friends and I did this last February without a car. We stayed in Paris most of the time and while in Paris we took the train one day to Versailles - arrived early to beat the long lines (but they were still long) You can take a taxi if needed from the train station the few blocks to the Gates of Versailles.
Another day we took the train to Vernon (the train station for Monet's Giverney museum and Gardens). There is a public bus that takes everyone to the entrance to Giverney (and back to the train station).
Then a 3 day visit to Bayeux, Normandy, Mount St. Michel.....
We took the train to Bayeux (train change in Caen) and stayed 2 or 3 nights at a hotel right across the road from the central square(parking area). We found Bayeux to be very walk-able and easy to get around.
We booked an all day tour to the Beaches and Cemeteries in Normandy using viator.com and the next day we booked tour with the same company to Mount St. MIchel.
Note that Viator is a consolidator and they booked us with a local tour company Overland Tours.

We loved everything about our tours and also spent several days in Paris seeing the most famous sites and museums (we bought a 1 week Paris Pass - for our transportation and admissions)
Any questions about more details - just let me know.

Posted by
4132 posts

Depending on time of year, there is an SNCF connection between Bayeux and Pontorson, where MSM is. The exact route varies, but involves several transfers and will take you several hours or more. Part of the route may be by bus.

That is why I suggested a driver for that leg of the trip. I am sure there are day tours to MSM from Bayeux, but they represent a poor experience in my view.

As I recall, the connection from Pontorson to Rennes is much more regular. It may also be a bus, but you will not have to transfer until Rennes. The train to Paris from Rennes is a TGV.

The local train system will take you from Paris to Versailles without difficulty.

Posted by
32244 posts

candi,

I'm so sorry to hear about your illness.

Regarding your questions, there are several possibilities and something like this might work (especially since you're not affected by jet lag).....

Sunday - D1 - Depart NYC
Monday - D2 / N1 - arrive Paris / CDG - Metro or Taxi to Gare St. Lazare, travel to Bayeux
Tuesday - D3 / N2 - take one of the excellent D-Day tours. One good possibility would be Overlord Tour as they offer both full and half day tours. Using a tour is prudent as the historic sights are quite spread out, and they provide transportation. If you take a half-day tour, you could visit Mont St. Michel in the afternoon. I vaguely recall there are tours of MSM available from Bayeux, but I'd have to check. While in Bayeux, you could also see the famous Bayeux Tapestry. It's highly advisable to pre-book the tours in Normandy well in advance.
Wednesday - D4 / N1 - take the train back to Paris (Gare St. Lazare) and then Metro or Taxi to the area of your hotel.
Thursday - D5 / N2 - travel by RER to Versailles and tour the Chateau and the Gardens if you're interested. I'd suggest allocating at least 4-6 hours for that (basically a full day with travel times). You didn't say what time of year this trip is taking place, but I suggested this order as it's not advisable to tour Versailles on Tuesdays as it's often dreadfully crowded.
Friday - Flight to Dubrovnik

I hope this will be an incredible and wonderful trip for you.

Posted by
151 posts

The appropriate schedule to to visit this part of France also depends on the period you want arrive. For example MSM is not crowded during the day at least between November and March (of course some special reason may always happen...).
If public transport does not suit your needs/schedule, you can consider a day tour along the D-Day beaches, the following day a shuttle service between Bayeux and MSM (for ex Bayeux shuttle), night in MSM, and finally a tour in MSM including transfer to Rennes to easily get a TGV train back to Paris (2 hours), for ex with http://visite.bretagne.free.fr/index.php/en/nature/mont-saint-michel.html.

Posted by
7496 posts

We didn't use it, but many past posts here have mentioned a daily shuttle daytrip to MSM run by the Churchill hotel in Bayeux. If you read the official MSM website about local facilities, you will be reassured that you can probably see all of MSM close-up. The long uphill walk (after the level arrival on the island) and stairs could be a factor, but you indicate that your mobility is good.

Posted by
148 posts

Thank you for the replies. We will be arriving in Paris on Monday, 3 April approx. 11:00 am. If I'm correct, the suggestions that I'm receiving that seem to work would be; leave Paris for Bayeux where will spend the night. Tuesday take a tour of the D-Day area. Don't think I would have time to fit the Bayeux tapestry in this schedule. Tuesday evening somehow make our way to MSM (not sure how yet) where we will spend the night. Tour MSM Weds morning for Paris, spending two nights. Thursday take a train to Versailles. And Friday we leave for Dubrovnik. It seems to me as if it would be easier to spend the entire time in Bayeux, taking a tour from there to MSM. Will it really be that busy on a Weds. the beginning of April at MSM? It seems easier to get to Paris from Bayeux than from the MSM area. Is that the case? Thank you.

Posted by
4132 posts

MSM is a 4-hour train ride from Paris, but if you are going to Bayeux I think it makes sense to make arrangements to travel to MSM from there.

The plan to spend only 1 night in Bayeux and get, somehow, to MSM after a very full day of sightseeing does not sound great to me, but you are juggling a lot of destinations in a very short time frame so I suppose trade-offs are unavoidable. Another imperfect trade-off might be your original idea of MSM as a day trip from Bayeux.

Posted by
7496 posts

As Adam suggests, you are minimizing the distance to MSM from Bayeux and eliding the difficulty of transportation without a rental car. You have not made clear whether you are among the many here who consider sleeping ON MSM a lifetime imperative, or like me, just want to spend part of one day at this major site. There are many more rooms "beside" MSM than are "on" MSM. If you reject another night in Bayeux to take a daytrip to MSM, that's fine, but your decision sounds tentative. The fact is that there is much more, potentially, to see at the Normandy beaches and in Bayeux than there is at MSM. But stamina is a part of it, as is local transportation.

Versailles, especially by public transportation, has a LOT of level walking. Is your walking ability "unlimited?" Will you need to hoard some energy?

Posted by
1806 posts

You can do this without a car if your husband is not comfortable with driving and you don't have your heart set on spending an overnight on Mont St. Michel. My suggestion would be:

Monday - arrive at 11AM and spend relaxed afternoon and overnight in Paris.

Tuesday - arrange in advance for a "Skip the Line" tour of the palace of Versailles and get a golf cart rental, bikes or use the small tram to get around the extensive gardens and minimize some of the walking. Spend the night in Paris.

Wednesday - arrange in advance for a private guide to get the most of a visit to the D-Day sites and determine in advance if you want to focus on the American sites or the British/Canadian ones. For example, we took the first train out of Paris and got off in Carentan and met our private guide (Sylvain Kast - he's excellent). While it was a long day and we could not cover everything, we still saw a great deal. Sylvain was happy to tailor the tour to whatever sites we wanted to include. We ended our day in Bayeux so you can stay overnight in your B&B.

Thursday - get private driver or shuttle service from Bayeaux to Mont St. Michel. Return to Paris Thursday evening by train.

Posted by
148 posts

Hello. No my walking abilities are fine as of right now and should remain so for awhile. Ceidleh, that sounds like a plan but I don't like the thought of moving back and forth with our luggage as much. Would it be easier to spend the night near Versailles and then take a train to the Normandy area after touring Versailles Tuesday? Thanks.

Posted by
4132 posts

Candi, if you see Versailles on Tuesday, I don't see how you get to see the beaches plus MSM and catch your flight to Dubrovnik on Friday.

See Versailles as a day trip from Paris, which is easy, on Thursday.

Posted by
509 posts

Candi,

You have plenty of good advice so far. We'll just add the following regarding D-Day tours. We had a great day with Bertrand Saudrais as private guide. Here's his website. http://www.executived-daytours.com/ This may be of particular interest because he will pick you up/drop you off anywhere (e.g. your arrival or departure train station). In addition, he: is a genuine scholar on the Normandy Invasion; punctuates the tour with maps, photos and anecdotes; speaks excellent English; is charming, funny; will customize your tour (half or whole day; get the full day) to your particular interests; and will communicate promptly regarding your plans and schedule. (Caution: he's not cheap, but we considered it a very worthwhile splurge.) Reviews can be checked on TripAdvisor at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187181-d1788361-Reviews-Executive_D_Day_Private_Tours-Bayeux_Calvados_Basse_Normandie_Normandy.html
Like others above, we are very sorry about your illness, and admire your optimistic use of travel as the best medicine.

Posted by
5697 posts

Candi, to avoid transferring with all your luggage, is there a chance you can leave your main bag(s) at a hotel in Paris and just carry one/two change(s) of clothes in a small bag to Bayeux ? We did this once when we were returning to the same hotel after three days away, and it made the shorter trip much easier.

Posted by
148 posts

To leave my luggage in a hotel in Paris would mean paying for a room there while paying for a room in Bayeux, correct? I'm hoping to find the most reasonably priced option involving all three places. I want the photos of my husband and I to be something he can look back at with happiness and love in his eyes. It means so much to me to be able to do this with him as our last trip together. I appreciate all of the advice everyone has given me. Thank you so much.

Posted by
27353 posts

Candi, if you are returning to the same Paris hotel after visiting Normandy and Mont St. Michel, the hotel will likely be glad to store your extra luggage unless it is such a small place that there just isn't any storage room. The hotel might even be willing to store the luggage if you are not going to spend another night there (in that case, I would tip especially generously upon my return).

If for some reason the Paris hotel cannot accommodate you, check into the possibility of luggage storage at the train station from which you will depart for Bayeux or to which you will return from MSM.

Posted by
32244 posts

candi,

The suggested Itinerary I posted earlier should cover everything you want to do. There's no need to leave luggage in hotels in Paris or whatever. That just complicates the situation. Regarding the Bayeux Tapestry you can walk to the Museum from your hotel in Bayeux and see that in an hour. However if you don't have time available, it's not essential.