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Planning a Trip to Normandy!

Hello! My name is Tilly. I am twelve years old and helping me, my dad and my fifteen year old brother plan a 7 day trip to Normandy. I was wondering if any one has any advice on what area to stay in, places to see, itineraries... Thanks for any help you can give!

Posted by
21289 posts

Do you plan to rent a car, or will you use trains and buses to move around?

Where will you be before you go to Normandy--Paris? What about after Normandy?

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you for your reply! We will be using trains and buses to get around. We are flying into Paris but going immediately to Normandy for one week. Then we will spend one week in Paris and fly back home (chicago).

Posted by
776 posts

Tilly, you sound like just the person who would enjoy some of the wonderful guidebooks available. Eyewitness Top 10 Normandy is one that has lots of pictures. There are many of other guides. A trip to your local library might help out here. When you get your trip a little more advanced in the planning stage, people here will be happy to answer your questions. Planning a trip is great fun.

Posted by
21289 posts

I visited Normandy last year, and I didn't have a car, either. I had a bit more time than you do, but you'll be able to see a lot.

If you are interested in World War II and the D-Day beaches, there are several companies that conduct one-day van tours of the area. They are very good. It's difficult to get to many of the key sites reasonably quickly if you are traveling by bus, and even if you have car, you will not know how to get around like the guides do. It's really worth it to take one of those tours, even though last year they cost 100 euros apiece. I don't know whether there are any discounts for children. I took an Overlord Tour. Other people here have liked the Dale Booth tours. Most of the van tours depart from the center of Bayeux, so that's a good place to spend two or three nights.

Bayeux has other things to see: a pretty historic center, an old cathedral, the famous Bayeux Tapestry and a very good World War II museum out on the edge of town. So it would be easy to fill two complete days in Bayeux, one day for a tour to the D-Day sites, and one day in town.

Unfortunately, Bayeux isn't a great place to stay while you're trying to visit some of the picturesque towns along the coast to the east, because to get much of anywhere you have to travel to the much larger city of Caen and change trains/buses. Caen is very close to Bayeux and is a hub for trains and buses. I spent part of my time in Caen, and I traveled all the way to Honfleur, formerly a fishing village (now touristy) that was very popular with artists because it is so picturesque. I also saw Deauville, a turn-of-the-(20th) century resort that is fun to wander around, and Cabourg, which I thought was more interesting than Deauville. Normally, I would tell any traveler it was silly to spend nights in both Bayeux and Caen since they are so close to each other, but because of the way the transportation is set up, I think it is a good idea in this case.

Caen was pretty much wiped out by Allied bombing at the end of the war, but it does have a few historic sights that escaped destruction. It has a castle and a couple of abbeys. It also has a truly huge "Peace Museum" which covers the period leading up to World War II, the war itself, and the Cold War afterward. I liked it, but many people say it is just too big.

The third place I stayed in Normandy was Rouen. It's a very pretty historic city, much damaged during the war but beautifully reconstructed, so you'd never know those buildings were in rubble in 1945. Rouen is where Jean of Arc was killed. The city has a large cathedral and several other old churches, plus some interesting museums. And it's just very pretty to walk around.

There are many other interesting places in Normandy. After looking at a guide book or two, you'll come up with your own list of places to go.

Posted by
7980 posts

Stay in Bayeux. You will be close to the WWII beaches and can also see the Bayeux Tapestey from 1066.Amazing.
Another nice town to stay in is Honfleur.

Posted by
31513 posts

tilly,

Check your local Library or larger bookstores to see if you can find a copy of the Rick Steves France guidebook, preferably a 2018 edition. That will provide you with a lot of information to help plan your trip. You could also check other guidebooks as mentioned above, but I find the RS books to be about the best.

As others have mentioned, Bayeux is a good central location to use as a home base. While there you could see the famous Tapestry, which describes a much earlier battle. There's also an excellent WW-II museum in Bayeux.

Some additional information would be helpful.....

  • Is this a first trip to Europe for all of you?
  • Are you mainly interested in WW-II sites in Normandy, or other things?
  • Are you only planning to see Normandy for one week before returning home?
  • Does your time frame of a week include your two flight days?
  • When is this trip taking place?
  • Have you booked flights yet?

With more information, it will be easier to offer more specific advice.

Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
595 posts

You may also wish to get a copy of "D-Day -- Major and Mrs Holt's Pocket Battlefield Guide to Normandy Landing Beaches." We found this book helpful in the planning stages to know places we wanted to visit. Because of this book, we saw some interesting new sculptures in the area. Two of my husband's favorite sites were listed in this book -- two sites off the usual tourist route -- Hillman Strong Point, and Musee le Mur de l'Atlantique.

Posted by
1157 posts

Another much more specific website you should investigate is www.tripadvisor/Normandy forum. There are even forums for individual towns like Honfleur, Bayeux, Caen, and others. Local residents of those towns and travelers who have stayed in those places can give you really great advice on hotels, cafes, buses and trains, museums, and the all important shopping. If you want to learn about train travel all over France and Europe, check out www.seat61.com which takes the mystery out of how best to travel around by train or ferry. Good luck with your planning.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you everyone for the advise so far. Not to worry, I got some guidebooks! Bayeux sounds like a good place to start. My dad loved seeing the Bayeux tapestries when he visited Normandy when he was my age. Does anyone know how easy it would be to take a train from the Paris airport to Normandy? Can anyone reccomend any hotels or places to stay in Bayeux? Thanks so much again!

Posted by
31513 posts

tilly,

It is possible to take trains from Paris / CDG to Normandy, but there's not a single train that covers that route. You'll first need to get from CDG to Gare St. Lazare (there are about six large stations in Paris). The easiest and simplest way to make that connection is to take a Taxi from the airport, although that won't be the cheapest option. What time does your flight arrive in Paris?

From Gare St. Lazare there are numerous trains to Bayeux every day, some direct and some with one change in Caen. The direct trips take about 2H:10M. You can check all the options by using the Bahn.de (German rail) website, however you won't be able to buy tickets on that site. It would be just as easy to buy your tickets to Bayeux when you arrive at Gare St. Lazare.

The RS France guidebooks have lots of listings for accommodations in Bayeux. You could start by having a look at the Churchill Hotel, which is a very convenient choice. If you decide to take one of the excellent local D-Day tours, they often pick up near the hotel. I'm sure that others on the forum will be able to offer more hotel suggestions.

Posted by
6720 posts

It is hard to do Normandy for a week without a car. If at all possible your Dad should rent a car; driving in Normandy is not difficult. But if he doesn't want to do that it is hard but not impossible. I am planning a trip to Brittany right now with the same limitations and it is a challenge, but we will be able to do a lot, just not some of the things we could have done in the past when we rented cars.

We stayed at the hotel Churchill in Baueux. The bus stop for the all day Overlord Tours of the landing beaches is very near the hotel. These tours are excellent and you do need to book as soon as you know your timing as they do fill up. So that would take one day and you would see a lot. Bayeux also has the Tapestry and a nice Cathedral. The Churchill also does an all day van trip to Mont St Michel; this fills up also so again you would want to book it first thing when you know you will be there. You do not have to stay at the hotel to use this trip but it is a good place to stay. That is 3 nights two days. I would be looking at a good guidebook that focuses on this part of france for ideas about where you can go by bus or train after that.

Posted by
11973 posts

I haven't seen you outline your interests yet.

Are you interested in Norman history? There is supposed to be a great castle in Caen that I haven't visited yet. The Tapestry in Bayeux was a personal favorite but it may be on loan to England during your trip. I have no idea what they will do without it in Bayeux?

Are you interested in the middle ages? Rouen has an incredible medieval center than can be explored for at least a few hours. This is where Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) was tried as a heretic and burned at the stake (by the English). You can't go wrong visiting Mt. St. Michel; it's like a medieval Disneyland - like going back in time (except for all the tourists).

Are you interested in the sea? You will enjoy the port town of Honfleur. It's a really pretty town with an old port. Of course you will be on the sea in much of Normandy. Fecamp is more of a working port town, you can see how the boat harbor has an underwater dam, to keep the water level high when the tide goes out. The tides here are amazing. The difference between high and low tide is often 25 feet (difference in depth of the sea) at Mt. St. Michel the entire bay drains at low tide then fills and turns MSM into an island again at high tide.

Are you interested in WWII? There are lots of organized tours of battlefields, cemeteries and museums related to the D-Day invasion. One of my favorite sights was along the cliffs north of Honfleur in the area of Etretat and Fecamp. Along the top of the cliffs are a lot of German WWII defenses. Unlike at the battlefields, these defenses weren't destroyed. They were abandoned when the attack came elsewhere. They're mostly filled with dirt now, to keep people out, but you can climb on and around them and see what they looked like then.

Are you interested in views? Etretat and Fecamp have spectacular cliffs. The farmland in Normandy is really nice. The cows, horses, geese and sheep seem about as content as possible.

Are you interested in food? Most things are creamy in Normandy, cream soups, creamy cheeses. You need to try ice cream made from their unpasteurized cream, it's so much better than ours in the U.S. They also make a lot of great apple cider. There is seafood too. I really like Moules frites. It's a big pot of stewed Mussels and a big side of thick french fries. You can order Moules in various styles. I personally always order the local style (in this case Normandie) when I'm in their area.

It's not hard to get to either Rouen, Caen or Bayeux from Paris. I've only take the train from downtown (St. Lazare station) but I think there are options straight from Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Posted by
447 posts

Hi Tilly,
I hope your planning is going well! We have loved both of our trips to Normandy. On our last one, we stayed at Hotel Particulier Poppa.https://www.hotel-poppa.com/en/home/ It is located in Bayeaux, is close to everything and we had a free parking spot. Philippe and Sophie provided us with a wonderful stay. We toured the Pegasus Bridge Memorial on our last trip and felt that it was time well spent. http://memorial-pegasus.com/mmp/pegasus_bridge/index.php I do agree with a previous poster that it much easier to tour the beaches if you have a car and driving is easy there. Perhaps your dad would consider that. We have always taken the train from Gare St Lazare to Caen and rented a car. Check the car rental agencies hours, as some are closed on Sunday. On our first trip there, we opted for a private half day tour in order to get a good overview of the D-Day sites. It is expensive, but in our opinion well worth it. Our guide, Sylvan Kast, tailored the tour to our interests. http://www.d-day-experience-tours.com/prices/
Have a great trip, and I hope you will report back to the forum once you return home!