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Western France Itinerary help

We just booked our flights for September 21 - October 3 round trip to Paris. We have some basic ideas for our itinerary but would love some help firming it up so that I can start booking hotel reservations. This is the basic outline of where we were thinking of going.

Rent a car at the airport and drive to...
Amboise- 3 nights
Mt. St. Michel
Bayeux- 3 nights
Rouen to drop of car and take train to Paris
Paris- 3 nights

That leaves us with 2 nights to play with. Is is worth a night each in MSM and Honfleur? We typically like to spend at least 2 nights at a location. Would it make more sense to spend 2 night near MSM and stop in Honfleur on our way to Rouen. Also, by taking the train from Rouen to Paris, we are missing the opportunity to see Giverney. Is this something that we should reconsider? I am not sure if the gardens in late September would be too late in the season. I know that adding time to Paris is probably another option but my husband had to be talked into the 3 nights we are staying there (he only wanted 2!). Any suggestions, recommendations or tips would be much appreciated.

Posted by
37 posts

I would recommend Giverny. It is wonderful. Although your would have to check how much the gardens are still in bloom since it is in the fall. I have been there several times but in the summer. Angers is a city. I have not been to La Rochelle but I have heard nice things about it. The Chartres Cathedral is wonderful and and nice town where you could relax for a couple of days.

Posted by
4132 posts

Hello Stacie.

This strikes me as a generally intelligent and appealing itinerary, nice job! As for your questions:

1) One night each is probably about right for MSM and Honfleur. (2 nights is probably too much for MSM.) However, if that's too fast paced for you, it is definitely worth detouring to Honfleur on the way to Rouen. If your plan is to return to Paris that same day, however, that may be too long of a day.

2) Both Rouen and Giverny are worthwhile, even more so if you have seen Monet's water lilies and Rouen cathedral paintings. The former are permanently at the Orangerie and the latter belong (I think) to the Marmatton but are sometimes out on loan. (Both are in Paris.)

But my point is that either can be seen as a day trip from Paris. Both, even, if you get an early start. So maybe pitch that as a reason to spend another day or two in Paris.

Posted by
7175 posts

I would reverse your itinerary.

21. Arrive Paris. Pick up car.
Drive to Rouen (2 nights)
22. Day to Honfleur
23. Drive to Bayeux (2 nights)
24. Normandy beaches
25. Drive to Mt. St. Michel (1 nights)
26. Drive to Amboise (3 nights)
27-28. Loire chateaux
29. Drop off car in Tours. Train to Paris (4 nights)
30-02. Paris sights
03. Depart Paris

Posted by
509 posts

We employed an itinerary with many similarities to David's suggestions. Additional comments: we visited Giverney en route to Bayeux (from CDG). It was an easy and pleasant detour, arriving just before opening time. We visited Honfleur one morning as a day-trip from Bayeux, easily adding an afternoon of free-lance poking around the Pays d'Auge (highly recommended, and an easy detour on route from Honfleur back to Bayeux.) Those options would accommodate your preference for minimizing "pack-drive-unpack" situations. As senior, 1st-time drivers in France, we found Normandy very easy to navigate -- whether on the Motorways or back roads. Others will certainly help with respect to a September visit to Giverney; can only note that it was great in early May. I suspect the gardeners keep it in top-notch condition as late as possible in the Fall. For what it's worth, our visit to MSM was also a day-trip from Bayeux (leaving Bayeux by 8:00 a.m. armed with coffee and croissants), but we've seen countless posts raving about spending the night after the crowds have dispersed. In hindsight, we wish we'd done that. Sounds like a great holiday, Stacie.

Posted by
3861 posts

I like both itineraries and can add that we've been to Giverney in mid September and also in late July and the gardens were beautifully blooming at both times including the water lilies. I'd definitely stop enroute from somewhere for a few hours at Giverney. As for your "extra" 2 days, I'd add one to either Amboise or Bayeux and one night to Paris.

Posted by
169 posts

Stacie: In your stay at Bayeux, are you planning to do a tour of the Normandy beaches? We did a guided tour, and found it very moving. I think we got the tour out of the English named hotel that is fairly close to the cathedral. Peter

Posted by
9953 posts

I went to Giverny in mid-October one year (2 weeks before closing for the season) and it was beautiful. It was one of the highlights of my trip.

Posted by
151 posts

If you want to concentrate only on Normandy, then your places to stay are good.
But going to Mont Saint Michel lets you the opportunity to see at least a few places nearby in Brittany, for example Saint Malo, Cancale, Fougères, Dinan, Dol, Rennes... Of course it would be only an overview of Bretagne (one or two weeks would be ideal :)), but quite different from Normandy.

Posted by
56 posts

Thank for all of the great suggestions. We had planned to end the trip in Paris so that we would be near the airport. I do like the itinerary suggestion but thinking it could be done in reverse. I think that I would like to spend a night in MSM to be able to enjoy it in the evening without the crowds. We will need to decide if we should stay in MSM or outside of it (suggestions?) Honfleur looks like we can stop for a few hours to enjoy without spending the night. It sounds like Giverney shouldn't be missed, so we will have to decide wether to spend the extra night in Rouen and stop in Giverney on the way to Paris, or spend the extra night in Paris and take the train to Giverney. I really appreciate all of the help!

Posted by
446 posts

We stayed one night on Mont Saint Michel and I loved it. If you decide to do it you will need to reserve far in advance as there are only five hotels on the island. We stayed at Hotel du Guesclin and did the half board which includes a nice dinner and breakfast. I would definitely recommend it.