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Where to base ourselves in Normandy?

Hello! My husband and I are planning a 12-day trip (including travel days) to Paris and Normandy region. I've been to Paris several times, but this is my husband's first trip there. Neither of us has been to Normandy. We plan on starting in Paris for five or six nights and then heading to the Normandy area. We would leave Paris and perhaps rent a car at CDG and drive to Normandy. Once in Normandy can you recommend the best place to base ourselves? While in Normandy we want to tour the D Day beaches, go to Mont St. Michel and visit the Bayeux Tapestry, at a minimum. Appreciate any recommendations you can provide. Thank you.

Posted by
3334 posts

12 total days is only 10 nights in France. And you will need to be in Paris for the night before your return flight. I'd actually recommend going to Normany on your arrival day. But instead of driving a long distance after an international flight, I'd take the train as far as Caen, rent the car there, then drive to Bayeux. Stay there for the bulk of your Normandy stay, with perhaps a one night stay on or near MSM before returning to Paris. Drop the car somewhere enroute and finish the return to Paris by train to avoid the Paris traffic.

Posted by
55 posts

Fall of 2019 I spent 4 days and 3 nights in Bayeux. Flew into CDG, took a train to Bayeux that same day. I stayed in the downtown Bayeux.

Took the full day American Normandy Beach Bayeux Shuttle tour. Lot of sights and the tour guide was excellent. The Normandy sites were brought to life with the guide and he put things in perspective. The tour ended at the American Cemetery. We arrived in time for taps and the flag ceremony, an experience I will never forget.

Would have gone with Bayeux Shuttle service to Mont St. Michel but the tour was cancelled. Some group had rented out the Abby for the entire day.

(MAHB) Museum of Art and History Baron is excellent. Not stuffy, easy to view and read the panels in English. It is next the downtown Bayeux cathedral.

The Bayeux Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy was a real gem and walking distance (for me) from downtown Bayeux.

The Tapestry is very very interesting. You cannot stop the audio guide which explains each panel, so I did feel a bit rushed. I went off season and went to see the Tapestry in the morning before tour groups were bused in. That allowed me to back track after the audio ended, which I know is not really allowed , but since there were so few guests, I don't think the staff cared.

Posted by
11432 posts

Bayeux would be a sensible base.

But be wary of Bayeux Shuttle. They are in serious financial trouble and some of their guides are suing them for back pay. They canceled a tour on me in October, two days before the tour was to begin. (Their storefront office was right down the street from my hotel and I never saw anyone in there.)

I was able to get on a tour with Overlord Tours. Excellent company, excellent tour

Posted by
3485 posts

Here is another possibility - take the train to Caen , and pick up the car there . ( rental offices across the street from the train station ) a short drive takes you to Bayeux , The driving in Normandy is pleasant , and takes you from sight to sight along the Coast Road ( D 514 ) Do your homework up front , you will be able to identify the sights that interest you most . I started in Arromanches amd meandered west . over two days , I went as far as St Mere Eglise .

Posted by
676 posts

Steven's advice is spot on. Bayeux is near the D-day beaches, and great town/city on its own right, but not so close to Mont Saint Michel. Having a car in this area in general is extremely beneficial.

Posted by
2054 posts

I would definitely continue to Normandy the day you arrive CDG.

My preference would be train directly to Bayeux, making it your base. If you are concentrating on D Day events, I would hire one of the local guides, of which there are many good ones. If you want to explore more, perhaps as far as Mont St Michel, I would rent a car the following day and return it in Paris, somewhere near Port Maillot which would be a very easy transition from A13 to A14.

This leaves you uninterrupted in Paris and in position for your eventual return flight.

Posted by
1127 posts

I, myself, find Rouen to be a great home base because there is so much to do within the city and it is easy to reach places via train. Caen is nice, but I find Rouen to be much more charming.

Posted by
130 posts

My summer 2020 trip was cancelled for Covid, I was going to stay in Bayeux (Churchill Hotel), take an Overland Tour, stay at MSM and them a few chateauxs in Loire. FWIW I received full refunds from all except Churchill.

Posted by
5262 posts

I agree about Bayeux as a base, especially if you want to see the tapestry, which is amazing. And don't miss the nearby cathedral where it used to hang. No need to go back to CDG to get the car, take the train to Caen and rent it there. You can return it at CDG if your homeward flight is in the morning, and spend the last night at an airport hotel. But it's a long drive, especially from MSM, not to be chanced on the date of the flight.

Posted by
292 posts

Bayeux is fine. It's a nice town. Very touristy, but that may not bother you. It's a good home base while visiting the area.

One thing I'll mention about driving in Normandy is, once you get off the Autoroutes, you need to be careful about mud on the roads (mostly "D" highways) from agricultural traffic. Farmers routinely drive their tractors directly onto roadways from fields, carrying a considerable amount of mud onto the road. It can make roads at a minimum very messy to drive on, and sometimes quite hazardous due to reduced traction from the mud. Drive carefully.

Posted by
158 posts

When we went to Normandy we stayed in a BnB not far from Vire. Not at the coast but it put us in heart of countryside and close to Mont St Michel. But we were still able to easily drive up to the Invasion beaches, Bayeux, cheese and other sites.

Research and find some countryside BnB's or gites. Lots of Brit ex-pats in the area (it was part of England after all) and they went to open up their dream of hospitality. At the time we visited it seemed like the beach communities were mostly Brits on holiday.

we were still in the heart of bocage country and in the area of battles to close the Failais Gap.

We rented a car in Paris at Gare du Ost for our drive. No need to go to CDG.

My gut feeling .. if you get the right lodging, the location won't matter.

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you all for taking the time to provide great advice. I am exploring all these recommendations! Stay tuned.

Posted by
1157 posts

After arriving by train from Paris and once by ferry from Portsmouth, we fetched our rental car from across the street of the Caen railroad station and drove to our B&B just outside of Villers-Bocage. Check out bandbnormandie.com. It was about 20 minutes from Bayeux and 90 minutes from Mont St. Michel via the motorway. Easy peasy. We stayed the first night at the Churchill Hotel in Bayeux and took a D Day tour that departed from behind the hotel. The tapestry was a couple blocks from the Churchill. We returned to the beaches with our car and spent another two days exploring the D Day museums, small towns, and invasion beaches. After MSM we drove around the bay to Cancale, Brittany for a remarkable seafood lunch with MSM visible across the bay. We drifted back along the back roads to our B&B, stopping along the way for local cheeses, other items, and of course, Calvados. It is one of our all time favorite trips.