Please sign in to post.

Where to stay--northern France

We are 2 senior women "doing" the battlefields of both wars with some culture (Amsterdam and Bayeux) at the 2 ends of our 16 night trip.. We plan 4 nights in Lille but can't decide whether to then go to Amiens (for the remaining 4 nights) or to split this time between Amiens and Rouen. We have a car. Advice?

Posted by
160 posts

For my 2 cents, I would certainly go to Rouen, if possible. And if you're going to be in that neighborhood, I would highly recommend Honfleur, as well. BTW, if you're doing the battlefields, I highly recommend the "Major and Mrs.Holt's Battlefield Guide" series covering this region for both WWI and WWII.

Happy travels!

Posted by
139 posts

I think you should at least visit Amiens, we found it a nice stop from Bayeux to Lille!

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks. We certainly plan to see the cathedral in Amiens--but have found the accommodations available in Rouen sound more interesting.

Posted by
10 posts

We just stayed in Rouen and loved it. The Cathedral is wonderful and so enjoyable as it is not crowded like the major ones. The nightly light show on the front of it was much more than I had expected. We discovered the historical Rouen area (to the east of the Cathedral, I think) the last day of our stay there, which was sad, because it is wonderful and has the most streets with the old, slanting buildings of any place we have been....and we have been to York.
If you are travelling to Bayeaux, make sure to leave lots of time after seeing the Tapestry to wander around as the town is quaint and gorgeous.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks so much--I found a really nice apartment in the old section of Rouen so (in spite of some additional driving) decided to stay there rather than Amiens. We have 4 nights in Bayeux to see the tapestry and the D-Day beaches. Thanks again.

Posted by
12 posts

Just to finish the story--we stayed 4 nights in an excellent airbnb in Rouen, driving back north to visit the Somme battlefields, etc. and saw all the sights of Rouen, then moved to Bayeux (and an even nicer airbnb (steps from the tapestry)--loved the town--very easy to get to all the D-Day sights. Only complaint about both cities--all the sights and museums shut at 5:00 and many restaurants shut after lunch and at 10:00 at night! Ended up having a lot of picnics--but the weather was wonderful.

Can't believe Rick completely leaves out the northern part of France (Picardy, Calais, etc. and all the Somme area) in his France guides. His Snapshot Normandy advice was great for the D-day sights--includes a section on Canada, German cemeteries, etc.

We even went to Dunkirk --only "missed" Dieppe (a big Canadian interest) and the Amiens cathedral.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

Thanks for the report. It's standard that the museums close at 1700, pretty much everywhere, be it Vienna, Warsaw, Berlin , Paris, etc. There is also the German WW1 cemetery near Amiens. Plenty to see going from Amiens to Lille, as regards to culture and all the war related sites. Northern France is the one area I know best and have spent the most time in France.

Posted by
12 posts

Hi Fred: I agree about northern France and am amazed that Rick Steves simply eaves the whole of Northern France out of his France guide--he starts with Normandy--disgraceful. We loved Lille (what a square), the Piscine Museum near-by and all the stuff around Ypres--which has the best War Museum of the whole trip. We stayed in Ypres for the playing of the Last Post at 8:00 pm--done every night since 1918 apparently--amazing. Paula

Posted by
14580 posts

@ Paula....Omitting northern France is probably standard in US guide books since it's not at all on the American tourist radar, never has been. With a car, lucky you, (or at least being motorised), you could spend a month in the summer in northern France., say from Paris to the Belgian border to track down tons of WW1 sites (I've done a lot of it...just too much) and then the WW2 sites.

Were you in Arras? The Hotel de Ville has an underground museum on WW1 , only by tour in French. I saw it once by tour, all the guests were French, I was the solo foreigner. On the ground floor is the city Tourist Office with brochures on the various British and Australian war cemeteries plus Vimy and the big German WW1 cemetery (Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof) in the next village...pretty grim and poignant stuff. There are two WW1 museums in the area ..in Meaux and Peronne (accessible by bus only)

Posted by
14580 posts

@ Paula...From Lille to Ypres the area is dotted with British war cemeteries, more concentrated the closer you get to Ypres. You probably saw a lot of that driving up to Ypres. We call it Ypres, the British called it Wipers, the Germans call it Ypern.

Posted by
2004 posts

Paula – Thanks for reporting and glad to hear you have enjoyed your trip so much. A few weeks back I have toured for four days with my car through Upper Normandy and there is enough to explore easily justifying a longer stay outside the beaten path. Visited Dieppe for a few hours, just for getting an impression and in general it is an industrial port and not so much a tourist destination, however there are some nice spots. But for you Canadians it has ofcourse a special place in your hearts. In case you will visit it, is not to miss the stunning view of Eglise Saint Valéry close to a cliff with Dieppe at the background.

Rick Steves has to think about customer satisfaction and pays ofcourse attention to those places most people are looking for. Creating a bit his own beaten path, so one can take the expression backdoor experience with a grain of salt. Outside that is way enough to explore and to discover like the countryside around Rouen, loads of history, lovely tiny places with numerous half-timbered thatched cottages. Northern France is really worth exploring but think more for those looking for history, so you won’t see the mainstream tourist there.

Posted by
12 posts

It seems odd to leave out a whole chunk of a country (full of both scenery and history) just because Americans aren't in the habit of going there! Of course there were no Americans involved in the Battle of the Somme--or most of the battles near Ypres.

Posted by
14580 posts

None of this surprises me about the travel guides.

Posted by
12 posts

That is depressing because I have found (first in Spain, now in Belgium, Holland and France) that the Steves guides are much more interesting and useful than either Michelin, Rough Guide or Lonely Planet (Eyewitness is just a way to carry around a lot of heavy pictures). Steves offers doable walks, realistic tips on how to tackle huge museums (like the Prada) and are generally entertainingly written and accurate. I was very disappointed in his omission of northern France. Do you think anyone in his now vast empire actually reads our comments and critiques?

Posted by
14580 posts

Admittedly, the first guide that I used pertaining to northern France traveling was Let's Go France. I should check in Rough Guide since I use them almost exclusively for Central Europe. Northern France (yes, a whole chunk of a country) is off the American tourist radar, always has been.

Posted by
12 posts

The Rough Guides, etc. are fine for straight information but I find the Steves ones much more readable and useful about what are "must sees" and suggested walking tours--also the occasional "off the beaten track" ideas.

Posted by
9429 posts

People have complained for years on this forum that Rick leaves out most of Germany in his Germany guide. Rick is very limited for every country.

Posted by
12 posts

Wow--and thanks--I consider that unacceptable. I am new to the "Rick" world (stumbled on his Pocket Southern Spain last year and found it great) so looked for what he had for my trip last month.
When you say there have complaints for years--to who? And with what response? If he is just catering to where Americans have always gone and feel comfortable that is hardly a service--is it?

As a reasonably bilingual Canadian I am shocked at how many American reviews on all sorts of sites (airbnb, Trip Advisor, etc.) ramble on about how people did or did not speak English (next to what was wrong with the Wifi) and I hoped he was bringing a more educated and informed service to travelers in his books. Wrong again I guess.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,
In reading the reviews on booking.com (that's the only one I read, I don't bother with Trip Advisor or any others), I do notice there is a pattern among certain nationalities in regards to what is complained about at hotels, hostels, etc. No doubt they are valid but the main question is whether such a complaint or when several complaints focus on that one particular thing is important to you ( I mean the generic "you").

Posted by
12 posts

Hi Fred: you are really quite a traveler! I don't "use" Trip Advisor but if somewhere asks me to put a review on it and I have something nice to say i do so. I find reviews are really important with airbnb and VRBO--that is where I find Americans rambling on about who did or did not speak English and how the wifi works--never mentioning (for example) there is no coffee pot or only one towel! Strange.

Posted by
14580 posts

@ Paula...Thanks. Aside from using Let's Go France to gather info on traveling in northern France, my other source was the old fashion way used back in the 1970s...brochures. The city hall in Arras on the ground has its Tourist Office, lots of brochures and info available on northern France, just as you probably saw in the Tourist Office in Bayeux, plus scholarly works on WW1. What you say about the hotel's staff ability or lack of it to speak English is also what I've read among the critical comments.