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France/Normandy/versailles logistics quesitons

Here are some questions for this part of the trip: Monday Drive to Bayeaux Stop in Caen and explore the museum there. Possibly take the D-day beach tour. The 9am tour would be 17 euros a person cheaper if we can make it..... Check into gite between 4 and 6 Tuesday Relax around Bayeaux Wednesday Explore Normandy area on our own Thursday D- Day Tour Friday Drive to Versailles ( 3 hours) Get there when it opens so we need to leave at 5:30 to get there when it opens at 9. Not sure where we should buy the tickets in advance...somewhere in the Normandy area???? Explore and Leave Versailles at 1 or 2 Drive to Reims ( 1 3/4 hours) Visit the place in Reims where WWII ended. (closes at 5) Stay the night. Saturday
Drive to Verdun and explore in the morning, return car at 4, take train to Bacharach

Posted by
4535 posts

Friday is a killer and probably unrealistic. First: driving time is almost always underestimated. If your drive time is based on an online map, you must add in time to be a little (hopefully only a little) lost and then finding parking. Not to mention heavy traffic. Second: Most people plan to spend a day at Versailles. Of course you can skip large parts of it, but it is really worth more than 4 hours (less when factoring in drive time). Just going out to the Trianons is a couple hours minimum. Third: Don't forget lunch. A picnic in the gardens is a great thing, but if you sit down at a real restaurant that's automatically 1-2 hours in France.

Posted by
524 posts

Chiristine Other than Friday, your itinerary for Normandy is a nice blend of D Day Activities and leisure. For Friday, I agree with Douglas on driving time and perhaps too many activities. And a very long day. Try googling, for ex. "Gites (?) to Versailles drive time". Usually you will find credible sources. This will give you the "real" drive time rather than converting mileage to hours. As you probably know, you can't convert the drive time in the US, with its extensive highway system, to what happens in Europe. By the way, the French toll way take credit cards which gives you some idea of the cost! Versailles is such an awesome experience, especially the gardens and Marie Antoinettes village, you need more than 4 hours. Like the picnic idea. You can rent bikes and explore the gardens which are vast and gorgeous. Also as you wrote, good to get there at 9 AM. Have a wonderful time! Bobbie

Posted by
8700 posts

You can buy tickets for Versailles on the chateau's site and print them yourself. Click on the "Purchase tickets" link on the upper right-hand side of the home page.

Posted by
91 posts

We just returned and our itinerary was similar but done in reverse. I agree with the driving times being underestimate. It took us about 4 hours to drive from Paris to Bayeux. You are leaving earlier so maybe less traffic will help. As to Versailles expect large crowds and even with the advance ticket purchase still had to wait in a very long line to gain entrance (at least we bypassed the ticket purchase line). We arrived at 9:30 AM and didn't leave until about 4:00. Between the palace, gardens, and small residences there is so much to see but worth it. As for a D-Day tour, we booked with Overlord Tours and did the full day Omaha Beach/ Band of Brothers tour. It was terrific and our guide was great. Highly recommend them. Have a great time.

Posted by
8996 posts

I think it makes more sense to take the D-Day tours when you get to Bayeux and then spend your extra time seeing those things that you possibly did not see during the tour or would like more time seeing. Taking the tour the last day you are in Bayeux seems backwards. By the way, the museum in Bayeux is excellent. We spent several hours there.

Posted by
107 posts

I would like to have taken the tour on Tuesday but unfortunately as I was planning it we needed a private tour since we are a group of 5 with a 9 year old. They only give Band of Brothers tours on certain days. I checked several different companies and the day that worked out for us to be able to do it was with Dale Booth on that Thursday. Other people were booked on the other days. Christine

Posted by
2732 posts

Dale should be able to tell you where you are going. If he does the same Band of Brothers tour he did when he was with Battlebus, you won't go to the beaches or Point du Hoc or the American Cemetary. So you will have plenty to do on your own. The German guns at Longue sur Mer would also be a great stop for you. What Jo said makes some sense, but in this case I think your itinerary will work. I am betting your day with Dale will be the highlight of your time in Normandy so having it on your last day will be fine.

Posted by
107 posts

It sounds like many of you think we should just stay the night in Versailles and then drive to Verdun the next morning. One of my husband's partners and another employee each took trips to Paris and had a private tour of Versailles. I asked for a quote and it is pretty pricey. They said it was worth it as they missed all the lines and pushed right through where they needed to be. They absolutely loved it. One thing I didn't understand from Rick's book. It sounded like you could bypass the regular ticket line and go to the tour line and get your tickets and your guided tour time there??? That would be much cheaper than what our friends did. Then again it is a once in a lifetime event. That said, to be honest, I could skip Versailles... an ornate palace is an ornate palace. I am much more excited about the Band of Brothers tour and seeing where those men really were. On the other hand, I HATE LINES. I have successfully avoided them at Disney and other places by getting to places early and having a plan. But it sounds like there may be lines even if you have your ticket and get there early???? I'm not sure what to do. Versailles is a must for my hubby. Christine

Posted by
9110 posts

It'll be a miracle if you make it from Bayeux to Versailles and get parked in four hours, let alone three. Considering the time of day, the center of Reims is going to be three hours from Versailles. Leave Bayeux at five, dash through Versailles and leave at one so you can dash to Reims and find the old SHAEF headquarters before it closes. That's four hours at Versailles without breakfast and all you'll get for lunch is a squished apple out of your hip pocket. Ouch!

Posted by
95 posts

For me, a must-see in Bayeux is the Tapestry. Amazing for history buffs and art appreciators alike. Be sure to drink some cider (alcoholic and bubbly, not like our American cider) and eat some scallops. Very traditional in the area. Bayeux has a fair number of good restaurants. The museum in Caen is wonderful. Give yourself time to see both films and take in all the exhibits. Consider making it up to see Pont du Hoc, if it's not covered in any of the tours you're doing. It was very poignant exploring the bunkers and bomb craters and seeing those cliffs the Army Rangers climbed, with gorgeous views over the Channel. You do have wait in line at Versailles to get into the palace (perhaps mitigated by getting there early), but there was no wait (for us last summer) to get into the gardens, where we enjoyed ourselves the most. Personally, I found the palace tour lacking, and we were herded through like cattle. Loved the gardens. Your Friday itinerary is barely doable, if you hit all the right breaks in traffic and picnic your lunch. But it will be exhausting. Perhaps think hard about how much you really want to do Versailles, which I know most folks think of as a must see, but still, it makes for a hard day's journey. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
107 posts

So, would yall like it better if we stayed the night in Versailles and then drove to Verdun on Saturday morning..toured it and then returned the rental car at 4pm in Forbach and took the train into Germany? I'm working on trying to find us a place for the 5 of us to stay in Versailles... Christine

Posted by
107 posts

I found a hotel in Versailles and there is a tour company close to it. You can meet them at 10:45.
http://www.guidatours.com/versailles-uk.php I think it would help us avoid the lines. We can tour more on our own when it is done. Plus, the meeting time of 10:45 will probably be more reasonable coming from Bayeaux.. Does that look better?? Christine

Posted by
719 posts

Hi christine, As for as an ornate palace being an ornate palace, I may disagree slightly. Versailles is THE ornate palace, and the gardens and grounds are as much (or more in my case) a reason to go as the chateau itself. You can wonder through the chateau as quickly or slowly as you want (no english, so take a tour or a guidebook), but you'll definitely want to linger in the gardens and Trianons (Marie Antoinette's Hamlet is awesome) for quite some time. This place practically begs for a picnic. I plan a day there (go paddleboating in the Grand Canal or biking in the gardens...).
We used the Paris Museum pass to escape the tix lines, so our wait wasn't too bad. Better than Disney with a Fast Pass...

Posted by
95 posts

Christine, I think you're on the right track wtih staying overnight at in the Versailles area. You'll be glad you stretched that day out a bit. Have a great time!