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French countryside and Normandy

My husband and I are traveling by car from Kaiserslautern to Normandy in October. We would like suggestions on what to see/where to stay along the way in the French countryside and Normandy suggestions. We are bypassing Paris, have been to Metz and Reims and have 5-7 days. Main interests are vineyards, rustic country settings and WWII. And scenery! lol Many thanks!
Laurie

Posted by
4032 posts

For the Normandy beaches, the usual base is Bayeux. It is worth paying for a day tour, not for the transportation but for the information and context and good guide can provide. An native base is Caen, much bigger and therefore offering more choice of accommodation and dining. It was also the sight of ferocious fighting, and also offers medieval history. Its Peace museum gets good reviews and runs tours to the beaches too.

Posted by
9420 posts

Bayeux makes a good base, as Southam said. It's a very charming little town very close to Omaha Beach, the American cemetary, Pointe du Hoc, Arromanches and many other WWII sites. I would not choose to stay in Caen, it's a city devoid of charm. Bayeux has what I think is the best WWII museum, much better than the one in Caen and much less expensive. If you're interested in tours, many leave from Bayeux. We've stayed at Hotel d'Argouges in Bayeux at least 6 times and really love it. It's like a manor house, has lovely gardens, large rooms and bathrooms, good beds, very clean, a wonderful breakfast and the owner, Mme Ropartz, and her staff, are wonderful. The drive from Honfleur along the coast is very scenic and enjoyable. We really enjoy driving throughout Normandy on the 2 lane country roads and just exploring. We've found many enjoyable sights that way (a 1600's farm open to the public was fascinating), visiting a couple of castles (one had a candlelight night tour that was fun), tiny churches and cemeteries, etc. We love Normandy.. the people are wonderful and the area is beautiful. Enjoy!

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you both - your information was very helpful!

Posted by
51 posts

Laurie we went to Normandy the same time last year and we stayed in Bayeux. Its a charming little city. We stayed at Villa Laura and absolutely loved it. We had a room that overlooked the cathedral there and it had a balcony. We loved this hotel. The room was wonderful and the staff were so gracious. I still think about it! I loved Normandy and take the advice of the other posters and get a tour guide. Dale Booth is good but you may have to pay for a private tour that time of year..we did and it was well worth it. You can sneak in a side trip to Mont St Michelle from Bayeaux as well!!

Posted by
9420 posts

Just fyi... Bayeux is a small town, not a city.

Posted by
66 posts

Hi Laurie I've PM'ed you as you requested. I agree that Bayeux is one of the best bases for WW2 sites, though of course that coastal area is but a tiny part of the enormous region that is Normandy. Normandy isn't a wine growing area but there are plenty of cider farms where you can try cider, pommeau, poiré, calvados etc. You won't be short of rustic country dwellings and scenery wherever you go in Normandy. You may have heard all this before, but just in case: * Don't underestimate driving times - it WILL take longer than you expect to get ANYWHERE! * If you're going to a specific site check opening days and times carefully to avoid disappointment, especially at this time of year (outside summer season) * Make sure your car has GPS and get the language set to English and make sure that the 'home' address where the car is to be returned is programmed in before you take it * Many museums etc close for lunch between midday and 2pm

Posted by
9420 posts

With all due respect to Phil, we've spent a week each time (6 or more times in the past 12 yrs) in the height of summer and never encountered any traffic whatsoever on the 2 lane roads in Normandy. In fact, hardly any other cars at all. And never any slow traffic on the freeway. We never took a GPS and found driving in Normandy incredibly easy. We took a good road map of course.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you everyone - your information was very helpful! Laurie

Posted by
66 posts

With all due respect, Susan, perhaps you took what I said the wrong way. I never mentioned holdups, I was talking of the common mistake of assuming that distances that look small on a map will not take long to cover, and the optimistic inaccuracy of Googlemap etc. travel time estimates. Apart from autoroutes it does take longer to get to places than many visitors might think - the theoretical 90kph limit on non-motorway roads is frequently more like 60kph in reality. I've lost count of the number of trans-Atlantic and antipodean visitors who have expressed surprise at how much longer it took them to reach their destination than they had anticipated. Those of us who live here (I've lived here for ten years) do generally know what we are talking about. :) Best wishes and happy travelling Phil PS GPS is a pretty good guide to optimum travel time, but only if you can drive close to the speed limit throughout your journey and there are no holdups.

Posted by
9420 posts

Phil, I have lived in Paris for many years, twice. Have spent a lot of time in Normandy. We all have different experiences and opinions and we're all entitled to express them.

Posted by
9110 posts

'GPS is a pretty good guide to optimum travel time' 'the optimistic inaccuracy of Googlemap etc. travel time estimates' Incongruent statements since both use the same algorithms based on posted speed limits.

Posted by
80 posts

We did not have a car, but even so, would recommend taking one of the tours of the beaches, unless you are a serious history buff and don't mind doing all the driving to get to the many different sites. We went with Overlord on the #2 tour of the American beaches and thought it was well worth the money. Check out their website at Overlordtours.com. We passed thru Caen on the train to Bayeux. Caen seemed like a big, dense city. Much of the city was destroyed in the war, so for the most part, it is pretty modern. We loved Bayeux and would go back in a heartbeat. We stayed in a lovey B&B, Le Manoir Ste. Victoire. You can read the great reviews on Tripadvisor. Bayeux was one of the only towns that did not sustain damage during the war. It is will certainly engage most people for two to three days. I loved Normandy and would love to go back. Bon voyage!

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you Nancy for the Le Manoir Ste. Victoire - recommendation - it looks wonderful!