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Paris, Normandy, Brittany in 2 weeks?

Hello Helpliners-

My girlfriend and I have about two weeks to spend in France next May. I know we can't see it all. If we combined a week in Paris with a week to see Brittany and Normandy, does that seem like a realistic pace? We'll be coming in from Spain beforehand, and can add a few days if that let's us see some other great things.

Thanks!

Posted by
27711 posts

this is a very simplistic answer, but a simple "yes" that would probably work for me. If, like me, you are very into the battles for Normandy during WWII you would spend 4 days at least in Normandy and a couple in Brittany - probably doesn't do Brittany justice - but if you are more normal a couple for the beach area, one or two in the inland areas on the way from Paris, and 2 to 4 in the countryside of Brittany would be pretty good.

Where are you going after northern France?

Posted by
5251 posts

I think that's a realistic pace. Of course you could spend the whole two weeks in Paris and not see everything worth seeing there, but the smaller towns and countryside are wonderful too. I'd recommend renting a car for the non-Paris week to give you flexibility. Bayeux is a good base for Normandy, close to the landing beaches and with its own cathedral and the amazing tapestry. Many people recommend an overnight at Mont-St-Michel. I haven't been in Brittany in many years but I think you'd find it an interesting contrast geographically and culturally. Try to spend several nights in a base (like Bayeux) and minimize the one-night stands. You'll probably need a separate Brittany base anyway.

Hopefully your two weeks will whet your appetite for more time in Paris and other parts of France. Have fun!

Posted by
4125 posts

That sounds like a good rough cut, though your final might be different (say, 6 days in Paris and 8 in the provinces).

Your next step should be to amass lists of sights and activities you really want to do in all 3 places, then arrange things so that you see your top priorities.

A logistical note: Consider saving Paris for last, which leaves you near the airport at the end of the trip. Otherwise there is an early direct TGV from Rennes to Charles deGaulle that will get you to the airport by 9:15 AM.

Posted by
1286 posts

We did something similar in 2010. We started with 9 days in Paris but agree that ending there would probably be better. We rented a car and spent our 7 driving days as follows: Honfleur,1 night; Bayeux,1; Le Mont-San-Michel,1; Dinan,2; Vitre,1; Chartres,1; return car to Paris. We stopped at Arromanches, a DDay beach before going to Bayeux. Between MSM and Dinan we were able to drive through the countryside visiting Cancale for the oysters, Pointe du Grouin for the scenery, St.Malo for the castle, and Dinard before arriving in Dinan. Between Dinan and Vitre we visited Fougeres. Essentially we made a loop. It worked well for us so this might give you some ideas of where you might want to visit. You're sure to have a great time!

Posted by
106 posts

Thank you to all who've replied. Time at the D Day beaches, an overnight at Mont-San-Michel, and a view of the Bayeux tapestry are musts. I'll build out a fuller list too like folks have suggested.

We'll most likely be coming in from Barcelona or San Sebastian- possibly Madrid. As long as there are good train options into Brittany-- or an inexpensive flight-- we'll take the advice here and end in Paris.

Nigel--we'll be about 75 days into our Schengen "budget," and want to save some days for an early return in Fall. I'm not sure how we'll feel after two and a half months away from home, but if we're still up for more traveling, I imagine we'll take the Eurostar to the UK. I understand June's a lovely month there.

Thanks again!

Posted by
3681 posts

Air connections into Normandy and Brittany are skimpy. For instance, the only non-stop I could find from Paris to the regional airport at Caen is with Hop!, part of the Air France route. At the moment it is only a few days a week and at 8 a.m. which makes air connections from elsewhere practically impossible. http://www.hop.fr/en/
Air service from Madrid to Paris is frequent and therefore cheap when bought well in advance, and certainly a lot faster than the established train service. But the problem of going west remains.
You can check www.skyscanner.com for other possible destination cities.
Your train alternatives from Spain will depend on your departure city. By the middle of December the high-speed direct service from Barcelona to Paris will be operating; see www.seat61.com for all the details.
From San Sebastian or Bilbao, the challenge is to take local service, either bus or a very local train, across the French border to catch the SNCF-TGV line north at Biarritz.
You will need expert advice to get to Normandy/Brittany without connecting through Paris stations. I'll look forward to reading better-informed responses on this aspect of your question.

Posted by
4125 posts

Looks like there are budget flights from Barcelona to Rennes.

I have zero experience with this. But, in your place, I'd seriously consider organizing my trip around this, i.e. to finish Spain in Barcelona for the air connection.

Posted by
1154 posts

We usually come from the opposite direction, a train from Paris or the ferry from Portsmouth and fetch our rental car across the street from the Caen railroad station. Better hours and more selection of companies at Caen. Bayeux is about 15 miles and a great place to base your day trips. Another poster listed a great itinerary but packing up nearly every day and finding another spot to sleep is not our cup of tea. We stayed at a rural B&B,bandbnormandie.com, about 10 miles SE of Bayeux and were able to easily drive to the beaches, MSM, around the bay to Cancale for oysters and to all manner of coastal towns. Normandy and Brittany residents and the numerous small towns are just delightful. Be sure and learn a few French phrases since most don't speak English in the small towns you'll visit. Lucky you, having that much time to explore France.

Posted by
8279 posts

Wanted to recommend Bayeux as a base as well and a hotel there which we've spent a week at least 6 times.. we love it.. it's called Hotel d'Argouges. In the heart of town, like a manor house, large rooms, beautiful garden, lots of flowers, good beds, large bathrooms, very clean, great breakfast and a wonderful owner (Mme Ropartz) and wonderful staff.

Highly recommend one night on Mont St. (Saint) Michel. Can't experience anything like it anywhere else.. it's really wonderful. Especially late afternoon, night and early morning.

Posted by
925 posts

Hi,

I want you to know right of the bat, that France is a BIG country. Driving from Paris to the western end of Brittany is a full day's work on their four lane highways going maximum legal speed. My wife and I spent 20 days trying to 'poke' around Normandy and Brittany. I mean just how big can two counties (departments?)be? Well let me tell you they can be pretty darned big. And once you leave the four lane highways the going is wonderfully slow. But slow.

Travel will be much more enjoyable if fewer miles are covered. Really, driving on a four lane highway in France...you might as well be back in the USA driving across the Great Plains. Ever done that? Want to do it again?

I recommend the Bayeaux Tapestry. And while in the town visit the cathedral. And then have coffee looking at the exterior of the cathedral, and then have a nice lunch or dinner. It is that or see the tapestry and hit the road to check off another photo op.

Your best memories will not be in the car.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
106 posts

Everyone, I appreciate all the good ideas. How does this sound?

  • inexpensive flight from Barcelona into Rennes.
  • rent car, head to MSM 30-40 miles away, and spend the night
  • drive 60ish miles to Bayeaux, and base there for 4-5 days
  • return car to Rennes-- or drop in Bayeaux-- and train into Paris

Thanks again

Posted by
5457 posts

I completely agree with wayner, so we didn't even try to see the exquisite medieval churches and villages, stone fields, and coastline of Western Brittany. Our loss, but like you, our time was limited.

But your latest itinerary doesn't allow for any stops along the way. So you'll miss some of the public gardens, Dinan, St. Malo, Fougères, Vitré ... There's a lot more than the American Invasion in this area.

Posted by
8279 posts

I think your latest plan is great. Of course you can't see it all, but you can enjoy what you do see... MSM, Bayeux and the area around Bayeux, which is well worth the time you've alloted. Btw, the WWII museum in Bayeux is the best one of all imo, so hopefully you'll have a couple hours for that.

Posted by
2081 posts

JoeC,

about your rental car drop off in Bayeux. I believe someone posted that there are no car rentals in Bayeux. Im sure someone soon will verify that. There are car rentals in Caen. When i was there, the trains went thru Caen to Bayeux. about a 2 hour trip from Bayeux to Paris. Dont know about any trains to/from Remmes.

Happy trails.

Posted by
1426 posts

We rented from Hertz when we went to Normandy - picked up our car in Bayeux. Were going to drop it off in another location but could have returned it there too.

Posted by
522 posts

Just did 14 days in France which started with a train from Paris to Bayeux where we had a lovely B&B five minutes from the town center. Owner picked us up at the train station and took us to the Hertz office. Stayed there three nights and then one in Honfleuer and another in Rouen, only because we were taking the TGV to Avignon the next day. We rented a car from Hertz in Bayeux and turned it in with a small drop charge at the train station in Rouen. Contrary to what is published on the Hertz web site the Hertz office which is in a local petrol station IS open on Sundays. If you're a big D-Day buff you will need a couple of days to do it right, otherwise Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery there will suffice. I had been there in 2004 and was surprised to find a very comprehensive welcome center (mini-museum) at the entrance. We also managed a quick side trip to Giverny to see Monet's home and garden. There you will find hanging in the home many Monet paintings that have never been in a museum. It was well worth the few hour detour from Honfleur to Rouen. If you can go to Honfleur you must go inside their church, the ceiling of which looks like two boats turned upside down. The Bayeux Tapestry is a must see and you should take the time to go through the museum section that explains the process used to create it. The Bayeux cathedral is larger than Notre Dame and equally as beautiful, and around to the left as you face the alter you can go beneath it to see the old burial area. Fascinating frescos painted there.

We did not go to Paris this trip except to arrive and depart, but we had been there before. Given the amount of time you have, assuming you have not been to Paris, I would suggest that you either split your time between either Brittany OR Normandy and Paris, or spend most of your time in the country and maybe three full days in Paris. Make a list of the highlights you want to see....Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur and Mont Marte, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower to name a few. I promise you will fall in love with the city and return to spend a significant time there in the future. One easy way to gat a quick feel of Paris, as well as the other big cities in Europe, is to get a 24 hour Hop On-Hop Off Bus Tour pass. They circle through the city and stop at all the big sites where you can get off and back on as you choose and stay as long as you like. Busses run every 15 minutes or so and if you do the full circle on the first pass it will help you pick out where you want to get off and see more, or not. Lastly, remember that getting the most from a trip like yours is about the quality of what you see and do and not the quantity. Enjoy.