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Normandy D-Day beaches to London

I have searched many ways but I am having trouble figuring out the best way to travel from D-Day beaches to London. Background: We are planning to train from Paris to Bayeux or Caen and rent a car. We plan to stay about 3 nights, turn the car in to the same place we rented it from and then continue on to London. We prefer to take less time getting to London than the least expensive option. Most web sites show going back to Paris. Seems like there should be better option. Is it possible to train from Caen to Calais? I can not find a route on the RS Maps. Should we get a car somewhere else? Van transport? We are not opposed to taking the ferry but we have one person with bad knees and I understand it is about a mile walk. The bad knee person has a great attitude so walking is an option but not a great option. Thanks everyone!

Posted by
3265 posts

The ferry is problematic for several reasons

-getting to Calais by public transportation is not straightforward, will involve a lot of time just getting to the ferry, and weather can throw a wrench into sailing schedules
- not many ferries are carrying foot passengers
- the ferries don't go to London. You'd likely disembark in Dover, then need to get a train into London.

It seems so much less stressful (and probably faster) to return the car, train back to Paris, then take the Eurostar to London

Posted by
11246 posts

Prior to the pandemic there was a flight from Caen to London Southend airport. But the flight, and the airline operating it, have disappeared.

Taking the train to Paris and then the Eurostar is actually the easiest and nearly the fastest. The fastest would be chartering an aircraft to fly you from the Caen airport to London. But that can get very pricey.

Posted by
157 posts

Brits love to holiday in Brittany and Normandy. Find some Brit websites and see how they all make the journey.

Why do you have to return the car in Caen? I'd pay an extra drop fee and drive to Calais. Can't be any more expensive than extra train tickets.

Posted by
592 posts

Another options is the ferry from Caen to Portsmouth, and then train to London. That crossing is longer, but the ferries are more comfortable and better equipped. You will also be following, in reverse, the journey of the invading forces of 1944.

The other alternative is to drop the car in Lille and take the Eurostar from there to London.

There seems to be a peculiar appeal on this site of the ferry crossing between Dover and Calais. It's not a convenient route for foot passengers, and some ferries do not accept them.

Posted by
5547 posts

GoWest - most Brits take their car over to France, which isn’t an option for the OP. I use the Eurotunnel in my own car.

The ferry Caen to Portsmouth is a sensible option.

These days, few ferries out of Calais take foot passengers as there is little demand - people either take a car over on the ferry or tunnel or they take the Eurostar service as a pedestrian. At present, the Eurostar isn’t stopping at Calais and few trains stop at Lille.

Posted by
27720 posts

French railways (and roads) are Paris centric. Counterintuitively it is often faster to go into Paris, even with the change of station required because Paris stations - like those in London - serve different areas of the country. Think of the hub and spoke system operated by airlines in the US. Same idea.

In the link to the old thread provided by Tim above I and several others explained getting between Calais and Normandy avoiding Paris. By car or by train it isn't too great.

The ferry to Portsmouth is not cheap and the journey is fairly long, and then you are in Portsmouth. Convenient for Bristol and the West Country, less so for some other parts of the country.

Going via Calais is a real slog. Experience tells me that the refugee/migrant issues with rough sleeping camps and harassment of drivers (usually truck drivers but not always in my experience) isn't going away any time soon, the ferry area is not easily approached on foot with lots of movements of heavy vehicles and insufficient footways, and the ferries don't want foot passengers. Only P&O still takes foot passengers on that route and the do NOT make it easy. Then the Dover end is equally unpleasant getting to the one remaining Dover train station. Although some of the trains connecting Dover to London are the high speed trains to St Pancras station they don't use a high speed train line until they reach Ashford. The third rail trains into Victoria are even slower.

The absolutely easiest Normandy to London route is a train from Bayeux or Caen to Paris, cross Paris easily to Paris gare du Nord and Eurostar to St Pancras. Easy, comfortable and the fastest, and with decent advance planning not too expensive.

Driving to Lille and taking Eurostar from there can certainly be done but it won't be faster and probably not cheaper. And then there the drivers to deal with. Lille is quite large and has spaghetti highways with both left and right exits in places, and the signage isn't great, and speeds are enforced by camera. Lille is on the Belgian border and I'm sorry to say that many of the drivers in Lille drive as if they are Belgian. That's such things as complete lack of indicator use for anything, sudden braking, and a nasty tendency to make a break for an exit very late from the completely opposite lane. I'm used to it but I don't enjoy it.

If you can find the station and the carpark entrance at Lille Europe there are several rental companies under cover in the station and the Eurostar check in isn't too difficult to find. Note Jennifer's note that fewer Eurostars now call at Lille. Also - the trains from Paris don't call at Lille, it is only the trains from Brussels.

Posted by
5468 posts

And make sure you read the Eurostar rules about 60-90 minute check-in for customs and immigration. This is not as lax as it can be at the airport. They have turned people away.

Edit: By the way, does anyone in your party get seasick? At some point, you have to give up the idea that these two locations are "well-connected", and take the trains through Paris.

Posted by
157 posts

Jennifer, so checking some Brit websites for variety of ideas is a bad idea?

Posted by
1775 posts

OP - like you I thought it would be easier to go from the Normandy general area to London without trekking back to Paris. When we did it you could get something out of Cherbourg to Portsmouth. To put it bluntly, it was a mess. There were no taxis available from the Cherbourg train station to the ferry dock, I got horribly sea sick, there were not enough taxis In Portsmouth to get from the ferry dock to the train station and then not every train from Portsmouth (which has 2 train stations and you need to get the right one) is direct. So, if we were to do it again, it would be back to Paris and Eurostar to London, which was the way we came.