We are traveling to France in June , 2012 arriving in Paris and traveling to Brittany. We will be there 6/1 - 6/11. Is a car necessary to travel around Brittany, visit the D-day beaches ,etc. ?
No D-day beaches in Brittany come to mind, but a car is really a must unless you take a tour.
I know the D-day beaches are in Normandy but we want to visit. Car or train ?
a car gives you far more options to visit small sites and better lodging. the roads are really easy to drive on and tolls are not too bad.
Jerry, One point to keep in mind is that you'll be in Normandy during the June 6 "anniversary date", so conditions could be very busy and crowded, and Hotel space could be limited. While you could certainly rent a car to visit the beaches, there's really not much to see there. For that reason, it's much better and more efficient to take one of the excellent local tours. The invasion front covered a distance of about 50 miles, so unless you know where to look, it's easy to miss some of the most significant sites. Cheers!
I vote for going with a car. Long bus group excursion wear the heck out of me, and make me feel like I were still in middle school, and kill all privacy or intimacy with my travel companion. And I personally hate travel guides dumbing down explanations to the lowest possible denominator on the microphone. In certain places, a car doesn't aggregate much more mobility or speed to your trips, but in open area tours like "Normandy beaches", a car enables you to set your own pace, visit the places you want in the order you want etc. To greatly enhance your trip, take a time to read about specific spots before you actually arrive there.
I haven't done the D-Day beaches but really regretted not renting a car during my visit to St. Malo/Mont St. Michele in Brittany. Getting around in the region by bus/train is slower than other areas of Europe I was used to, and it just seemed like having a car would save time and give you a lot more flexibility in general.
Much to the chagrin of the Bretons, Mont Saint-Michel is in Normandy.
Jerry, this is one of the few areas in which I would suggest a rental car. Still take the professional tour of the Normandy beaches!
I agree with Ken and Bob or rent a bicycle. The beach area is massive - over 50 miles from east to west and then the area behind the beaches. Local public transportation is limited to non-existent. And it is really an all day activity.
Andre L., "Long bus group excursion wear the heck out of me, and make me feel like I were still in middle school, and kill all privacy or intimacy with my travel companion. And I personally hate travel guides dumbing down explanations to the lowest possible denominator on the microphone." The tours that I've taken have used small Minivans (6-8 passenger), so I've found them to be quite pleasant. The Guides have been outstanding, and they provided an exceptionally interesting view of the history. I plan on taking more tours of that type when I return to Normandy. Cheers!
You definitely want a car. A word of warning. Contact the American Battle Monuments Commission about the visitor center at the Normandy Cemetery. If there are significant observances of the June 6, anniversary, the visitor center may be closed and you do not want to miss the displays in the lower level of the center ... in some ways they are more moving than the cemetery itself. You may want to do Brittany first and hit the beaches on your way back when the crowds are smaller.
Thanks to everyone for your responses and suggestions.