Just returned from 11 nights in Normandy, the Cotswolds, and London. Two couples, all history buffs, all return visitors. Our friends had briefly touched on Normandy and the Cotswolds on bus tours, and had seen the highlights of London. This was my chance to enjoy their company while sharing the joy of traveling when NOT required to put the luggage in the hall by 6:45 every morning.
Flew Atlanta to CDG on Air France, direct, leaving at 8PM, hoping for sleep. CDG has been my least favorite European airport, but it felt less unfriendly with nothing obviously under construction this time. Car rental by gemut.com was well planned on the front end but took a long time to execute at the Europcar desk, partly our doing when we decided on the spot to upgrade to something bigger. No regrets on getting the VW SUV. Parking’s not an issue in Normandy, and we were in the car a lot. I know driving jet-lagged is a big problem for many, like me, but I’m married to one of the original road warriors who sleeps as well on a plane as in a bed, and he was fine to drive on landing in France.
First stop was Giverny, which should have taken about an hour from CDG, but took much longer because evil Navigate refused to put us on a major highway until almost the end. I’m sure there’s a better way; maybe a map. I had a quaint lunch spot picked in Vernon, but as the slog through Parisian suburbs drug on, I decided the first parking place near a boulangerie would decide lunch. Have no idea if our pick had a Yelp rating, or even a name, but it was wonderful, as all Parisian boulangeries seem to be. Friendly owner endured my mangled French, and we ate on a street side bench under a sunny blue sky.
Monet’s Gardens close for the season on November 1, and I had my fingers crossed there would still be flowers, and there were rows and rows of glorious blooms and precious few tourists on this mid-afternoon Friday in October. No line for tickets. Beautiful photos in golden afternoon light, with no people in them!
Left Giverny in time to drive the hour and a half to Honfleur in daylight. Our hotel was L’Absinthe, right on the harbor. Requested rooms with a view, and got beautiful harbor views from the hotel’s annex building. No lift, but the stairs aren’t steep. Our rooms were big and modern, and included breakfast in the main hotel around the corner. They also have a nearby parking lot, a perk in this part of Honfleur.
Dinner at L’Alcyone on the square a block or two behind our hotel. Dining rooms along the harbor were sparsely filled, but this place was busy with locals. Many fifteen euro 3-course menu choices on the blackboard, but we all wanted moules and shared big green salads. Managed to keep our heads from dropping into the mussel pots. Would return here.
Woke up to the Saturday market which spreads around the harbor and up to the church, a festive day for walking around.
Our trip was planned with a history theme, and leaving Honfleur midday, our first destination was the Memorial Pegasus Museum in Ranville, site of the first battle of D-Day, the turning point of WW2. This well-organized small museum focuses on the British airborne division that landed during the night in gliders, liberating the first French village on D-Day. The actual Pegasus Bridge and a model of one of the Horsa gliders are in the park behind the museum. A good place to start a D-Day tour.