Normandy Day Trip From Paris

Discussion in 'Europe' started by ella, Nov 18, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    I'm going to Paris in March 2014 and would like to visit Normandy and the D-Day beaches, cemeteries. I'm not usually a group-tour type of person, but in this case I think I might. Any recommendations?

    The tours I've looked at indicate they spend about 4 hours in the area. Is that enough to absorb all of the history that is there?

    TIA for any advice you can offer.
     
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  2. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    If you will never get back to Normandy to spend some time, then I'd go on the tour, but otherwise 4 hours is not near enough (in my opinion).

    Here is an excerpt of a trip report I wrote on our trip to Normandy, besides the D-Day sights/museums there are plenty of other very worthwhile places to go:

    We had hoped to visit Rouen to see the cathedral there and some other sights but with a severe delay due to rental car troubles we drive straight to Caen. We arrive about 9:30pm at night.
    Our destination was the Holiday Inn Caen. While I don’t stay at HI’s much anymore, I had some orphaned points that were enough to cover the cost per night. The hotel staff is by far the most friendly that I have met while traveling in France, just terrific and knowledgeable too. It also has a very good breakfast spread/buffet in the morning. The hotel is actually well located in the city of Caen and easy to get to/from the northern sights of Normandy. We pop out for a drink then settle in the room and quickly fall asleep.

    The next day we took in some of the D-Day sights:

    Omaha Beach was the largest of the assault areas, stretching over 6 miles (10 kilometres) between Port-en-Bessin on the east and the mouth of the Vire River on the west.

    Pointe du Hoc where the Rangers scaled the cliffs to take out large German fortifications that housed some large guns. The area has been basically left as it was after the war; there are huge craters in the ground where bombs/shells hit.

    Arromaches was one of the two locations of the manmade Harbors called Port Winston after you know who. Remains of the port can still be seen here at Arromaches. There is a good museum to visit here on the beach. http://www.photos.com/images-photo/arromanches

    We did not visit the town of Ste. Mere Eglise, the first town to be liberated by American airborne forces on D-Day morning, nor did we visit Pegasus Bridge. By accounts now I wish we had visited Pegasus Bridge.

    There are many museums and we did not see any that were not interesting and worthwhile, but we were there over the New Year’s period and sadly a good portion were closed.

    The World War II Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is situated on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel in Colleville-sur Mer, France. It has to be one of the most emotional places I have visited. Hard to imagine the hell of war when strolling on the walkway overlooking the beautiful blue sea, but then you look inland and are reminded of the sacrifices made here. Plan on spending at least a few hours here.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normand...y_and_Memorial

    While the American Cemetery is emotional, it is in a positive light, one believes that in WWII good clearly triumphed over evil. Evil personified is how I would describe the German Cemetery at La Cambe. Roughly chiseled crosses of black stone mark graves where over 40,000 Germans are buried. The large centerpiece is not an uplifting sculpture. Well worth a visit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orgland...n_war_cemetery
    D-Day beaches were ¾ to 1 ¼ hours drive from Caen.

    Next day we wandered up the northern coast of Normandy from Merville to Deauville. We passed through the town of Houlgate which was our favorite, but we were on a mission to check out Deauville, the city that Coco Chanelle helped make famous. In Deauville we walked the boardwalk, city and shopping areas. Quite a town, quite high end, yet loads of fun walking amongst the “pretty people”. We left in the evening and drove the 55 minutes back to Caen. The bar in the hotel served some good single malt scotch which after being outside near the ocean for so long we were eager to drink up.

    Following morning we departed at 7am to travel to Mont Ste. Michel and the walled city of St. Malo.
    I don’t think I really need to describe Mont Ste. Michel. It is a beautiful abbey that mysteriously appears in the distance as you approach. I believe it is the most visited area in France outside of Paris. Some pictures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_Saint-Michel The best piece of advice I can offer is get there early otherwise it becomes the island of crowds. We left shortly before lunch and the lot was almost full and this was an off season.

    The walled city of St. Malo was very fun and neat to visit. Although completely destroyed during WWII it was rebuilt and looks better than ever. There are some great shops w/in the walled city. I would not recommend parking w/in the walls. There is plenty of parking surrounding the walled city.
    In the late afternoon we drove up the coast towards the town of Cherbourg. Found a few neat antique places to shop and a place to dine. Did not have a drink in the late evening as we were departing the next morning for Versailles.
     
  3. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    Thanks, Sweet Willie, for repeating your trip report. I had searched previous threads and not found anything - guess I was looking in wrong place. Your report is very helpful and gives me a direction for planning.

    I was pretty sure 4 hours would not do it justice, but will only be in France a few days. My Dad and Uncle were both in the landing at Omaha Beach, so this has always been a place I've wanted to visit. My French is extremely poor to almost non-existent, and I am a little hesitant to rent a car and do the trip on my own.

    Thanks again
     
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  4. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    Plan a Normandy only trip, Go !! Do not worry about limited French ability nor driving in Normandy.

    With a GPS in your car, it is easy to get around in a brainless fashion. Mrs Willie will never again get in a rental car with me in Europe unless we have a GPS unit, not because I get lost while driving but because she doesn't have to try and read maps while bouncing along in the car, with me asking questions about different routes:D

    As for your limited French, the older snotty French (mostly in Paris in my experience) have died off or are no longer in positions of tourist service. The younger French I've found are very appreciative of even a basic word/phrase or two in their language. Where you are going, most in a tourist facing position will know English more than enough that you will be able to communicate.

    You'll want to enjoy your time in Normandy as well, we really enjoyed the food: http://www.indigoguide.com/france/normandy-cuisine.htm
    -
     
  5. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    I've been to Paris a couple of times and for the most part got along with limited language skills.

    Thanks for the encouragement to go solo with GPS. Think I needed the affirmation that I'm not nuts to do it on my own
     
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  6. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    consider yourself affirmed !:)

    I forgot one other item we saw, the Bayeux Tapestry located in the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux in Bayeux.
    -
     
  7. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    Th
    Thanks !!
     
  8. jasonmh26

    jasonmh26 Silver Member

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    My wife and I were just in Paris in Sept and did a Normandy tour. Either way you go, it is a great (and touching) experience, we were really glad we did it. We decided to do a tour and enjoyed it. To answer your question, 4 hours is not enough to absorb all of the history that is there, it would take days just to start on that.
     
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  9. ffitalia

    ffitalia Silver Member

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    I suggest you rent a car, so you will be more free. Language it's not a problem. I'm Italian, I do not know French, but we went on a tour throughout France, you will not have problems with English.
    Along the road between Paris and Normandy, if you have time, make a stop at the castles of the Loire, are very beautiful
     
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  10. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    You all have convinced me this is the way to go rather than group tour - which I really wasn't crazy about - and now I'm getting excited!

    Thanks !
     
  11. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    most definitely
    Loire is to the far SW of Paris, not at all close to Normandy. Did you mean someplace else? If not, the Loire valley should really be saved for a separate trip, unless one has a lot of time.

    A couple of items I would consider between Paris & Normandy are:
    1) The Cathedral at Rouen
    2) A visit to Claude Monet's house & gardens in Giverny

    -
     
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  12. colt245

    colt245 Silver Member

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    Would love to go to Normandy, been trying to plan a trip to Paris as I have a friend living there at the moment, so could incorporate it! Definitely going to take on board some of these tips!
     
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  13. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    I have had a few friends recommend Giverny and with your vote as well, it's definitely now on the list.

    Will look into Holiday Inn Caen. Any other hotel recommendations along the way between CDG and Normandy would be helpful.
     
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  14. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    We simply booked the Holiday Inn Caen due to Caen's central location, not due to any 'greatness' of this particular hotel.

    We are in Naples Italy now, & what chain hotels are available are in very pricey/tourist zone, so not a bargain. I'm guessing you could find a worthwhile independent hotel in the area in Normandy to make a base from if you like staying in a single hotel (my wife likes one hotel while I prefer to keep moving, there are pros/cons to each)
     
  15. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    It's more important to me that a hotel is clean, secure, and centrally located than whether it has top of the line amenities, etc. In the past I would stick with US based chains because the name familiarity bred a certain confidence of quality. Learned in Australia that isn't always the case.
     
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  16. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    This sounds like it will be a great trip. I wanted to add on a Normandy day or two on our last trip to Paris, but no such luck. Next time.

    I have done a driving trip through rural parts of Burgundy. The roads are resonably well marked. Driving outside of Paris is relatively tame. Unless you are a bottom decile driver, I can't imagine having any issues driving in the countryside.

    For my planned but aborted trip to Normandy, I was going to take the train out from the city, then rent my car there.

    I also gave some consideration to a private guide for the day. Though the most expensive option, this way you get the benefits of someone's knowledge without being stuck in a group (which I too wouldn't like).

    Please share some pictures when you return!
     

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