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Driving to Normandy from Paris round trip - Itinerary advice

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Driving to Normandy from Paris round trip - Itinerary advice

Hi! I wanted to know how our itinerary sounds. Any feedback would be great! I now some driving distances are short, but we want to be able to take our time.

Day 1 - Drive Paris to Dinan.

Day 2 - Dinan to Saint-Malo to Mont Saint-Michel

Day 3 - Visit MSM in morning - drive to Camembert

Day 4 - Camembert - Honfleur - Rouen

Day 5 - Rouen - La Roche-Guyon - Paris (1pm flight from Paris)

Does this sound any good?

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1. Re: Driving to Normandy from Paris round trip - Itinerary advice

Boy, I'm really upset with myself because I just typed out a lengthy response for you and then accidentally hit the back button and lost it all. I shall try again.

You don't say what time of year you are coming so I don't know how many daylight hours you'll have to explore. Here are some recommendations for you.

Day 1 - Drive from Paris to Dinan. Spend the day exploring Dinan and you should be able to see everything in Dinan with this day.

Day 2 - Head west to the lovely town of Lamballe (about a 1/2 hour drive):

http://www.lamballe-tourisme.com/

After Lamballe head north and explore the lovely coast between Sables-d'Or-les-Pins and Cap Frehel and then visit the Fort la Latte a few kilometers east of Cap Frehel. Then head to Saint-Malo and then to MSM. I assume you are planing on spending the night on MSM. If this day sounds too busy for you then cut out either Lamballe or the coastal drive I outlined.

Day 3 - See MSM in the morning and then there are several options for you to consider on your drive to Camembert. The fastest drive there takes about 2-1/2 hours. You could take in a scenic drive on the way and visit Villedieu-les-Poêles and Vire if you'd like:

http://www.ot-villedieu.fr/index.htm

http://www.bocage-normand.com/fr/index.htm

Or, you could take the autoroute to Villers-Bocage and stop there (see the above weblink) and then explore the designated scenic roads south of there in a region called Suisse-Normande, centered around the towns of Aunay-sur-Odon, Thury-Harcourt and Clécy:

www.otourisme.com/otv2-sn/…

If you can make it to the museum in Camembert at the end of the day this will free you up the next morning. There is one other option you could consider for this day after MSM. Since you have Camembert as a destination I assume you might be interested in the cider/cheese trail. If so then after MSM head straight to a place a few kilometers south of Camembert called Fromagerie Durand. This is the last farm in Normandy where the Camembert is still made by hand using traditional methods. In the morning you can watch (through a window) as Monsieur Durand pours the raw cheese into their moulds. You'll probably be too late to see that but there are plenty of signs in English there detailing the various stages of the cheese making process and it's quite informative. You can sample/buy some cheese and cider too. Here is some info about that farm:

normandiealaferme.com/normandie/ferme-fromag…

The other cheese/cider related site to visit is further north of here called Saint Hippolyte:

http://www.sainthippolyte.com/

It is a 16th century manor/estate with large fields, grazing cows, apple orchards and a cheese production facility that you can tour. A really lovely place. They have a great store in the office there with all kinds of local food products (cheese, cider, calvados, patés and much more) and if you brought some bread and fruit you could get whatever you need for a lovely picnic lunch on the grounds. Perhaps you might just head from MSM to here and have your lunch and then head to Camembert to see the museum.

Day 4 - Head straight to Honfleur and then Rouen. You'll see why in a second.

Day 5 - You've got a 1PM flight and a car to return. You should be at the airport 3 hours before your flight, meaning 10AM. It takes just under 2 hours to drive from Rouen to CDG (I assume you're flying out of CDG) if you don't hit any traffic. So you really don't have time to see anything on this day unless you get up very early. If so, then perhaps finish seeing Rouen or make a quick stop at La Roche Guyon but you won't have time for both.

In regards to the desinated scenic drive I mentioned in Suisse-Normande you're going to need good maps. I think the Michelin maps are the best and you want to get the ones with the scale 1:200,000. You'll see the designated scenic roads in this area highlighted in green as well as a few château you might want to pass by. Let me give you some info about how to read the maps and some other general info.

Get your hands on the Michelin maps (scale of 1:200,000) for whatever regions you visit. The Michelin maps have icons for all kinds of historically/touristically interesting things such as châteaux, ruins, churches, abbeys, scenic view points, caves, Roman sites, megaliths, designated scenic roads and many other things. Usually when I'm exploring various regions in France I just look at the map and I am able to plan interesting and scenic drives just reading the map. For instance, I usually look for a designated scenic road, which are highlighted in green, and I especially look for towns with the historic church and/or château icon. I also try to make sure the route goes through as many small villages as possible. Usually putting all these things together I find interesting and scenic drives without even knowing where I am going and with no assistance from a guide book. Often these places are never mentioned in guidebooks and remain completely unknown to many tourists.

You can buy the Michelin maps from their website and here is a link to the page that shows all of the maps of France: http://tinyurl.com/4bt96ev

And speaking of Michelin, you can go to the website viamichelin.com and get info on drive times and distances, toll and fuel costs and suggested routes (i.e. scenic routes). The drive times given do not consider stops (fuel, food, bathrooms) nor do they consider bad weather and traffic.

The info I gave you is just for some ideas. Fill in your spare time with some of these ideas if you'd like. Or, using the tips I gave you about how to read the Michelin maps then just go and get lost. Really. Put down the guidebook and pick out a drive using the tips I gave you and then explore a whole bunch of towns, châteaux etc. that no other tourist except you will have ever seen. This is pretty much how I spend most of my vacation time in France and this method never lets me down.

Edited: 7:02 pm, November 24, 2011
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2. Re: Driving to Normandy from Paris round trip - Itinerary advice

Day 1 - do you arrive that day??

If so, then please reconsider driving that distance from Paris after a long flight. You could train-it to Dinan (probably) stay overnight there, and hire your car there too.

Day 2 - do-able and not unreasonable

Day 3 - do-able, I guess - are you on a cheese hunt?? There are plenty of independent farms making cheese and foie gras in the 'hinterland' of Honfleur region - you don't necessarily need to go quite so far inland. Also there is good Brie and Camembert available at Isigny St Mere which gives you a bit shorter journeys - less 'driving time' and more 'doing time'!

Day 4 - do able, but you might not get much time for sightseeing in Honfleur

Day 5 - if your flight is at 1pm from CDG, you will have to get a shimmy on on this day, You might be able to have an hour or so's wander in Rouen, but then it is 'hoof it' to the airport, I'm afraid.

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3. Re: Driving to Normandy from Paris round trip - Itinerary advice

Oh wow, thankyou so much French_Mystique and Essex Wanderer. I will certainly need to sit down for a little while longer and look further into this.

French_Mystique I like the look of what you mentioned for Day 2

In answering some of your questions.

French_Mystique - We plan on arriving the start of June

- We are not going to say on MSM, but nearby. We want to be there the night before to watch the tide come in. and do visit MSM abbey etc etc in the morning.

Essex Wanderer - We will be coming from Munich & will be spending 2 days in Paris and hiring the car in the morning of day 3

- Yes, I guess you could say I will be on a cheese hunt. I love cheese.

you mentioned there are some farms making cheese and foie gras in the 'hinterland' of Honfleur region - What/where are they?

We could save a bit of time if it is not necessary to get the same experience without going inland through camembert.

Day 3 - Visit MSM in morning - drive to Honfleur

Day 4 - Drive Honfleur - Rouen

Day 5 - Leave Rouen - quick stop at La Roche Guyon (if time permits) - Paris

French_Mystique I am going to take some time now to look at all your links :-)

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4. Re: Driving to Normandy from Paris round trip - Itinerary advice

I agree that you won't have much time on Day 5 to do anything other than drive to CDG. You're in a bit of a Catch 22; if you leave Rouen early enough to allow a stop at La Roche Guyon you're going to get caught up in the rush hour traffic heading for Paris (unless it's a weekend) and your overall journey on a midweek day could take a lot longer than 2 hours. Also, if you're wanting to look around the actual chateau it doesn't open until 10am (when you should be at the airport!).

French Mystique has made some good suggestions, although I wouldn't bother with Vire, it's not a pretty town and there's not really anything there. Villers Bocage was totally destroyed during the war, likewise Aunay sur Odon, so not very attractive towns and will only be of interest to you if you have a REALLY big interest in tank battles of the second world war. I'd get further east and explore some of the prettier villages of the Pays d'Auge. Beuvron en Auge is very pretty. If cheese is your thing you could stop at Pont L'Eveque and Livarot (the other two big cheeses of Normandy).

Have you checked to see whether there is a high tide on the day you will be at MSM (there's not one every day) and also what time. If you're going between 2nd and 9th June there is a high tide but the times vary between 6pm and midnight. If you haven't already checked you can find out the times here:

ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/maree-montsaintmic…

If your date isn't mentioned it's because there isn't a high tide on that day.

It's always better to avoid the middle of the day when visiting MSM, so if your tide time is later you could visit the abbey that evening (it's open til 7pm) and then watch the tide come in meaning that you don't have to come back the next morning and could get on the road to do more on day 3. You could perhaps then fit La Roche Guyon in on Day 4 and then go straight to the airport from Rouen on Day 5.

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5. Re: Driving to Normandy from Paris round trip - Itinerary advice

Thiaumerie knows that area better than I do so I would follow their advice and skip Vire and Villers-Bocage. I wasn't actually suggesting to visit Aunay-sur-Odon but was just using it as a point of reference to get you started in driving the scenic roads in that area.

Beuvron-en-Auge is a considered the highlight "cute" village of the Pays d'Auge and if you go there you'll notice some designated scenic roads in that area that have some nice countryside. Pont l'Evêque is a nice town and so isn't the tiny village of Blangy-le-Château nearby. If you are here and have time further east is Cormeilles, which is also nice. Below are some links to the tourist websites for the places I mentioned and other places in that region.

http://www.blangy-pontleveque.com/

http://www.pontleveque.com/web/index.php

office-tourisme-cambremer.fr/pays-auge-beuvr…

http://www.office-tourisme-cormeilles.com/

Agree that you want to see MSM early in the morning or late in the day to avoid the crowds. You could stay overnight in the nearby towns of Pontorson or Dol-de-Bretagne. Or, there are a number of tiny villages close to the Mont where you could find a B&B, although I don't have any specific recommendations but I've seen several in the villages a few km from the Mont.

In regards to EW's cheese suggestion here's a link to the Isigny- Sainte-Mère website.

http://www.isigny-ste-mere.com/index_en.php

If memory serves me correctly on the road heading south from Trouville (I think the D513) to Pont-l'Evêque there are a number of stores that sell all the local products of the region. It may not be as charming as visiting a cute town to find these things but it is at least convenient and not far from the coast. There is also a charming village called Touques here.

If you want to save some time and be close to Honfleur then you could take the autoroute from MSM to the exit at Pont-'Evêque or near Beuvron-en-Auge and all the places outlined above are not far off from there with the exception of Livarot, which is just a bit further south. Also, Isigny-Sainte-Mère is in the D-Day beach area. If your goal is to be near Honfleur for day 4 I would stick to exploring the Pays d'Auge area after MSM on day 3.

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6. Re: Driving to Normandy from Paris round trip - Itinerary advice

There aren't any 'specific' cheese places that I can name or mention in that 'hinterland' to Honfleur, you just drive around the lanes through the smallholdings and farms, looking for little signs at the end of drives with 'degustation' (tasteing - this is an invite for you to visit), might show pictures of 'fromage' 'cidre' or geese being XS fed to make Foie Gras....

This page on the Calvados region tourism website gives some routes you might enjoy - and the whole website has lots of other information on cheese, Cider, Calvados, Pommeau, other specialities - have a look under the 'things to do' tab:

calvados-tourisme.com/en/…0

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7. Re: Driving to Normandy from Paris round trip - Itinerary advice

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