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how easy is it to self-drive around normandy/brittany?

Singapore, Singapore
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how easy is it to self-drive around normandy/brittany?

Hi,

We are considering getting a rental car during our trip in later half of June. There is my wife, myself, and our 3 year old son. We have not planned our trip yet but are deciding to take it slow over two weeks or 14 nights in normandy and brittany and probably loire valley. I think a quarter of the reason alone has to do with me wanting to get an early morning view of mont st-michel before the crowd.

Main question: How easy it is to drive around? Does GPS work well in these places because frankly without GPS I am almost as good as driving with my eyes closed.

Other than the obvious convenience and flexibility we want to be able to explore places off the beaten track where public transport could be an issue with some places like some of the medieval fortresses and villages. We're not intending to follow any guided tours as well - purely F&E with lots of planning.

Second question: Would you suggest just sticking with the same car and driving from normady right through to brittany or is the distance long enough such that a train would be more comfortable and less tiring?

Third question: Any drivers driving at home on left-hand side that found it easy/ok/hard to drive on right-hand side in france? I am comfortable on the road and have done some road trips but never on the opposite side so am finding it a potential worry.

Thanks all.

Ken

Gouvix, France
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1. Re: how easy is it to self-drive around normandy/brittany?

Worry Not

GPS works fine (G is for Global!)

Driving on the wrong side takes a bit of concentration but is not so hard after a surprisingly short time. Make sure you read up on 'priorite a droite'

One car will be fine, you have two weeks so you need not drive for more than a couple of hours each day

Try and stay in each place for 2-4 nights so you are not travelling all the time.

A car will let you stay in more out of the way places (don't just stick to the well worn Monet-Honfleur-Bayeux-MSM circuit) there's loads to see and do all over the place.

Frankly your plan makes a refreshing change from all the people who post on here wanting to see everything in about 5 hours and get back to Paris or their cruise ship.

Limerick, Ireland
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for Limerick, Killarney
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2. Re: how easy is it to self-drive around normandy/brittany?

You are really going to enjoy it.

The driving is very easy in Normandy and Brittany - generally the roads aren't very busy except perhaps the weekend of the 14th July (Fete Nationale). We've driven there so many times and never had a problem.

With the little one, you might want to do some child friendly things. The Zoo Parc in Branfere (near Vannes) is lovely. branfere.com/visite-parc-animalier-botanique…

Bellflower...
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3. Re: how easy is it to self-drive around normandy/brittany?

#1: Driving is the best way to see these areas. GPS worked just fine in Normandy when we were there. The roads are safe and well-maintained. We weren't used to roundabouts, but managed okay.

#2: Keep the car. Mont St Michel is in Normandy, very close to Brittany; so you would be there already. As for the Loire Valley, you could take a train from Caen to Tours and rent another car there, but you would have to pay fees again for a different rental; so I would advise driving to the Loire from Normandy/Brittany.

#3: Don't know.

Now for something you didn't ask about. Fourteen days is not a lot of time to see Normandy, Brittany and the Loire. We spent a week each in the Loire and Normandy and could have seen more, especially in Normandy. I'm not saying to cut out any of these areas, but to be aware of driving distances.

Where is your point of arrival? Please don't drive on your first day of arriving in Europe.

Good luck with your planning.

MrsJAS

Singapore, Singapore
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4. Re: how easy is it to self-drive around normandy/brittany?

Thank you for all the responses. Heartening indeed to know I am rely on GPS again.

@ Mrs Jas, we're flying into CDG, after which we will take a train to Normandy. It's a long flight from Singapore to Paris with a Dubai transit, at the same time managing a 3 year old tot and giving apologetic looks to the weary travellers, so nope, not gonna be driving immediately... ; )

We will be spending more days in Normandy and possibly only the eastern part of Brittany, definitely not able to cover all the places I want. But with decent planning we should manage just fine. I am looking forward to it.

Thanks all.

Chicago, Illinois
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5. Re: how easy is it to self-drive around normandy/brittany?

it is helpful to have a sense of humor or a good map also along with the GPS -- our GPS was generally very helpful -- until we tried to get to our B&B in Honfleur -- instead of taking us into town and easily to our place -- it lead us through farmland including rutted lanes -- ludicrous route

We found it easy to drive but then we also mapped everything out on Michelin first so we also had suggested routes and distances etc in hand as well as the GPS -- the trick of course is when to trust the GPS when it differs from the Michelin route

England, United...
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6. Re: how easy is it to self-drive around normandy/brittany?

On you third question:

We drive on the left here in the UK too, but we have rented cars in Europe and the US where people drive on the right. It has not been a difficult adustment to make, and after the initial few miles you should be ok and become confident.

The bigger adjustment IME is to drive in an unfamiliar car, so take time to get to know your rental car and its controls before driving off.

Another general tip: When you get to a French village or town, the sign with the name of the village means that the speed limit is now 50km. There is usually no separate sign indicating the change in speed limit, so don't get caught out.

Edited: 1:33 pm, January 10, 2013
Tampa, Florida
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7. Re: how easy is it to self-drive around normandy/brittany?

But it's very, very important to ensure that your GPS has French maps loaded -- whether it's preloaded, you have to buy a chip, or download a new one....if you don't have the maps loaded, you won't have a GPS.

The signals are there, but your unit has to know what to do with the signals.

Paris, France
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8. Re: how easy is it to self-drive around normandy/brittany?

You may find it helpful to look at this thread where advice was given about visiting Normandy, Brittany and the Loire. In reply #11 I gave links to many of the tourist office websites in these regions as well as a lot of other practical tips for exploring these areas:

tripadvisor.com/…46248477

Bellflower...
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9. Re: how easy is it to self-drive around normandy/brittany?

Sunshine brought up a good point. I was assuming that you would get a GPS as part of the car rental. If you bring your own, then, yes, upload French maps. I forgot to mention, as Janettravel recommends, that we also used regular maps. We didn't have trouble with directions from the GPS. We used the regular (paper) maps to plan the overall route. GPS helped a lot with getting in and out of towns.

MrsJAS

Illinois
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10. Re: how easy is it to self-drive around normandy/brittany?

A car is a great thing to have when exploring Normandy, Brittany AND the Loire Valley. There is so much of interest between the various destinations within those areas that it would be a shame to have to experience it through a train window, or to miss it completely.

We use a GPS in France, and it works very well. But, even if it didn't, the roads are so well marked along the way that, as long as you know the names of the towns along the route that you plan to use, it's quite easy to figure out where you are. And I'm speaking as one who has zero sense of direction.

Edited: 4:41 pm, January 10, 2013