We took a train to Bayeux and rented a car in Caen after we took a guided tour of the D Day sties. The train takes about 2 hours, and I've read of estimates of up to three hours driving time.
Here is how we structured our trip:
...and info Americans should know before we book train travel in France:
What you've said so far, ie heading for Giverny and onto Rouen sounds like a good start, from there we need the following information to help you further:
How long will you be in the area? What are your particular interests? ie, history, churches, WW2, Mont St Michel, shopping, beaches, walking.........
Bayeux is 2.5-3 hours from Paris and is generally a good base for WW2 sightseeing, there are better centres for general touring around.
You don't say how many days you'll be traveling in Normandy so it's kind of hard to give you a specific agenda.
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 route, fastest route etc.). The drive times given do not consider stops (fuel, food, bathrooms) nor do they consider bad weather and traffic.
Get your hands on the Michelin maps. You want the ones of the scale 1:200,000 (regional maps) or 1:150,000 (departmental maps, more detailed, cover slightly less area) for whatever regions you visit. A nice feature of the 1:150,000 maps is they show the starred attractions in the corresponding Michelin Green guidebooks. 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
The above link takes you to the page showing the scale 1:200,000 maps but you can search the site for the 1:150,000 scale.
You could also buy them here but then you can't do research beforehand. The maps can be bought in many places such as bookstores, news stands, magazine stores, larger supermarkets, department stores, hypermarkets and in the full service rest areas on the autoroutes, just to name a few.
You need good guidebooks for whatever region in France in which you will be traveling. I like The Michelin Green Guides. If you need restaurant info then get The Michelin Red Guides, which cover restaurants.
The above is a bunch of standard advice so you can prepare for your trip and be ready when you arrive. As far as your specific agenda it's hard to make any recommendation for you how you should arrange your visit because you haven't said anything about how many days you'll have in Normandy and what your interests are. Whether or not Bayeux or any other place is a good base to operate from depends entirely on what you want to do and see. Depending on your interests and number of days traveling it may be better to move around and change bases once or twice.
that is great!
We will be in Normandy for 3 days- leaving fParis for Normandy wednesday AM- coming back to Paris on Saturday-do you think there is a better town to operate from? we are fussy US types who need a good -big bed and great food and wine- typical annoying americans
we want to see the towns and history- some WW2 will be included but the four of us have such diverse tastes and interests-though all love history
People will have several suggestions because there are many possibilities so pick and choose from the ones you like best. Here's my suggestion.
I assume you are driving out of Paris. If so, then make your first stop Giverny. After Giverny head west along the river and visit the little medieval village of Le Petit Andely and makes sure to go up the hill above town to see Château Gaillard to see Richard the Lionheart's impressive fortress ruin. Then head on to Honfleur and spend the rest of the afternoon there and stay there that night.
Giverny (Monet's house and gardens):
Le Petit Andely and Château Gaillard:
If you like food then on Thursday you could head in-land and south of Honfleur to explore the pretty countryside in the Pays d'Auge. This is cidre and cheese country so you could make that a food theme of the day and do some cidre and cheese tasting. I just discussed this region on another forum recently so I'll cut and paste my response from that thread here regarding the Pays D'Auge region:
If you're going to be in Beuvron-en-Auge you'll be in a region of Normandy known as the Pays d'Auge and you can indeed follow the cidre and cheese trail there. It's also really pretty countryside and there are some charming villages you can visit there, even if just to drive through to smell the flowers. Here's a website you'll find useful to discover that region:
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 on the Michelin map 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.
Here's a cidre place that might interest you:
And a cheese place:
There's also the cheese museum in the village of Camembert:
And a few kilometers south of that is the last farm in Normandy where Camembert is still made by hand using traditional methods. Get there first thing in the morning and you'll see Monsieur Durand pouring the cheese into moulds (through a window):
A few kilometers south of Lisieux is a place I love. The Domaine Saint-Hippolyte is a 16th century manor/estate converted into a cidre and cheese farm. Bring some bread and fruit and buy all your other picnic supplies in the shop and have a great picnic lunch on the grounds. There's a wide variety of great local products sold here:
And here's a link to a photo album I made exploring that region and you'll see Monsieur Durand, Camembert, Saint-Hippolyte and the beautiful countryside there:
An alternative plan for Thursday would be to make your way down the coast to Bayeux and stop at Trouville and Deauville to check them out. Deauville is a posh seaside resort built in the late 19th century that hosts a famous intntl. film festival and Trouville is the adjacent town across the harbor that was a fisherman's village turned resort town but is less polished and IMO more authentic than Deauville. Trouville also has more character and I like walking around there better but both places are interesting and lively to walk around and both have great beaches.
From here you could choose a couple of things. You might want to go to Caen to see the war museum/memorial:
Or you might head on to Bayeux and visit some D-Day sites or perhaps the tapestry museum in Bayeux.
I would make your destination Bayeux for the end of the day Thursday and overnight there. Do your D-Day tour the next day which is Friday and stay in Bayeux again on Friday night.
You'll find a list of tour D-Day tour guides on the tourist website above.
On Saturday you could see the tapestry museum in the morning (if you haven't already) and then you can make your way back to Paris. On your way back if you have time and desire you can visit Rouen.
All the tourist websites I gave you links to will have info about accommodation and restaurants so you can find hotels if you look at them.
Wow French Mystque! What a post! Excellent discussion, and you're making me want to go back even more.
thanks soooo much-great advice and URL's
We will let you know how we make out-
French Mystique, what a great post! I'm currently planning a trip there as well. I'd be coming from Paris. We would like to squeeze it all in one day but I'm starting to think that staying a night sounds like the more sensible option. Would you recommend taking the train in and then renting a car? Would a day trip with a private tour come out to be the same cost as the train/car/over night trip anyways?
this is all so helpful and we have modified our trip plans to go -via car- to Le Petit Andely and on to Rouen or to Honfleur and spend the rest of the afternoon there and stay there that night.
Which is better to stay Rouen or Honfleur ?? We thought rushing to Honfleur would be too fast and we would miss a lot of interesting sights
We will stay one night in either Rouen or Honfleur and then go on to Bayeux and D-Day -etc for the next two days