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Train or rental car for a short stay?

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Sacramento...
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Train or rental car for a short stay?

We're planning on spending a few days in Normandy in September and our first plan is to train it to Caen (by 2 PM) and rent a vehicle to drive to our hotel near Bayeux. We're staying in the Ibis - which is not exactly in the center of town. Friends have told us that we'd do better by skipping the car in Caen and going directly to Bayeux by train and then getting a taxi to our hotel. Then...sign up for the mini van tours of the beaches and Mere st-eglis.

Their point is that we'd learn more about WWII from a van driver...and why would we want the hassle of driving and traffic and parking in the small towns. Our hotel has good parking (from the website) and I'd like to venture into Brittany for s bit as well as seeing the Cathedral at Rouen. However, we are only there 3 1/2 days before returning to Paris.

So..I'm throwing the question out - does our limited time in the area justify a car rental or should we listen to friends who have been there, done that?

Thanks.

Julie

Essex
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1. Re: Train or rental car for a short stay?

Well spaced out over 'several' visits and over the years, I have visited a fair amount of the Nornandy coast and a good bit of the D-Day landing zones. I have never taken a tour, and I don't feel that I have missed out on anything.

However, many people on TA who have done proper guided tours have really enjoyed them and learnt tons. I probably would too as I daresay I would enjoy the nerdy aspect of the war knowlege if truth be known! One-day I might even be able to bring myself to take one, but to me, tours on the whole are a bit of an anathema - that is ME!

I can only really say do what YOU want to do, it is your holiday and trip after all!!

The tours are great and if that appeals then there are many threads here discussing good companies/independent guides etc. BUT you can still have much pleasure touring the area with a car on your own - if the war history is really important to you, invest in a good guide - like one of Major and Mrs Holts Battlefield Guides perhaps??

Compared to many who post on here, 3.5 days is a 'luxury' of time for a visit to this area so you could certainly manage all the things you say you want to do IMO comfortably enough if you had your own car - Brittany might be pushing it a bit though!

Doubt that I have helped, but good luck with your decision! EW

Bayeux, France
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for Bayeux, Basse-Normandie, Mont-Saint-Michel, Caen
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2. Re: Train or rental car for a short stay?

Unless I'm mistaken, Ibis is in Port en Bessin. A car is essential or you'd be stuck in Port En Bessin for three days.

I'd recommend taking a tour. There's nothing much to see apart from concrete blocks and sandy beaches. The essential is in the hisSTORY which puts those concrete blocks and beaches in perspective.

It's possibe to get from Caen to Rouen on a train but not very convenient. For Mont Saint Michel you need a car or th eChurchill shuttle, but from Port en Bessin you couldn't get it.

Sacramento...
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3. Re: Train or rental car for a short stay?

Thanks both Essex and cpmac. Yes...I couldn't remember the name of the town - it is Port En Bessin and I knew it was pretty far out of town. Husband hates to be stuck without a car anywhere...and we definitely want to see central Bayeux - the tapestry, esp. Neither of us really likes organized tours...but husband is thinking that we should do both the car and one of the tours.

If you think 3 1/2 days is a good number of days for the area, Essex - then I'm sure - with the car - we'll see the Cathedral at Rouen.

Thanks again-

Julie

SoCal
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4. Re: Train or rental car for a short stay?

I'm not much of a tour person, either, but I liked the Overlord tour we took (their combo Omaha Beach & Band of Brothers tour) and learned a lot that I did not already know (and I am definitely a WWII/D-Day geek). We also drove to many of the same sights in the days after the tour and had no problems with traffic or parking (our visit was in October of 2011). I guess we did it both ways-a guided tour followed by an unstructured day of DIY sightseeing worked very well for us.

Louisville, Kentucky
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5. Re: Train or rental car for a short stay?

Staying at the Ibis, I would suggest that you have a car. I think your husband is on the right track is thinking you should do a tour and travel on your own. You will need a car to the get the tour starting point - usually around the Tapestry Museum in Bayeux - and I really think a return to Omaha Beach and a walk town to the water is something travelers should try to do. The mini van tours out of Bayeux aren't rushed or what one may think of as a canned "tour,", but there isn't time to do this on a tour. You will need at least an hour, if not a bit longer, but the point here is that this something you will want to do on your own when you can linger and be in solitude. You will know something happened here. To be truthful, it was a bit emotional for me and I made it most of the way down, but my husband made it to the bottom and was obviously moved. After walking the trail to the bottom, you can drive on to another destination.

I don't think any of us who have responded here are "tour people," and that's how we approached our first trip to the region. Our second trip was so much better when we took a tour, and it was on our first trip that we learned that the walk down to the beach is meaningful. With a car and a day and half allotted for visiting the sites, you can do both. Webdweeb is right in saying that you will learn things you didn't know and you learn them from the perspective of someone who makes Normandy their home. You don't get that experience in history books.

Have a great trip!

6. Re: Train or rental car for a short stay?

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