When most people think of Normandy, they often associate it with D-DAY! World War II remains to influence the spirit of Normandy, from the War Memorials, to cemeteries, to War Museums to many historical reenactments and festivals around the affect of the war.
At the same time, Normandy is admired and known for: rich history and connection with England, the heroine of France- Joan of Arc, medieval island of Mont Saint-Michel
(a national heritage and 2nd most visited site in France), the quaint town of Bayeux and its precious tapestry, beautiful cliffs and beaches along the northern coast, France’s Oyster and scallop region, producer of world famous camembert cheese and delicious Cider that goes perfectly with any kind of Crepe, and of course Claude Monet’s famous home and water lily garden of Giverny . You could spent an entire month in Normandy region and realize that there are so many more charming places to discover. I love Normandy region and every trip to France it is on my list so I can sip some Cider and eat delicious Crepes!
How to get there
From Paris, you can drive, take the OuiBus or SNCF.
- From Paris via highway A 13 – Your trip is about 2-3 hours without much traffic, from Paris to Bayeux. straight on A13. Gas is more expensive in Europe, $4 to $5 a gallon, and if you don’t reserve your car from US or home country, you most probably will pay more and for miles! Parking varies, in Bayeux it cost 5 to 7 Euros for all day. Sometimes hotel, Airbnb, or a B&B, offers their own free parking.
- Via SNCF – from Paris Saint Lazare Gare you can get to Bayeux’s Gare, it is about 2 hours and 15 minutes. The cost ranges from 30 to 40 euros each way, depending on the season. You can travel first or second class. The SNCF trains are very clean and convenient. Most destination Gares are within a few minutes of the town center and often have buses if not within walking distance. Bayeaux’s Gare, for example, is a 12 minutes walk to the heart of the town.
- Via OuiGo Bus – least expensive way to go to Normandy region, you can get tickets for as little as 9 euros each way! In Paris, you often catch it near the major Gares and it often drops you off near the destination Gare.
Where to start
The first time I went to Bayeux was with my family. We were on our way to Omaha Beach and took a detour just to go see the famous Bayeux Tapestry, or as known to the French la tell du conquest. A tale that was woven by women, so many stories about it, and survived 9 centuries! But, when we arrived in Bayeux, its charm made me want to stay and go back. It took 8 years to go back, but the second time I took my time through the town and got to see a few more of its beautiful charm.
Where to stay
I have never spent a night in Bayeux (2 visits so far) but, the town is so friendly and lovely that a gem is just around the corner. If you want to stay overnight:
- There is plenty of lovely places on Airbnb, I love this one because of its location.
- There are also quaint Bed and Breakfasts that complements this beautiful town.
- Try the Hôtel Reine Mathilde with its modern rooms or the 3 star Hotel Bayeux.
- Really lovely Crepes at the Moulin de la Gallet, a bit touristy but it is OK as the view and the serenity of the river L’Aure is worth it. Lots of shops near by and within a few minutes from the restaurant you are at the Musee de la Tapisserie of Bayeux.
- Carrefour City, a local well stocked grocery store, is a great place to get water, snack and food to have your own picnic! It is located on 20 Rue Saint-Jean and it is open from 7 am to 10 PM, Sundays from 9 am.
- You can get your hair done at L’atalier de Sophie on Rue Saint-Jean, and a manicure place right next door!
The Office of tourism is on 6 Rue Saint-Jean. It will be worth the time to stop and get information on local buses to Mt. Saint-Michel if you aren’t driving or buses to Omaha beach.
If you love Claude Monet’s impressionism paintings , and want to walk in his foot steps, see and breath the Water Lilly Garden’s air…then Volia, here you go! I still smile when I think about walking around the garden and imagining Monet’s silhouette across the pond, painting the beautiful lilies. His modest home is filled with images and drawings of the master. His bedroom is intact, and the main garden still blooms. There is a tunnel that will connect you from the house to the garden, as the garden is across the street. I believe at some point there was a road put in that split the garden, hence the tunnel.
Planning for Giverny is critical, it is a small village and everything closes by 6 or 7 PM. The musee Giverny closes at 6 PM during the summer.
- I have not spend time in Giverny other than Monet’s home. Next trip, I will make sure to add more information here.
- For now, I suggest you use this website, which is put together by the village of Giverny to guide you through the details of the village, where to stay, eat, art galleries and more.
After the Eiffel Tower, Mt. Saint-Michele is the most visited site in France by international and French tourists. Located between Normandy and Brittany, it is 90 meter above the sea level with 350 steps to get to the Abbey and the spectacular view. With 1.25 million visitors a year, YOU will NOT be able to avoid the touristic feel of this beautiful landmark, no matter which season, month, or day of the year you go there.
The weather is best in August and September, therefore all the tourist flock to what used to be a pilgrimage site until the 20th century.
To walk in the footsteps of hermits, monks, slaves (who carried rocks on their backs to build the homes and the Abbey of this island), and the residence of this amazing natural phenomena is an experience that will vary from person to person. I found Mt.Saint-Michel to be more beautiful than any other site in France.
Do not miss the Abbey or the tide, both worth the exercise and the time. Explore every corner as this circular island offers one of the most unique experiences of your French discovery.
Where to stay
If you decide to stay the night at Mt.Saint Michel and catch the breathtaking sunrise, here are a few places to consider:
- Hotel du Gue de Beauvoir – a lovely park like river front calm hotel, B&B style, that offers great breakfast and very clean rooms. The hotel, probably a 3 star, is by the delta and has bikes on site which makes it easy to get around. We stayed there two nights and loved it. Prices range from 75-230 euros a night depending on number of guest. It is hard to find hotels that offer rooms for 3 people and Hotel du Gue offers this rarity.
- Airbnb is of course another option with rooms, apartments and entire homes within 10-15 minutes drive to the village.
- You must wear good walking shoes as this mediaeval town is a climb and more climb cobblestones and pack an umbrella.
- Yes it is touristy, but it is part of the French heritage and the charm of Mt. Saint- Michel, La Mere Poulard’s famous and incredibly delicious Omelets from the early 1800, at 35 Euros you are in for a treat.
- The Abbey’s shop offers excellent souvenir and a delicious all spice to make a traditional and delicious spice bread.
The first time I saw Omaha Beach, I had to sit on the sand and allow the emotions take over. You can’t help it. You really realized the enormity of sacrifices made in these calm waters and its landing beaches. I will never forget it and I hope you experience these stretch of amazing and historical beaches, no matter your view on war and politics, to feel the spirit of those brave soldiers who scarified their lives for democracy. If you have room and aren’t emotionally drained, the American cemetery of St. Laurent is just about 10 minutes away off of road D517.
- These beautiful beaches offer their silent waves for families and people who come to pay their respect to the so many soldiers who gave their life for freedom.
- Follow the rules written on the boards near the main monument and the along side of the beach.
- Information center is near the main monument, a beautiful stainless steel art piece known as “Les Braves” the braves.
- If you are interested in additional war museums,is a great place to stop.
- The Peace Memorial, Mémorial pour la Paix, is an impressive site and museum, 20 euros for adults.
- Cabourg is a beautiful sea side town that hosted one of the most beloved French author, Marcel Proust, for 7 weeks at the Grand Hotel. Marcel’s book In Search of Lost Times’s seaside town of Balbec is Cabourg.
- The Arche and the Aiguille of the cliffs of Étretat is only about 15 miles from Le Harve. the amazing cliffs are beautifully captured by the paint brushes of Monet, Coubert, and Polenov.
Rouen and other interesting Normandy areas coming soon