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12 days in France, Military history

Regina, Canada
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12 days in France, Military history

Hi there!

I need a bit of advice on the best place to stay and how many days to devote to exploring the Normandy area. My fiance and I are a young couple in our late 20's, we will be visiting France at the end of March to check out Normandy and major military history sites in France. We are planning on renting a car for the 12 days and starting out trip in Normandy. How many days should we expect to stay in Normandy if we basically want to see the DDay beaches, war memorials, cemeteries, Mont St. Michel, and possible Carnac and Eretat?

We were thinking about staying in Rouen, but I read on another thread that this might not be the best base for the DDAy sites. If so, then where would you recommend we stay, where there is a hotel? We are not really B&B type of people.

We are planning on driving along the coast and stopping at sites along the way up to Flanders Fields after our stay in Normandy.

Thanks for yours help!

Gouvix, France
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1. Re: 12 days in France, Military history

2 days (three nights) based in or around Bayeux for the landing beaches, plus a one day excursion to MSM from Bayeux. Cwell arnac is quite a bit further on (although worth a visit, I'm not sure i'd go all the way there just for a day). Etretat is in the opposite direction, you could do it as a stop on the way to Bayeux from Paris if you like driving.

St Louet sur Vire...
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2. Re: 12 days in France, Military history

Carnac is a long way to the west from everything else you are planning. From Bayeux to MSM is about 1.5 hours ad then Carnac is about another 3 hours on from there (3 hours back).

I think, considering how interested you are in military history, that 2 days will not be long enough. I think you need a minimum of 3 full days for all the WW11 stuff and a day to go off to MSM. I would base myself in Bayeux for that period of time, probably 5 nights and then head north along the coast taking in Etretat on your way to the WW1 sites. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants in Bayeux. Fecamp may be a good place for your 6th night as it is near Etretat.

Regina, Canada
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3. Re: 12 days in France, Military history

Thanks for the advice! I think we will do 5 days there, maybe 6 then work our way up the coast. It's good to know Carnac is so far, I guess we can skip that.

St Louet sur Vire...
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4. Re: 12 days in France, Military history

Wise decision.

Regina, Canada
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5. Re: 12 days in France, Military history

Another question, we would also like to see Dieppe and the war memorials around there. Would it be best to stop at Eretat on the way to Dieppe? Would the Dieppe memorial take a whole day, or only half?

We are planning to head to Amiens after Dieppe to check out Beaumont Hamel.

Ottawa, Canada
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6. Re: 12 days in France, Military history

Check out Major and Mrs Holt's D-Day guide book: http://www.guide-books.co.uk Worthwhile if you are doing the beaches on your own.

You might want to consider a swing a bit north to Dunkirk if time allows. And I think the site of the Battle of Crecy is a worthwhile stop if you are in the neighbourhood...

inDC
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7. Re: 12 days in France, Military history

Hi Sheila: That is a very generous amount of time. Belgium, many cemeteries (web search American Battlefields Monument Commission for world-wide list-visiting hours). I hope to visit more WW1 locales some day, and I understand there is a Taps-musical moment each evening at 8pm, in Ypes, or Leper, to honor fallen. In Belgium, I stay in Brugges-a little boring after a day, Ostende-a lot of retirees, Antwerp-one of my favorite Belgian, if not European cities. Brussels area has some great National History Museums, Imperial periods, Armories.

Follow coast via Ostende to Dieppe, Dunkirk, interesting though history not as evident. Honfleur is a good area for overnight stop, scenic, though rather touristy stop-otherwise, Honfleur in an afternoon.

The real WW2 meat is just past there, starting with Caen, nearly destroyed, rebuilt with some good museums, though the areas I like to visit repeatedly are the landing beaches between Caen and St. Mere-Eglise. From Ouistreham-British/Canadian landing zones, through Arromanches, with the remainder of the artificial harbors, Saint Laurent sur Mer (AKA Omaha Beach) and St. Mere-Eglise with its church, made famous with the U.S.paratrooper mannequin, and some good museums too. Omaha Beach is my fav destination.

If you love quiet and beaches, villages and small towns, stay at/on Omaha Beach, (Saint Laurent sur Mer) or Port-en-Bessin. If you want more urban, Bayeux is closest town. See there the Bayeux Tapestry, showing the 1066 invasion of England. Hotels a bit more expensive, and you may have to pay for parking too. At Omaha Beach, I recommend La Sapiniere in-Saint Laurent Sur Mer. Very comfortable, Inexpensive, very friendly, California-like setting, across street from beach, great food-best mussels, free bikes, speak english. The Ibis in Port-en-bessin is also a favorite hotel. Inexpensive. The town is 3-5 miles from Omaha Beach. Great food in town-Le Fleur De Sel (sp?). Give lots of time at American Cemetery, visitors center not to miss. Flag lowering at 5pm, you can be the American to do the honors if you get there first, introduce yourself at visitors center. Make way for Veterans or Active Service, please. So many museums in area. Newest is at gate to Cemetery. Getting good reviews. Allied and German Cemeteries dot the area. I think I'd go a little stir-crazy after about 4 days in this area.

At MSM, my fav's are Auberge de la Baie for both inexpensive hotel and a great restaurant-have the lamb sampler, which includes an incredible lamb stew. Camera ready for sheep commute-5-6pm....shhhhh, don't tell anyone. You can walk to the Mont from there, 1 hr walk-give no more than 1-2 days-really one overnight, max. Farther west is St. Malo, destroyed-rebuilt after the war, walled city, lots of french and european tourists, lots to see. From there you can ferry to Jersey and Guernsey, which I'll do in future, but not sure the weather in March.

Then drive the coast all the way to Brest area, also destroyed and rebuilt after the war. If you can find some fresh sardines, think of me at the meal. Things get sparser out there, less urban offerings, but plenty of fresh air, hiking, views and nature. Better baguettes. Douarnenez is a cute fishing town and Quimper is a larger town worth visiting. I've stayed at Audierne, which I loved, eating at the Albatross, in town. Mind you, it takes a day and a half to drive back to Brussels from there.

14 days is a lot of time, but the driving can be extreme. I don't mind, but french cars can be small, and their smaller roads take some getting used to. Speed limits are enforced. I've gotten automated tickets by driving too fast between tolls. I suggest a GPS with updated maps to save time and confusion. Don't let your gas tank get too low, some stations don't have attendants at all, and don't take cash or U.S. cards, though available on the superhighways.

BTW, generally, the French in Normandy love Americans. Say hello to the beautiful people of Omaha Beach. They know the sacrifice American boys made back then and they will never forget !! Safe trip, Sheila !!

RT.

inDC
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8. Re: 12 days in France, Military history

And they love Canadians too. But not as much :)

England, United...
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9. Re: 12 days in France, Military history

[we would also like to see Dieppe and the war memorials around there]

I think you may be planning to see the cemetery/memorial to the 900 or so Canadians who died during the ill-fated Dieppe raid in 1942. Driving to Dieppe from Etretat would take about 2 hours. I was last in Dieppe just under a year ago. We drove past the big Canadian cemetery which is in a suburban area of Dieppe, but did not visit it. How long it would take to visit depends on how much of it you want to see and whether you have relatives buried there, but I should think a couple of hours or so would be sufficient.

Dieppe is a 'mixed' place that has sadly run down somewhat over the years. The sea-shore is in parts ugly concrete/dilapidated buildings although there are several pleasant areas. Away from the seafront there are some very nice characterful streets and corners to discover. And the cliffs nearby (towards Varengeville) are very scenic. It was extremely windy when we were there. We were making our way from Dieppe to Veules-les-Roses which is one of the 'plus beaux villages' of France. But when we stopped to admire the scenery our car rocked and we could hardly walk because of the extremely strong wind, so we retreated back inland where the weather was much gentler.

For other WW2-related sites to visit from Etretat have a look at this quite recent thread:

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g482937-i15777-k…

If you plan to visit Dieppe and other military sites between the D-day beaches and Picardy I would advise staying somewhere overnight, as it takes quite a while to visit each site en route, and for parts of the journey you are likely do drive along smaller roads which are not difficult but can be slow.

England, United...
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10. Re: 12 days in France, Military history

If you can, you should also visit the site of Pegasus Bridge and the famous café Gondree in Benouville on the D514.

The taking of Pegasus Bridge in the early hours of D-Day was a major triumph for the Allies. The control of Pegasus Bridge gave the Allies the opportunity to disrupt the Germans ability to bring in re-enforcements to the Normandy beaches, especially those that the British and Canadians were landing at – Gold, Juno and Sword.

The original bridge has been moved slightly from its original location over the river and now rests in the nearby memorial museum park. However, a copy has been recreated and is in its original setting.

A visit to Café Gondree is an experience in itself. The current proprietor is the daughter of the original owner who dug up his bottles of champagne to offer to the allies after liberation. It is still run as a working café but the inside is a museum in itself. You can send postcards from the mailbox there.