It is fairly common knowledge that Normandy is a trip of a lifetime. The reference is often concerning the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 – and while this certainly adds a unique depth to a visit, Normandy is a delightful region all on its own. Local cuisine and culture is worth sampling – and the scenery is gorgeous. Go for the history – it is the largest amphibious invasion in human history and rests rightfully iconic in our hearts and minds. This is not a history blog (though someday, when I have more time – maybe!). If you’re looking for perhaps the most incredible and page turning history book on the invasion of Normandy, I heartily recommend D-Day: Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo. Visit the battlefields, but stay for the food, the culture and the Norman history.
Some do not realize there is more to Normandy than the beaches, and in this respect, I hope to set the record straight. We opted to stay in the town of Bayeux, just outside of Caen – home to the famous Bayeux tapestry and renowned for its historical architecture as it was never bombed during the war.
How we got there:
Easy enough – we flew to Paris and caught the train from Paris St. Lazare straight to Bayeux. Give yourself plenty of time to get from whichever Paris airport you land it to the actual train station. We were travelling with my parents-in-law this trip and for ease booked a direct transfer via getyourguide. While a little pricey ($91.00 for a 4 person private trip), at least you know that you have a driver there and waiting for a tight turnaround time.
For trains, there are regular services to Normandy and we elected to stay in Bayeux, which is approximately a 2 hour 15 ride. Tickets are crazy reasonable (11 euro one way apiece) when booked in advance. French railway tickets can be bought here. Side note: French law now requires all luggage to be clearly labelled with traveler’s name – there are free tags at all SNCF counters, but beware of this before you get on the train.
Where we stayed:
I once wrote about my ambivalence regarding B&Bs. After staying Domaine de Bayeux, I take it all back. This was a perfect and quintessential French countryside experience. The Domaine was built in 1791 and is perfect. Literally perfect. Rooms with modern amenities but old world charm, lovely grounds with orchards you can roam, perfect decor and exceptional staff. Breakfast is served en famille, at one large table and features fresh items made on site (with baked good featuring the fruits of the orchard). The Domaine also assisted in booking our private tour of the American Sector in Normandy, which was incredible.
Where we ate:
You know when you read tripadvisor and just can’t be sure someplace is magical? This place is magical! Reservations recommended. A very good wine selection. The order: escargots profiteroles, magret du canard in maple cranberry glaze, prawns, lemon tart, and some delicious chocolate concoction.
We ate here our first night and it was delightful. The menu – while not extensive – was well developed and sufficient for our needs.
What we did:
Our fabulous B&B arranged for a private tour of the American sector which covered the following:
- St. Mere Eglise
- Church of Angoville au Plain (also known as the church of the Bloody pews)
- Utah Beach
- Pointe d’Hoc
- Omaha Beach
- American Cemetery
It was – in a word- incredible. Entirely worth 100 euro a person. Our guide was knowledgeable and accommodating. While the tour was not entirely private – it accommodates a total of 8 people – we still felt it was very reasonable based on the level of service we received. Some photos included, but it doesn’t do it justice. Just go!
A day trip to Mont St. Michel
I will admit to having my heart set on this – since I’ve wanted to see it for years. We took the Bayeux Shuttle, which was about 60 euro and included entrance onto the island. It was also incredible but a bit of a trek from Bayeux.