Honestly, I hate Paris, I would much prefer to visit any other area of this great country. Normandy is one such area, not just because I am somewhat of a history buff but because it is such a beautiful area. In this blog post we will first talk about the number one reason why so many tourists go to Normandy which is because of D-Day in World War II but end with another reason why even non-history buffs may really enjoy this area-the cider.
There are several D-Day tours to choose from, or you can hire a guide, but these can be expensive. You see more by planning your own trip and you can tailor it to fit your interests, as opposed to following a tour.
It is a unique destination that combines scenic views, historical significance, and a humbling glimpse into the realities of war far from the crowds of Paris.
The good news is that it won’t break the bank if you plan ahead.
Visit the Normandy beaches with these tips
A visit to these iconic sites can save you time and money by following these simple steps.
1. Allow yourself plenty of time
First off, It’s not something you should attempt to do in a single day. You can, of course, spend the day visiting memorials and beaches and return to Paris in the evening, if you want. Although difficult, it is possible.
Give yourself at least one night to enjoy more of what the Normandy beaches have to offer by staying in one of the nearby towns. A two-night stay is even better, and hotel rates will be cheaper than in Paris.
Pro-Tip: If you are a golfer be sure to check out the Omaha Beach Golf Club. It is pretty amazing and I found it to be extremely challenging in part due to the ocean breezes that are strong in that area. You’ll need to add a day to your trip. Club rentals are available.
2. Saving money when traveling
Beaches can be reached by public transportation, but it can take some time. It takes about two hours to get to Caen or Bayeux by train from Paris. Authentic cost savers can use the Bus route from Bayeux on their way to the beaches. A few euros will get you to Omaha Beach on the Bus Verts line 70, for example. Buses don’t run very often, so missing one could result in a long wait.
Although it will be more expensive, renting a car from a town outside Paris is the best option. You may have to pay more upfront, but you’ll get to experience more without a potentially costly taxi ride when you miss the last bus and can see the sights at your own pace.
For more information on transportation in Normandy, check out this local website.
Stay in Bayeux for a fairytale experience. Photo:
3. Spend a night in Bayeux
Several affordable options are available in Bayeux, allowing you to use the town as a base for exploring Normandy. Due to its central location, it’s convenient to most noteworthy attractions. You can also visit the town’s cathedral and world-famous tapestry if you decide to stay longer.
Although Caen is a larger town, and sometimes it offers some good deals, Bayeux may be a more worthwhile experience for visitors. Hotels in Lowery Normandy can also be found if you’re looking for more options.
Because most of the World War II action was divided by countries if you are British or Canadian then Caen may be a preferred option since that is where most of those countries’ battles took place and Americans would be better off in Bayeux.
St. Mere Eglise is also a popular option for Americans.
4. Visit the famous beaches
Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah are the main beaches from east to west. Seeing as Omaha Beach also features the cemetery dedicated to fallen American troops, along with the cliffs where German troops defended against the Allied invasion, it tends to attract more Americans. It is the area shown in Saving Private Ryan. Each beach has its own history, with museums and memorials open to the public.
You should do some research on them beforehand to determine which one or two are most important to you to see and then plan your route accordingly, to save time (and gas).
A good way to do some research besides trolling the internet is to watch the movie The Longest Day which has to be one of the most accurate war movies of all time and that shows all the areas where all the major action took place.
5. Visit the museums and memorials
Exhibitions dot the coast and towns around Normandy, explaining the significance of each beach. These museums include the Musée du Embarquement in Arromanches, where the artificial port was built, the Musée Mémorial de la Bataille de Normandie in Bayeux, the Le Mémorial in Caen, and the Utah Beach Landing Museum.
Again, it will be impossible to see every beach and museum, so select the ones you think will be most interesting. If you are traveling with children, one may be enough.
The American Cemetery sits on top of the cliff near Omaha Beach. Photo:
6. Visit the American Cemetery
It is most famous for the cemetery on Omaha Beach that features white marble tombstones facing the United States. In 2019, the visitor center was renovated in time for the 75th anniversary of the landings. It is a humbling and free experience here, but it is not the only cemetery worth seeing. Additionally, the coast is dotted with British, Canadian, and German cemeteries, including Bayeux War Cemetery, where over 4,000 Commonwealth soldiers are buried.
There are dozens of cemeteries to visit, some with only a few graves while the American cemetery contains nearly 10,000 graves.
7. Go on a tour
Although ParisCityVision offers day trips from Paris, you may want to consider booking a local guide once you reach Normandy if you do not rent a car. Normandy Sightseeing Tours offers half-day and full-day tours, but get creative by Googling to find more intimate or budget-friendly options.
With a tour guide, you will be able to gain insight into the beaches, bunkers, and many other interesting sights that you may have otherwise just looked at and not understood what they were.
Honestly, I have never done this myself in Normandy and have always had my own car.
8. Get to know your history
Do yourself a favor and research the importance of the beaches before you go if you’re going the self-guided route and skipping the guide. It may be difficult for those unfamiliar with what happened along the Normandy coast to understand the significance of these beaches and in towns such as Caen, St. Mere Eglise, and Carentan.
It would be a waste of time to rush out for the photo op without taking a moment to appreciate the fallen soldiers and all that occurred on these pristine sandy beaches.
9. Take your lunch with you
Bringing your own lunch on a trip around France is a classic tip. Baguette sandwiches and pastries in the local Bayeux bakery, for example, are an affordable and pleasant alternative to spending time in a mediocre café somewhere along the road.
I would rather nibble on a jambon beurre (ham and butter sandwich) while overlooking the crashing waves than sitting in a roadside cafeteria, wouldn’t you?
If you don’t bring your lunch you will find a few restaurants along the way as well as some food trucks. 20 years ago I had a wonderful hamburger from a stand just off of Omaha Beach but alas that stand is long gone.
10. Mont Saint Michel is an easy detour
In addition to visiting the Normandy Beaches, consider driving to nearby Mont Saint Michel, an hour and a half drive from Bayeux. Although it has nothing to do with the WWII landings, if you’re halfway there, it would be a shame to miss one of France’s most iconic tourist attractions.
11. Normandy Cider Tour
You do not only have to enjoy Normandy for its military history. The region is home to some of the best Apple Cider, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic in the world as well as to Calvados, Apple Brandy.
A friend of mine Stu Stuart runs beer tours in Europe with his company belgianbeerme.com and also has an annual cider tour of Normandy. If your timing works out you should consider going on it and to get to tour various cideries and perhaps a Calvados maker or two.
A proud tradition of cider has been at the heart of Normandy’s agricultural history since the invention of the apple press in the 13th century and thus its popularity as a beverage among farmers.
NORMANDY CIDER TOUR OF FRANCE
EIGHT DAYS, SEVEN NIGHTS | ONE DEPARTURE A YEAR
• MAY 7-14, 2021-CANCELLED
• MAY 6-13, 2022
If your timing is off and you want to check out Cider on your own there is a cider route in Normandy. On a 40-kilometer circular route (very well marked), the Cider Route will take you around Pays d’Auge in lower Normandy. Twenty-some cider producers who are officially part of the route are marked as Cru de Cambremer. More offbeat locations can however be found, and you will find that most of them are more than willing to share their knowledge and cider with you. You aren’t required to visit each stop on the route because you have so many options. Here are the top three places we recommend you add to your itinerary if you’re thinking of booking a holiday along the Red Apple Road.
Due to its 16th-century houses, award-winning flower displays, and winding country lanes, Beuvron-en-Auge has been voted one of the most beautiful villages in France. There are annual festivals celebrating geraniums and cider in this area: the Flower Festival is held in May and the Cider Festival is held in August. It is also a great place to go antique shopping since there are many shops in the village. You can enjoy your cider with some delicious gourmet food at the Pave d’Auge restaurant – the plateau de fromages is an absolute highlight.
Domaine Dupont, one of Normandy’s most famous cider producers, is located in this quiet village. If you can’t make it on one of the daily tours, you can still explore the 74-acre estate. It’s hard to ignore the sweet, caramel taste of Calvados Cream, a liqueur produced on the estate along with the cider. It puts Bailey’s to shame. It’s also worth spending an afternoon touring the village – so definitely consider staying longer.
Cambremer is a great place to start or end your journey. Calvados, the region most known for apple brandy, is home to this rural village that also makes crisp, refreshing cider. Visit the Calvados Pierre Huet distillery (one of the region’s most celebrated distilleries) to sample Calvados, Pommeau, and perry, and then stock up in the shop next door for the rest of the time on holiday. I bought a 20-year-old bottle there at a very reasonable price. The orchards surrounding the half-timbered building are an idyllic place to spend a sunny day, and the village itself is equally beautiful and inviting.
You may be interested in: https://europeantravel.blog/10-off-the-beaten-path-things-to-do-in-paris/
If you enjoyed our content, we'd really appreciate some "love" with a share or two.
And ... Don't forget to have fun!