Getting to Normandy
Posted on: July 1st, 2016 by Bruno
The region of Normandy is rich with history, from the Bayeux Tapestry to the fields of Honfleur that gave birth to the Impressionist movement. A trip to Normandy is sure to be the topic of conversation at the dinner table for many years to come… once you figure out how you will get there!
Normandy has long played an important role in European history. From the Norman invasion in 1066 to the D-Day landings in 1944, the region is overflowing with history. Normandy is famous for the island monastery of Mont Saint-Michel, the Bayeux Tapestry, and the many cemeteries and memorials that dot the D-Day beaches. However, Normandy is also home to many lesser known delights: from pebbly beaches to quiet pastoral villages, the region is just waiting to be discovered. Along with its many gastronomical treats, such as cider, Camembert cheese, and very fresh seafood, a trip to Normandy is sure to inspire all the senses.
An ideal cycling region, the rolling countryside of Normandy offers a plethora of different experiences. We offer a variety of tours that take place in this region:
- Normandy Landmarks: D-Day Sites and Mont Saint-Michel
- Normandy Discovery: From Bayeux to Rouen via Honfleur
- Impressionist Normandy: Honfleur to Giverny
- Normandy’s D-Day Landing Beaches and Historic Bayeux
- Magnificent Mont Saint-Michel and its Bay
- Normandy’s Peace and War Memorials: From Bayeux to Caen
- Normandy Discovery for Avid Riders: From Bayeux to Rouen via Honfleur
Almost all of our tours begin in the town of Bayeux, while one begins in Honfleur. In the following piece, we will cover the different options you have for arriving in or departing from these cities.
The town of Bayeux is the starting point for a number of our tours in Normandy, so make sure you leave time to explore it! Bayeux was the first French town to be liberated after D-Day and is one of the few places in the area to have survived WWII practically unscathed. Nowadays, Bayeux makes an ideal base for exploring the D-Day beaches (and starting a cycling tour!) The city is filled with 13th- to 18th-century buildings, many of them half-timbered, and is home to a stunning Gothic cathedral. The tours that start from Bayeux are Normandy Landmarks, Normandy Discovery, Normandy’s D-Day Landing Beaches, Normandy’s War and Peace Memorials, and Normandy Discovery (Avid).
OPTIONS: TRAINS, PLANES, AUTOMOBILES, AND BUSES
The Gare de Bayeux is a small station with trains to cities such as Cherbourg, Caen, and Paris, as well as regional trains to Rennes (TER). The train station is located on the edge of town, within easy walking distance of most sites and hotels. There are taxis available to take you to your final destination (price varies depending on length of voyage). You can find more information here.
There are multiple trains daily from the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris to Bayeux. With an average travel time of around 2 hours and 15 minutes, tickets start at around 30 euros one-way. If you wish to purchase in advance, you can buy tickets online at Voyages-SNCF (if you are in the US you may be redirected to RailEurope to book). Be warned that many tickets purchased in advance are nonrefundable. Make sure you select the correct train station when booking online. Please note that you can also easily purchase your ticket at the station at the ticket counter or one of the many automatic distributors.
Summary of train options:
If you are coming from within Europe, particularly the UK, you may catch one of the local flights from London to the airport in Caen. Starting from 95 euros, this direct flight takes around 1 hour and 10 minutes. If arriving from Lyon, the tickets start from 192 euros and flight time is around 1 hour and 15 minutes. However, if you are flying internationally, it is a better option to fly into an international hub (such as London or Paris) and connect to Bayeux.
The airport in Caen is 25km (16 miles) from Bayeux. In order to travel to Bayeux from Caen, you can take a regional bus, a train, or a taxi. Train tickets start from 6.80 euros, while taxi fares are dependent on your time of arrival and traffic. You can also take a bus from the airport to the train station in Caen, in order to take a train to Bayeux. You can find more information here.
By car, Bayeux is 20 minutes away from Caen, around 2 hours away from Rennes, and approximately 3 hours away from Paris. Upon arrival in Bayeux, you will have a whopping 3,750 parking places to choose from, a majority of which are free! You can download a map of the various options here.
Departmental transportation is provided by the Bus Verts du Calvados. This comprehensive bus network serves the whole Calvados “département” in Normandy. There are information sites found at the train stations in Caen, Bayeux, and Deauville. The fares range, depending on your destination, but tickets start at 1.55 euros for a single ride. Single journey tickets are available on the bus as well as in numerous other locations. The full list can be found here.
Summary of options for getting to Bayeux:
BAYEUX TO MONT SAINT-MICHEL
No trip to Normandy is complete without a visit to the historic island abbey of Mont Saint-Michel! One of the greatest architectural achievements in all of Europe, the ancient structure is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most breathtaking sights France has to offer.
The quickest and most direct route from Bayeux is by car (a 1 hour 25 minute journey). The car park fee at Mont-Saint-Michel is 11.70 euros per car per day, with larger vehicles charged more. Depending on the size of your group and car rental rates, this may be the best option for you. If not…
…you can take a regional TER train from Bayeux to Pontorson, a direct journey coming in at around 1 hour 45 minutes and 24.50 euros per person (one-way). There are typically four departures each day from Bayeux, two in the early morning and two in the late afternoon. Bikes are allowed on the train at no extra cost. From the Pontorson train station, you can then take a shuttle to Mont-Saint-Michel (2.80 euros per person, one-way).
For more information on getting to Mont-Saint-Michel, see our blog post.
Located a mere 10km from the Mont Saint-Michel, Pontorson has a fascinating history. Founded in the 12th century after a vow by William the Conqueror, it was home to a fortress that was later razed to the ground in 1623 by order of King Louis XII of France. However, some buildings still remain from this period, such as the Notre-Dame and the hotel Guiscard Ménardière. During WWII, the city was even briefly home to an operational airfield that flew P-47 Thunderbolts, before the unit was moved into central France.
OPTIONS: TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES
Pontorson’s close proximity to the Mont Saint-Michel makes it a popular tourist destination. Luckily, the town is easily accessible by train! A 1 hour and 15 minutes train ride from Paris Montparnasse, you can quickly travel from the City of Light to Pontorson. Tickets cost approximately 90 euros and can be bought online in advance from SNCF or directly at the station at the ticket counter or one of the many automatic ticket distributors.
For those of you wishing to arrive by car, Pontorson is around a 4-hour drive from Paris. Tolls will cost approximately 24 euros one-way. Once you’ve arrived in Pontorson, there are various parking lots to choose from, though most of them are metered. If you’re planning to visit Mont Saint-Michel, there is a dedicated parking lot and the car park fee is 11.70 euros per car per day.
For hundreds of years, this 11th century fishing port has been the focus of artists: Eugène Boudin, Gustave Courbet, and Claude Monet, to name a few! Today, you will still see art students with their sketchbooks along the Vieux Bassin (old harbor). Its not hard to understand why– this picturesque harbor is simply enchanting, from the impossibly high 18th-century townhouses that tower over the harbor to the light glistening off of the white boats floating in the water. In the past, Honfleur was an important harbor for fishing and cargo. Today, it is still a very active fishing village. Honfleur survived WWII literally without a scratch, with not a single bomb falling on the town during the war. Our tour “Impressionist Normandy: From Honfleur to Giverny” begins here, so make sure to leave enough time to explore and discover the area.
OPTIONS: TRAINS, PLANES, AUTOMOBILES, AND BUSES
While there are no direct trains to Honfleur, one can still arrive easily through a combination of bus and train. Several trains depart daily from the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris to Trouville-Deauville. From here, you can take a 25 minute bus ride (starting from 2.40 euros) to Honfleur. Train fares start from 25 euros (one-way). You can book your tickets in advance at SNCF or you can easily purchase your tickets at the station, at the ticket counter or one of the many automatic distributors.
If you plan to arrive in Honfleur by plane, the closest airport is the Deauville Airport. Though small, from April 1 to October 28th, 2016 there are bi-weekly flights from London-Stansted to the Deauville Airport. With a flight time of 1 hour 5 minutes and tickets starting from 90 euros round trip, this is a good option for those of you arriving from the UK. If you are arriving internationally, it is better to fly into a large international airport and connect to Honfleur via train or bus.
The airport in Deauville is 11km from Honfleur. There are shuttles from the airport into the center of Deauville where you can take the Line 20 bus to Honfleur. Fares start from 8 euros per person for the shuttle and from 2 euros for the bus. If you wish to take a taxi from the airport directly to Honfleur, fares will range from approximately 23-28 euros depending on traffic and your arrival time. Please find more information concerning the shuttles and taxis here.
Whether you’ve rented a vehicle for your vacation or are traveling with your own, Honfleur is easily accessible by car. Driving from Paris takes around 2 to 2.5 hours. Once you’ve arrived in Honfleur, the majority of the parking is metered; however, the parking lot at Naturospace (and its 500 spaces) is free!
Departmental transport is provided by the Bus Verts du Calvados. There are information sites found at the train stations in Caen, Bayeux, and Deauville. The fares range, depending on your destination, but tickets start at 1.55 euros for a single ride. A full list of where tickets are available can be found here.
Summary of options for Honfleur: