3 days in Honfleur, Bayeux, or Etretat?
Replies: 17 - Last Post: Jul 16, 2012 4:18 AM Last Post By: wilco3
Jun 13, 2012 3:17 AM
3 days in Honfleur, Bayeux, or Etretat?Hello,
My partner and I are in Paris for the summer for work. We would like to take a 3-day trip out of the city to a town in Normandy sometime in July. Our work is flexible, so we are thinking of taking a midweek trip as we imagine that would cut down on the crowds. After reading many excellent posts on this forum, we are thinking of either Honfleur, Bayeux, or Etretat. We are not interested in WWII tourism or fancy resort-style locations, and we are on a moderate budget. (We would like to find quite cheap lodging and spend on food.) We are interested in hiking/biking, excellent food & drink, and a relaxing change of scenery from Paris.
Are these the right cities to be looking at for what we are interested in, or will they be too busy in July? Would folks recommend one in particular? The tapestry in Bayreux is of some interest, but mostly we just want to be tranquil and enjoy some natural beauty.
Thanks for any advice!
Jun 13, 2012 3:42 AM
Jun 13, 2012 4:01 AM
2Regards is right that Honfleur may not be the cheapest for accommodation, especially in July. But that area is a central location between Bayeux and Etretat so puts you in a good location for exploring either Upper or Lower Normandy. July will likely not be cheap in any coastal or touristy area but if that's when you have to go then so be it.
If you don't mind being in a smaller village near to Honfleur that doesn't have much in terms or restaurants, stores or services then look at somewhere nearby where accommodation will be cheaper. If you have a car you can drive to someplace like Honfleur or Deauville/Trouvile if you want services and a wide selection of restaurants.
As for where to look for accommodation, try tourist office websites. You should google some of the town/tourist office websites for any towns you may want to visit. You will find loads of info on these websites including hotel/accommodation and restaurant info as well as what to see and do in the area. Occasionally the websites have English versions. In doing a google search enter the words "office de tourisme" or "site officiel" followed by the name of your town and this will bring the town to the top of your search.
Have a look at the link below and you'll find out about what you can see and do near Honfleur as well as links to several area tourist office websites:
Jun 13, 2012 4:34 AM
3Thank-you both for your tips! We do not have a car, so train/bus accessibility is crucial. After looking into accommodations a bit, it does seem like Honfleur is the most expensive of our options, but the central location has some appeal. (We do speak French, so navigating tourist info is not a problem.)
Jun 13, 2012 4:42 AM
Jun 13, 2012 8:32 AM
5There is bus service in that area and you can use the website www.busverts.fr to find schedules and prices. However, service to the small villages such as Beuvron-en-Auge is going to be limited so you're going to have to research carefully to figure out how to get around by public transport. I assume you know how to use the www.voyages-sncf.com website for train schedules.
Jun 13, 2012 8:56 AM
Jun 13, 2012 9:50 AM
7Bayeux is lovely but quite small. It's still a good base. But for a weekend I'd head for St. Malo. You have a walled fortified city with excellent seafood restaurants, picturesque beaches, day trip options to Dinan and Dinard as well as Mt. St. Malo. You can take the train to St. Malo with a change at Rennes (I think).
Jun 13, 2012 11:20 AM
8If you just want to hit the major places that have frequent public transport connections then you can do it without a car. If you want to explore and see the countryside and smaller villages and out of the way places then you need a car. Have you compared the cost of a 3-4 day car rental (plus fuel and tolls) with the cost of train and bus tickets? Even though the car would likely cost more it will allow you to go where you want when you want.
Jun 14, 2012 3:44 AM
Last week I stayed in a chambre d’hôte in Ablon, a tiny village some 6 km south-east from Honfleur. Costs for two persons are €51,- for one night and breakfast is included. Ablon itself is not really beautifull, but very tranquil and there is a pizzeria. The area around Honfleur is really lovely with it’s numerous half timbered houses and the natural caracter of the countryside. The lady of the chambre d’hôte gave me a little guide of Gîtes de France with a list of over 300 adresses (and prices) in Calvados, the coastal region around Caen (which also includes Honfleur). If you are interested you can (I presume) get the guide also from:
Gîtes de France Calvados
6 promenade Mme de Sévigné
14050 CAEN Cedex 4
Tel: 00 33 (0)2 31 82 71 65
My general impression is that the region east of Caen is more charming then the western region. It’s nevertheless charming, but there are less half-timbered houses that contributes so much to the atmosphere. As french_mystique (his information is always very usefull and “solide comme un roc”) already noticed Beuvron-en-Auge is worth a visit,
If you want to explore the area, I think it’s best to consider renting a car, because public transport will be very time consuming and will limit you to visit the nice spots. You can also hire a bike, but as the region is very hilly you must be sure you like to bike up- and downhill. If you can’t use a GPS, take a well detailed map like “Les cartes DEPARTEMENTS France” from Michelin, in this case nr: 303 Calvados, Manche and costs about €5,- and is relativily easy to get in most supermarkets like E.Leclerc.
Also the area north of Le Havre is nice, I stayed there in 2005 and visited also Étretat. But I can’t remember that the area is more preferable then that of Honfleur. To see Les Falaises is really worth to do, but there are also nice little harbour villages alongside the coast.
As it will be high season it’s obvious that the well known places like Honfleur and Deauville will be full of tourists. Deauville is posh, but surprisingly there are (almost) no modern buildings, has loads of caracter and is certainly worth a visit.
I can give you the adress of the place where I stayed if it is of interest for you.
Enjoy your stay.
Jun 15, 2012 1:21 AM
10wilco3, thanks very much for your helpful input. The gites de france calvados site is great! And tallybait, we have also considered St. Malo. Thanks for the recommendation.
Has anyone here ever used Voiturelib', or know anything about it? It is a person to person car rental agency -- like airbnb for cars. I think that would be the only way that car rental prices could be even in the range of train/bus tickets. Train tickets to Deauville are currently 30 euro per person round trip, or 40 pp round trip to Bayeux, and bus fares would be minimal. Compared to car rentals starting at 30 euro/day, plus gas and tolls (plus inevitable agency fees that are invisible until you book). So, Voiturelib' is tempting (potentially more like 15 euro/day) but we're a little hesitant about it.
Renting bikes also has a lot of appeal. We are moderately-to-very experienced cyclists comfortable with hills. (I mean, reasonable hills, not awful ones. I know everyone has their own definition of reasonable, of course -- but we are bike commuters who live in a hilly area of the US, so I think we would be okay.) It seems like Beuvron-en-Auge would be a nice ride from Caen, for example. Does anyone know if you are able to take bikes on the bus verts? It seems not, although they make no mention of it one way or another on the website. It would be nice to have that option, I think.
Jun 15, 2012 6:25 PM
11I don't believe you can take your bikes on the buses but you can take your bikes on the local TER trains. The area around Beuvron-en-Auge is hilly but there are no real killers there. If you are very fit and can handle 1/2 km to 1km ascents then you could do it. If you got a Michelin map of the scale 1:150,000 or 1:200,000 you could get around there quite easily. If you like topo maps the IGN series are good. I prefer the Michelin maps because of the icons for interesting things to see. If you want tips on how to read the Michelin maps for biking let me know.
Jun 21, 2012 4:06 AM
12Thanks again to all for your advice. In the end we are going to take the train to Bayeux in the morning, spend one night there, and take the bus verts to Honfleur the next day via Caen. We'll spend two nights in Honfleur (hopefully doing a bike ride from there one day) and return to Paris late on the fourth day via Deauville.
We'll leave an update to let everyone know how it went.
Jun 22, 2012 5:18 AM
Well I’m looking out for how your trip will be, hopefully it will meet expectations. Personally I liked Bayeux and the tapestry is to my opinion worth a visit. Also lovely is the cathedral with it’s many stained glass windows. I also visited briefly the city centre of Caen, and I have to say that the fortress of William the Conqueror impressed me.
About the maps. The maps of Michelin where french_mystique talks about are the same that I mentioned in my earlier post. For me personally these maps are interesting when driving through the countryside of France. The sign posting shows in some cases only the nearby tiny places, mostly not shown on lesser detailed maps and then it is easy to get lost and loose to much time to find the main road again. And also these maps giving a lot of information like mentioned by french_mystique.
So good luck, I appreciate that you will let us know how everything went over a while.
Jul 7, 2012 12:29 AM
We had a lovely 3.5 days in Bayeux and Honfleur. The first week of July was not so bad for crowds, since I believe the school year is just now ending. Certainly there were many tourists, but it was nowhere near as crowded as Paris, so we were happy!
We took the train to Bayeux the first morning, and spent the afternoon exploring the town. The highlight was definitely the tapestry -- absolutely worth a visit. We did not expect to be so excited about it, but it was wonderful. Bayeux itself is nice, certainly worth an afternoon to walk around. We went to a great wine bar called Le Volet Qui Penche, down an alley across from the tourist info office. Extremely helpful proprietor, excellent selection of wines by the glass and bottles to buy. He seemed to speak good English as well. There was a pretty good farmer's market Wednesday morning. That morning we rented bicycles in town and rode to Arromanches, where there is a D-Day landing site. It was a very easy ride of less than 40 min each way, although I think we were making pretty brisk time -- or as brisk as possible on rental bikes! Only one real incline, and it was not bad if you're moderately fit. We'd recommend this ride, but there are many other options leaving Bayeux. If we had stayed we'd definitely have done more cycling in the area.
Took Bus Verts to Honfleur via Caen. They were a bit more expensive than we had anticipated, but otherwise were excellent. It takes awhile because they make so many stops, but you also really get a sense of the countryside and the villages. If we had planned ahead we might have gotten one of the unlimited day passes and stopped for a bit in one or another of the towns -- maybe Cabourg, since we are Proust fans. However these passes cannot be purchased aboard the bus. Maps for all the lines are available in the tourist office in Bayeux. Timetables are different in summer and during the school year, so make sure you have the proper schedule.
In Honfleur we took quite a few long walks -- along the beach and adjoining gardens, around the Croix Rouge / Côte de Grâce area, to Equemauville, all of which we would recommend. Thought of renting bikes there too, but we did not end up doing so. The only bike rental place is quite a bit out of the old town, which discouraged us somewhat. The old town is very picturesque and beautiful. There are many art galleries and shops selling regional products, as well as very many cafés and restaurants. We ate very well here -- the highlight was probably the seafood at Entre Terre et Mer. We visited the Musée Eugene Boudin, which has many paintings of Honfleur and environs from different eras. A pretty mixed bag in terms of quality, and nothing overwhelmingly special, but interesting and worth a visit if you like art. In Honfleur we stayed at the B&B La Linière, which had an excellent price-quality ratio. Beautiful old house situated a short walk from the old town, friendly proprietor, well-appointed rooms, and good breakfasts (standard French hotel breakfast, but done well). Honfleur was in general slightly more expensive than Bayeux, but not dramatically so. There was certainly a wider range of slightly more expensive restaurants (average 3 course menu around 28 or 30 euro, more à la carte), but there were more modest options as well.
And that about does it! In short, we'd highly recommend both towns, but would have gotten a bit bored spending much more time in either place, without some good bicycles or plans for daytrips. If we were to do it again, we might consider springing for a rental car and staying in a gite rather than hotels, but our train and bus travel was pleasant and convenient. Feel free to PM me for more specific info or recommendations on restaurants, etc.
(3 star Hotel)
From US$214.90 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$153.24 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$165.49 per night