Subject: Re: Driving in Normandy (was Amsterdam in April)
Dear Barb:

I couldn't let your comment pass, as we discovered Normandy to be a perfect place for enjoying a leisurely road trip filled with spontaneous stops. For those who don't understand your quandry, the French railway provides inadequate coverage to this relatively rural region. Thus, the only options are self-drive or tour. IMHO, independent travel in that area is so easy, and the joys of stopping when/where you want are so great, the choice is easy. Normandy is an absolutely charming area--the people are especially warm towards Americans &Canadians (memories are long), the inland region is lovely, agricultural--you will *have* to stop at least once at an apple winery to sample the cider, sparkling wine and calvados--and the seaside towns have a lot of character. I guess we're pretty easy to please, but we had great fun in several towns just poking around in the local hardware, drugstore, etc., gathering picnic makings by stopping in the butcher shop, patisserie, fruit/veg market, etc.

Of course, the various war memorials are truly awesome and moving.
>From your other post, I gather y'all are either a vet family or war buffs, so you probably don't need any pre-trip education, but I found the Stephen Ambrose books on WWII to be excellent(I think he's tiresome to read, but on tape, the stories came to life--I often drove around the block more than once to listen to the end of a story!). Bayeaux is a particularly lovely place, the prettiest & most interesting big town in the region, with it's own history and famous attraction, the great tapestry. (A highly recommended place to stay and eat in Bayeaux is le Lion d'Or.) Le Mont St. Michel is an easy drive from the area--as everyone says, an overnight visit (ooh, aah at sunset &sunrise) is the way to see it.

With a Michelin regional map, I think you will find the driving surprisingly easy--frequent signage that was easy to understand, no superhighways or toll roads with impatient locals drafting you, and I would guess you will find only a moderate amount of traffic regardless of when you plan to visit, as when we were there June 2000, even on the anni. of D-Day, traffic was low.

Just FYI in case your trip plans aren't firmed up and you want to consider all options, you can access Normandy just as easily from England as Paris via the P&O fast cat that crosses between Portsmouth &Cherbourg in roughly 3-1/2 hrs for a reasonable price. I think we paid $40pp -- note that the express crossing is avail. only during tourist season mid-Apr. through Sept. You can book online @ Also, Versailles is a logical stop to/from Paris if you've never visited before (or can't get enough of it!). Their website is gorgeous:

Here's a few other links from my Normandy file:

American Cemetery @ Omaha Beach Caen Memorial museum (it's superb) General Normandy region tourism site (This site has a fairly comprehensive hotel/restaurant database, among other things)

Okay, sorry everyone for being so long-winded when it comes to Normandy. I loved it! Hope there's something in here that boosts your spirits about driving, Barb...

Diana Ball Houston, TX