Normandy, France

Normandy, France

Where to stay: ​Because Normandy is such an expansive region in France, where you stay will largely depend on what you’re interested in doing, and what type of access you have to transportation.  I traveled through Normandy in a car, so I chose to stay in an Airbnb just outside of a small town called Pont l’Évêque.  I thought that this location was great because the town had restaurants and bakeries for us to have breakfast and dinner if we wanted, and was fairly centrally located within the region.  If you’re looking to stay in a bigger city (Pont l’Évêque was seriously tiny), I would recommend either Caen or Honfleur.  Honfleur is an absolutely gorgeous coastal town with some good Airbnb options, while Caen is a bit bigger, but with Airbnb options that are pricier.  Neither city has any hostels as far as I’m aware.  Regardless of where you choose to stay in Normandy, this region is best tackled with a personal vehicle.  The towns are more spread out in Northern France, and public transportation is a bit sparser, so renting a car would probably be the best way to go.

Where to eat: I would recommend staying away from the bigger and more touristy cities like Caen and Mont Saint-Michel, as the restaurants were quite pricey.  Choosing to eat in a town like Honfleur or Pont l’Évêque will likely give you a better meal for less money.  In Pont l’Évêque, we went to a nicer restaurant called Restaurant le Saint-Melaine, where we had a great local meal that was much less expensive than it would have been in a city like Caen.  Pro tip: nicer restaurants like this become much more affordable if you look for a Prix Fixe (or fixed price) menu.  If you choose to eat at one of the coastal cities, be sure to try the regional specialty of Moules Frites during the summer- this is a essentially a bucket of mussels cooked in various sauces with fries.  You’ll find them all over France and Belgium, but they’re particularly well known in Normandy!

What to do: ​There are a ton of places to visit throughout Normandy, but choosing where to go will much depend on your interests.  If you’re into Second World War history, you’ll definitely want to check out the D-Day beaches.  There are advertised museums that are spread throughout the area of the beaches, but there’s a free museum at Omaha Beach that’s really well-done and comprehensive, so I would skip paying for entry to the other museums.  Omaha Beach is the most “built up”, as it has the museum as well as the American cemetery, and it also has a walkway right now to the beach.  If you only have time to go to one, I would definitely recommend Omaha.  Aside from the D-Day sites, you can also take a trip to Bayeux to visit the adorable little town, and also to visit the Bayeux Tapestry.  The Tapestry is definitely worth seeing, it’s an incredible piece of history.  Mont Saint-Michel isn’t too far from Normandy, and is easily do-able if you’re visiting the region.  Be forewarned, Mont Saint-Michel is quite touristy, but it’s also pretty incredible.  Try to go during a week day when there won’t be quite so many tourists crowding the island and you’ll be better off.  European citizens get free access to the monastery, while others have to pay, but it is the one thing to really tour in the town so it may be worth doing!  Otherwise, just spend some time walking through the little streets and exploring, as it’s a pretty incredible little island.  If you’ve read Monuments Men, you’ll appreciate the visit even more!  Just be sure to pay attention to the tides, because there are certain times when you can’t access the island. Also be aware that you park on the mainland and then have the option of walking or taking a shuttle to the actual island.  The two cities that are really worth visiting are Caen and Honfleur.  Caen is a bigger city, and it feels more posh, while Honfleur is much more laid back and more typically “nautical”.  I personally preferred Honfleur because of how beautiful and charming it was, but if you have time you should definitely visit both!

Overall Opinion: I truly loved visiting Normandy because there are so many diverse things to do.  I thought that visiting the D-Day sites was incredibly important and moving, and having the opportunity to visit such historically significant sites like Mont Saint-Michel and Bayeux was amazing.  If I were to go back to Normandy, I think that I would stay in Honfleur and explore that city and area a little bit more, but I think that no matter where you stay, you’re likely to have a really great time in Normandy!

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