With my “blogmaster” on maternity leave I have slipped up and not posted any of my trips this past year. I wouldn’t want anyone to think I wasn’t travelling! Trips to Toronto have replaced most other international destinations (to see the awesome grandbaby!), but I still have some past trips to catch up on.
Normandy, France – August 2010
We started our trip by flying to Washington, Dulles airport to experience a new airline that is Business Class only. Business Class on OPEN SKIES was good, certainly better than coach, but not great. The seats were wide, but not super comfortable – the foot rest didn’t extend as far and I would have liked. The included meal was served all on one tray, no courses like traditional business class, and once the trays were picked up after dinner, the flight attendants were scarce.
Arrival at Orly was easy- through passport control, baggage pick up and customs in no time. Finding Avis wasn’t so easy. It was in another terminal. We decided to pay the 13 euro a day for GPS which should have been great but was terrible. Lots of U turns because it was late in giving directions and no street names. On Monday, I bought a Garmin at a big box store- it was much better and I will rent it at the office – hopefully make up the cost.
First stop –GIVERNY- Monet’s mansion and gardens. A bit confusing to find it, but was well worth the effort. Monet obviously was not a struggling artist – quite wealthy. The grounds were beautiful and it felt like you were merging into his paintings.
I will recommend for anyone driving to take along a chart of road signs. International signage is great, but as Americans, we didn’t recognize a lot of the signs.
HONFLEUR – our first two nights we spend at a charming and quiet little inn. I can’t call it a B & B because breakfast wasn’t included. It was called the Hotel Monet. A hefty walk from the old town and harbor, and hard to find by car.
Plus- quiet, comfortable room, small property, outside the busy part of town, basic, but very good breakfast for 9e – delivered to the room. There was an outside table which would be great if the weather was a little warmer.
Minus- lighting was poor, tub with a hand held shower.
Honfleur was a lovely town. We spent the day walking around and took a carriage ride. There was an old wooden church, many art galleries and lots of restaurants, especially around the quay. Seafood was the big draw. Art had mussels which along with oysters were served everywhere. They bring a pot of mussels, they were small but there must have been a hundred. We learned that you can order them in a wine broth or a cream broth – both ways were great.
After breakfast on the second day (le petit dejeuner) of baggette, croissant, jam, yogurt, cheese, butter, juice and coffee or tea – we reluctantly left Honfleur.
Drove to Caen and “THE MEMORIAL” also called the Peace Museum. Very well done with a walk through history display as well as a movie about D Day with a split screen showing the German army preparing for the invasion on one side and the Allies on the other.
Continued to drive past many landing beaches – JUNO, SWORD, GOLD and on to Omaha. Our hotel is hotel du Casino. It was here on D-Day and Eisenhower stayed here after the war. It is across the street from the beach and has beautiful views. It was recommended that I ask for a room on the second floor but we have a room on the 3rd– smaller windows and more steps. I would recommend asking for rooms 3, 4 or 5 which are on the second floor, bigger windows, less steps.
Hotel du Casino
Plus- quiet, great location, great view, good included breakfast, good lighting
Minus- not much English spoken, not many restaurants nearby, no real shower, only hand held in bathtub
Next day we went to the American cemetery. 9500+ buried there. Very moving Shown in the beginning of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Good movie in the theater about specific soldiers with actors reading their last letters home before D-Day. Good museum.
On to Bayeux- nice medieval town with an impressive cathedral. We chose to skip the famous tapestry of Bayeux- their claim to fame.
Left Omaha beach after breakfast and drove to Utah beach. It was a very successful landing – museum and monuments.
Stopped next at St Mere Englese, where the Allied parachutists first liberated the town, first to be liberated in France. One parachutist landed on the church belfry and they have a mannequin still on the roof.
Got to Mt St Michel around 3:30pm. Night tours had ended the day before for the season. Great to be on the Mont – packed with tourists when we got there, but thinned out when the monastery closed.
Our hotel is Le Mouton Blanc (the white sheep) Some concern because it was only a 2* hotel, but it was quite charming.
Minus- up steep stairs, small room
Dinner was at a restaurant connected to our hotel CHEZ MADO which also was a hotel itself. Best meal of the trip! 3 courses for 22euro plus ½ bottle of wine another 20euros.
Art had mussels in cream for first course – great! Leg of lamb for main course and apple pie for dessert
I had the famous Mt St Michel omelet for a first course (ok) and Farmhouse chicken for my main course – it was fantastic! Fried camerbert for third course.
Visited the monastery/abbey the next day. To me Mt St Michel was a highlight of the trip – it was like being part of a fairy tale. Very romantic. St Michel is an island when then tide is high and the parking lot is covered. When the tide goes out, the sand is like quick sand, so it was a good defense of the island.
Sadly left Mont St Michel and drove to Chartes, mostly good highway.
Had a nice lunch in Chartes and then visited the Cathedral. The Cathedral is really wonderful, stained glass throughout.
On to Paris for the last night. This was the worst drive of the trip. When we got to within ½ hour of Paris, it took 2 hours because of the traffic. Stuck with no way off and gas getting low was making us both nervous. Finally go off, got gas and found our hotel.
From Mont St Michel to Chartres the toll road was 17 euros – from Chartres to Paris another 6 euros. Over $30 usd in tolls, very expensive.
2 nights at the Orly Holiday Inn. Very nondiscript lobby, ugly hallways, but the room was a nice change. No character but big comfy bed, nice comfortor and large bathroom. Nice shower, mini bar and for the first time ICE!
We returned the car and took a bus into Paris. Ate a nice lunch and walked around Paris. We hadn’t plan on spending any time in Paris, but were too close to pass a walk around one of the worlds most beautiful cities.
After the trip, I got a little surprise at home – a speeding ticket! It came in the mail – 90euros for going 5km (about 3 miles) over the limit. BE WARNED!