Normandy, France – Road Trip from Paris, France
After a few days in Paris we decided some time in the countryside was necessary and we opted to take a day trip to the Normandy area of France, 3 hours outside Paris, home of the D-day events. A few computer clicks later, we had a car rental ready confirmed for the next morning. It was nice to see the other side of France, get a feel for what happened during D-day and have the freedom to stop whenever, wherever along the way.
Score Card: 5.6/10
- Transportation: 4/10 (public transportation is available but difficult to coordinate, the roads are well kept for those that drive but there are a lot of tolls)
- Price: 5/10 (most things are inexpensive but getting there costs a lot)
- Safety: 9/10 (although we didn’t lose anything, there were signs and warnings for pickpockets everywhere, and graffiti was found throughout the city)
- Food: 4/10 (the food options weren’t plentiful or vast, most of the options were mediocre at best)
- Culture: 6/10 (there is a lot of culture to take part in from swanky bars with cancan dancers to singers on the metros to shops lining the streets on the weekends)
- History: 9/10 (it was immense, everywhere you looked was something that reflected a part of their history or had a story to tell)
- Excitement: 5/10 (there weren’t many thrill factors to indulge in)
- Awe Inspiring: 8/10 (the age of some of the buildings and realizing what went on there left us in awe)
- Technology Equipped: 3/10 (had limited service throughout, most of the drive was without service but when we drove through a larger city or found a popular destination spot 4G or wifi would be available, if we didn’t cache an offline map we would have had issues getting around)
- Female Friendly: 9/10 (It’s a safe and friendly city for women)
- Solo Travel Recommended: 4/10 (most of the locals didn’t speak much if any English and being rural, people weren’t in abundance)
- Language Barrier: 3/10 (once you leave the city, the number of English speakers and their fluency greatly declined. We used translating apps to fill in the gaps that helped a lot. As long as you tried to make an effort, most people were really friendly)
Where to go:
- Download an offline / cached map on your phone that covers all the areas you plan on visiting as the internet is limited and navigation with the offline map will be much easier as it uses triangulation and you can still search / type in locations to get directions to / from there to / from where you are
- Most of the major D-day landmarks close at 5pm, getting into the city early will allow you to see and do more
- The tolls accept credit cards as well as euros. Budget for 20 euros in tolls each way between Paris and Normandy (40 euros total)
Omaha Beach Monument
Description: An amazing beautiful monument in the sand overlooking part of ‘Omaha beach’ paying homage to the D-Day event.
Location: Avenue de la Libération, 14710 Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, France
Website / Tickets: http://www.musee-memorial-omaha.com/
Notes: The monument is easily visible from the street with parking within a 100m (although parking could be difficult on busy days)
Above is a photo of where the troops were deployed (the US were on Utah and Omaha beaches while the British and Canadian troops were on the beaches shown further east). There are lines that show where they wanted to be at the 24 hour mark vs the shaded area of the progress they actually made, but ultimately being victorious and taking back France from the Nazi’s after a few weeks.
Cathedrale Notre Dame de Bayeux
Description: This church is the tallest building in the town dates back to 1077 when William, the Duke of Normandy and King of England, were in power. It is adorned with intricate stained glass windows and if you have a chance to visit the crypt, you’ll see the amazing frescoes.
Location: Cathedrale Notre Dame de Bayeux, 14400 Bayeux, France
Notes: Be prepared to wait in line for at least a hour and spend at least 45 minutes walking through the maze of underground passages
Abandoned Hospital – Center Du Vexin – Sanatorium Aincourt
Description: Built in 1933, this hospital was constructed with the purpose of tuberculosis treatment. Later, caught in the middle of WW2, it was taken hold by militia and turned into a concentration camp in 1941. Despite being able to hold 150 people, it quickly fluctuated to over 600 ‘suspected individuals’ with those being held then being sent to places such as Auschwitz. Soon after, in 1942, it was turned into a military training camp and then after the war was reopened as a hospital 1946 only to be finally closed decades later and registered as a historical site since 1992. The ruins exist for 2 of the 3 pavilions (the third still being used by the current hospital in service), the laundry building, morgue and some additional housing. Currently, it is decorated with graffiti with most windows missing and some walls and ceilings crumbling. The overgrown foliage is taking back the building as it continues to decay.
Location: 25 Rue des Acacias 95510 Aincourt, France
Cost: free, but enter at your own risk
Notes: The area oozes an eerie overtone contrasted by a beautiful wooded setting. We saw 2 militia standing outside a closed road with what appeared to be automatic guns when we were near the current working hospital – so to those interest, enter at your own risk. We parked in the north-western most parking lot, from there you’ll see a path leading into the forest (away from the hospital) and just beyond that you’ll see, in the distance, what looks like a 2-3 story building. Walk about 300 yards on the path (past the danger / warning signs) and you’re there, can’t miss it.
Costs: 245.80 € for 2 people for a 1 day road trip
- 58 € Car rental for 1 day (higher rate due to additional rental fee for dropping it off at a different location than it was picked up from)
- 37.80 € tolls to Normandy and back
- 90 € gas for car
- 14 € Battle of Normandy Museum tickets for 2
- 26 € dinner near Omaha beach at D-Day restaurant for 2
- 20 € for souvenirs and snacks
- 11am: grabbed our rental car but got detoured to a different location as our pickup location was closed (unbeknownst to us) due to the Paris marathon
- 12:30pm: grabbed our stuff from our Airbnb/checked out and headed out to the French countryside
- 1:30pm: checked out an abandoned hospital 15 min off the highway in the back of a sleepy town
- 2:30pm: took a detour and see a mansion but stopped and checked out some cute picturesque farms before we got there then saw a parade of vintage cars cruising by when we finally got to the mansion
- 4:30pm: made it to the Museum of the Battle of Normandy
- 6pm: made it to the Omaha monuments
- 6:45pm: grabbed dinner at a nearby diner
- 7:15pm: cruised the countryside in search of cute areas for photos and the perfect sunset spot
- 7:45pm: headed back towards Paris, stopping at Omaha beach again to place a lock
- 11:35pm: made it back to Paris
- The countryside is riddled with historically old homes and buildings that have seen and survived both world wars and surrounded by the most picturesque settings, rolling green hills, flowers, livestock and all that the country was initially built upon.