Guys, I love France. It’s a pretty amazing place. So beautiful! So delicious! Also — HISTORY. I could live the rest of my life very happily in France and Normandy (and Brittany) specifically. So when my cousin was arranging his European trip and said that he really wanted to see the D-Day beaches and Mont Saint-Michel, I was pretty excited.
We took the Eurostar from Kings Cross to Paris and then went one stop on the RER to Gare St Lazare, where we boarded our train to Bayeux. It was a long day of traveling but pretty low impact — just a lot of sitting on trains. Bayeux is a very walkable city so after getting off the train in Bayeux, we hoofed it over to the Hotel Churchill, which is right on Bayeux’s main drag.
The Hotel Churchill has an amazing location — everything worth seeing is within a 10 minute walk — and it’s affordable to boot. Plus, super, super clean. I love when I stay in a 3 star hotel and the bathroom is cleaner than many 5 star hotels I’ve stayed in. The hotel proprietor, Eric, is a lovely, lovely man as is his compatriot, Daniel. I highly recommend staying here if you find yourself in Bayeux. It’s not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination, but they do what they do well. Also, there is a nice grocery store next door if you want to stock up on snacks, wine and bottled water. (Although drinking the tap water in Bayeux is totally fine.) Check out the Hotel Churchill.
Here’s what we got up to while we were in town…
D-Day Beaches: The Churchill helped us book a tour of the main D-Day sights with Normandy Sightseeing Tours. Our tour guide, Rose, was *amazing* and truly the highlight of our trip. She was so very knowledgeable about the area and the history of World War II and American involvement. We visited Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, and the American Cemetery. (Later on our own, we visited the Commonwealth Cemetery and the War Museum.) This was a lovely and moving day out — it’s a trip I recommend for all generations. Also, we went in early March and we seriously had the whole place to ourselves. You can see from the size of the parking lots at Pointe du Hoc and the American Cemetery that the summer crowds get quite, quite large. Check out Normandy Sightseeing Tours.
Mont Saint-Michel: We didn’t rent a car in France which in hindsight was maybe a little silly. That being said, we were only there for two nights so maybe renting a car would have been overkill. BUT! Surely renting a car would have been cheaper than the 300 euros we spent on the private taxi to drive us to Mont Saint-Michel. So rent a car if you visit Normandy — it’s definitely a better value than taxi’ing! Our taxi driver earned his rate though because he drove us two hours each way in the pouring, pouring, pouring rain. (So pouring that I was imagining my funeral.) Mont Saint-Michel is pretty darn beautiful but my cousin and I agreed that if we go back, we’d actually stay the night *ON* Mont Saint-Michel rather than make it a day trip. It would be super cool to see the tides come in and out. Most alarming here were the French Special Forces who were wandering in small groups all over the site.
Bayeux Tapestry: I vaguely recall the Bayeux Tapestry from history class in high school and university, but really nothing prepared me for this. It is a very very long tapestry and it’s very well-preserved and presented and tells the entire story of William the Conquerer and the Norman Invasion. Apparently, the queue to visit the Bayeux Tapestry can be heinously long in summer, but we waltzed right in. The audio guide is very, very good. You should go here.
Bayeux Cathedral: Don’t hate me but if you’ve seen one church, you’ve seen them all. (OK, Sainte Chapelle in Paris is a fabulous exception.) I was done with the Bayeaux Cathedral in about five minutes. My cousin needed an hour! Good if you, uh, like churches?
I know I should have been excited about the history but I was most excited about the food in Bayeux. I *love* a multi-course French dinner. Bayeux didn’t disappoint and the two dinners we had were of high quality with excellent service.
La Rapiere: Small, family-run bistro. He is the chef, she is front of house. The service was a fine-tuned machine…they worked together like an orchestra, delivering plates, clearing plates, topping up wine. The food was great too, but what my cousin and I still talk about is how wonderfully in sync the service was. This was our best restaurant experience of our time in France.
Au Ptit Bistrot: A more casual and modern-feeling spot than La Rapiere, but we still enjoyed excellent food. (One of these days, I will learn how to make Chicken Supreme for myself.) Service was very friendly and helpful throughout and I think I finally convinced my cousin that when in France, do not order wine on your own — always ask the server. I liked our meal here and would gladly eat here again, but first I’d try to get back into La Rapiere. Note that both restaurants are *very* popular and bookings are advised.
Chez Paulette: My cousin really wanted to go here because of the decor — very kitschy 1960s and 70s. Service was friendly and helpful — very helpful actually — but my endive tart fell way short of the mark. George was happy. I wasn’t. The place was crowded with locals during the weekend lunch hour which is a great sign, but it wasn’t my favorite.
It is very easy to visit Bayeux from Paris although a day trip might be a bit tough. Stay overnight, enjoy a fine meal at La Rapiere, and step into history.