France
Normandy

Here you’ll find travel reports about Normandy. Discover travel destinations in France of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

158 travelers at this place:

  • Day135

    St Michael's Mount

    October 19, 2017 in France

    This morning we walked about 6kms from Penzance to St Michael's Mount, a small tidal island in Mount's Bay. The island is linked to the town of Marazion by a man-made causeway of granite setts, passable between mid-tide and low water. It started out as a reasonable-looking day and progressively deteriorated into a windy rainy one. By the time we walked back across the causeway anything not covered by our raincoats was drenched! We dragged our dripping bodies into a warm dry restaurant and filled our stomachs - always a good solution. It was a great walk a fun as well!Read more

  • Day673

    Le Vaudreuil

    April 30 in France

    Now on the fifth day of driving, we are getting used to France's frequent roundabouts and to be fair, we've had some good long stretches on the motorway too. Tonight's stop at Le Vaudreuil was a gravel car park surrounded by lush greenery; mature trees, long grasses and Spring woodland flowers, including a lot of wild mustard. The presence of white marquees alerted us to an event taking place a couple of fields away. We went to investigate, but found it to be a flower show charging €5 entry, so decided to go for a stroll along the river bank instead. Within a tree corridor with grass verges and a mature hedge, the waterway reminded us a little of the canals that we spent so many hours walking in the UK. It'll be lovely to nip back for a quick visit before the next leg of our European tour.Read more

  • Day3

    Warmer in Honfleur

    May 17 in France

    190 miles today. It started really cold so we wrapped up and left the hood down Mandy looked... well wrapped up!. Lots of motorcyclists passed us on their way to Le Mans for the motto GP - we will be passing Le Mans tomorrow. We crossed the Seine on a lovely bridge at La Havre then dropped down into Honfleur - a warm sunny and stunningly pretty town. Thanks Gay and Christine for recommending it! On our walk we came across a barge being painted blue. Take a look at the photo of the man working on it.
    Honfleur is quite touristy but not too busy... We found an interesting large wooden church....I've never seen such a big wooden structure.
    Stopping for a beer we met a group of English cyclists from the BASCC they have ridden 171 miles in 4 days so far this week and are having a great time. They are all either in or retired from the army. Hope you make it home safely guys!
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  • Day4

    Alencon

    May 18 in France

    Changed plans for today as everything booked up by motorcycle fans coming to the Le Mans GP.
    Before we left Honfleur we had a last walk down to the harbour to eat Pain au Chocolat and drink our 4.80 euro a cup coffees! So it was at 11am before we set off to fill up with petrol where we met a group of English classic car owners. We were charged over £130 to fill up the tank at the automatic pump then some time next week we will get a refund of the difference between what it actually cost and £130 which I think is a rip off. I hear Asda UK are going to try the idea 😀
    Now we are in Alencon 85 miles from last nights stop. The centre of town is quite pretty but we found nearly everywhere closes early on a Friday which is weird. However we did find a nice market and a really good Algerian restaurant where we had a great meal.
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  • Day429

    Day 430: Mont San Michel

    April 20 in France

    Off and out nice and early, time to see Mont San Michel, one of the most famous sights in France outside of Paris! In a nice touch, we'd realised they offer a kennel service - dogs are allowed on the island but not in the abbey (which is the main sight), but not allowed on the shuttle buses that take you to the island (which means you have to walk the couple of kilometres out there).

    But we dropped Schnitzel in the kennel, where he seemed happy enough. Got the bus out to the island and started filming. It's very impressive, and you can really see how it's been built up over the centuries - the abbey on top is from the 11th century. We wandered around the few streets (it has a permanent population of 44), climbed around the walls, then went up to the abbey.

    It's not the most impressive abbey we've been inside over the last year and a bit, but certainly one of the most impressive technical achievements! We spent about an hour here exploring and filming, then headed back down into the town.

    As you'd expect, almost all of the buildings are now expensive shops and comically overpriced restaurants (even the takeaway restaurants were double the usual price), so we hopped back on the shuttle around 1pm and picked up Schnitzel. He was happy to be out of the kennel, but it was really nice of them to have that facility available. There were signs in the carpark warning that they will break windows to free overheating pets on hot days, so it makes sense.

    We headed back into the village near our B&B and had regular priced sandwiches from the boulangerie, then headed home for the afternoon. I did some work and Shandos had a nap!
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  • Day430

    Day 431: Normandy & Bayeux

    April 21 in France

    More driving today! First stop was at the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy, which are all along the coast of northern France. Although there's several of them, we stopped at Omaha Beach which was the most notorious - the one featured in the opening of Saving Private Ryan (though that was filmed in Ireland). There's a couple of nice memorials, but otherwise not much to see. Plenty of Americans around though, and lots of American flags too.

    Next stop was the town of Bayeux just nearby, home to the eponymous Bayeux Tapestry. This is the world's most famous tapestry, which ironically enough isn't a tapestry at all - it's an embroidery. It tells the full story of William the Conqueror's invasion of England in 1066, from the death of Edward the Confessor, right through the Battle of Hastings and William's eventual crowning. It's a fantastic source for medieval historians since it was done basically straight after the battle. Very artistic too, though you have to remember it is a piece of Norman propaganda and may not tell the full story! Interesting to see that Mont Saint MIchel makes an appearance as well!

    The whole thing is actually huge - it's only 50cm or so tall, but it runs for about 70 metres in length and takes about 20 minutes to see fully. You get an audio guide and walk slowly alongside it, listening to the commentary which was very well done. I quite enjoyed it!

    Since it was a warm sunny day and Schnitzel obviously couldn't come in the museum with us, we did it turn about so I had lunch while Shandos visited, and then vice-versa. Apparently we sat in almost exactly the same spot without realising! Schnitzel must've been very confused.

    Back in the car, where we drove a couple of hours east along the coastline to the city of Le Havre. This is a World Heritage town but one with a twist - it's listed for post-war urban architecture which is quite unusual. Will be checking that out tomorrow, but for tonight it's staying in and getting comfortable in another bachelor pad apartment!
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  • Day431

    Day 432: Exploring Le Havre

    April 22 in France

    As I mentioned yesterday, this World Heritage site is a modern town rebuilt by French architect Auguste Perret in the 1950s after the centre of town was almost completely destroyed by WW2. It was all done in a unified style with reinforced concrete, but with splashes of colour and with forward thinking ideas, like tree-lined boulevards, space for trams and bicycles, and space for parking as well.

    Although I say the "town", the town centre is only a fairly small area, a triangle roughly 1km on each side, and we were staying right in the centre of it. So we headed out in the morning and set to filming the points of interest we'd chosen. It was quite nice, and surprising to see a huge load of tourists around. We later realised there was a cruise ship in port disgorging German retirees.

    The cathedral had survived the bombing largely intact so that was interesting, and the huge Hotel de Ville was cool as well though quite Brutalist in style. There was also a massive modernist cathedral which looked from the outside like a lighthouse - over a hundred metres high! And it's like a lighthouse inside as well, since the walls are covered in stained glass panels and the interior ends up filled with coloured light. A memorial to the 5000+ civilian victims of the bombing.

    But just like that, we were all finished around lunchtime. So we retreated to our apartment with some supplies and stayed there the rest of the day. Very quiet outside now anyway as it was a Sunday afternoon. Passed the rest of the day by working and relaxing.
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  • Day92

    In Which we Mount the Mont

    September 15, 2017 in France

    In the immortal words of Kenny Rogers, sometimes “you’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know to when to run”. If there was ever a time to put this advice to the test, this was it. After the belting we had taken yesterday, the peloton was not in prime shape. Shoes were still wet, washing was still drying, energy reserves were low and the team was looking to me for a brave decision. I did what anyone else would do under these circumstances – looking out the window to see what the weather was doing. It was the same as yesterday, still pouring. Considering that we had another 30 or more kilometers to complete along the black quicksand, (otherwise known as the bike trail), it was very unlikely that most of the peloton would be up to the challenge. I certainly wasn’t.

    “Do you really want to ride ?”, I asked.

    “Not really”, was the overwhelming response. They are obviously much more intelligent than they look. But what other option was there ? I decided to ring the travel company to see if they would take pity on a group of pitiful elderly Australians.

    “Bonjour Beatrice”, I began in my best French. “Please help us”, I blabbered, trying hard to hold back the tears (maybe still an aftereffect from yesterday’s sunscreen in the eyes). I explained our situation and asked for her to move heaven and earth to save us from another day in the freezing mud.

    “I vill reeng you beck”, Beatrice promised.

    A few minutes later I had the solution I had been hoping for. Apparently they would be able to arrange a taxi and trailer to transport us and our luggage to Mont St Michel, but our bikes would have to wait till the following day. Of course a few Euros would have to quietly change hands to keep the driver happy. All in all a most agreeable solution.

    I called the group together and outlined the plan. When I told them that they could take off their filthy cycling gear and change back into proper clothes, their faces broke out into huge smiles. Apparently it was the news they had all been hoping for.

    About an hour later we were all packed and changed into warm and dry clothes, waiting for the taxi. It arrived on time and most (but not all of us) were able to climb inside. Maggie and I ended up in the front seat, next to the driver. Although this gave us a great view, it also gave us several near death experiences. Soon after we started moving it became evident that the driver not only spoke not a single word of English, but also had not the foggiest notion where Mont St Michel actually was. He reached for his GPS with his left hand and his mobile phone with his right hand, leaving the steering to take care of itself. While his head was buried in his electronic devices the minibus wandered straight over the double line onto the wrong side of the road. Maggie’s nails dug a deep crater in my right thigh.

    The driver looked up at the last moment and then jerked the wheel to the right, sending us right across the road onto the verge on the right side. We tried to keep his attention on the road, but he kept getting SMS messages, phone calls and emails (maybe from his stockbroker, or possibly his undertaker)while he was driving. The circus continued for the entire drive to the outskirts of Mont St Michel. From time to time we caught glimpses of the famous tidal island and the driver seemed just as excited as we were. I suspect he was surprised that he had actually found the correct route.

    As we reached the entrance to the main street of Mont St Michel we were stopped by a boom gate. The driver looked mystified. We pulled to a stop. He looked into space, scratched his head, babbled something in French and just sat there. Behind us a huge line of waiting buses and cars started to build up. The driver rang someone on his phone but the call seemed to keep dropping out. The queue behind us grew ever longer, until eventually a driver came up and asked what he was doing. He scratched his head and finally turned out of the way and did a loop around the block to have another go. The whole charade was repeated a second time, until finally we saw the boom gate on the exit go up. We pointed to it and the driver swerved across the road and entered via the exit, accompanied by a chorus of cheers and clapping from the Ghostriders.

    We found the hotel (thanks to my GPS) and pulled up outside. The driver opened his door and looked out, at the same time accidentally dropping his jacket out the door. He didn’t see it and started to reverse. We yelled at him about his jacket, but he just smiled and laughed. Maybe this was all part of the performance. It certainly was great entertainment. A bystander banged on his window and pointed to his front wheel. He finally showed interest, got out and retrieved the filthy remains of his coat. He seemed quite mystified as to how that could possibly have happened. Such is life in France.

    We bade farewell to the driver, thankful to be both alive and still dry. After dropping our gear at the hotel we set off to explore the famous landmark that is visited by millions of tourists every year. The distinctive towering abbey dates back to obscure beginnings in 708 when Aubert, Bishop of Avranches had a sanctuary built to honour Michael the archangel. For most of its existence it was only possible to reach the island at low tide, but a recent elevated road and walkway now allows the onslaught of tourists to reach it at all hours.

    Although it is possible to travel across by free tourist buses, we chose to walk across instead and experience the visual sensation of seeing the abbey growing in size as we drew nearer and nearer. Carol’s first experience of the famous abbey was not a pleasant one. As soon as she opened her umbrella, the howling wind grabbed it from her fingers and quickly sent it souring into the air and out of sight. I had visions of Carol becoming a modern day Mary Poppins and sailing right over the abbey rooftop, holding onto the handle of her umbrella. Like Bob’s GPS, the umbrella is probably now somewhere over the English Channel.

    We last visited this spot a few years ago and, although it was crowded then, the crowds have now grown to almost unbearable proportions. As soon as we entered the lower parts of the Mont we were surrounded by a crush of tourists that had all been disgorged from their tour buses. A large percentage were holding on to their cursed selfie sticks so that they could photograph themselves in front (and thereby completely obscuring) every nook and cranny. Those that weren’t carrying selfie sticks were sucking on stinking cigarettes, blowing smoke into every else’s face. This is NOT my favourite type of location. After an hour or so of doing battle with the masses we retreated to the quieter outskirts of the abbey and sought some personal space and fresh air. For a short time we succeeded, but soon even this refuge was overrun by a line of smokers. I could not help feel disgusted at the way they tossed their buts straight down onto the ancient paths or flicked them into the ocean. This place might have survived the elements for a 1000 years, but I can’t see it standing up to the battering it is taking from the tourists every day. We were glad to leave the chaos and walk back to our hotel, assisted by a roaring tailwind. We enjoyed this simple pleasure much more than the abbey itself.

    In the evening it was another superb dinner, this time at the Relais du La Roy. Apparently this is the best restaurant in town and the food was superb. I chose the seafood platter for entrée and it would have been enough to serve as a main course at any other restaurant. I somehow managed to spread it all over the tablecloth , my napkin, shirtfront (and even send a spray of something from a squashed prawn onto the adjoining table). I think people suspected that I am not skilled at this sort of thing.

    After dinner we took a final look at the floodlit island and staggered back to our hotel. Tomorrow we move to St Malo.
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  • Day17

    477 km and 9 days of riding and we conquered the Veloscenie 🚴🚴‍♀️. The first leg of our bike tour. Feel especially proud of the 'expert' section with all the hills but most enjoyed the 'family' portions 😄.

    We had a leisurely ride today, taking time to stop and tour Ducey. Not a lot to write home about there but their little walk tried hard to convince us otherwise 🤔. Bit of lipstick on a pig but the flower beds and baskets were great and the 'cafe long' delicious as always.

    Now to find a baguette for lunch. As usual, most of the stores are closed up tight...don't know how these places make it! And everything closes between 12:30 and 2, so it's a race to find the boulangerie. Have to be a detective 🕵️...see someone walking down the street with a baguette 🥖 then figure out where they're coming from. Success! So we have our usual lunch, today beside the local chateau which is...closed 😛.

    Here in Pontorson now, just outside Le Mont St. Michel which we'll visit tomorrow. Staying at the best western (a popular chain here too). An impressive building from the 1600's.

    A few days off the bike now as we tour Le Mont St Michel and take a side trip north (no spoiler alerts... stay tuned) 😃.
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  • Day39

    Honfleur, France

    September 10, 2017 in France

    We went to the historic town of Rouen which is the capital of higher Normandy. Our two hour guided walking tour included visits to Renaissance buildings, a Gothic cathedral and the Old Market Place where Joan of Arc was burned in 1431.

You might also know this place by the following names:

Normandy, Normandie, Normandia

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