Starting from Paris we follow the River Seine to Claude Monet's house and gardens at Giverny. He spent the last half of his long life here, creating what many people say are his finest works. As you walk through the cottage, gardens and Japanese water gardens you experience the magic of being in an Impressionist painting.
Next we meander further along the Seine Valley to Rouen, one of Normandy's unmissable jewels. The largest Norman city is famous for its half-timbered houses and the Gothic trio: the Cathedral, St-Maclou and St Oeun. Rouen is a major French port lying alongside the Seine. It is steeped in history: Roman, Viking, Norman and English. Most notable, Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake here in the Place du Vieux Marche. We arrive with plenty of time to explore the highlights and enjoy dinner at one of several excellent restaurants.
Day 2 - Honfleur, Deauville and Trouville (2 nights)
We drive across the Seine Estuary on the magnificent Pont Normandie to the picture postcard pretty port of Honfleur, the start of the Norman Riviera. The inner harbor is listed in guide books as "worth a journey in itself". It has been the inspiration of artists for centuries.
From here, we take the breathtaking "floral" coast road to the chic seaside town of Deauville, often called the 21st Arrondissement of Paris. It is the nearest beach to the Capital and is a great place to people watch along the famous beach boardwalk, casino and racetrack. There is plenty of time to explore Deauville and neighboring Trouville during our two night stay in this area.
Day 3 - "Pays d'Auge"
Today, we head into the "Pays d'Auge" area inland from Honfleur--typifies the true Normandy--verdant fields, dairy cows, hedgerows, timber framed buildings, thatched roofs and apple orchards--a year round delight. We visit two delightful old towns, Cambremer and Dives-sur-Mer, William the Conqueror's departure point for the invasion of England in 1066.
If we are lucky, we can enjoy the town square market in Beuvron-en-Auge. This area is renowned as the home of some of Normandy's best known products: Camembert cheese, cider and Calvados (apple brandy). We visit local producers of each before returning to Honfleur/Deauville.
Day 4 - Deauville to Bayeux (2 nights)
We leave Deauville heading west along the British (Sword) and Canadian (Juno) landing beaches. Our first stop is Pegasus Bridge where we visit the impressive Museum which tells about the amazing airborne operations here and the capture of the bridge immortalized in the book by Stephen Ambrose.
We proceed to Caen and make a final stop at Arromanches, where we can still see portions of the floating Mulberry harbor. An amazing engineering feat, individual sections were built in England, towed across the Channel and linked together to facilitate the landing of hundreds of thousands of men and machines during the Allied landing. We arrive in Bayeaux, a delightful Medieval town with plenty of charming restaurants.
Day 5 - The American Sector
We head out from Bayeux to explore the American sector starting with the paratroop landing areas leading Utah Beach.
A visit to the Airborn museum at St Mere Eglise a town famous for the American paratrooper John Steele who was snagged onto and hung from the church steeple there whilst the battle went on in the square below. Now we work our way back to Omaha Beach and Cemetary by way of Pointe du Hoc where the Second Rangers scaled the 100 foot cliffs to take the German gun positions there.
After visiting the cemetary we are back to Bayeux with time to see the famous Tapestry which tells the story of a William the Conqueror's Norman Invasion of England in 1066.
Day 6 - Bayeux to Mont St Michel and St. Malo
We follow the American "liberation route" to the very edge of the Normandy/Brittany border with a stop en route in Villedieu-les-Poeles a charming town, celebrated in France for the manufacture of copper cooking pots and pans. Our next stop is the incredibly beautiful, Mont St Michel, a true wonder of the Western World. The climb up to the Abbey is well worth the effort for the stunning views of the bay and the amazing Gothic and Romanesque architecture. It is a journey which has inspired pilgrims for centuries and attracts visitors from all over the world. We drive to St Malo, our base for the next two nights.
Day 7 - St. Malo
In the morning, we explore the impressive walled city, famous for its pirates and sailors. Jacques Cartier, the French explorer who discovered Canada, lived in St. Malo.
It is a great walk around the city ramparts looking out towards the Channel Islands and Britain. In the afternoon, we take a ferry across the bay to the famous Victorian resort of Dinard.
Day 8 - Rennes to Paris
We drive into Rennes, the capital of Brittany for our train to return to Paris.
If you have more time, the beautiful Loire Valley is a nice addition to this tour. Saving time for an extra night in Paris will also be a treat.