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Holidays

Normandy - where to go

26 replies

nappybrain · 22/04/2003 14:50

Does anyone have any recommendations or tips about places to eat / visit with a one year old in Normandy? We are off there in a few weeks with ds and are keen to have an enjoyable trip!
Thanks.

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hmb · 22/04/2003 14:51

Honfleur is beautiful and has lots of nice places to eat. not sure if there is a lot to do with a 1 year old there, as we went before kids!

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Marina · 22/04/2003 15:32

Caen is an underrated city with some nice old streets, a fascinating Memorial de la Paix (war museum) and loads of good eating, staying and shopping opportunities. I lived there as a carefree student so am utterly clueless about stuff for tiny children. The castle gardens are pretty but I don't recollect any playground facilities and the castle itself is virtually a ruin. The La Ficelle Creperie, in the centre of town near Printemps, has been going for over 20 years and serves delicious pancakes to students and families alike. Hope it is still there. The Dauphin Hotel in the Rue Gemare is one of the best in town but there are lots of decent hotels around it.
Ds might enjoy the sandy beaches a few miles to the north and west (St Aubin, Ouistreham and Courseulles are all nice but there is nowhere very big along the coast)and he might also find the revamped Bayeux Tapestry museum interesting to look at - Bayeux is very pretty and about 20 mins drive West of Caen.
If seaside is a big priority for you then there are good family resorts east of Caen at Houlgate and Trouville. I think Deauville has fewer childrens' facilities. To the south of these towns is the very picturesque Pays d'Auge but as it is best known for its cider and camembert ds might not appreciate it as much as you! If you are there in apple blossom season it is unbelievably beautiful.
Have fun - the Normans are very pro-British (as well they might be given they took us over in 1066!) and welcoming.

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nappybrain · 24/04/2003 19:39

Thanks for that Marina the creperie you mention sounds great - will look out for that.....If you think of any more suggestions then pls let me know.

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woozle · 24/04/2003 22:56

Hi nappybrain - can't help but.. we're off to Normandy in the summer with our DS plus sister, her DH and DDs plus four grandparents (lots of childcare on tap is the thinking here)

Any recommendations following your trip gratefully received

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helenmh · 25/04/2003 12:09

Just interested in this thread as we are off to normandy in the summer. We have one week in an appartment in dieppe and another week in a gite about 12 km from cherbourg. So any reccommmendations of places to go/ eat welcome. Our boys are 11 and 9
helen

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nappybrain · 25/04/2003 13:45

well i will definitely post again when we get back - to let you know how we got on. we have a gite booked - plan to do some sightseeing and shopping despite being encumbered by ds...! hope to get some more posts before we go as i am really keen to have a nice time.

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nappybrain · 30/04/2003 15:53

Anyone got any more suggestions? Would be really grateful.

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HZL · 30/04/2003 21:01

I know this will sound a bit naff, but if you're stuck for somewhere child-friendly to eat that's cheap and quick, try Flunch. Its a self-service style cafeteria attached to large supermarkets. They're always full of families and the range of food is pretty good. I know there's one attached to the Carrefour slightly north of Caen (useful for the ferry - you can also stock up on booze). They also sell alcohol with meals for desperate parents.

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nappybrain · 01/05/2003 09:31

not naff at all - days of sophisticated dining now sadly long gone....

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Rosy · 01/05/2003 10:55

I can second Marina's recommendation for the peace museum in Caen. We went last summer with PIL, and took it in turns to babysit her, but there is actually a creche with English speaking staff there. Has a fantastic cafeteria attached to it as well. There's also some sort of bird park in the peripherique of Caen too, which your ds might enjoy. I'll try and remember some other stuff.

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Marina · 01/05/2003 13:10

And Rosy has just reminded me that on the way back into town from the Peace Museum (near the centre) is the extremely pretty Jardin des Plantes, a nice place for a quiet stroll if you are visiting the city for a day (but like lots of French parks they are a bit sniffy about family picnics).
Nappybrain, if you can reveal roughly whereabouts in Normandy your gite is it might prompt some more recommendations...I know the area round Caen and to the south best, but it is a large province and if you are near Cherbourg, for example, stuff near Rouen is going to be hard to access.

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sammac · 01/05/2003 13:18

We were there last year - Mont St Michael is gorgeous, but a nightmare with a buggy! Also, if not there very early it is mobbed. We ended up with me carrying ds(6mo) and dh carrying buggy up loads of stairs, then getting completly fed up( and it was a hot sunny day!). If you have a backpack then take it instead- but be prepared.

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nappybrain · 01/05/2003 19:06

Good suggestion Marina - our gite is north of Lisieux and south of Pont L'Eveque - about 20mins or so I believe from the coast, Honfleur etc (that is if you believe what it says in the brochure..). Thanks for all the postings so far - I am new to Mumsnet and this is all really useful!

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Marina · 01/05/2003 22:56

Well, you're well placed for both Caen and Rouen then nappybrain (and the Pays d'Auge is right on your doorstep). I have been told that Pont L'Eveque is a bit dull (bombed flat in WWII), and Lisieux is also a bit nondescript, but what I love about France is that even their most "boring" towns have such great food shops and an atmosphere all of their own. If you are very unlucky with the weather, btw, there is a fast train service to Paris from Lisieux! A place I would definitely pass on unless you are mad fans of brutalist concrete architecture is Le Havre. And you could probably get to Monet's garden at Giverny from where you are staying.
And if you fancy Bayeux, the peripherique around Caen is easier than it looks. The Normans drive a bit more like the Brits and a bit less like the Italians than many other French regions.
If you cut SW from your gite you will come to a gorgeous area optimistically called the Suisse Normande. It's not the Alps but it has a picturesque gorge with riverside walks, various viewpoints and short, waymarked strolls accessible by car, and pretty riverside eating places at Clecy. If the pedalo place at Clecy is open you could take ds for a trundle up the Orne (maybe only weekends in May).
Phew! I LOVED living in Normandy. Don't forget to sample the tripe...

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nappybrain · 02/05/2003 10:36

dh will be pleased to hear that the drivers aren't too manic!!!
definitely hope to get to Bayeux and Mont St Michel (off to get a back-pack for ds...)

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nappybrain · 28/05/2003 08:36

Well we are back from Normandy so as promised I am reporting back! Well we had a great time. Weather was a bit mixed - guess why Normandy is so green - but we had some lovely days too.
We were quite close to Honfleur - a lovely place -we enjoyed sitting at the cafes around the Vieux Bassin - plenty of people and boats to watch. Also went to the butterfly house - Naturescope - which is on the road in to Honfleur from the D-Day beaches. Lots of cobbles in town so buggy tricky. We went to Deauville - immaculate beach and some nice shops eg Printemps, Petit Bateau.... When we went to the D-Day beaches we found Arromanches to be the most interesting and dramatic place and there is a free little tourist "train" that trundles round between the museums and town. The American War Cemetry is not far from there - although it poured by the time we got there which meant we only had a brief look around. We had a lovely day at the Cerza zoological conservation park near Lisieux - definitely recommend this - very baby and child friendly - the animals are in large natural enclosures - it is not a zoo - giraffes, rhinos, lions , tigers etc. As for cities we enjoyed Rouen - driving a bit mad - but great shops and lovely timbered streets. Less taken by Caen but we had an excellent meal in the Adagio Italian restaurant in rue duu Vaugueux. 9 Euros for their set lunchtime menu - pizza / pasta, a dessert and coffee - excellent food, helpful staff and again v child friendly. On leaving ds got a little gift - pencils, yoyo, balloon - a nice touch. Bayeaux was very pleasant too - although ds didnt see the attraction of the tapestry! Generally dh found the roads quiet and the driving ok - although we found the Caen peripherique a bit scary- depending on the time of day/volume of traffic.
A big black mark however for the Peace Museum at Caen - had been looking forward to seeing this and decided to put ds in back pack and take the buggy in as well for when he needed a change. Was stopped on the way in and told buggies weren't allowed "for safety reasons" - and that we should either backpack ds (who was already wanting to be in his buggy by this point...) or leave him in the nursery - not an option as far as I was concerned. Despite trying to argue our point they wouldnt let us take the buggy in so we walked out. Did not have this problem anywhere else - eg Bayeaux tapestry in old building - ds went in buggy. Was very annoyed and disappointed by this experience.
Didn't make it to Mont St Michel as decided it was too long a drive from where we were.
Ds loved the Bledichef range of food - and especially their biscuits!
Hope you enjoy your visits woozle and helenmh - we would definitely go back to the region.

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Marina · 28/05/2003 16:10

Glad you had an overall good time nappybrain but absolutely disgusted to hear about the Memorial's buggy policy. It's one of the most modern buildings in the city, for goodness' sake. I have never encountered that problem in any other French museum/attraction, you were quite right to walk out.
I think tbh Caen is a city for living in rather than tourist sites...books like the Rough Guide are a bit dismissive of its "charms". It certainly has nothing to compare with the Old Clocktower etc in Rouen, or Bayeux either.
Great tips about things to do with the very small in the region, thanks!

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nappybrain · 28/05/2003 17:30

We had a lovely time, thanks Marina for your suggestions - I just couldnt understand the Memorial Museum at all - I think the nursery is a great idea if you want to leave your children while you visit - or if they are old enough to say themselves that they want to stay and play there - but not to try and enforce it upon everyone. I would have thought that the museum would have been keen to try and get its message across to children - although I appreciate that not all of its exhibits might be suitable for the young (speculating here as of course we didnt get the chance to view!) - surely it should encourage and welcome kids...And yes it is such a modern building, spacious, lifts etc....We went for lunch when we arrived there and found the cafeteria to be child friendly with highchairs and childrens food - pity they didnt extend that to actually going in the museum!

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woozle · 28/05/2003 22:50

Thank you so much for this report Nappybrain. Excellent tips. I've been checking in hoping you;d reply but didn't expect something so comprehensive. I'm printing off now to take in August.

A big thumbs down for the peace museum although I'm tempted to turn up en famille with 3 in buggies to see what happens.

Thanks again!

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nappybrain · 29/05/2003 12:33

We tried reasoning, pleading and then being angry at the Peace Museum - all to no avail!! It is supposed to be excellent - however if anyone else tells me - or I read - again how good it is I will scream.....!!
Forgot to add that when we went to Rouen we parked on the Rive Gauche at the St Sever shopping centre - which has an Du Pareil, Obaibi (think thats the right spelling this time!) and a hypermarket in it. Nice pizza restaurant - Le Chalet there too - plenty of highchairs and baby change - but get there around midday as it gets vv busy. You can catch the metro from there - easy to use, couple of stops across the river and you are in town. Better than trying to park in the middle of Rouen we found.
If you find anywhere good Woozle let us know pls as we definitely plan a return!

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helenmh · 29/05/2003 12:35

Thanks nappybrain for your relly helpful report. Sorry to hear about your experience in the peace museum. I will also print off this page for our trip in aug
thanks
helen

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woozle · 29/05/2003 22:44

When are you going in August helenmh?
Maybe we'll bump into each other at Nappybrain's recommended places!!

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helenmh · 30/05/2003 20:51

Hi Woozle, we go on the overnight ferry from portsmouth to Le Havre on fri 15th aug. We are staying a week in Dieppe and then a week in a gite in a little village west of Cherbourg. We have done a few holidays in Brittany in the past. We have passed through Normandy but never had a look around. We have two boys aged 11 and 9. What about you?
cheers
helen

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woozle · 28/07/2003 22:18

I must apologise for missing your post helenmh. I've just resurrected this thread to print out Nappybrain's recommendations.

We go on Sunday ?10th August Dover/Calais. We're staying at a converted cider press. 8 adults (including 2 sets of grandparents), 3 kids ( one mine and two my sisters) so hopefully lots of childcare and children entertaining themselves (she says optimistically). The house is south of Honfleur (must get the map out again). Has its own pool so hope the weather is good.

Hope you enjoy your holiday

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helenmh · 29/07/2003 09:57

Have a great trip woozle. Sounds a wonderful place. Maybe we will bump into you. We do plan to go to Honfleur. It will be interesting to compare notes on mumsnet when we are both back
helen

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