France: Normandy & Brittany

Guided Walking Tour, France: Normandy & BrittanyGuided Walking Tour, France: Normandy & Brittany

France

Normandy & Brittany

overview

On the spectacular northern coast, you’ll find a more austere France—a land that bears witness to Viking, Celtic, and Roman settlements. It’s a region rich in art, history, dramatic ocean views, and—this being France—gastronomic excellence. Start with the soaring cathedrals of medieval, cobblestoned Rouen; travel the Routes des Fruits through orchard country to Honfleur, painterly inspiration for Monet and Courbet. Ascend towering cliffs to the famous Manneporte rock arch, the Porte d’Aval, and the resort of Etretat, home of Guy de Maupassant. On the shores of Normandy, German bunkers that confronted D-day troops remain intact. You can walk the hallowed ground of Omaha Beach as your guide recounts the stories. Seaside trails on the Cotentin Peninsula bring you to unspoiled coastlines, tranquil bays, quiet settlements, and bird-filled estuaries. Normandy butter is famous, so indulge in treats like buttery cookies and croissants. Tempt your palate further with lunch at William the Conqueror’s castle; seafood feasts; and a Michelin-starred meal at Olivier Roellinger’s restaurant.

 

Activity Level
Easy to moderate;
4-6 miles daily
Meet
Rouen, France
Depart
Bayeux, France
Daily Itinerary
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Guided Walking 
7 days, 6 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • Two expert, local guides (for groups of 8 or more), with you 24/7
  • All meals except for one lunch and one dinner; local wine or beer included with dinners
  • All accommodations while on tour
  • Transportation from the meeting to the departure point
  • Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary
  • Basic travel insurance coverage
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the CW staff
per person double occupancy
Solo surcharge + $0
 

2014 Single supplement + $795
2015 Single supplement + $825
Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

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per person double occupancy

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

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Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
Honfleur
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2
Honfleur
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3
Barneville-Carteret
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4
Barneville-Carteret
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5
Saint-Mélour-des-Ondes
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6
Saint-Mélour-des-Ondes
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7
Saint-Mélour-des-Ondes
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Day 1

Honfleur

Transfer from Rouen to the Honfleur area. Apreval to Honfleur; 3-4 miles, easy to moderate

Gathering at the pre-tour hotel in Rouen’s historic center, you meet your guides, and after a short welcome meeting you set off for the picturesque port of Honfleur, driving along the Routes des Fruits—as its name implies, a region brimming with orchards. Upon reaching Jumièges, you drive onto a small car ferry crossing the River Seine, and continue through the countryside to the lovely Manoir d’Apreval, a family-owned estate surrounded by an abundant apple orchard, specializing in cider and Calvados liqueur, and cultivating a total of 17 varieties of apples. At harvest time, a restored press is used to make cider, which eventually also becomes Calvados after ageing in oak barrels.

After a tour of the estate and a buffet lunch, you embark on your first walk, which begins at the Manoir d’Apreval through the small village of Pennedepie, entering the Bois du Breuil, a nature reserve. Here you walk along a forest trail with views down to the Seine Estuary on your left. This route also involves walking along country lanes and through oak forest, and you are frequently surrounded by apple trees. About one mile from Honfleur, you reach the charming Notre Dame de Grâce Chapel, a pilgrimage site for local fishermen, with ceilings and walls adorned with message plaques from sailors and their families. You begin your descent into Honfleur, marveling at the broad views that extend over the River Seine as it flows out to sea, and the magnificent Normandy Bridge, which links Honfleur with the port of Le Havre. Many of these views were depicted by late 19th-century painters, such as Monet and Gustave Courbet.

As you walk down the lovely streets of Honfleur, passing typical slate-shingled houses, you reach your enchanting hotel in the center of town. Later, dinner is in a charming local bistro, where the food reflects the fertile countryside and nearby coast. Monks in Normandy began developing its famous cheeses as early as the 11th century, and dinner may conclude with a rich Pont l’Évêque, Livarot, or, the best known, Camembert.

Les Maisons de Léa

Honfleur, France

A charming hotel in the heart of Honfleur composed of a restored salt warehouse and three 16th-century houses, with individually decorated rooms, and a “hammam”-type steam room.

Day 2

Honfleur

Cliffs of Étretat; 6 miles, easy to moderate

After awakening in the comfort of your historic hotel and enjoying a tantalizing breakfast with fresh fruit and homemade bread and jams, your first stop is a small neighborhood store just around the corner from the hotel specializing in local, organic produce and regional delicacies. Here you assist the guide in choosing the contents of today’s picnic lunch—perhaps crusty fresh breads, tempting cheeses, pâtés, and local cider. You then drive through the beautiful countryside of Pays de Caux, to the start of the day’s walk along a trail that gently descends through an oak forest, and then pours out in an open landscape of low bushes and gorse. Here you have your first glimpse of “La Manche”—the English Channel—and also begin to get your first views of the towering cliffs and rock formations of Étretat, a favorite subject of the Impressionist painter Monet.

Walk along the trail that takes you on the top of the cliffs and towards the famous Manneporte rock arch, the Porte d’Aval, and the Aiguille or “needle.” The 19th-century French author Guy de Maupassant spent a good part of his childhood in the small fishing and resort town of Étretat. Here you rest and enjoy your hand-picked, mouth-wateringly delicious picnic lunch before returning on the cliffside path next to the oldest golf course in France.

Upon reaching your hotel, you have time to relax, perhaps even indulge in a spa treatment or hammam on site before a dinner on your own in Honfleur. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from. Perhaps you may prefer a gourmet meal, or you may simply wish to eat in a local crêperie.

Les Maisons de Léa

Honfleur, France

A charming hotel in the heart of Honfleur composed of a restored salt warehouse and three 16th-century houses, with individually decorated rooms, and a “hammam”-type steam room.

Day 3

Barneville-Carteret

Arromanches to cliff top; 1 mile, easy. Omaha Beach Walk; 1.5 miles, easy

As the main focus is visiting the D-Day beaches and the American Military Cemetery today, there will be minimal walking. The day begins with a drive to a view over Arromanches, a resort town with a sandy beach but no natural harbor, which became one of the world’s busiest ports in June 1944. It was here that Winston Churchill’s idea of using prefabricated floating ports was implemented in order to store supplies and ammunition for the Battle of Normandy, until the existing ports could be liberated from the Germans. You walk along a very short, grassy trail overlooking the remains of the artificial harbor, which was originally over 5 miles long, stretching from Tracy-sur-Mer to Asnelles-sur-Mer. After transferring in your private van to the town of Arromanches, you walk along a short stretch of beach up to the cliffs on the west side of the town as your guide begins the discussion of the D-Day landings. Once at the top of the cliffs, you board your van once again and arrive at the site of the German bunkers and original guns situated on the 200-foot-high cliffs that were used to defend the coast against the Allied Navy. These guns were designed to hit targets over 15 miles away, Omaha Beach among them.

After lunch in a local restaurant, you walk along the sands of Omaha Beach to the American Military Cemetery, where 9,387 American soldiers were buried, each marked with a white cross or Star of David—the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. Your guide provides context about the battle, explaining why the casualties along Omaha Beach were far worse than at other locations along the D-Day beaches. It is indeed chilling to walk along the beach, imagining how Allied soldiers must have felt running inland toward the German positions on the nearby ridge.

After an extremely moving visit to the American Military Cemetery, you then transfer to the remote Cotentin Peninsula, which traces its name to the 4th-century Roman Emperor Constantius Chlorus, an enchanting area with unspoiled stretches of rocky coastline, sheltering tranquil bays, and quaint villages. You are warmly welcomed in your charming seaside hotel in the town of Barneville-Carteret, two coastal resort towns separated by a river estuary, with the British island of Jersey just off the coast. A buffet dinner is included at the hotel this evening.

Hôtel des Isles

Barneville-Carteret, France

A beachside resort hotel with views of the English Channel and Cape Carteret. Enjoy the cozy rooms, inviting common areas, decks, pool, and Jacuzzi.

Day 4

Barneville-Carteret

La Hague Coastal Trail; 5 miles, easy to moderate

This morning you wake to the sound of seabirds and the smell of the salty air. The hotel’s perfect seaside location allows you to enjoy a relaxing beach stroll on your own before breakfast. Today, a short drive brings you to La Hague, meaning “high cape” in French, the Cotentin Peninsula’s westernmost point. This area of Normandy is a picturesque place with granite cliffs, small coves, and green fields. Setting off on a bracing walk along a coastal trail lined with wildflowers, you are graced with views of the British isle of Alderney, the closest Channel Island to the French coast. After a picnic lunch of local cured meats, cheeses, breads, and pastries, you continue walking and soon arrive to the small harbor of Goury, where the seas have some of the strongest currents in Europe. Built in 1834, the Phare de Goury, Goury’s lighthouse, signals this local one which is called the Raz Blanchel.

Later, you walk into the village where you enjoy an early dinner and aperitif at a small local restaurant where the chef is incredibly creative and you can sample their tasting menu.

Hôtel des Isles

Barneville-Carteret, France

A beachside resort hotel with views of the English Channel and Cape Carteret. Enjoy the cozy rooms, inviting common areas, decks, pool, and Jacuzzi.

Day 5

Saint-Mélour-des-Ondes

Le Bec d’Andaine to Tomberlaine Island to Le Bec d’Andaine; 6 miles, easy to moderate

The itinerary today takes you from Normandy into Brittany, starting with a drive to the Baie du Mont St. Michel, known for its extreme tides. ***Please note that today’s walk is tide dependent and thus the start time can vary greatly. Depending on the lunar pull, the difference between low and high tide can be as much as 50 feet—the third largest tide in the world. A short stop en route provides a panoramic view of the bay and the pyramid-shaped island monastery of Mont St. Michel, before you arrive at Le Bec d’Andaine and meet your official local guide, required for walking over the bay due to the tides. You begin by walking through the sand dunes where, in the spring, many beautiful orchids may be found. With broad views over salt marshes, you gradually cross the three rivers of the bay: the Selune, the See, and the Couesnon; the latter is the official border between Normandy and Brittany. Your goal during the first part of the walk is to reach Tomberlaine Island, a protected sanctuary for nesting shell ducks, marine and brown seagulls, and white egrets. From here there are great views of Mont St. Michel itself, and perhaps you may see a group of pilgrims walking along the sands, holding large wooden crosses, or people riding on horseback.

After a simple picnic lunch and on completing the walk, you drive over the border into Brittany (although you have already been in Brittany once on foot today). Your lovely hotel overlooks Cancale Bay, with spectacular views of Mont St. Michel. Dinner tonight at the hotel is a true gastronomic experience—the hotel’s chef is the celebrated Olivier Roellinger, one of only a few French chefs to have earned three Michelin stars. Using all local and in-season produce, Olivier is also known for meticulously incorporating spices from all over the world in his stellar cuisine. The warm wood-paneled dining room is both elegant and comfortable, reflecting your hosts’ passion for good food and hospitality. Dinner may start with oysters, either plain or some delicately seasoned, and, for a main course, perhaps lamb that grazed in the nearby salt meadows, or scallop “brochettes” simply seasoned with virgin olive oil and mild chili pepper.

Château Richeux

Saint-Méloir-des-Ondes, France

This Relais & Chateux property is a luxurious 1920s villa with antique and original furnishings, directly overlooking the water with views of Mont St. Michel.  Experience beautiful guestrooms, warm and elegant common rooms, and a renowned restaurant featuring the cuisine of a three-star Michelin chef.

Day 6

Saint-Mélour-des-Ondes

Guided walk of Mont St. Michel; 2-3 miles, easy to moderate

Today you explore Mont St. Michel, one of the most impressive constructions of the Middle Ages—a quintessential image of northern France and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Your transfer takes you across a causeway to a small island just a half mile off the coast, where your guide leads you through the narrow back streets, winding your way to the top of the mount at the door of the Benedictine Abbey, dating from the 8th century. The majority of the buildings here were built, however, in the 11th century, with the church’s main façade dating from the 12th century. You learn about the lives of medieval monks and village life, with a particular emphasis on the island’s extraordinarily preserved architecture.

Later you gather for a sumptuous meal in a local restaurant to toast your exploration of France’s enchanting northern coast. Tonight’s menu might start with delicately smoked fish and new potatoes followed by a beef filet from Normandy or a fresh fish fillet seasoned with “peppers of the world” and kaffir lime essence, and may finish with delectable Norman or Breton cheeses, or treats from the pastry chef.

Château Richeux

Saint-Méloir-des-Ondes, France

This Relais & Chateux property is a luxurious 1920s villa with antique and original furnishings, directly overlooking the water with views of Mont St. Michel.  Experience beautiful guestrooms, warm and elegant common rooms, and a renowned restaurant featuring the cuisine of a three-star Michelin chef.

Day 7

Saint-Mélour-des-Ondes

Bayeux Tapestry visit. Departure

After another delicious breakfast, you transfer to the charming town of Bayeux. A settlement since the 1st century B.C., Bayeux has remained an important town in the Normandy region. Full of history, this town was virtually untouched during the Battle of Normandy. Here, you visit the fabulous Bayeux Tapestry, which was probably commissioned in the 1070s and commemorated the 1066 Norman conquest of England. The tapestry shows, scene by scene, the story of William the Conqueror and Harold, Earl of Wessex, the men who led the Norman and Saxon armies in 1066. William’s defeat of Harold at the Battle of Hastings ensured the success of the Norman invasion of England. The tapestry is actually not a tapestry at all, but embroidered cloth, and is 230 feet long.

Strolling through the charming streets of Bayeux, you find yourself at a wonderful local restaurant where you enjoy the bounty of this enchanting region. A short transfer to the Bayeux train station is provided.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a CW adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call CW at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.

Guides

Arnaud Guérin

Born and raised in Normandy, Arnaud Guérin is a geologist, specializing in volcanology and the environment. He is also a professional photographer, and an author of photography and nature books. He has been a guide for the past 12 years and in his free time likes to go sea-kayaking, mountain biking, and sailing. He also likes to cook!

Lucie Hoffmann

Lucie is a qualified French National Guide of Culture and readily shares her expertise of the history and culture of both Normandy and Brittany. Living in Bayeux, Normandy, she searches flea markets for antiques and pottery in her spare time. She is also a prolific gardener.

Guest Comments

J. Britt, Illinois, September 2013

The sites of the walks were outstanding in significance; the guides were very well organized and well informed; the group was very congenial; the food and lodgings were excellent. Every day was a "peak" experience. I had high expectations for the trip and I was not disappointed.

S. Joseph, Maryland, May 2013

This was among the best walking tours we've taken over in 25 years! Our two guides, the renowned naturalist photographer Arnaud whose large-scale photos we saw in several sites and the thoroughly professional local Lucie, gave us a rounded picture of the natural and cultural history of well-selected sites, which, despite not good weather, is absolutely enchanting. Lucie and Arnaud played off each other with great humor, and Arnaud gave us each a copy of his lavish photo book of the area as a parting gift.

P. Doukas, Connecticut, April 2012

This was our 6th walking trip and 5th CW adventure. Without hesitation, we enjoyed this trip the best of all we have taken. Our guide Arnaud Guerin was superb and his knowledge and attention to special details enhanced immeasurably what we knew was going to be a terrific experience. The trip was a wonderful balance of nature walk and historic commentary. The best we have experienced. Every day had a special unexpected treasure

E. Hestick, New York, June 2012

CW is like summer camp for adults. The week goes by too quickly and already I'm thinking about where to go next.

L. Caldwell, Connecticut, May 2012

Arnaud is a very accomplished person. Geology, photography, history. Enthusiastic. Accommodating. Eager to please. Lucie Hoffmann did a very fine job with the D-Day story. Her discussion was organized, complete, succinct. She had answers to our questions. No fluff, only substance. Very impressive. The itinerary is a good mix of activities, both physical and intellectual. The Hotel des Isles was somewhat disappointing. The two other hotels were very, very good.

G. Scholes, California, May 2012

A great trip—I learned so much! The food was outstanding! Another great thing was it was our 16th trip with CW so it was free!!

M. Trammell, Tennessee, May 2012

Tour was well planned and very enjoyable. The guide was excellent and very well-informed about the places visited. Accommodations were superb.

L. Gershman, Maryland, June 2012

Our Normandy/Brittany tour was the perfect blend of stunning landscapes, vivid history, superb guides, and delightful walking companions.

A. Hayes, New York, June 2012

I learned so much about Brittany and Normandy. Our guide, Lucie described D-Day in a way I'd never heard before. The food was amazing...where else can you have oysters for breakfast? As always my travel companions were easy and enjoyable to be with.

M. Sachau, California, June 2012

Our incredibly well versed guides, Arnaud and Lucie, complimented each other in presentation style and areas of expertise. They were thoughtful about attending to the groups needs, playful, and deeply knowledgeable about Normandy's rich cultural and art history, especially WWII, and area's geology. Our hikes were more scenic than one could imagine. The company of our fellow hikers was delightful.

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