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Jan 11, 2013 05:34 PM

Paris & Normandy in July - Itinerary Critique S.V.P.!

Bonjour mes amis Chowhoundaises! I’ve been working on research, on the Chowhound boards and elsewhere, for a family vacation to France this July, and I humbly request your thoughts and suggestions on my proposed itinerary.

I have two overriding questions -- How do the dining suggestions line up with our objectives as described below? And, is the itinerary reasonable or trying to fit too much into any given day? (And, can you forgive me for such a long post?)

Our preference is for “authentically French & regional cuisine,” at something less than Michelin-star prices. I understand that in today’s Paris, “authentic ‘regional’ cuisine” could well be Moroccan or Vietnamese rather than Breton or Provençal, and that’s a beautiful thing.

My wife and I have been to Paris twice before, once as a couple and once with the kids, but never to Normandy. We’re taking our 18-year-old niece on her first overseas adventure as a high school graduation gift, along with our 15-year-old son & 13-year-old daughter.

My wife and I each have lost around 100 lbs. over the past couple of years (using the boring but effective exercise-and-thoughtful-eating approach), so we’re “health-conscious,” but not fanatical. We understand we’re entering a world of cheese, cream and baguettes and fully intend to enjoy them, with hopefully some degree of moderation. We will enjoy a bottle of wine with dinner (and I expect to venture into the cider & calvados in Normandy), but we don’t claim to be oneophiles.

The kids are occasionally adventurous, but offal and escargot may be a bridge too far if that’s all they have to choose from. In fact, less formal settings generally will be better for us (quite probably, I -- gasp! -- will not even be taking a blazer). We’re hoping to average no more than €15 for lunch and €35 for dinner, understanding that some meals will exceed that and be well worth it. We would like to work in a couple of picnic meals, but are not sure where they fit best. I’ve also generally assumed that we’ll eat breakfast at the hotel but am interested in alternative suggestions.

Day 1 (Mon): Pre-Flight

Driving from northern CT to JFK, I’m looking for something ethnic (with Chinese and Indian as the leading options) that’s along the way. Based on NY Times reviews, Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan and Biang! in Flushing look like contenders.

Day 2 (Tue): Arrival

After changing planes in Dublin, we’re scheduled to land at CDG in the early afternoon and plan to head immediately to our rooms at the airport Hilton for a quick nap and refresh before taking the RER into Paris for dinner and a visit to the Eiffel Tower. Looking for a bistro or brasserie around €20-30, and considering Restaurant St-Didier in the 16ème.

Day 3 (Wed): Giverny/Jumièges/Rouen

After breakfast at the hotel, we’re driving out to the Monet Museum before heading to Jumièges for lunch and a visit to the abbey. Considering Auberge des Ruines or Auberge du Bac for lunch. After lunch, it’s over to Rouen to walk around the medieval town center. We’ll be staying at the Hôtel des Carmes and are looking for something within walking distance, with L’Espiguette or Auberge St-Maclou as likely candidates.

Day 4 (Thu): Pays d’Auge & Caen

Breakfasting again at the hotel, we’ll strike out into the countryside to sample the Fromagerie Graindorge in Livrot and see the Tiger Tank in Vimountiers. Lunch options include L’Equerre in Vimountiers or Plaisirs des Mets in St-Pierre-sur-Dives. From there, it’s off to Caen to William the Conquerer’s Abbaye aux Hommes & the Caen Memorial Center for History & Peace. We’re staying at Le Mas Normand in Ver-sur-Mer, and their “authentic, generous and greedy” home-cooked Norman dinner looks tempting.

Day 5 (Fri): D-Day Beaches & Bayeux

The day’s forced march begins with breakfast at the hotel, and then the sights of the D-Day Beaches -- the D-Day Museum in Arromanches, the gun battery at Longues-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery, and the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église. There don’t appear to be many lunch choices along the way, but La Marée in Grandcamp-Maisy seems to have potential. We’ll go from the beaches to Bayeux to see the Tapestry Museum. From there, we’ll head to our next B&B, La Relais de la Hardiesse in Courtils, where we’ll check in and then head for dinner. The Mont St-Michel area is purportedly a Chowhounder’s desert, but Le Manoir or Auberge du Terroir might fit the bill. If we’re still going, we’ll head to the Mont for a night tour.

Day 6 (Sat): Mont St. Michel, Fougères & Chartres

If we don’t get our fill at Mont St-Michel the night before, we’ll head back the next morning after breakfast for the full effect. Then, it’s off to Fougères to visit the Château and forage for lunch at the weekly market. We’ll drive all the way to Chartres to see the cathedral. I’ve read very good things about Les Feuillantines for dinner. Then, back to Paris to return the car and crash (most definitely in that order) at the Hotel de la Porte Dorée in the 12ème.

Day 7 (Sun): Paris/Versailles

First stop after the hotel’s petit déjeuner will be the Arc de Triomphe and a stroll down the Champs-Elyseés. Lunch will most likely be near the Place de la Concorde, with Le Souffle or Lescure as candidates. Then it’s the RER out to Versailles, before returning to dinner near the hotel. Le Bistrot de la Porte Dorée, Le Picotin and L’Escale de Marrakech look like contenders (although I would welcome other ideas, either in the neighborhood or along the way there, as well as those in Versailles itself).

Day 8 (Mon): Paris

We’ll likely start at the Louvre and, in that general vicinity, La Régalade St-Honoré or L’Ambassade d’Auvergne look like attractive lunch candidates. Then we’ll take in the Île de la Cité and the Left Bank. My assumption is that we’ll be looking to head back to the vicinity of the hotel for dinner, but would welcome suggestions for anything between the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Seine.

Day 9 (Tues): Bon Voyage

Our flight leaves mid-morning. We layover in Dublin for several hours at lunchtime, so any airport suggestions would be most helpful. Then, we get back to JFK, drive home and collapse.

So, "formidable" or "fou"?

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  1. The food at Dublin airport is terrible and very expensive. If you can, I'd bring a picnic from Paris. Sounds like a great trip!

    1 Reply
    1. The Fougeres market did not seem all that great to us as foragers. If we could have cooked where we were staying, we would have found good things there, but not much appealed for lunch.

      A very good lunch place in the old quarter of Fougeres is Ti Vabro, which features galettes. You'd probably be best reserving there; it's busy even at lunch.

      We've been to Les Feuillantines, but only for lunch, and really liked our meals.

      1 Reply
      1. Le Mont St Michel, Fougeres, Chartres, and turning in a car in Paris all in one day? I suggest you reconsider, perhaps with the aid of a travel website, as the chance you will have time to see anything, travel, and get to the car drop off berfore it closes is rather improbable. Your Monday in Paris also sounds a bit overpacked. Your plan is indeed formidable and fou all at once!

        2 Replies
        1. re: therealdoctorlew

          Totally agree with this. And as beautiful as Mont St Michel is, it isn't so charming when you're walking around with hundreds of other people. I think what I enjoyed most about it was walking toward it, sheep on my side as I walked, and getting to see the whole thing from outside. And plan to eat elsewhere.

          1. re: therealdoctorlew

            Very valid point. Idea is that we need to get from MSM to Paris and what can we see between A & B? (although the Avis at the Gare de Lyon is open until midnight!) Expect to do a fair amount of improvisation (including trimming sights on-the-fly), but always find it works better from a defined starting point. Thanks!

          2. Whew! I'm exhausted just reading your schedule.

            Day 2/ Arrival: I'd skip Le Saint Didier and go to Au Dernier Métro on the boulevard de Grenelle across from Dupleix métro station. Cheaper and more fun for teenagers.

            I can't comment on of days 3, 4, 5 and 6. It seems all so tightly planned that any other suggestions would seem to be a straw on a camel's back kinda thing. I also agree with the other poster that day 6 might be fraught with problems

            Day 7/ Paris & Versailles. I'd skip or postpone the walk down the Champs Elysées unless you have a special fondness for chain stores and hordes of tourists and suburbanites. Maybe go straight to Versailles with a little detour to the Marché Notre Dame (which closes down in the afternoon) to gather the fixings for a picnic . You can take in the Arc de Triomphe on the way back... and look down the Champs Elysées (which is indeed much more attractive from afar). The Porte Dorée is pretty much unknown territory for most of us... just a 300 metres and you're no longer in Paris. I know--and love-- the boulangerie-pâtisserie Vandermeersch on the ave Daumesnil just across from your hotel... but closed on Mon and Tue so Sunday is your only chance.

            Day 8/ Paris. With 3 teenagers in tow, dinner at les Pipos on the rue l'Ecole Polytechnique/ rue Montagne Sainte-Geneviève in the 5th will be fun and affordable if you're hanging around the Latin Quarter. Or, closer to your hotel (less than a 10-minute walk), Les Zygomates on the rue Capri in the 12th.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Parnassien

              Just the kind of perspective I was seeking, Parnassien -- Bien obligé!