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There are thousands of excellent guidebooks about Normandy and we cannot claim our love of vintage postcards makes us experts on this delightful region. However it would be irresponsible not to share a few of the difficult lessons learnt as well as some of the happy traveler insights that have helped our visits to Normandy become an addiction.

Sensible stuff

New to Normandy? Read the most useful information from the Normans themselves.

Ferry from the UK?  East of Englanders can save a lot of money taking the ferry from Dover to Calais. Driving to Normandy from Calais takes less time than the ferry to Dieppe or Le Havre, and you can stop on the way.  We suggest Wimereux is much nicer for lunch than Boulogne.

Public holidays?  Brocantes and Vide Grenier may well be happening, but the banks, hypermarkets and lots of other shops will be closed, so be prepared.

 Brocante and vide grenier diary?  Ours of course! The tourist information office in your nearest town often carry a local list as well.

On the road

The NTAN Car

 

Driving?  Very sensible, you will need a car in Normandy it is huge.

Assume all UK laws apply, with a few tweaks:

Do check you have the full French travel pack (breathalyser, fluorescent jackets etc etc). It’s not a suggested list it’s a law with an expensive on the spot fine if you forget.

Remember to stick on some headlamp beam deflectors or you will be breaking the law as well as blinding oncoming traffic. They will be available on the ferry or the Eurostar shop or buy online beforehand.

The RAC will keep you up to date on the latest must-have-in-the-car list for drivers:

Paperwork.  Make sure you have all the correct documents with you. Don’t leave the gite without your passport (keep it on you at all times!), driving licence, vehicle registration, insurance documents and travel insurance.

Breakdown.  Add European breakdown insurance to your cover, including repatriating your car to the UK, as this can save you a fortune in garage bills, storage for your broken down car in France, a hotel for the night, a hire car… Oh yes we know.  Breakdown insurance is one of the best bits of holiday planning ever, it has saved us from a night sleeping rough in the middle of nowhere and unimaginable costs incurred leaving a car in France to be fixed, paid for us to get back to the UK for work then back to France to pick it up.

Motorway driving?  Carry cash to pay the the péage, toll – these can range from  €1 to more than €20, sometimes just by going in a different direction. Or:

  • Indulge in some route planning that accurately assesses toll charges with Autoroutes.fr

Not sure what the speed limits are? Keep safe and avoid fines:

Driving a bit fast?  When you have paid huge tolls to travel on lovely empty motorways in Normandy (locals save their cash and drive A roads) is it easy to get carried away and exceed the speed limit.  If you tend to be a bit heavy with the accelerator, take cash for on the spot fines.  If stopped and cashless the police will take your passport while you pop off to the cashpoint..  Oh and drive a lot over the limit and the police can confiscate your car.  And sell it.  Probably best to have a look at this page before you go, it makes quite interesting reading:

Radar detection kit?  It is illegal to have a radar detection device in your car in France and will lead to on-the-spot fines. If you’re GPS has an option to display local speed traps it MUST be disabled.

Headphones: No, just don’t, especially when cycling.  It is illegal and can cost you 135€ plus a deeply unpleasant conversation with the French police.

Children on board? Age 10 an under kids must be in the back with a seat-belt (adapted to fit them). If the back of the car is full of under 10’s then and only then can a child that age sit up front.

Drink and drive? Don’t.  We all know it’s a bad idea, no excuses, never-mind that in France random testing is common and the legal blood-alcohol limit is low (lower than the UK).

Traffic updates on the radio.  Tune in to 107.7 for radio ‘autoroute’ !

Emergency.  Dial 112 for the emergency services.

***DRIVER NOTE FOR 2017!

British drivers have avoided many fines in France as the DVLA has not shared Brits driver info.  This is all changing in 2017 when the DVLA will make details available to the French authorities.

WIFI Wisdom

You may be lucky enough to be using a hotel or apartment with free WIFI included in the package price.  Unfortunately, not all holiday accommodation offers this service.

You could visit the local tourist information office which usually offers 30 mins of filtered internet access for €3 but you are forced to use their computers which never have the software you want, may be using a browser you are unfamiliar with or are largely insecure.

 wifi

Fab FON

A much better alternative is to search for the FON network in your WIFI settings.  For @ €5 per day or @ €15 for 5 days, you get unlimited internet access wherever you have a WIFI signal.

You can use it on your laptop, smartphone, tablet, in fact, anything with a WIFI capability!

Sign up and Surf

You will need to register but this is simple and extremely straightforward.  Simply connect to the FON WIFI network and open your browser.  If it doesn’t auto connect to the FON registration page, just open a random website and you will be redirected.  Enter all your details and your account will be opened.

You will need to enter your payment card information but FON is one of the largest phone networks in France so your info is secure.
You may find you will have to log into your FON account once every 24 hours, but that’s only a minute out of your time so its not really an inconvenience.  Once connected, you can visit any website you want and surf as you normally would.
Ian

Free and Fabulous

Château de Saint Germain de Livet
Château de Saint Germain de Livet

Le musée est gratuit pour tout public le premier dimanche de chaque mois…

Across France a delightful range of museums are free on the first Sunday of the month.  Check with your local tourist information office for a full local list, but here are a few:

Calvados

Eure

Orne

Seine-Maritime

In the summer Rouen puts on an amazing light and sound show against the cathedral.  Different every year it is always imaginative, dramatic and free.  Timed to be just after an early dinner in one of the town’s many excellent restaurants (we suggest you check out those in Place du Vieux Marché) bring a brolly and something to sit on.

(More coming soon!)

Do you have traveler tips to add?

Please share your Normandy traveler tips, we would love to hear them.

PS:

The last train back from Paris to Deauville is ridiculously early.  Whatever the tourist information office says, start your Paris day trip from Le Havre or Caen.  Lots more commuters but also a lot more trains!

Bon Voyages!

Pont de Normandie
Pont de Normandie under some Norman rain clouds…

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