The Normandy Experience

New in 2023!

medieval buildings cathedral

Medieval Bayeux, home base for The Normandy Experience

2023 Dates: May 18 – 26; May 26 – June 3

2024 Dates: April 30 – May 8; May 8 – 16

After three years of research and planning, we’re delighted to introduce The Normandy Experience, which will be offered for the first time in 2023.

Our focus for this eight-night trip is the French region of Normandy, bordered on the north by La Manche (the English Channel) with almost 400 miles of coastline. We’ll primarily focus on the department of Calvados, which gives its name to the premium apple brandy produced in this area.

To many, Normandy is best known for the Allied invasion on D-Day (June 6, 1944) that began the liberation of France and an Allied victory in Europe in World War II. Our group will have a full day with an expert guide to visit some of the most important sites. This will definitely be a highlight in a trip with many highlights.

military cemetery with white crosses

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, final resting place of 9,386 Americans.

But we’ll explore many other dimensions of this beautiful region. Normandy is rich in medieval history relating to William the Conqueror, and we’ll see the ancient Bayeux Tapestry that tells the story of William’s victory in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. We’ll also see William’s castle in Caen.

Our group will base for seven nights in a beautiful and well-located hotel in the medieval town of Bayeux. Our eighth night will be spent at Mont St. Michel, where our hotel offers spectacular views of this iconic island. Another highlight!

island in the sea

View of Mont St. Michel from our hotel

Experience Normandy

The Normandy Experience will follow the same approach as our other Experience trips, including a variety of special activities and experiences unique to this area:

  • A guided walking tour of Bayeux, including a visit to the Bayeux Cathedral (consecrated in 1077) and the Bayeux Tapestry. You’ll have time on your own to enjoy the Saturday morning market and to visit one of Bayeux’s several interesting museums.
  • A day focused on D-Day, led by an expert guide, and including landing beaches, museums, cemeteries, memorials, remains of military installations, and other key sites from this historic time. We’ll structure this day based on the nationalities of the travelers in our group.
  • An afternoon, night and morning at Mont St. Michel, including a guided walking tour of the island and the opportunity for an early evening or early morning walk along the bay. This will be either the first or last day of the trip.
  • A day trip to Honfleur, a lovely town and port on the Seine estuary. We’ll enjoy a boat trip out onto the channel before lunch-on-your own and the opportunity to explore the streets, gardens, galleries and shops of this charming and picturesque town.
  • A day in the rural Pays d’Auge, an agricultural area known for picturesque villages, small farms, orchards and cider production, and cheese production. We’ll enjoy tasting the local apple products and cheeses.
  • Visits to unique chateaus and gardens, including Fontaine-Henry (famous for its very high roofs) and Saint-Germain-de-Livet.
  • A visit to a family-owned apple distillery, producing juice, cider, pommeau, and Calvados. We’ll enjoy a delicious picnic lunch in the courtyard.
  • A day in the port city of Caen, known for its medieval buildings from the time of William the Conqueror and for the Battle of Caen that destroyed much of the city after D-Day.
  • A stop at the picturesque village of Villedieu-les-Poêles, where we’ll visit the 19th century bell foundry.
  • Memorable meals of local specialties in a variety of settings including our hotel’s gastronomic restaurant, simple crêperies, traditional dining rooms, and waterfront cafes.
  • Time for relaxing and exploring on your own.
port with boats and colorful houses

The lovely port at Honfleur

We’re especially pleased that Kathy and Charley’s daughter, Kelly Wood, is the co-leader for this trip and has played a key role in the planning. Kelly is a 5th year PhD candidate in Modern French History at New York University. She has a particular focus on World War II and the period after the war, and has done extensive research throughout France, including in Normandy. Now living in Paris, Kelly will offer a unique and important perspective during our time in Normandy.

Arrival and Departure

Our May 18-26 trip will meet at the Rennes train station (probably at 1:15 pm), spend the first night at Mont St. Michel, and then travel to Bayeux for the next seven nights. Our drop-off point is the Bayeux train station, tentatively at 9:15 am.

Our May 26-June 3 trip will meet at the Bayeux train station at 3:30 pm on the first afternoon and spend seven nights in Bayeux, then travel to Mont St. Michel for the eighth night. Our drop-off point is the Rennes train station around 1:00 pm.

Rennes is 1 hour 30 minutes from Paris by high-speed train. Bayeux is about 2 hours 20 minutes from Paris by local train. Our meeting and drop-off times will be confirmed about six months before the trip.

We always recommend arriving in Europe at least one day before our Experience begins and most travelers also extend their trip after our Experience ends. One possibility is to spend time in Rennes, capital city of Brittany, and known for its beautiful architecture and half-timbered houses. You could reach the lovely medieval town of Dinan by train from Rennes or explore other areas of Brittany by train. You can also reach some destinations in Normandy by train, such as Rouen or Lisieux.

Paris is also a natural place to spend a few days before or after The Normandy Experience. Our first Normandy trip pairs with our four-night Inside Paris trip, May 14 – 18. (If you book both trips, your transportation to Rennes is included.)

Leaders: Kathy Wood and Kelly Wood

Prices: $4,750 per person double occupancy; $5,350 single occupancy of a double room

Learn more about The Normandy Experience

Blog post:  The Magic of Mont Saint-Michel