Get to the Normandy Beaches from Paris and Avoid Our Mistakes!

My favorite husband has had a few dreams of things he’d like to do while we’re living in Europe: Visit his grandfather’s fallen comrades and General Patton in Luxembourg (this item was checked off our love-to-do list last month); see the D-Day Beaches, and drink a lot of beer.

We took care of that last one quickly after we arrived. :-)

But we hadn’t made any solid plans to go see the Normandie Beaches (we’d been to Lower Normandie twice already) so on Friday night, at roughly 11:30 p.m., I made the decision.

“Dave, we’re taking a trip tomorrow.”


“Yes, tomorrow,” I was smug. I love on-the-fly trips.


David doesn’t. Whoops. After some pleading/convincing/bribing, I bought the earliest train tickets from Paris to Bayeux at 7:45 and the last ones that left to return to Paris at 18:49. Thanks to our Carte Enfant +, we got round trip train tickets for 3 adults and one baby for €114, instead of the original €215 without the Caret Enfant +. Wohoo!

I also bought a guided tour for €180 (Baby Girl was free, so it was €60 a person.) This was around midnight. We needed to get up at 6 the next morning in order to get our baby ready and to the train station in time to print our tickets.

So just as most of my French neighbors were getting into their digestifs on a Friday night, I was packing. We try to keep things light, so we brought: my purse (it’s actually a well-disguised camera bag), David’s army backpack (a well-disguised baby bag) the stroller (a poorly-designed stroller) and a car seat (it’s just a car seat.)

But I couldn’t find the actual discount card that saved us all of that moolah. Every train trip is controllé, so if I couldn’t produce the card, the conducteur would have charged us the difference. Luckily, before boarding we had just enough time to go to the ticket counter, pay a small fee to get a duplicate card, and print our train tickets.

Which were for a train that was leaving in 5 minutes… from a train station that was on the other side of town!!!

Paris has 6 train stations, and I’ve left from almost all of them at one time or another. The trips I’ve taken to Alençon, which to my credit, is part of Normandie, left out of Gare Montparnasse- and for a good reason: that’s the train station that serves the Lower Normandy region. Hello. Duh. Saint-Lazare serves Upper Normandie.

Here is how the train stations organize the destinations in Paris:

Paris Railway Stations

Paris’s railways are organized like a beach umbrella, with each region broadening out from Paris in the center.

There was no way we were going to make it to the correct train station, Gare Saint-Lazare, in half an hour, much less 5 minutes, from Gare Montparnasse.

The vendeur charged me to change my tickets… ONLY 5 EUROS!!! YES!!! I would pay for my mistake in time alone. For 15 Euros, I had a new Enfant + card and ahem, tickets leaving from a train station to which we would actually go.

Poor David and Emmanuel, our friend who is spending some of his vacation time with us- I made them get up before 6 in the morning after they watched Band of Brothers into the early morning hours, when in the end they didn’t end up boarding a train until 9:10. These are the times that try men’s souls, I suppose.

So don’t make the same mistake: Paris has 6 train stations. Know which one is yours! 

Then we were off, with no confirmation that we would actually have a tour booked when we got to Bayeux…

Trains are fun. Gimme that pacifier.

To be continued… demain!


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