The contrasting, complimentary landscape and distinctive character of these fascinating regions will captivate you at each of our iconic destinations – including Giverny, Rouen, the cliffs of Étretat, Honfleur, Omaha Beach, Mont Saint-Michel and Saint-Malo. From Camembert, Calvados, crepes, and cider – to salted butter caramels, Breton biscuits, scallops, and oysters – many of France’s beloved taste treats are native to Normandy and Brittany! The regions’ mild climate and acid soil offer ideal conditions for the creation of exceptional gardens highlighting our route following the Seine from Paris to the sea at Honfleur and across the coastline. The bucolic charm of Normandy’s rolling pastureland, apple orchards, half-timbered farms, and thatched cottages evoke historic ties to Britain, while the Breton language, rugged coastline, and granite architecture capture Britany’s Celtic heritage. Experience authentic “terroirs”, with land and seascapes that embrace and transport – to appreciate why Normandy and Brittany are timeless sources of artistic inspiration.
The trip doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, July 1, but if you’re traveling across an ocean to get to France, you may want to consider arriving a day or two early so you have time to relax and get acclimated to the local time zone. Perhaps enjoy a few days in Paris before the trip starts? If you do decide to arrive early, just let us know and we’ll help you with arrangements if you need it.
Day 0, June 30
We’ll meet up in Paris at Porte Maillot at 9:30 am to head out for Monet‘s incomparable gardens at Giverny, that inspired his iconic water lily paintings. In July they’ll be in full bloom! After a leisurely visit of the house and gardens, we’ll lunch on the terrace of historic Hotel Baudy, where Monet painted his nude models in a little workshop at the back –that looks like he just left.
After a scenic drive through the Norman countryside, we’ll arrive at Rouen for an overnight stay at the Hotel de Bourgtheroulde, a listed 15thC property in the heart of the ancient capital. After a brief rest, we will take a 5-minute stroll to visit Notre-Dame Cathedral, whose gothic façade was immortalized in a series of thirty paintings by Monet.
Our champagne welcome and dinner will be at La Couronne, the oldest auberge in France dating back to 1345 and where Julia Child experienced her life-altering first meal in France.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
This morning we will set out north to Château de Miromesnil, birthplace of Guy de Maupassant, protegé of Flaubert and father of the modern short story. The marvelous walled potager garden and elegant parks are classed “Jardin Remarquable”.
Lunch at Michelin-star Le Colombier, in a charming half-timbered house dating back to1509 is a gastronomic highlight of our Normandy experience.
Our afternoon destination is Varengeville, ranked by GEO as one of Normandy’s most beautiful villages. We’ll begin with a stroll through its picturesque streets before visiting Les Bois des Moutiers -the most English of French gardens-created by Gertrude Jekyll around an arts and crafts manor designed by Lutyens for Guillaume Mallet. Our final stop will be the 11th C church of Ste Marguerite, perched on a cliff Comments restricted to single page with a spectacular view of the Alabaster Coast. The stained glass windows were designed by Georges Braque, who lived in the village.
On to the enchanting port village of Honfleur, where the romantic hotel La Maison de Lucie will be our home base for three nights. Upon arrival, you can take time to rest in your room, or join a little excursion of the town. An inspiration for generations of artists, Honfleur’s historic and cultural heritage are evident at every turn.
We’ll regroup for a lighthearted meal of sustainably-sourced regional cuisine at foodie favorite, Huitre Brûlée.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Today’s destination is legendary Etrétat. Its imposing cliffs and impressive villas attest to the glamorous transformation of this small fishing port into a fashionable seaside resort. It has beguiled artists and writers, and was beloved by Marie Antoinette.
Our day begins with an exhilarating nature walk along the cliffs and beach led by a local expert who will enrich our knowledge of sea birds, coastal plants, and cliff formation, along with the myths, legends, art and literature surrounding this mythic destination.
For lunch we’ll enjoy local fare at Lann-Bihoué –a casual village café.
Our afternoon discovery are the celebrated neo-fututistic Gardens of Étretat, winner of the European Garden Award and a Michelin Green Guide star.
Back in Honfleur, you might stroll the waterfront and stop to savor a vin blanc overlooking the quay, visit beautiful St Catherine’s–France’s largest wooden church, or shop tempting boutiques for mementos and gifts.
Dinner will be at gastronomic bistro Le Bréard.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Today, we’ll explore the glorious Pays d’Auge, tasting Normandy’s finest creamy cheese and apple-based libations, interspersed with visits to two fabulous gardens.
We begin at the fairytale gardens of Chateau de Bouttemont, created by famous landscape designers, where we’ll marvel at the topiaries, Italian garden, reflecting pond, green room, and boxwood waves.
Next stop is the Graindorge Fromagerie to see how raw milk Camembert, Livarot, Pont Leveque and Neufchâtal are crafted. Our visit concludes with an indulgent tasting!
Another “remarkable garden” of France is our next stop. There’s an excellent on-site creperie for a light bite before we explore the delightful Jardins du Pays d’Auge, a bucolic natural garden, landscaped around picturesque traditional half-timbered buildings.
We end the afternoon at Pierre Huet distillery, a family domain that has produced Calvados, Pommeau and cider over five generations, for a tour and tasting of Normandy’s famed apple-based alcohols.
Back in Honfleur you have a free evening to unwind at your own pace. Casey will propose restaurant options. We may want to get to bed early, to be fresh for an early start Wednesday..
Today’s itinerary digresses from our theme, as the occasion of July 4th and proximity to the D-Day Landing Beaches, make a day focused on America’s pivotal role in the liberation of France not to be missed.
En route to the coast we will stop to view the Bayeux Tapestry. This rare treasure depicts the defeat of Anglo-Saxon King Harold and conquest of England by Norman King William I in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings.
Our D-Day Landing Beaches guide will then lead us on a poignant tour featuring Arromanches, the German battery at Longues-sur-Mer, American Cemetery and Omaha Beach. There will be a lunch stop at a casual brasserie.
Breakfast Lunch, Dinner
We’ll stay local and concentrate on our host destination -the walled city of St-Malo, with an excursion to neighboring oyster capital Cancale.
Marin Moulin will be our skipper for a private boat ride along the waterfront. He’ll share his passion for “la cite corsaire” recounting anecdotes and lore surrounding its storied history.
After a stroll along the harbor, we’ll lunch in the heart of the old city at Bergamote, a chic insider address, where after a light salad, galette or quiche you can justify one of their signature desserts. Time permitting we will make a quick visit (3-minute walk) to La Maison du Beurre Bordier–butter and cheese boutique of the renowned Brittany butter dynasty.
Mid-afternoon we will be initiated into the secrets of oyster cultivation at La Ferme Marine. Our guided visit concludes with a “degustation” of their first-rate harvest.
Back in Saint Malo, we will take a tour of the ramparts of the walled old city to enjoy the spectacular view and visit the Cathedral of Saint-Vincent. You are then free to explore the atmospheric old town or return to the hotel for a relaxing spa treatment. (Appointment to made in advance.)
We dine tonight at intimate, country-chic Effet Mer, which serves market-inspired dishes.
In the morning we’ll visit magical Mont Saint Michel with an expert guide. After strolling about the winding streets and visiting the Abbey we’ll enjoy a hearty lunch at Ferme Saint Michel.
Our afternoon discovery is the dramatic garden of Chateau de la Ballue, designed in the Italian mannerist style, and featuring the Yin Yang inspirations of landscape architects Paul Maymont & François Hebert Stevens. Its “outdoor rooms”, set against the elegant backdrop of the grey granite Louis VIII chateau, are linked by stunning vistas and spaces filled with imaginative topiary.
The owner will recount for us property’s singular history, including its many famous guests.
Our farewell repas at La Fourchette à Droitewill be a gourmet celebration of creating shared memories and new bonds of friendship together.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
After a leisurely breakfast we’ll it will be time to catch a midmorning fast train to Paris from Rennes where we’ll arrive midday before.
Everyone has their own fabulous room at Hotel de Bourgtheroulde
Your second hotel is the romantic La Maison de Lucie in the historic town of Honfleur.
This trip will be led by Casey O’Brien Blondes, a GG2P Colleague based in the Loire Valley since 1992. A dual-national and author of two travel and lifestyle books about France, Casey knows the Loire Valley, its history and vibrant culture intimately. Her insider connections offer a privileged entrée to this fabled region. Casey receives rave reviews from GG2P clients!
Everything stated in itinerary above including all meals (unless otherwise indicated) plus wine with dinner
Beautiful, unique hotels
All guides, experts and entry fees
All transportation in Brittany and Normandy
Your international flights & trains to and from the start and finish of the trip.
All personal souvenir purchases
Extra wine or beer beyond what is offered
Travel and Medical Insurance (strongly recommended)