If a visit to Normandy and Brittany isn't at the top of your bucket list, it should be. Just a short drive from Paris along the river Seine, this extraordinary part of France has a distinctive character that will captivate you at every turn. We'll explore the iconic destinations - the cliffs of Étretat, Honfleur, Omaha Beach, Mont Saint-Michel, and Saint-Malo - as we delve deeply into the region's soul. The rural 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. Many of France’s most beloved taste treats are native to Normandy and Brittany - from Camembert, Calvados, crepes, and cider – to salted butter caramels, Breton biscuits, scallops, and oysters. The restaurants have such bounty to draw from, it's no wonder it's become a foodie mecca! Prepare to see some of the most beautiful gardens in France, from Monet's Gardens at Giverny to the "Jardin Remarquable” at Château de Miromesnil to the Gardens of Étretat. Even if you don't have a green thumb, you can't help but marvel at the extraordinary beauty. It's no surprise that Normandy and Brittany are timeless sources of artistic inspiration.
Here's a day-by-day itinerary of the trip
Giverny & Rouen
You may want to arrive a day or two early and enjoy the City of Light. We have reserved a room block at boutique Jardins de Mademoiselle Hôtel & Spa (see below for booking extra nights).
Either way we’ll meet in the Jardins de Mademoiselle Hôtel & Spa lobby at 9:00 am. Then, head out for Monet‘s incomparable gardens at Giverny. They 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 at Le Bistrot des Fleurs.
After a scenic drive through the Norman countryside, we’ll arrive in Rouen for an overnight stay at the Hotel de Bourgtheroulde, a listed 15th Century 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.
The evening begins with a champagne welcome at our hotel’s airy atrium bar, followed by dinner at La Couronne, the oldest auberge in France, dating back to 1345. It's where Julia Child experienced her life-altering first meal in France.
Miromesnil and Varengeville
This morning, we'll set out north to Château de Miromesnil, the birthplace of Guy de Maupassant, protegé of Flaubert, and father of the modern short story. The marvelous walled potager garden and elegant parks are “Jardin Remarquable.”
After a delicious lunch at Château de Miromesnil, our afternoon destination is Varengeville. GEO ranks Varengeville as one of Normandy’s most beautiful villages. We’ll stroll through the picturesque streets before visiting Le Jardin de Shamrock, home to the world’s largest collection of hydrangeas. In July, you'll be treated to a spectacular display of over a thousand bushes in full boom!
Afterwards, we'll stop at Lin et L’Autre Boutique, a unique boutique specializing in traditional Norman linen tableware and clothing. It also has a veritable treasure chest of decorative notions and brocante finds. Our final stop will be at Eglise Saint-Valery, a fascinating historic church perched on the cliff, with beautiful modern stained glass window by Georges Braque and paintings by Michel Ciry. Both artists lived in Varengeville and are buried in the peaceful churchyard with a spectacular view of the coastline and Dieppe.
On to the enchanting port village of Honfleur, where the romantic hotel La Maison de Lucie is our home-base for three nights. An inspiration for generations of artists, Honfleur’s historic and cultural heritage is evident at every turn. We’ll regroup for a lighthearted meal of sustainably sourced regional cuisine at foodie favorite L’Endroit.
Etretat & Honfleur
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.
Our afternoon discovery is the celebrated neo-futuristic Gardens of Étretat, winner of the European Garden Award and a Michelin Green Guide star.
Back in Honfleur, a local fromagerie will prepare a plateau de Fromages Normands that you can enjoy with a bottle of hard cider and red wine in the garden of La Petite Lucie. Afterward, you might stroll the waterfront and stop to savor vin blanc overlooking the quay or shop tempting boutiques for mementos and gifts.
Dinner will be on your own tonight.
Today begins with a guided walking tour of the Honfleur’s historic district, including the charming old port and historic wooden church of Saint Catherine, crafted by shipbuilders in the 15th Century.
We then drive inland to the picturesque Pays d’Auge, where our first visit is the Château de Boutemont, featuring period gardens created by a series of famous designers across the centuries. Here, we’ll marvel at the topiaries, Italian garden, reflecting pond, green room, and boxwood waves. Our visit concludes with al fresco lunch amid the flowers at the château creperie.
Next stop is a tour and tasting of Normandy’s famed apple-based alcohol at Pierre Huet distillery, an award-winning family domain that has produced Calvados, Pommeau, and cider for five generations.
We end the afternoon exploring the delightful Jardins du Pays d’Auge, another “remarkable garden” landscaped around lovingly restored traditional half-timbered cottages, barns, stables, and a chapel.
Back in Honfleur, we'll enjoy dinner tonight at Huitre Brulé.
Bayeaux Tapestry & D-Day Landing Beaches
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 the conquest of England by Norman King William I in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings.
Our D-Day Landing Beaches guide will lead us on a poignant tour featuring Arromanches, the German battery at Longues-sur-Mer, American Cemetery, and Omaha Beach. We'll stop for lunch at a casual brasserie.
Tonight, we settle in for three nights on the waterfront at Hotel & Spa Le Noveau Monde in the Brittany port of St Malo. A dinner focused of the freshest of seafood and Breton specialties will be at Fidelis in the historic granite citadel.
We’ll stay local and concentrate on our host destination -the walled city of St-Malo, with an excursion to the neighboring oyster capital, Cancale.
Our local guide will meet us at the hotel for a fascinating walking tour. He’ll share his passion for “la cite Corsaire,” recounting anecdotes and lore surrounding its storied history.
Lunch is in the heart of the old city at Bergamote, a chic insider address, where after a splendid 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–the butter and cheese boutique of the renowned Brittany butter dynasty.
Mid-afternoon, we'll discover 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, free to shop in town or return to the hotel for a relaxing spa treatment. (Appointments must be made in advance and are not included).
We dine tonight within the walled old town at Doma.
Mont St Michel
This morning, we’ll visit the 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, the property’s singular history, including its many famous guests.
Our farewell repast at La Fourchette à Droite is a gourmet celebration of creating shared memories and new friendships formed.
All good things must come to an end. After a leisurely breakfast it's time to say our goodbyes. We'll catch a midmorning fast train together to central Paris, arriving around midday. Your trip leader will accompany you so she'll be able to help you with any other arrangements you need when we get to Paris.
Try to book a late afternoon or early evening flight home from Paris so you have time to get to airport without feeling rushed. (There's a train, or you can hop in a taxi). Or, consider extending your trip and stay in Paris for a few more days. Either way, we're here to help you make these arrangements so your return trip home is stress-free.
The Gardens & Gastronomy of Normandy & Brittany
Train to Paris
Stay at the magnificent Hotel Bourgtheroulde a landmark five-star hotel in the center of Rouen.
Enjoy 21st century luxury in an 18th-century building at the charming La Maison de Lucie.
This trip is led by Casey O’Brien Blondes, a Girls' Guide colleague based in the Loire Valley since 1992. A dual-national and author of two travel and lifestyle books about France,
Casey never misses a chance to explore Normandy and Brittany, two of her favorite regions. On her frequent visits she has scouted hidden gems to complement the iconic destinations you will discover. The July 2023 trip received rave reviews and she is excited to return with you!
"A place that shaped the world as we know it, this corner of France stirs feelings of gratitude and hope
From Honfleur to the Glénans: the coastal towns of Brittany and Normandy. Located in north-western France, both these neighbouring regions share a coastline known for its wild beauty, capes, ports, religious buildings, châteaux, and historic towns.
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 (required)
The trip officially starts on the morning of July 1st. We do recommened that you arrive a day early due to the time of day the official trip starts. You will most likely want to have time to relax and adjust to the time zone. If you do decide to arrive early, please let us know and we will provide you with some hotel suggestions.
Airport transfers are not included. It is very easy to grab a taxi from the airport to your destination in Paris. All transportation in Normandy and Brittany is included.
The weather is nice in July. High temperatures are around 74F, and low temperatures are around 55F. Weather is changing, and we could see higher temperatures in July.
We will have a zoom call about 6 weeks before the trip starts to discuss all that information and give you a packing list. Here is a great website that we love that will help you with packing and travel trips.