Driving in Normandy
Driving in Normandy is a real pleasure. Even during the busy period around the D-Day commemorations the rural roads are usually quiet, and with this area being a haven for military enthusiasts, there are often convoys of WW2 vehicles to be seen.
The many lanes of the region also help drivers to avoid traffic jams.
The main E46 dual carriageway runs from Caen to Carentan, before it seamlessly joins the N13 heading to Cherbourg. This road allows quick travel from one end of the battlefield to the other; with a trip from Caen to St Mare Eglise taking little over an hour. Along this route, the major towns are signposted.
Although the E46/N13 is a quick artery across the area, you are here for the beaches right? In this case, the D514 snakes along the coast from Ouistreham to beyond Grandcamp Maisy (where it joins the E46). This is a nice scenic drive which passes most of the sites of interest.
In some parts however there is a beach road that runs right along the seafront, which is closed to public access, but this is ideal for cycling along the beaches.
Watch out for the YELLOW DIAMOND signs. These indicate that you have priority at junctions and are common across Europe (except the UK). A line through the diamond mens that you are no longer on a priority road, and must stop at junctions.
Fuel: (Essence) Unleaded fuel is 95 or 98 Octane. It costs about the same as in the UK. As Normandy is a rural area, most petrol stations are located in the larger towns and at supermarkets.
Maps: There are many maps available for the region, and supermarkets generally stock a variety. I have found the 1:180000 AA Touring Map of Normandy (ISBN 0-7495-4405-8) and the 1:25000 Institut Geographique National very useful. The latter is a large scale map that shows the position of tracks and bunkers.
French driving laws
There are certain laws of which drivers need to be aware. This is not a definative list, and you are advised to check with the AA before departure.
Insurance: You need to ensure that you are covered for driving in France. Contact your insurance company for details. Often short trips are covered in your policy at no extra expense.
French laws: As in all of Europe, the French drive on the RIGHT.
You need to fit special headlight deflectors to your lights. These are cheaper at local stores than at the ports.
You also need to display a country of origin sticker (UK) on the rear of your car. Again these are best bought locally before departure. The legal driving age in France is 18. ( Ref: AA Key Guide ‘Normandy’. ISBN 0-7495-4820-7.)
Visiting by train?
Normandy is served with a very efficient and fast train service. The TGV train runs regularly from Caen to Cherbourg. The trip from Caen to Bayeux takes just 15 minutes.
You can buy your ticket online or at the station from one of the yellow multi-lingual touch-screen ticket machines in the foyer. Validate your ticket by passing it into the yellow ticket machine on the entrance to the platforms. Useful French words are:
GARE = Station. VOIE = Platform
Visiting by bus?
During the summer of 2007 my friend, Brendan Murtagh toured the sights of Normandy using public transport. Below is his guide.
The ‘Bus Verts du Calvados‘ serves the region of Calvados, which is the name for the Normandy Coast from Caen to Grandcamp Maisy. Information points for the service are located at:
* Caen: Gare routière (bus station) on place de la Gare, and at place Courtonne
* Bayeux: Gare routière (bus station) on place de la Gare
* Lisieux: Place François Mitterrand.
There are a variety of discounted ticket/pass card options available, including:
* La Carte Liberté: Free passage on all bus lines for 1, 2 or 7 days.
* Le Billet de Groupe: Up to 40% discount on ticket price for groups of 10 to 25 people travelling together.
* Le Ticket Plein Tarif: Simple discount for irregular travel.
* Les Places Vertes: Reduced rate ticket for travel during “green” periods in the day.
* Le Tarif Jeune: Discount ticket for under 26 years for travel during school holidays, Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, Sundays and public holidays.
* Les Abonnements: Season ticket for weekly or monthly travel can be used in conjunction with other tickets.
Tickets can be bought on the bus or at Tabacs or Presse close to the bus stop. Here is a full, clear map of bus routes. (In French)
For further details contact:
Bus Verts du Calvados
Tel: 0810 214 214
Fax: 02 31 35 59 09
D-Day sites of interest by bus from Bayeux
Omaho Beach – Museum and memorials from Vierville sur Mer to Colleville sur Mer
American Cemetery – Colleville sur Mer
Port en Bessin
Pointe du hoc – Ranger memorial
Line 30 Scolaire
German Military cemetery at La Cambe
Arromanches Mulberry harbour, Dis- embarkment Museum, 360 Cinema, Juno Beach at Courselle sur Mer
D-Day Sites of Interest from Caen
Benouville- Pegasus Bridge
Ouistreham – Le Grand Bunker – Juno Beach
Ver sur Mer – Eastern end Gold beach
Courselle sur Mer – Gold beach
St Aubin Sur Mer – Juno Beach
Bernieres – Juno – Juno Beach
Ranville Cemetery (Rue des Airbornes)
Tilly sur Seulles
Battle of Tilly Sur Seulles Museum
British War Cemetery
Maltot – Hill 112 memorial –see Bus Verts timetable for details on how to get to Hill 112 memorial
Bus Service for La Manche
This area includes Cherbourg, St Marie Du Mont (Utah Beach), St Mere Eglise, Carentan, St Lo and Mont St Michel.
Transport in La Manche is provided by the STN (Société Des Transports de Normandie) which supplies a regular bus service throughout the Manche region.
Tickets for single journeys are available from the driver of the bus. Booklets of discount tickets are sold at the information centres.