Location: Normandy, France (near Cherbourg)
Time Frame: June, 7 days
Type. We opted for what Europeans call a "camping village". Our camping village, Camping l'Anse du Brick, was situated just south of Cherbourg on the Contenin peninsula in Normandy.
Cost. We paid a total of 362.40 Euro for a week (at the time about $550), in one of their "cottages".
Amenities. The site boasted a swimming pool (only opened during the summer months from May - Oct), with a water slide, and a smaller kid friendly pool. There were several play areas around the site.
They had a small grocery store on site, a restaurant (near the pool), laundry machines (about 3 euro a load for each wash or dry cycle), and a booking service for tickets to some of the nearby attractions.
The village also has a beach just down the hill, which while rocky at high tide, has a nice sandy area to play on at low tide.
As for our cottage.....Our cottage (mobile home), had heating (a good thing since we had a freak streak of cold weather..in the 50's F, while we were there), a kitchenette with a cook top, an oven, a fridge, sink, and all the utensils, pots/pans, and dishes. I belive there was also a microwave. We also had TV, which in addition to French channels, got some great British stations (easy to do with the island being just across the Channel).
There were two bedrooms, one with two twins, and one with a double bed. A bathroom with a shower, and a separate toilet. We also had a small seating area and a dining table and chairs. The cottage also came with a small deck area (and outdoor furniture), and a BBQ grill (and not a bad view either).
Other. The village had a wide range of accommodations. They had traditional tent sites, sites for caravans (or RV's as they are known in the states), villas (somewhat like townhomes), cottages (mobile homes), and chalets (small cabins). The costs for accommodations ranged based on the type and season, but costs were reasonable.
There was a 150 euro deposit (cash only) for the use of the cottage, which we got back when we checked out (they want it just in case you don't clean or break something). We had to provide our own towels and bed linens, but I believe you can also rent them from the facility for a reasonable price. You can also pay an additional 30 euro to have someone clean the accommodations after you leave.
While we liked the camping village, it was a little far from some of the sights we were interested in (which meanth more driving). We found a similar place which is just off of Utah beach, called Utah Beach and another in St. Mere Eglise called, Le Cormoran. They offer similar accomodations and facilities, and are located literally just hundreds of yards from the beach. If you are interested in the DDay beaches, either of these would be a better place to stay.
Kid Friendly Rating: 5 stars.
Driving. We drove out to Normandy, from our home in Germany. It was a bit of a drive (over 12 hours with traffice, potty breaks, etc), but we knew we would be driving a lot, so we wanted our car. Driving was pretty easy, no different than driving in Germany (okay, except the road signs), and we didnt' have too many issues. Our biggest problem was the narrow roads (even in our German made BMW it was a tight squeeze). Gas was a little pricey, but we had budgeted for local prices so we survived! We also carried some spare gas in our car, just in case.
Public Transportation. There wasn't much of a public transit system in the region, that we noticed anyway, and the major sights we wanted to see were difficult and somewhat far apart. You can take the train out from Paris, but if you plan to stay in the region for any number of days, either sign up for a bus tour or rent a car.
Walking. There was very little walking here, as most of the sites required us to drive to get to them.
Fast Food. Normandy is home to the usual suspects when it comes to fast food...like pretty much everywhere else. We stayed away for the most part.
Sit Down. Sadly we didn't have a single sit down restaurant meal while we were in Normandy, so I can't speak to the ease and/or quality of such a dining experience, especially with kids. I do have to say though, that the French in Normandy seemed much more family friendly than most other places we've been in Europe.
Other. Since our accommodations had a kitchen, we cooked most of our meals in our cottage. We got directions to a grocery store (or supermarche in French) from the manager of the camping village. The big stores in France are Auchan and Coop. There are a few other smaller chains, and every town is likely to have several local stores. We just bought meal fixings and made our meals at "home". Lunches were usually bread, fruit, sliced meat, or "lunchables" for beach picnics or while we were on the go. It worked out pretty well, and eating "in" meant saving some money on vacation expenses.
Cite De La Mer
Home to the French submarine Le Redoubtable, Cite De La Mer is a fun way to spend an afternoon.
Times: Opening hours vary slightly by season, but it is generally open from 10 AM to 6 PM.
Costs: Children under 5 years are FREE! Adults 15.50 Euro, and children 5-17 years are 10.50 Euro. In the high season (April 1 to September 30), Adults are 18 Euro, and children 5-17 years are 13 Euro.
Comments: This is a fun stop that is actually kid friendly. You can tour the submarine, but keep in mind that you CANNOT take strollers, and children under 6 are generally not allowed to board (due to the small cramped conditions and difficult maneuvering to get through the sub). In addition to the submarine, you can see exhibits based on maritime history, underwater exploration, and other maritime related topics.
The venue also has a cool aquarium. The best part of the aquarium is the Ray tank. These are "rehabilitated" rays (meaning most of them have been injured, maimed, or several disabled), and are not afraid of humans. You can actually reach in and pet them (they will come up to you). Some of them will even "fly" by and splash at the visitors. Our kids loved this part!
The venue also has a gift shop and restaurant on the premises.
From Monday 11 February, 2008: Open everyday from 9 am to 7 pm.
From November 12 to December 31, 2008: Open from 9.30 am to 6 pm and closed on Mondays (school holidays included). Closed on December 25, 2008 and January 1, 2009.
Annual closure : From January 4 to 26, 2009 included.
The cash desk closes 1h15 before the museum.
|From 02/01/08 to 05/01/08 & from 29/01/08 to 29/02/08||From 01/03/08 to 30/09/08||From 01/10/08 to 31/12/08|
|Full rate||€ 15.50||€ 16||€ 15.50|
|Reduced rate*||€ 14.50||€ 15||€ 14.50|
|Family rate**||€ 48.40||€ 48.40||€ 48.40|
*On presentation of a proof
**Family rate: 2 adults + 2 children (10/18 years old)
Free visit for the children less the 10 years old
Comments: There is a great exhibit here on World War II (if you are into that), and several other exhibits about other world conflicts and war in general. In the additional exhibits we saw (beyond the WW II one) there was a slightly anti-American tone (something to the effect of the American war-mongering). They do have changing temporary exhibits, so check their site for info on the current exhibitions. There are also several movie presentations.
The best part about this museum experience was the free babysitting. That is right folks, I said FREE babysitting. We dropped off our three kids (including a 4 month old baby) and they watched them for our whole tour. You do have to wear a tag so they can find you in the museum if there is an emergency. They even fed and changed diapers (no joke folks it was awesome).
They have a great lawn for having a nice picnic, and the museum is not the far from Juno and Sword beaches.
Mont St. Michel
From May 2 to August 31 : 9 am to 7 pm (last admission at 6 pm)
from September 1 to April 30 : 9:30 am to 6 pm (last admission at 5 pm)
Closed: January 1, May 1 and December 25
Getting onto the island is free, but you do have to pay to tour the actual abbey (which is at the top of the island).
Rates for adults : 8,50 €
Reduced rates (from 18 to 25) : 5 €
Groups rates (from 20 adults) : 6,50 €
Free entrance for children under 18’s
Comments: The abbey is a pretty cool visit, and is in a beautiful area of the Contenin peninsula. You have to cross a narrow causeway to reach the abbey (it is on an island). There is parking available at the base of the island (don't worry it is above the waterline), that is about 5 euro for the day.
The abbey dates from around 1000 AD, and as such is not built to accommodate strollers. The streets are very narrow, and the "road" is cobblestone. Most of the way is by stairs, which means you either have to have the kids walk or use a baby carrier...or be lucky like us and have someone take pity on you and help you carry the stroller.
Strollers are also not allowed inside the actual abbey, which means that you have to carry your kids again. There are also rules about noise and conduct inside the abbey, so taking children can be difficult (we opted not to take the kids in). However, the abbey gardens are free, and offer some great views of the surrounding countryside.
If you don't want the hassle of driving and parking, there are a few hotels on the island (there are actually some permanent residents) at which you can stay at. It is also home to several museums, and a host of kitchy tourist shops. There are some restaurants as well, and pricing is not bad (for the tourist set).
Utah Beach Museum
Hight season :
- June to september :
from 9h30 a.m. to 7h00 p.m.
- april, may and october :
from 10h00 a.m. to 6h00 p.m.
Low season :
- november, 1st to 15th - february and march :
from 10h00 a.m to 12h30 a.m. and from 2h00 p.m. to 5h30 p.m.
- from november, 16th to december, 31th :
opened week-ends, bank holidays, school holidays from 10h00 a.m to 12h30 a.m. and from 2h00 p.m. to 5h30 p.m.
- closed in january
ADULT (individual) : 5,50 €
ADULT (if group of 20 persons minimum) : 4 €
CHILD (6 to 14 years old) : 2,50 €
CHILD (if group of 20 persons minimum) : 2 €
Comments: This is a nice museum for WW II and D-Day history buffs. With items ranging from original equipment, to scale models of the battle, this museum is small, but packed full. Kids might get a little bored, but the nice catch here is that the museum is right on the beach, so you can take them out to play in the sand and enjoy the water.
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Times: The cemetery is open daily to the public from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm except December 25 and January 1. It is open on host country holidays (meaning Frency national holidays). When the cemetery is open to the public, a staff member is on duty in the Visitors’ Building to answer questions and escort relative s to grave and memorial sites.
Costs: Admission is free.
Comments: This was perhaps one of the most beautiful and moving experiences of our trip. The cemetery is located overlooking Omaha beach (sight of the bloodiest landing for the Americans). While children are allowed and welcome, this is a cemetery which means there is some manner of quiet and decorum expected. Our kids were actually pretty good during the visit.
The visitor's center also houses some museum like exhibits about the D-Day landings and WW II in general. I highly recommend visiting here. You can view the brochure about the cemetery by clicking here.
D-Day Landing Beaches
Times: Opening times vary by season, but we did not see any posted signs regulating visitors.
Costs: The beaches are all public and free. Most also offer free public parking.
Comments: There are five beaches: Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword and Juno. There is also Port Winston and Arromanches, home to the famous Mulberry. You can also visit Point Du Hoc, were Army Rangers sacrificed their lives scaling cliffs to attack a fortified German position.
Each of these sites is well worth the visit. The beaches are beautiful, open to the public, and beside their historic importance, offer a great place to spend an afternoon. You can swim, sit on the sand, play with the kids, enjoy the tide pools, or have a nice picnic. We brought buckets and shovels for the kids to use, and had swimming suits on hand (when the weather was nice enough).
When you travel with little ones, bathrooms are an important thing to be able to find. Europeans are generally not big on public restrooms.
Availability: Public restrooms can be found, but are scattered and not always easy to find. Your best bet is to make sure to make use of restrooms offered in the restaurants, museums, and other attractions that you visit. Most of the major attractions have restrooms.
Public/Private: Most available restrooms are actually going to be in some type of business, whether it is a restaurant or attraction.
Cost: Costs for restrooms can run from free to around 1 euro per person. Occassionally bathroom attendants will allow an adult to take a child into the restroom and only charge for one person (I did this with my kids, and even when I took both potty trained children, I usually only had to pay for me).
Laundry: Our camping village had laundry facilities at it.
Groceries: Look for Auchan or Coop for a big store, or you can hit local shops such as the local boulangerie (bakery) for a more boutique feel.
This trip was our number one must do in Europe, and it was worth it. The weather was pretty bad (cold, rainy and windy) for the whole week, but we managed. The kids really enjoyed the beaches and the sand (and collecting rocks and shells).
The museums were good, but I don't particularly enjoy museums with kids, so I could have done without them. I would recommend the week long approach, which gives you plenty of time to see all the sights, and take advantage of cheaper lodging.
- Visiting the American Cemetery.
- Playing on the beaches.
- Mont St. Michel
This was definitely a 5 star trip. Very family oriented location with something for everyone.