Vacation in France: Paris, Normandy, and Bordeaux Region

My husband and I recently traveled to France on vacation and met up with our 26 year-old son. We really enJOYed our vacation so I thought I’d share some photos and stories.

We didn’t have a travel agent help us beyond our flights. We had a basic plan before we left for the vacation, but our plan was general and left plenty of room to go where the wind blew us.

Family in winery after wine tour in Blaye, France

The good thing about traveling on your own versus with a tour group is that you get to go wherever you want and whenever you want. Plans can change according to how you feel that day, and if you stumble upon something interesting you can forego the plan and experience the site that caught your attention.

Navigating Around the Cities & Country

First, I want to thank our son, Chris. If it weren’t for him, Ray and I might still be lost somewhere in France!

When you’re with a tour group, they pretty much tell you where to go, when to be there, and they handle all transportation. Since we opted to go on our own, navigation was a bit challenging for us middle-aged travelers. Thankfully Chris is a well-traveled person who had the street smarts to get us around.

Chris was a master at using technology to get where we needed to be. Google Maps was indispensable. I’ll spare the details of how to use all the features, but know that there are not street signs on every corner like in the U.S.

One feature I will mention is that Google Maps also gives you the amount of time it would take to walk, cab, bus, or train to your destination. Taking the train, bus, or walking were often less time consuming than taking an Uber or cab due to traffic.

Anyway, Chris helped me get a European sim card in my iPhone so I had easy access to data wherever we were. He had tricks to downloading maps and directions, and I attempted to learn to use Google Maps to help with navigation as we more often than not walked through the cities.

Photo from 3 cities in France

Paris, France

Our trip started in Paris. We took the Eurostar high-speed train (the Chunnel) from London into France. It was an extremely relaxing ride, and when I wasn’t napping it was nice to see the more rural areas in France.

We stayed in an Airbnb that we reserved prior to our departure from home. Property in Paris is a premium, so let’s just say the apartment was quite small. Yet, it met our needs and was only a 10-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower

Interesting fact: The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 as part of the Paris exhibition and was only meant to be there for 20 years. It was realized how it was an important part of the city and chose to keep it there.

The Eiffel Tower was given the nickname The Iron Lady in 1925 because it was used as a commercial billboard by car company, Citroën.

We enjoyed the view and decided to not “queue” (stand in line) to get tickets to take the elevator nor steps to the top. Being so close to our Airbnb, we saw the Eiffel Tower every day we were in Paris – a perk that I very much enJOYed.

(Click on any of the photos in this post to enlarge them.)

Notre Dame Cathedral

The Notre Dame Cathedral, built in the 12th century,  was closed due to the fire this past April 2019. It was still good to see this amazing Paris icon. The Gothic detail is amazing. I wish we could have seen the inside.

The Louvre Museum

The History: The Louvre is considered the world’s greatest art museum. It was originally built as a fortress in 1190, but was reconstructed in the 16th century to serve as a royal palace. In 1793 it opened as a museum to display art.

There had been a workers’ strike at the museum so we had to order tickets online and go back the next day. It was huge!

Other Fun in Paris

We enjoyed lunch and dinner at the various cafes that are throughout the town. Creme Brulee was delicious, although usually we were too full for dessert (very odd for me!).

I had heard about a pretty street in Paris that wasn’t too far from the Notre Dame Cathedral, so Ray and Chris agreed to go with little fuss.

It’s a quiet residential street although there were several instagrammers getting their photos in. Their spouses/friends were so patient with photographing them as they did their perfect poses.

I just had to get one little photo on an adorable door step. 🙂

Bayeux, France

After three nights in Paris, we took a train from Paris to Bayeux. It was a short walk from the train station to our Airbnb.

As we turned the corner onto the street where we’d be staying, our eyes lit up and we knew that we were in a town that we’d enjoy! I immediately snapped this photo:

The main street in Bayeux, France

Our Airbnb was awesome. It was formerly a bank built in the early 1800’s and now has a retail store on the street level, and the upper two levels are remodeled into apartments.

There was an incredible view from our window on the back side of the Bayeux Cathedral. The church bells rang regularly which I loved!

Click this video and take a listen to the bells:

The Notre Dame Cathedral of Bayeux, France was GORGEOUS. I filled my camera with photos and had a hard time limiting the photos to share.

Bayeux is in the Normandy area and was the first town in France that was liberated. Bayeux was spared of any damage because the troops all went through the nearby town of Caen, which was devastated by bombings.

The guided tours of Omaha Beach and other areas were all booked, so we went on our own to the Museum of the Battle of Normandy. It was excellent and we learned so much about the war during the summer of 1944.

We left on June 4, and on June 6 was the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Many of the businesses had American (and others) flags, thank yous, and other images painted on their windows for the 75th anniversary.

We also found some other interesting places in this very quaint town of Bayeux.

The Bayeux Tapestry was an interesting museum stop. The 70 meters long embroidery depicts the conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy in 1066.

We stayed in Bayeux two nights and would have preferred to stay longer.

Blaye, France

We rented a car in Bayeux and drove about 5 1/2 hours south to the little town of Blaye that’s located in the Bordeaux region of France. Our son drove (thank goodness!) and we were never so happy to return the rental and go back to trains and buses!

We stayed at Villa St. Simon, a Bed & Breakfast that was recommended to us by friends who had stayed there 5 years ago.

What a find! Charming, adorable, comfortable, accommodating, friendly…. so many ways to describe this wonderful place. Shout out to Lara who worked at the B&B and went above and beyond to make sure we had a great vacation while in Blaye.

We had a top level suite at the B&B that was built in 1860 and was originally a family home. It was restored and turned into a B&B in 2002-2003. We felt so much at home and loved the people and the town so much that we extended our 3-night stay to 5 nights.

Turned out that we were the only people staying at the B&B during that week, so we had a huge house to ourselves!

Each morning I always enjoyed going to the kitchen and making coffee in the large French press (that they called a plunger) or using the espresso machine. We could wake up and relax with a cup or two of coffee, just like at home.

The town was small but charming. We enjoyed having a drink at La Cave before dinner. Interesting note: all restaurants close from about 2:30pm – 7:30pm.



Villa St. Simon Owners
Happened to walk home behind the owners of the Villa St. Simon and just had to snap this cute photo of them.

Les, one of the owners, is retired but still gives wine tours…. which of course we took. We had plenty of fine Bordeaux wine and got to visit where he makes his wine and even stores it for some more famous people. It was much fun.
Barrels of wine
Les’ barrels of wine that will one day be ready to enJOY!

Wine instructor
Les teaching the group all about Bordeaux wine. He was very interesting and took it beyond wine and showed us his car collection.

Couple posing with wine glasses
Is there anything wrong with my wine glass? I think not.

Family in winery after wine tour in Blaye, France
The three of us after the fun wine tour, along with the three wines that we tasted. By tasted I mean as much as we wanted. 🙂

On the main street in Blaye, there is a huge wall. It was called the Blaye Citadel. We had no idea what we would find behind that wall, but we certainly were going to go look!

You can read the history in the link above, but basically there was a city within the walls! It had restaurants, stores, and pretty houses that I’m not sure what they were used for. It was a fun find!

We had lunch and enjoyed roaming the city behind the walls:





There were a few meals in Blaye that were excellent, but the most notable was our seafood fest at La Marina. We went there on our first night in Blaye and enjoyed a really good seafood meal.

But when I was talking with Lara (from Villa St. Simon) and explained we had a difficult time with the French menu and non-English speaking wait staff, she picked up the phone and ordered us SEAFOOD. We had no idea what we would have until it was served.

What a fantastic surprise! Chris and I especially devoured the massive amounts of seafood – some of which we couldn’t even identify!

All Good Vacations Must End

After our five nights in Blaye, it was time to take a bus to the Bordeaux Train Station and take the 3-hour train ride back north to Paris.

We stayed at a hotel near the airport and had our last dinner together at the hotel. We weren’t up for threading together more bus and train rides to get out of the airport area.

The next morning Chris took the shuttle with us to the airport. While Ray and I would make the trans-Atlantic flight back home, Chris was going to take a bus to Germany and meet up with a few friends he made during his year in New Zealand. (Read the New Zealand Adventure series here.)

Is France on your bucket list? I’m happy to give you tips if you’re thinking about traveling to France. Please feel free to drop a comment with your thoughts, interesting things you did on your vacation in France, or questions you might have about our France vacation.

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Travel Items That We Used and Recommend
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Street in Paris with Eiffel Tower in the distance


26 Replies to “Vacation in France: Paris, Normandy, and Bordeaux Region”

  1. I’ve been waiting for the pictures. I think I took so many pictures of the doors of the homes inside the Citadel. Lots of nice pics! The two boats almost ask to be painted! I have a serious case of vacation envy!

    1. The Citadel was such a shock, we just didn’t expect an entire little city with so many quaint buildings! Glad you enjoyed the photos. I took many more so it took a while to sort through and widdle them down.

  2. Looks like a great vacation! You really did get a lot of good photos. France is now on my bucket list. Get going on your photos from London!

    1. Thanks, Julie! I’ll work on London pics but you can get a sneak preview on my Instagram account.

  3. I loved everything that you shared! Thank you for letting us take the journey with you. I would love to share the highlights of both of our trips. Germany was awesome! So many of the same sentiments on my trip. Maybe someday we can do a girls trip somewhere special?

    1. Joy, I’d love to see you photos of Germany! Maybe we can meet half way for lunch? I’ll message you soon. Thanks for the comment. 😀

  4. Loved your photos and it looks like you had an amazing trip. Not sure if you made it to Caen, but that’s where I lived for 6 months during college. I was so moved this year watching all of the coverage of the 75th anniversary.

    1. Hi Barb! I didn’t realize Caen was where you lived. Yes, we spent only a few hours in Caen. We took the train from Bayeux to Caen to rent a car. It was amazing how different the architecture was in Caen compared to Bayeux due to the war. After seeing the photos you posted of Provence, that will be our next destination in France if we ever go back.

  5. Ellen, YAY! That was so fun! What a trip. What beauty. You did such a nice capturing the sights, sounds and history. Aren’t the buildings magnificent?! And the art! Good tips, too! The SIM cards we purchased while in Europe were a life saver!

    Count me in on the girl’s trip Joy mentioned. Lexi has done several trips with groups of girls (S. Carolina, France, Faroe Islands) and I think I’m due for one of my own!

    Didn’t see any packing tips in this posting. Did I miss it?

    Thanks again! I’m now officially inspired!

    1. Thanks for your continued words of encouragement, Chris! A girls trip would be amazing. I did make a video of how I packed for 2 1/2 weeks having only a backpack. Will post that in time, just spacing out my travel posts. But I do need to credit you for being the original inspiration for packing light!

  6. Ellen, you did a fantastic job on this part of your trip. Thoroughly enjoyed it all. Thanks for sharing. Janet

  7. Love reading your blog! So happy that the three of you enjoyed this adventure together!

    1. Thanks, Anne. It certainly was a once in a lifetime for which I’m grateful for having.

  8. Would you mind sharing a little more about why the car drive from Bayeux to Blaye was stressful?
    We are going to France in Oct. with 2 other couples and renting a van to drive from Mont St. Michel to Bordeaux.
    Thank you for your response.

    1. Hi Debra, thanks for the question. We were no familiar with the driving rules, we couldn’t read the French signs, and we our gps was also speaking French. The train was much faster and relaxing. It was more expensive because a rental can accommodate 4 people, but for us it was worth’s about $100 per person to take the train. However, a friend of ours rented a car a few years back and was ok with it. Maybe some research ahead of time would be helpful. Hope this helps, feel free to ask if you have any additional questions. Enjoy your trip! I can’t wait to go back – fabulous vacation!

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