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trip by 4* coach, on-board drinks and snacks, guided baywalking tour, guided special access abbey tour, guided D-Day tour, entrance fees, lunch on Sunday, lunch on Monday, entrance fees, 2 nights in 4* hotel (double or twin room), great group of international people, a lifetime memory
breakfast, single room
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Expat Club travels to three of France’s top tourist destinations: Étretat, Mont Saint-Michel and the Normandy D-Day landing beaches. This is going to be an unforgettable 3-day trip with a great group of like-minded people. Most of our members are 30-65 years old with some younger and some older. Non-members and Belgians can of course join this trip too. We welcome couples, singles, small groups of friends, but all with an international background and with jobs in the EU institutions, NGOs and the private sector. We arranged rooms in a very good 4* hotel in Caen. If you travel alone, you can choose between a single room or a twin room (2 separate beds) and we will help you find you a room partner to avoid the single-supplement.
OUR TRANSPORTATION We depart on Saturday morning at about 7h30 from Place Schuman, followed by Louise and Midi (actual time will be communicated by email about one week before the trip). We will be travelling with a 4* luxury bus with reclining comfort seats, foot rests, air-conditioning, on-board toilet, DVD-system with at least three flat screens. Along the outbound way you will be served some drinks and snacks.
DAY 1 (SATURDAY 3 JUNE) – BRUSSELS, ÉTRETAT AND CAEN Our route takes us along Mons, Valenciennes, Amiens, Étretat, Le Havre, and finally Caen in Upper Normandy. On the way we will make one stop along the highway to stretch our legs and get a cup of coffee.
Jean-Luc Faisans (own work), via Wikimedia Commons
Covered Market | Raphaelhui (own work), via Wikimedia Commons
Our first destination is Étretat, a famous coastal town just above the big harbour city Le Havre. This lovely town is famous for its magnificent cliffs, among which three arches and the pointed needle. Over the centuries it attracted many famous painters, including Courbet and Monet.
We will be spending a few nice afternoon hours in Étretat before heading to Caen. Just take your time to explore the village and the famous cliffs. There will also be time for lunch and souvenir hunting.
Caen is a roughly 1.000 year old, although traces have been found from many centuries before that. It really started to grow around 1.025-1.030 thanks to the Dukes of Normandy, with the development of a market, mills, vineyards, churches and other buildings. Since then it went through a rich history with many rulers, wars and sieges. Currently the city has about 110.000 inhabitants, with well over 400.000 in the larger urban area, making it the 21st largest metropolitan area in France.
After checking in to our hotel, you can spend a few evening hours exploring the city, finding a nice place for dinner and possibly having a drink before we “hit the sack”.
The impressive Mont Saint-Michel from a distance
DAY 2 (SUNDAY 4 JUNE) – CAEN, MONT SAINT-MICHEL, CAEN On our second day of our trip we drive to Mont Saint-Michel. It is a beautiful highway through the Normandy hills. When we get closer to the sea we will have a spectacular first view of the famous pilgrimage destination.From here the view on the island is only getting better, and you will be increasingly more impressed with the magic of centuries old pilgrimage destination. As parking close to the island is not allowed anymore since the new bridge was built, we will park the bus a few kilometers away and take a shuttle bus towards the entrance of the village.
Morning program Since the high tides is in the afternoon at about 16h30, we will start our day with a guided bay walking tour (included in the fee). For many of our members in 2016 this was the best part of the entire trip. It’s so much fun! And this time we make it even better by walking over the sea bed to another island a few kilometers away. No worries, it’s a an easy walk, as if you are walking over soft grass. Along the way our guide explains more about the flora and fauna of the bay and demonstrates the quicksands (awesome to see!!!).
Our guide demonstrates how quicksands work. Just awesome!
So make sure to put on your short pants and take off your shoes and join us for this fun and memorable bay walking guided tour. If you do not want to join we suggest you take the time to explore the village on your own and eventually visit one or more of the four museums. However, this tour should be feasible for everyone in normal condition. It’s is NOT dangerous and our official guide (20+ years experience) is in contact with rescue services.
We will visit the bay area during low tides, so most of the area around Mont Saint-Michel is dry when we visit the island. We’re talking about many kilometers of “dry” sea bottom. This corner of “La Manche” has the worlds highest tides, reaching up to 13 meters!!!
To discover more about this area around the island, and to see the beautiful destination from below and the back side (not often seen on photographs), we organised a guided tour by a licensed expert guide. Venturing out on your own on these mud flats is not only tricky due to the river that crosses the bay (to find your way), but also very dangerous because of the many areas with quick sands and the incredibly fast rising of the tides. So take off those shoes and start walking with us (you can wash your feet afterwards).
It is said the high tide arrives with the speed of a galloping horse! That’s up to 30km per hour, which you clearly cannot outrun, and certainly not on the muddy sands. You can see it coming closer and closer, until it fully encircles the island if the tides are high enough. Note that during our visit the tide is just not high enough to see this phenomenon, but the advantage is that we can have a nice and safe walking tour in the morning.
Museums Besides the Abbey, Mont Saint-Michel has 4 small museums that are worth visiting. If you do not join the bay walking tour in the morning, you can visit them all of them on your own. Each museum takes about 30-45 minutes. We recommend you buy tickets on the spot. For those joining the bay walking, note that we may just have a little time to visit them after the lunch.
Archeoscope: a show to discover the construction of this fabulous monument and its sacred history.
Museum of History: old collections ( weapons, paintings, sculptures, watches), prisons and dungeons, the 19th century periscope which reveals the bay.
Maritime and Ecology Museum: discover the tides, the bay and the massive building site to restore the maritime character of the Mont Saint-Michel.
Tiphaine’s House: discover the 14th century residence that Bertrand Duguesclin had built in 1365 for his wife Tiphaine (furnitures, paintings, tapestries).
Individual entrance fees are €9 per museum, but you can get a pass for 4 museums that give you 50% discount on the entrance fees. So you just pay €18 instead of €36. You can also pay for 2 museums and pay just €12 instead of €18.
The famous restaurant (and biscuit maker) La Mère Poulard | by ugo3ugo32001 (own work), via Wikimedia Commons
We have lunch in a lovely and famous restaurant on Mont Saint-Michel overlooking the bay, namely one of the houses above the wall on the below picture). Our group lunches are a great way to meet new people. This time you can rest a bit after the bay walking tour and before climbing up to the abbey. You can indicate your meal preference during checkout (including vegetarian). This is one of the busiest days in the year with many tour groups and regular tourists trying to find a table. Therefore we cannot do anything else than reserve for our group.
Afternoon program After our lunch we will be greeted by two licensed tour guides. They will take us to the Abbey where we will enjoy AN EXCLUSIVE TOUR that will take us to the hidden places that regular visitors cannot go to! We will see the hidden chapels and underground passageways and really get a good understanding of the history and wonder of this place.
Since we will make use of a special high-tech digital audio guide system, you will be able to hear everything the guides says, even when he or she is out-of-sight. So you don’t have continuously stand close to the guide or be irritated with loud tourists. Just take that extra picture, enjoy the view a little bit more or rest somewhere, before you move on. A little warning in advance… you must of course still keep track of the guide in such a busy place!
View on the abbey from Village
View on the village walls
Mont Saint-Michel armour
After the lunch (and some free time) it will be time to climb up to the abbey, the ultimate destination of our trip. It involves some 400 steps, which seems a lot (and is a lot if you cannot walk or climb well). Still, we will go up slowly and stop at several points along the way (there are no lifts). This way you can rest and enjoy the views before continuing a bit again. It is doable for anyone in good health, and even if it is a bit more tiring than expected, the climb is 100% worth it.
No pain, no gain. We have to climb up (slowly though!)
After the main church you will go down again through a maze of impressive halls, chapels, corridors and staircases. Everywhere there is a new story to tell, and a new view to enjoy. There is simply no way you can go through this place without feeling completely mesmerised.
We will be walking around and away from Mont Saint-Michel | by Fabos (assumed, own work), via Wikimedia Commons
After the guided tour we will spend a bit more time to enjoy the shops and views, as well as to drink a glass of local wine (or whatever you prefer) before we head back to the bus and return to Caen.
DAY 3 (MONDAY 5 JUNE) – CAEN, OMAHA BEACH, BRUSSELS Caen is located about 15 kilometers from the Normandy beaches, the location of the historic D-Day landings in June 1944. When staying in this area seeing and learning about the places from where Europe’s liberation started is essential. Our visit is on Monday 5 June, just 1 day before the 73rd anniversary of this historic event.
Expat Club arranged a professional guide to show us some of the most impressive sites (and sights), including Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach and the United States Cemetery. Half-way we’ll be having a simple quick lunch (Boeuf Bourguignon or fish or vegetarian). This is included in the trip price as there are almost no other options for lunch here, especially due to the fact that it is obviously a very busy day right before the actual D-Day.
The artificial harbour in Arromanches is our first stop during our D-Day tour
Longues-sur-Mer Batteries | by Jebulon (own work), via Wikimedia Commons
Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer
Point de Hoc
In the late afternoon we will return again to Caen and after a quick stop we return to Brussels where we will arrive around 22h30. We will make one stop on the highway to stretch our legs and to have some dinner.
TRIP COSTS This year we offer you an almost all-inclusive formula.The fees are based on 2 persons sharing a room (excluding breakfast, + €20 per person), which includes:
transportation by 4* luxury coach
snacks & drinks on-board on the outbound journey
accommodation in a top-rated 4* hotel in the centre of Caen
3-hour professionally guided bay walking tour
entrance fees for the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey
exclusive 2-hour guided abbey tour (we arranged special access to hidden places!)
3-course lunch at Mont Saint-Michel
1- course lunch during the battlefield tour (1 drink included)
guided battlefields tour (normally such a tour costs anywhere between €80 and €250 per person!)
CHILD TICKETS Please contact us if you would like to bring your family. Due to the long days, the uphill walking and bay walking, as well as the “heavy” D-Day tour, this trip may be less geared towards younger children.
OUR HOTEL This year we will be staying in the top-rated 4* Adagio Aparthotel in the centre of Caen (8.3 on Booking.com), definitely one of the best hotels in town. The apartment rooms are spacious with at least 20 square meters and offer you more than a regular hotel room, such as black curtains, a large Ecopure duvet and supersoft pillow, an air cooler, an iron and ironing board, a bathroom with a shower or bath/shower, a heated towel rail, a hairdryer, a kitchen with dishwasher and utensils, a large flatscreen TV with over 35 channels, and a fitness area. It is situated at just 5 minutes walking from the city center of Caen.
COMMENTS & SPECIAL TERMS
The trip will be carried out by Linden Cars from Rotselaar, one of our trusted coach partners.
This trip is carefully planned. Still, all timings are indicative and may change if required by circumstances.
The trip is sold as a package. You cannot go with your own transportation and arrange your own accommodation. If there are specific things that you do not want in the package, please let us know and we may consider a small discount.
You are personally responsible for getting a good travel insurance that covers you for any unforeseen emergencies and medical expenses during the trip.
You are personally responsible for using the hotel room in an appropriate way. Any missing or broken items will be billed after the trip.
Expat Club cannot be held liable for long delays that influence the program (e.g. missed guided tours), neither can Expat Club be held liable for weather-related cancellations or any other unforeseen events that influence the course of the trip, including, but not limited to technical problems with the coach, strikes, weather etc.
Expat Club cannot be held liable for personal injuries during the trip, such as, but not limited to, things that happen during the guided bay tour. Joining this trip is at your own risk.
If you do not find a room partner on your own, we will find one for you (male/male, female/female). We organise at least one get-together before the trip so you can meet the other travellers. Also, during the outbound trip we will connect you with others in the same position. If you decide to take a single room during the trip, then you will have to fully pay for it yourself.
If you book a double / twin room and your travel partner cancels, you will have to pay the single room supplement.
Expat Club may “upgrade” or “downgrade” you to another hotel. In case of a downgrade, you will be refunded the surcharge.