How Best to Explore Normandy, Loire Valley, and Avignon, France

Explore Normandy, Loire Valley, and Avignon, France

How Best to Explore Normandy, Loire Valley, and Avignon, France

Our first visit to Normandy, Amboise, and Avignon

(This is Part 1 of our 3 part series about our road trip around France!)

Journey with us on our first visit to Normandy, Amboise, and Avignon. Everyone meet Lucy, our spunky 4-door car we rented in France. When I was mapping out the trip I realized some of the smaller cities we were to visit did not have ample train routes. Unlike Italy where trains are as common as breathing, France catered to larger cities. So we picked Lucy up at the airport and began our journey to Normandy.  Please note, practically every road you take will resort in tolls. I used to plan for gas and toll costs between each city we journeyed through. (It’s cheaper than you would expect). Here is a great 2 week itinerary for France for more ideas!

Explore Normandy, Loire Valley, and Avignon, France     Explore Normandy, Loire Valley, and Avignon, France

What to see in NORMANDY

Rouen was our first stop on our road trip and first visit to Normandy, Amboise, and Avignon. We wanted to pay respect to Joan D’ Arc-her memorial is here and is also the site that she was burned alive. The town also had adorable water wheels and storybook style shops. Any “Viking” show fans out there? We found Rue Rollon-this is the area of France that was given to Count Rollo after he married the Parisian. I geeked out a bit. We grabbed coffee and quiche before driving the rest of the way (about 1.5hrs) to Bayeux. What is the best way to fight jet lag? Just keep moving…and drinking caffeine!



After driving through back country roads and winding neighborhoods, we found our bed & breakfast and settled into a LONG slumber. The following morning took us to Mont St Michel. In the past the only way to reach this castle is by walking across sand when the tide is out. You had to leave by evening or you would be flooded in for the night. Now there is a bridge that stays water free year round. If you fancy you can take a horse drawn carriage ride to the front gate. However, my allergies warranted me a nice hike.

On our last morning, we went to the D-DAY beaches and the American Cemetery before heading south to Amboise-the Loire valley. I could almost feel the spirits of the soldiers that fought on that beach. It was a cold, windy, and overcast day when we visited.

It was also about 1 month before D-DAY took place and 1 week before Memorial Day weekend for the United States.  We were able to walk through German bunkers that remained and hiked up and down the hillside following the path of the American soldiers. I could understand why the German’s had the initial upper hand because from the hills, you are looking down upon the beach with a sniper’s vantage point.

The American cemetery was stunning. Every blade of grass in its reverent place. There were special lawn mowers that cut between the headstones daily. There were crosses and stars of David scattered neatly all around us. After stopping in the chapel to lift up a prayer for the fallen and those who still serve, we went south.

Having fun? Here are more posts with a French Connection for you:

1. How to Best Explore Lyon, Chamonix, and Beaune, France

2. How Best to Explore Paris, France in 5 days

3. Explore Mobile, Alabama like a local

4. Enjoy 2 days in the city of Jazz: for a first time visit to New Orleans


Next up on our first visit to Normandy, Amboise, and Avignon, was Amboise. Amboise is about 2 hours from Normandy. We arrived early evening to our quirky airbnb. Our hosts were artists, singers, and musicians-a lively married couple. We stayed on the Ile d’Or-a little island off the mainland of Amboise.


This was one of our favorite cities of the trip. We went to Clos-Luce which is the final home to Leonardo Da vinci (my favorite inventor) and to Chateau Amboise. At Clos-Luce we were able to experience some of Davinci’s best creations. We strolled through his gardens and explored his many contraptions. Most of which we use today in some form or another. The man was a genius in my book.


The following day we left Amboise and drove 30min to explore several neighboring Chateaus-AKA castles with wineries attached. This is basically all we did the second day. We felt like royalty. We had lunch and wine tasting at Chateau Chenonceau, a romantic stroll in the elegant halls of Chateau Chaumont, and indulged in the perfumed gardens of Chateau Chambord I only wish we could have seen more castles! Lucky for you, this post is a gem of the best castles in France.

Of course we bought wine a small “caves” along the way home. Caves are basically the French term for winery. Some caves actually store their wine inside rock or cave-like units. We reveled the night away at Le Shaker Bar on the island!

What to see in AVIGNON

Onward 6 hours to Avignon and the South of France. This was the longest leg of our journey and Lucy really pushed it. There were a couple of times that our GPS “lost satellite reception” so we broke down and bought a map of France-which proved to be priceless.

When we moved into our garage apt in Avignon we decided to check out dinner and the nightlife. I recommend checking out these hotels for a place in the action! We stumbled upon a free concert with cheap beer so naturally we were down. Now, Avignon proved to be the best place for us to meet other travelers. Night 1 we met 3 French locals and practiced our kindergarten-level French. Night 2 landed us among Londoners at a karaoke bar whom we then bar hopped the city with. Of course, the daytime hours were filled finding ancient city walls and a nursery-rhyme bridge-the Pont du Gard. While we were cafe sitting, an art festival took place. Locals gathered in the plaza and played with homemade games. We joined in and were entertained for hours!

Since we were not going to the southern coast we decided to ride through Arles and visit some beaches that the locals frequent. Here we were able to put our toes in the water and have a “watered” down South France moment. Check out World Inside my Pocket’s off-the-beaten track adventures in France. Looks like we were just getting started!

Ideas to Best Explore Normandy, Loire Valley, and Avignon, France:

1. Omaha Beach (DDay beaches)
2. American Cemetery
3. Mont St. Michel
4. Rouen: See the Joan D’Arc memorial

5. Go chateau hopping
6. Buy local wine along the roadside at small wine “caves”
7. Visit the last home of Leo DaVinci: Clos Luce
8. Stroll the pedestrian island of Amboise after a night at Le Shaker Bar

9. Sing karaoke at the American Pub
10. Enjoy the festivities and people-watching of market day
11. Practice French with the locals
12. Go to a French Concert and drink cheap beer
13. Eat apple pastries at award-winning patisseries

You can read about the rest of our trip including: Lyon, Chamonix, and Beaune OR our Paris Adventure!

Be Well and Travel Often!


Explore Normandy, Loire Valley, and Avignon, France     Explore Normandy, Loire Valley, and Avignon, France     Explore Normandy, Loire Valley, and Avignon, France

first visit to Normandy, Amboise, and Avignon  first visit to Normandy, Amboise, and Avignon first visit to Normandy, Amboise, and Avignon

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About Author

Maegan and Michael are Adventurous Southerners who share their world journey and approach to living the travel lifestyle. You can expect humor and lighthearted banter blended with REAL travel stories and tips. Maegan is a registered dietitian, while Michael has an excerise science background, but both are outdoor lovers, and revel in the beauty of cultures unlike their own. Now, Maegan and Michael are working towards expat life through remote work. Join the adventure. Do you love to travel? Does your full time job or career prevent you from living the life you dream of? This is the duo to follow. Feel free to contact us if you have questions.


  1. […] things last minute. Like the time we joined a Medieval-inspired wedding anniversary in Cortona or sang karaoke with Londoners while in Avignon. These moments are what make me want to travel  more. These happenings renew my wanderlust […]

  2. I give you sooo much credit for drivingaround France. I’m always scared to drive in a foreign country. But I am glad it worked out and no idea Italy had way moretrain connections than France. And I am a huge histrory person so the history behind Normany and d-day totally appealed to me. Thanks for a lovely post, as always. Oxoxo

  3. […] I have never seen a more beautiful burial ground. There are bright green plots shaded beneath large oak trees, illuminated by the sun. The trees look proud to stand watch over our fallen heroes. We visited President Kennedy’s grave site along with his family and strolled through countless rows of tombstones. It was a larger scale of the American Cemetery in Normandy, France. […]

  4. […] Marseilles: In 1660, merchants began importing coffee to the city. The first coffeehouse opened in 1671, and initially catered to travelers and merchants. […]

  5. […] More: Cruise Ship Blunders: Lessons Learned on Wanderlust […]

  6. […] 2. How Best to Explore Normandy, Loire Valley, and Avignon, France […]

  7. […] 2. How Best to Explore Normandy, Loire Valley, and Avignon, France […]

  8. mond0shawan says:

    First of all, it’s always a pleasure to know that strangers love my region of Touraine.
    Otherwise, you made a tiny mistake in the sentence “[…] to explore several neighboring Chateaus-AKA castles with wineries attached.” because the plural of château is ‘châteaux’ with an x like ‘chevaux’ (horses).
    Come back visiting our beautiful landscapes, because everywhere you will find local cheese and wine.


  9. Sandy says:

    My partner and I travelled through Normandy and the Loire Valley back in 2015 and reading your post brings back so many nice memories <3

    1. Maegan says:

      So glad to bring back fond memories!

  10. Caroline says:

    Looks like a beautiful region with a lot to do and see! Would love to go sometime!

    1. Maegan says:

      Yes, it was so relaxing here!

  11. Rhiannon says:

    Beautiful photos! I have wanted to go to Mont St Michel for aaaaages!

    1. Maegan says:

      It has such an amazing history!

  12. Lolo says:

    I DESPERATELY want to explore this region of France!! Sooo much to see here I’d need a month! #blogpostsaturday

    1. Maegan says:

      I wish I had longer through the Loire! Next time I’ll visit Arles

  13. penelopi says:

    I have been to all the places you mention and I really loved them!! Especially Amboise. I had the best white wine there. 😊

    1. Maegan says:

      I’m a white wine gal so I loved it too! Amboise and clos Luce were my faves

  14. Bernadette says:

    Lucy did a great job! You’re bringing back lots of memories of childhood, as we went to Normandy a lot. I also remember how immaculate the American cemetary was. I also loved Avignon and Rouen, and it looks like a great road trip.

    1. Maegan says:

      Aww that is so awesome, what a fun childhood!

  15. Alaine says:

    I really want to see the Loire valley and visit all the wineries. The chateaus look really beautiful
    Alaine recently posted…5 Reasons why Adelaide is for Wine loversMy Profile

  16. C-Ludik says:

    Loved reading your post. Lovely photos, brought back memories ! I have been to all the places you mention and I really loved all of them !! Whatever the season, these regions are beautiful. If you have more time, I would recommend a visit to Chenonceau and Cheverny castles in the Loire Valley. These 2 are really beautiful !

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