Northern France offers peaceful break from the pace and glitz of Paris and the partying compatriots in the South, and it's more than just a terminus for the Chunnel. Here's is where the kings of Normandy and Brittany staked their claims long ago, and more recently, where the soldiers of many nations converged turning the agrarian landscape into battlefields of two great world wars. In addition to historical sites, you can also sun yourself on a string of beaches and tour from town to town.
Cosmos (tel. 800/276-1241; www.cosmos.com) has a "Jewels of France" package tour that visits points of interest across northern France. Sites include Honfleur, the landing beaches at Normandy and the adjoining cemetery, and Bayeaux with its tapestries and churches. This trip includes sightseeing to such towns as Rouen, Deauville, Mont St. Michel. Some towns due south include Tours, Orleans (the town where Joan d'Arc burned at the stake), and Fontainebleau, the location of the world-renowned business school and paths in the wood. Guides are included as is travel in a first class motor coach. This nine-day trip costs approximately $1,357 with departure dates in late May including May 27, 2005. Seven buffet breakfasts are included as are all your accommodations in three-star inns.
France Vacations (tel. 800/332-5332; www.francevacations.net) has a three-day extension to the Normandy area that puts you up in Honfleur or Bayeaux. Honfleur is a charming fishing village with a port area filled with sailboats and motorboats where children play sailor with toy boats along the waterway. The cost of this three-day excursion, perfect for travelers visiting Paris in need of some time away from the big city, starts at $543 for a double in the least expensive accommodations. Top price includes a stay in Bayeaux at the Chateau de Bellefontaine for $693. Prices are per person based on double occupancy. You get a four-day rental car with this trip and daily breakfast to go with your three nights at a local hotel. Booking online gets you a four percent cash discount if you make your final payment in cash or check. France Vacations has been in business for 14 years and won the Gold medal of Tourism from the French government.
Air France Holidays (tel. 800/2FR-ANCE' www.airfrance-holidays.com) offers a special cruise to the Normandy area that adds a little spice to most land tours. You'll travel the Northern Coast on a souped up barge with sun deck and modern amenities. The English Channel can get rough but this modern barge can handle any coastal maneuvering. The crew numbers ten, they provide bicycles on board and the 19 twin cabins enjoy their share of privacy. The trip includes a Paris cruise, a Giverny stop, and trips to Rouen, Honfleur and Malmaison, the location of Empress Josephine's 17th-century chateau. Cost for this six-night cruise that includes all meals and wine with lunch and dinner starts at $1,999 for a twin room. This trip departs every Saturday from April 2 to November 12, 2005.