Just a two-and-a-half hour drive north from Paris through quaint fishing villages with cobblestone harbors, the northern coast of France is a mellow alternative to its sister beach towns down south known for their wild nights and flashy fashionistas. There is more than a little history in the region as well. Norman tapestries and the beachheads and graveyards from the great Normandy Invasion make for a solemn and emotional lesson in American and world history. With a famous film festival, albeit smaller, and the cliffs of Brittany rounding out the northern France experience, travel to the region is a relaxed walk through a quieter France.

A ten-day tour from Insight Vacations (tel. 888/680-1241; hits Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley circling in and around from Paris and back. Starting at $1,650 for the land-only version and $2,199 for the air/land combination, the professionally guided motor coach tour makes stops in D-Day beaches, Rouen, Trouville, Mont St. Michel and France's Emerald Coast, as well as stopping in at France's famous Loire castles at Chenonceau, Chambord and Tours. Most meals are included in the price of the tour which takes you through France with accommodations at first-class hotels on an air-conditioned motor coach. Departure dates for the upcoming trips are August 13, September 29, and October 6, 2006. Air prices on departures are out of New York.

A land-only trip quick self-drive tour of the region is available through, of all places, an Irish tour provider called Enchanting Ireland (tel. 800/659-3800; Starting at $319, the three-night/four-day trip includes all accommodations, four days of a rental car, daily breakfast, and all hotel taxes. This trip also allows you to select the city where you want to stay. Available hotels are located in Caen, St. Malo, Bezencourt and Bayeux. One of the accommodations, the Lion d'Or Hotel in Bayeux is a former coaching-inn located downtown a short distance from the Queen Mathilde tapestry. Travel for this self-drive package is good from now through October 31, 2006.

There are also day trips to the region available from Paris. Discover Brittany (tel. 866/427-4882; has a one-day trip from Paris with second class round-trip rail travel on the high speed TGV costing approximately $255. The itinerary leaves Paris at 7:35am before visiting the Brittany towns of Dinar, St. Malo, and the glorious Mont St. Michel, the church on top of the hill. You'll be driven around the region by a private driver and tour guide before returning to Paris around 7 pm. This same package is available with an overnight stay in the town of St. Malo, an old wall port city inhabited by fierce pirates in the 16th century. The overnight trip with roundtrip train passage starts at $319.

For an air/land guided trip to the region, Brendan Vacations (tel. 800/680-2858; has a trip with departures from now through October 13, 2006, starting at $1,744. The trip begins on Saturday in Paris before making its way up north to Rouen to the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. It makes stops at Normandy, Mont St. Michel, and then heads south to the Loire where you'll visit Amboise before heading back to Paris for a day of independent travel before returning home. The trip includes seven buffet breakfasts, three full-course meals, and travel in a first-class air-conditioned motor coach. As with all the air trips mentioned here, departure taxes and security fees are not included in the price of the trip.

If you decide to explore the region yourself, the Deauville Film Festival takes place from September 1 to 10, 2006. In its 32nd year, Deauville is billed as an American film festival held in France. Attracting top American actors and filmmakers, Deauville is much lower key than Cannes with high-profile studio films and independent films being showcased throughout the ten-day event. Last year, Pierce Brosnan's The Matador and the film Crash "wowed" audiences as did the presence of Roman Polanski, Val Kilmer, Matt Dillon, Kirsten Dunst and Ron Howard. The official site for this year's event goes up on August 1, 2006. For a good luck on the goings on at the Deauville American Film Festival, you can look at last year's site at

Deauville is perhaps the lynchpin of northern France, a town where Proust would often summer. There's a casino, a grand old hotel, and wide beaches with small crowds punctuated by colorful beach umbrellas that blow reds, blues, and yellows in the afternoon breeze. Through the English-language version of the Deauville website (tel. +33 02 31 14 40 00;, there's a "Spring Pleasures" special that lasts through the year with a well-priced two-night three-day stay in the classy town. For $514 dollars, this all-inclusive trip gets you two-nights in a bedroom or a suite at the very luxurious Hostellerie de Tourgéville (tel. +33 02 31 14 48 68;, two gourmet dinners at the hotel's restaurant, breakfasts, a tour of a local winery, and free use of the hotel's sports and leisure facilities.

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