Fabulously French

French Regions: Normandy

One of France’s most popular regions, Normandy has it all. The outstanding natural scenes are balanced equally by busy city centres, as well as quaint medieval towns and unforgettable beaches.

Region Capital: Rouen

This port city on the Seine dates back over a millennia, which is impressive in itself. The medieval town is as picturesque as one could possibly depict. Take out your check-list of adorable qualities and Rouen will meet them all. Timbered, gabled houses, narrow cobbled lanes, quaint, independent patisseries. Rouen truly is picture-perfect.

However, though delicately beautiful in parts, it boasts some of the most Romantically sublime architecture in the region. The impeccable cathedral is but one example, with an enormous Gothic façade and an incredibly intricate design, it towers above the town beneath.

Cities

Caen, the capital of Calvados, is another spectacular Normandy city. The ancient Château de Caen was built by William the Conqueror circa-1060 and is an immense fortification that oozes historical heritage. The famous monarch also built the Abbey of Saint-Étienne and the Abbey of Saint-Trinité as monasteries for the respective monks and nuns in the region. These striking structures symbolise France’s strength and power in the Middle Ages. To learn more about the history of Normandy, the Musée de Normandie details the regions past all the way back to the prehistoric age.

The seaside resort of Deauville may be the most glamorous resort in Normandy, attracting a flock of celebrities annually to the American Film Festival. The beach remains relatively untouched since the creation of the promenade in the 1920s, the changing cabins, now named after some of Hollywood’s most acclaimed actors. Boasting a grand casino, golf course and horse racing, too, many come here for a more extravagant escape.

Nature

Monet’s Garden in Giverny is the pinnacle retreat to explore Normandy’s natural beauty. Giverny itself, though technically a town, is rural, producing the most vibrant gardens, parks and woodland each year. It’s no surprise Monet found his artistic inspiration here.

Willow trees drape sleepily into ponds busy with lilypads and extensive rows of tulips and daffodils in vibrant hues of red, purple, yellow illuminate pathways. If you’re looking for any sign of urban existence, you’ll find only quiet, modest cottages.

The Normandie-Maine Regional Park, spreading across 600 acres of Gallic soil, is thick with stunning forests and trees that date back centuries or longer. As well as established trails to follow, you’ll find barely-trodden paths, untouched by the hand of humankind. Mushroom hunting is a popular activity if you’re visiting in the colder months. It may be the freshest vegetation you’ll ever eat.

Finally, Normandy’s beaches. To reduce this section to just one beach is to significantly generalise Normandy’s coastal beauty. Étretat’s exquisite, virgin-white rock formations make it a favourite for artists. The greenery above appears almost liquid, seeming to run naturally down the cliffside as if dripping. Portbail’s vast beach is just a short walk from the charming town centre. Lined with grassy dunes, it makes for a lovely walk, especially if you can catch the sun either rising or setting.

Activities

The five D-Day beaches are an important visit if you’re in the region. The poignancy and solemnity is still prevalent as you wander amongst the memorials and cemeteries nearby. There’s a number of dedicated museums, too. Take a guided tour of the beaches or see them for yourself, either by car or bike.

Desperately secluded, Mont Saint-Michel and the medieval monastery atop it sit solitary, islanded on the English Channel. Check the tide times and go for a visit. The enormous abbey will tower above you, seeming taller and taller as you approach. The spire may almost reach heaven, itself.

Take it to the sky with Normandy’s aerial sports. Go skydiving in Dieppe with views of the region and coastline you couldn’t find elsewhere, while falling 10,000 feet at speeds of up to 130mph. Paragliding, too, is a popular sport here. The location makes for amazing views, with centres in Lessay, Saint-Omer and elsewhere. However, for anyone scared of heights, there’s the Airfly, a mobile wind-tunnel in Caen. It simulates the sensation of flying without the death-defying heights.

Gastronomy

Sooth your sweet tooth in La Creperie Bleue. This obscenely aesthetic restaurant in Rouen is just as adorable inside as it is out. Serving authentic French crepes and galettes, you’ll feel like you’ve truly tasted Normandy as you dine either in the charming eatery, or opting for the outdoor option on the cobbled streets.

Visit Camembert for, you guessed it, Camembert cheese. Fromagerie Durand is the last dairy farm to make genuine AOC Camembert. Arrange a tour but ensure you opt in for the tasting session, too.

Normandy’s apples are renowned worldwide for their crisp skin, juicy texture and delicious flavour. Make sure you try some of the local produce for yourself, be that in a dessert (particularly the pies and tarts), transformed into cider or brandy (especially the famous Calvados apple brandy) or simply by themselves.

 

Image credit: Iain Gillespie

For Families

Just outside of Caen is Festyland, a small but jam-packed theme park that takes you back in time with historically themed rides and attractions. There’s rides designed for everyone, from daredevils to tiny tots, so you can take the family along for an adventurous day out.

The Bayeux Tapestry in Bayeux is both an exciting and educational depiction of the Battle of 1066 that will definitely leave mouths agape. Just the size of this 70m wonder is astounding, but the battle scenes will certainly catch the kids’ attention, too.

Release your inner wild child at Accrobranche, an acrobatic park in Angiens. Zoom down zip lines, dare the heights over suspended bridges and reach the heights of the tallest trees. It’s totally child-friendly and safe and gets the whole family outdoors for the day.

 

Image credit: Ville de Bayeux

For Couples

With magnificent countryside scenes across the region, a horse riding excursion makes for a romantic, novel-esque date. A particularly beautiful setting is across the beach with Mont Saint-Michel just in view upon the horizon.

French gîtes are an often secluded accommodation option that give you the chance to experience authentic French culture while maintaining the privacy and intimacy of a holiday for two. Enjoy some quality time together, whether in a quiet commune, or deep within the corners of an untouched forest.

Nothing says romance like a grand chateau set amongst beautiful grounds where you can be Prince and Princess Charming for the day. These enchanting structures, with soaring turrets and vast gardens, make for the perfect escape into your very own fairy-tale.

 

Image credit: Camping La Forge de Sainte Marie

Getting there

Our Newhaven-Dieppe ferry crossing is probably the most convenient route into Normandy as our Dieppe port is ideally placed in the region, itself, giving you great access to all of Normandy. Our Dover-Dunkirk and Calais ferry crossing are also convenient as both our Dunkirk and Calais ports are approximately 2 hours from eastern Normandy.

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3 comments on “French Regions: Normandy”

Oldkinghkole

August 18, 2017 11:22

Much more interesting than Monets garden when visiting Giverney is a wonderful private but open to the public museum of old engines. Its a little uphill from the garden and within walking distance. Fabulous collection and free but opportunity to make a donation. There is one particular monster of a three cylinder diesel, about the size of a small caravan with an amazing history

Clive

August 18, 2017 21:35

The headline picture to the email is not in Normandy it is in the South of France, near Avignon. Somebody needs to wake up !

Steph Fox

August 22, 2017 11:16

Hi Clive, this is Etretat coastline which is in Normandy.

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