Stretching along France’s northern coastline overlooking La Manche (the English Channel), Normandy has been at the center of French history for more than 1000 years. Ever since the armies of William the Conqueror set sail from its shores in 1066, Normandy has played a major role in European history, from the Norman invasion of England to the Hundred Years War and the D-day beach landings of 1944. This rich and often brutal past is what draws travelers to the region today. Also, the picturesque landscapes, small fishing ports, dramatic coastline and exceptional cuisine are all good reasons to include this accessible and beautiful piece of France on your »to see «list. Normandy has long been a place of high art and culture, too, especially beside the river Seine. Its winding valley was the focal point of the Vikings’ original Duchy of Normandy, and here they began to develop a distinctive Norman style of design and architecture. Some of Normandy’s greatest Romanesque and Gothic buildings stand on its banks. The Seine also gave birth to modern art, as the Impressionists gathered here to capture on canvas the pearly skies over the river and its estuary. Giverny is a village where Monet bought Jardin d’Eau and lived here from 1883 until his death in 1926 in a rambling house surrounded by flower-filled gardens.
- crepes (pancakes)
- calvados (apple brandy)
Almost every good meal in Normandy includes lashing of creme and a good splash of Calvados or cider. One of the gourmet treats of Normandy is agneau de pre-sale (salt meadow lamb) from the flood meadows close to Le Mont- St.Michel. The sheep graze on pasture that is constantly washed with salt water. As a result, the meat is exceptionally tender and juicy, with hints of herb flavors. Some of the best-known French cheeses come from Normandy. Among them are Camembert, Pon’t l’Eveque, Livarot..
Enjoy the exceptional gastronomic offer of Normandy!
1.day: PARIS- ROUEN, ABBAYE DE JUMIEGES
With its elegant spires, beautifully restored medieval quarter and soaring Gothic cathedral, the ancient city of Rouen is one of Normandy’s highlights. Rouen has had a turbulent history – it was devastated several times during the Middle Ages by fire and plague, and was occupied by the English during the Hundred Years War. The young French heroine Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) was tried for heresy and burned at the stake in the central square in 1431.
Sights: Place du Vieux Marche (where 19-year-old Joan of Arc was executed), stunning gothic Cathedrale du Notre Dame, abbatial St. Queen with a statue of Rollo, the Viking chieftain who became first Duke of Normandy, drive to Abbaye Jumieges- an absolute must-see, a benedictine monastery in ghostly white stone.
Fortified by William the Conqueror, this city became his new capital of Normandy. The mighty rampart of his chateau is still the center of the city, while the main shopping streets, the Vaugeux restaurant district and Quai Vendeuvre leisure area are all at its foot. The church of the Abbaye aux Hommes, where William the Conqueror’s tomb lies in front of the altar, stands at a very proper distance from the Abbaye aux Dames, both unmissable works of Norman architecture.
|Did you know? Caen was a prime objective for the Allied forces making their way inland from the Landing beaches. Panzer tank divisions effectively protected the city. To wrest Caen from German hands, on July 7th, 1944 Allied planes dropped 2500 tons of bombs on the city. Fighting for control of Caen continued until August 22nd, by which time 75% of its buildings had been destroyed and thousands of its citizens killed.|
Sights: Le chateau de Caen with the Caen Fine Arts Museum and Normandy Museum, Abbaye aux Hommes (Men’s Abbey), Abbaye aux Dames (Women’s Abbey), Le Memorial de Caen- a somber memorial to those who died as a result of the Second World War.
3.day: CAEN; CAEN MEMORIAL
Morning free for individual activities.
Afternoon visit to Caen Memorial which provides an insightful and vivid account of the Battle of Normandy. It’s an exceptionally impressive affair, using sound, lighting, film, animation and audio testimony, as well as a range of artifacts and exhibits, to graphically evoke the realities of the war, the trials of occupation and the joy of liberation.
4.day: BAYEUX, D-DAY LANDING BEACHES- ARROMANCHES 360
Bayeux has become famous thanks to a 68m long piece of painstakingly embroidered cloth. The 11th century Bayeux Tapestry, whose 58 scenes vividly tell the story of the Norman invasion of England in 1066.
Sights: Cathedrale Notre Dame from 13th century, Bayeaux tapestry…
Code-named »Operation Overlord« the D-Day landings were the largest military operation in history. The majority of the 135.000 Allied trrops stormed ashore along 80km of beaches nothr of Bayeux code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword..
Sights: Arromanches 360, cinema in the round with the film The Price of Freedom, American Military Cemetery and Memorial…
5.day: MONT SAINT MICHEL
The island’s daunting stone ramparts rise as if part of the natural rock of the island, and from within them the lofty walls and spires of the abbey church reach up, culminating in a single immensely tall black pinnacle, on the very point of which gilded St.Michael is poised triumphant. At the foot of the abbey is a tiny village of narrow streets and stairs, packed with souvenirs shops nad cafes. Most famous and delicios is an omelette from the restaurant La mere Poulard.
Sights: Abbey, La Merveille, Grand Rue..
TOP 10 THINGS TO SEE & DO IN NORMANDY
- ROUEN CATHEDRAL
Among Europe’s finest Gothic buildings, Rouen’s Cathedrale Notre-Dame is a masterpiece of elaborate and intricate stonework, its interior light and spacious, with beautiful stained glass. The awesome west façade inspired Claude Monet to paint it 28 times.
- LE MEMORIAL DE CAEN
An ambitious, dignified museum encompassing the whole subject of the Second World War, how it happened, its horrors and outcome, displaying a vast amount of astonishing original material ranging from a letter from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt, to uniforms, tanks and equipment.
- ETIENNE CHURCH, ABBAYE AUX HOMMES, CAEN
Combining the simple lines of the original Norman Romanesque with a superb and delicate Norman Gothic reconstruction, the majestic and serene church of the Mens’ Abbey – built by William the Conqueror, and where he was buried- puts it among the world’s greatest architectural achievements.
- BAYEAUX TAPESTRY
Surely the most remarkable cartoon strip in history, this 900-year-old embrodery tells the whole story of 1066. Vivid pistures along its 70-m lenght, captioned in Latin, show the background, the invasion and the outcome of the battle between Normans and Saxons fort he crown of England.
- GIVERNY: MONET’S HOUSE AND GARDEN
Claude Monet moved to his spacious village house in 1883. At once he began to create the exceptionaly beautiful flower gardens behind the bulding, and later added the famous lily pond and little bridge that feature in so many of his paintings. Everything is preserved as he left it.
The little resort, fronting right on to the sand of Gold Beach, is the place to discover what D-day and the Normandy Landings were about, with its excellent beachfront D-Day museum, imposing remnants of the Mulberry Harbour still in place and a vivid film reconstruction at Arromanches 360.
- NORMANDY AMERICAN CEMETERY, OMAHA BEACH
The toughest of the Landing Beaches was Omaha, where the Americans lost thousands of men in just hours. They are laid out in this calm, respectful and deeply affecting cemetery beside the beach. The opening and closing scenes of the film Saving Private Ryan are set here.
- LE MONT ST-MICHEL
An exceptional setting between sky and water gives pure magic to this strange abbey-island, reached by a 2 km bridge. Its stone ramparts are lit up at night, while by day you can climb hundreds of ancient steps on tours of the abbey’s evocative churches.
- ETRETAT CLIFFS
A charming little 100 years old seafront resort built around a medieval core, the real attraction of Etretat is its remarkable »doorways« carved into white cliffs. Admire them from a beachfront promenade or from the green cliff tops that inspired numerous Impressionist painters.
As well as one of western Normandy’s best sandy beaches, the COntentin’s main coastal resort has an impressively fortified medieval Upper Town, and fascinating one-off museums ranging from modern art and rare book’s museum to the Christian Dior museum in the designer’s childhood home.
|EATING AND DRINKING – GASTRONOMIC REGION
French tourists happily make their way to Normandy for the pleasures of the table. Normandy’s traditional cooking has a highly distinctive regional style, with a strong emphasis on its rich dairy produce, shellfish and good-quality meats, as well as the abundant harvest of its cherry, pear and especially apple orchards. The result of those orchards and dairy farms and pictoresque fishing harbours is meals with plenty of local cheeses, butter and thick, farm-made semi-sour creme fraîche for savoury cream sauces. Apples may turn up in any course as apple sauces and apple pastry, dry cider and fiery Calvados. Normans are spending longer at the table than anyone else in the country. From this arose the tradition of the trou normand – literally Norman gap: a short break between two main courses, in which a to tot Calvados is sipped, to aid digestion. Nowadays it is more likely to be a Calvados sorbet.
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