Normandy is famous for its historical towns, varied landscapes and of course its local dishes.
Though once part of Britain (though it’s been firmly in French hands since the 13th century, save for a few British channel islands off the coast), there remains a Norman influence here that gives the region a slightly different cultural feel than other parts of France.
The Normandy littoral has been fashionable since the 19th century, with resorts such as Granville, Barneville, Carterete and Honfleur displaying postcard setting of parasols and boaters.
Much to neighbouring Brittany's chagrin, the Mont-St-Michel, France's finest historical monument, is just in Normandy. Mesmerisingly alone, the 550-feet rock-island abbey appears to have landed from a more majestic dimension.
History-wise, you will want to know more about William the Conqueror, who actually reigned as King of England from 1066 to 1087.
Why is he so famous? Well, not only for his victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 (no foreign army has landed on British soil since), but also for building great castles in England, including the Tower of London. He also ordered a survey of much of England and parts of Wales, “The Domesday Book”, and his wife Mathilda is said to have made The Bayeux Tapestry, depicting her husband’s triumph at the Battle of Hastings, which can be admired of course in the town of Bayeux.
The best bet is his castle at Falaise, south of Caen, where you can discover the fascinating history of one of the greatest warriors of all time while marveling at the impressive architecture of the medieval period. Royal residence, symbol of central political power during centuries, the castle sunk into oblivion for a long time. In the 1980s, the state and the town of Falaise (owner of the castle) developed a vast restoration programme, and today, it is reborn for the memory, and the pleasure of visitors.
Churches and Abbeys From the 5th century until today, the role played by the 30 or more abbeys and churches of Normandy has been significant. Impossible to see them all in a few days! A complete tour of The Norman Abbey Circuit, (La Route des Abbayes normandes) can be found here
Parks, Natural Parks and Gardens Normandy is a horticultural heaven and boasts an extraordinary number of parks and gardens open to the public. With four Regional National Parks to choose from in the region, you will be spoilt for choice, space and scenery. Natural environments are protected and preserved in these splendid parks, with fabulous views of forests, valleys or maritime wetlands with extensive wildlife.
A wide range of garden styles can be found, from simple cottage gardens to grand, formal gardens, botanical collections, subtropical plantations and landscaped "English-style" gardens. You will no doubt find your own inspiration in scenery that captured the hearts of Turner, Monet, Sisley and many other 19th century impressionists.
One of the favourites must be 'The Gardens of Giverny' where Claude Monet lived from 1883 until his death in 1926.
Monet's "Japanese Bridge"
D-day and the battle of Normandy The stretch of beach along the coast is world famous for the part it played in turning around World War II on the 6th of June 1944. You can explore old army bunkers and war relics along the five beaches going west-east: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
Visit them all and you'll not be home for Christmas! A comprehensive selection would include the Musée-du-Débarquement at Ste Marie-du-Mont, fronting Utah beach, the United States cemetery at Colleville, the Bayeux Commonwealth cemetery, the Juno Beach Centre at Courseulles where the Canadians came ashore, and finally, the Memorial at Caen, the best Second World War museum anywhere. http://www.memorial-caen.fr/portailgb/
A visit to one of the four major cities in the region, Rouen, Caen Le Havre or Cherbourg, will no doubt lead you to try out the many local food and drink specialties. If you are a fishy type, try the Marmite dieppoise, fish stew with added butter and cream, and it’s difficult to forget that Normandy is the chief oyster-cultivating, scallop-exporting, and mussel-raising region in France. If you prefer a meatier menu, beef and lamb are excellent, though you might like to hesitate, but only an instant, before ordering Caen tripe or andouillette (intestines sausage).
The mealtime trou normand, or "Norman hole", is a pause between meal courses, a glassful of calvados, (distilled cider), in order to improve the appetite and make room for the next course, and this is still observed in many homes and restaurants. Beginners, Beware! It may be trecherous! In a region producing some of France's finest cheeses, finish off with Livarot, Pont-l'Evêque or Camembert. Most famous of all is of course Camembert, a creamy, mild brie-like cheese. Not surprisingly, it comes from the village of Camembert often called "The largest small village in France. If you are interested in seeing how the cheese is made, you can visit the President farm (the major Camembert exporter) located in the heart of the town. The guided tour (€5) shows you how the cheese was traditionally made, allows you to view a collection of vintage cheese making tools, and most importantly allows you to sample plenty of the village’s famous cheese.
Please browse online or look below for some suggestions of places to stay.
Normandy holiday home - Manoir du Beau Mont is a beautiful manor house with rural views close to the popular seaside town of Deauville. This striking property is built in the traditional style of the Pays d' Auge region, an area characterised by green pastures and orchards that produce the famous Normandy cider.