Normandy, so near and yet so different!
Just a short way across the Channel, by ferry, train or plane, Normandy offers you its own special version of France, with its local dishes, verdant landscapes, historical towns, and friendly people. With its 350 miles of coastline and richly varied regions, Normandy gives the visitor a wonderful choice of landscapes, scenery and culture: the stunning beauty of the cliffs at Etretat or the long sandy beaches, steeped in history, from Caen to Arromanches, the Seine Valley winding between wooded hills and chalk escarpments, the craggy hills of "Norman Switzerland", and the patchwork of fields and hedges of the Calvados region with its orchards and timber-framed cottages.
Enjoy Normandy's warm hospitality, its unique blend of maritime traditions and rural way of life. Marvel at its historic towns and monuments, stroll down quiet country lanes and enjoy local dishes in picturesque villages, or sip a drink by the quayside of one of its old ports while fishermen repair their nets and seagulls soar overhead. You have the choice between seaside and countryside.
Nestled beneath the majestic white cliffs and fertile hills, discover the fashionable seaside resort of Dieppe, stroll through Varangeville and Pourville. Journey along the coast to reach Saint Valery-en Caux, first ever ducal city, and down to the fishing town of Fecamp where you can visit the Benedictine distillery. Further down, discover the cliffs of Etretat, sculpted by the sea to form the famous arches and the fishing town itself with its restaurants and balneal villas.
On the otherside, isthe flowery coastofCalvados;from the picturesque fishing village of Honfleur, with its narrow streets lined with timber framed houses, to Cabourg and its Grand Hotel, Deauville and its famous boardwalk or Trouville and its bustling harbour, this 25-mile stretch of Normandy's coastline is characterised by the historical seaside resorts with golden sandy beaches and magnificent seafront villas, serving as a reminder of high society life during the Second Empire.
Alwaysin the Calvados, the Côte de Nacreandthe landing beaches;from the ferry port of Ouistreham to the artificial harbour of Arromanches built by the Allies on DDay, the Mother-of-Pearl Coast‘s familiar names are Juno, Gold and Sword. The sandy beaches become visible at low tide and you will find many resorts with yacht marinas, thalassotherapy, sailing clubs and other water sports such as windsurfing and waterskiing.
TheCotentinin the English Channelalso offersasurprising coastal landscape.From Utah Beach to Barneville Carteret, discover a protected natural environment of sandy beaches and maritime wetlands with extensive wildlife. Start with the flourishing fishing port of Barfleur right up to Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue and Tatihou Island. This small island is accessible by boat or on foot at low tide and is a wild bird reserve. Cherbourg on the north coast is the largest town of the peninsula and a major historical port. The Western Coast of the peninsula, known as the Coast of Islands, offers spectacular views, stunning beaches and dunes right down to Barneville Carteret.
Finallythe bay of MontSaintMichelin the English Channel; the Mont Saint Michel and its bay were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979. This unique site perched on a rocky islet in the midst of vast sandbanks is exposed to powerful tides. From Coutances to the Mont Saint Michel you will find a preserved coast with extensive beaches and marshlands where the diversity of wildlife, such as seals, fish and birds makes it ideal for nature lovers.
North of the Seine wooded river valleys crossing the forests of Lyons and Eu give way to the Pays de Caux, a limestone plateau where old towns and villages such as Yvetot, Tôtes and St Saens stand out among the open fields with their typical farmhouses surrounded by high hedges. The Caux country is separated from Picardy by the undulating Bray district with its rich pastures and orchards. Closer to Paris, the lovely rolling countryside of the Vexin, with its still imposing Templar castle at Gisors, has been the most easterly limit of Norman lands since the middle Ages.
Sweeping in long bends under chalk cliffs, meandering across gravel plains, the Seine crosses Normandy majestically from east to west, as it slowly passes towns and villages and flows through forests and under bridges both ancient and modern, before it reaches the sea at Le Havre. As it does so, it reveals a cross-section of Normandy's history, culture, and geology. For centuries the Seine and its valley was the main, if not the only, communication route connecting the coast and the interior, and still today its waters carry great barges, ore-carriers, container vessels and pleasure boats between the ports of Paris, Rouen and Le Havre, while the main roads from Paris follow it westwards. Along its route we find towns and monuments such as Vernon, Bonport Abbey, Château Gaillard and Rouen.
Nature has shaped the landscapes of the Auge country into a mixture of plateaux with steep slopes called "picanes", valleys and dales. Its verdant fields, the beauty of its monuments, the half-timbered manor-houses with their pink tiles, and the mildness of the almost maritime climate make this region seem like a little piece of Paradise.
Suisse Normande is a tiny part of Normandy in the northern half of France. It straddles the Orne and Calvados districts, south of the river Seine. Its name comes from the river Orne which flows across the area, digging gorges and cliffs, and thus creating spectacular landscapes. The people living in this land of cattle breeding and traditional agriculture have succeeded in keeping a peaceful way of life, quite different from the hectic pace of the Normandy seaside resorts.
The Land oftheViroisBessinis an areaof Lower Normandy, at the westof Caen,in the department ofCalvados.It extendsto the famouslanding beachesto thevirois hedge farmland. Within thispredominantly rural area, Bayeux andVireare the twourban centers. TheBessinViroishas nearly135 000inhabitantsin an area of??2074square kilometres(one thirdofCalvados).
It is necessary tomention themajor Norman cities;if you're looking for a taste of the country life or a holiday by the sea, or if you would just like to vary your pleasure, each of the region's historic cities has much to offer, whether you choose to stay for a weekend, a week or longer. A wealth of monuments and excellent museums, theatres and concert halls, fine public parks, a wide choice of shops and markets, friendly bistros and brasseries with shaded terraces from which to watch the world go past, to say nothing of some of the best restaurants in France.
Rouen, the historic capital of Normandy, was the scene of the martyrdom of Joan of Arc, convicted and then burnt at the stake in 1431 on the Place du Vieux Marché. Rouen is also the "Town with a Thousand Spires". Notre-Dame Cathedral inspired Monet to paint his Cathedral series. The Church of Saint Maclou, in a beautiful setting, is also worth a visit. The laid out banks of the Seine are a wonderful area to take a stroll, and if it gives you an appetite, so much the better, because Rouen also has a reputation for its good tables. Fans of shopping will not be disappointed, and will find that Rouen is a perfect place for them. You will certainly find what you are looking for in the numerous shops and boutiques which line the pedestrianized zones. Rouen is a young town, with a well-developednightlife.
Capital ofLower Normandy,Caenhas more than110 000inhabitantswithin the wallsand nearly400 000inhabitantsin itsmetropolitan area. Thecityof Caenis the regional economic capital: it concentrateson its territorymore than120,000jobs,a dense network ofSMEs and largeindustries.Its dynamismis based oncenters of excellenceled byEuropeans and worldwide leaders: in the fieldsof Information and Communication Technologies(FranceTelecomR& D, NXP), automotive (Renault Trucks, PSA), food (Agrial) , logisticsand distribution... Located just12 kmfrom the shoreof Normandy,Caenis a port city, connected to the Channel's Ship Canal. In addition,it isonly twohours from Paris andhasregular ferriesat Portsmouth.
Le Havreis as important a commercial port and it is a popular yachting destination. Its 2km of beach open onto the Seine estuary once the backdrop for many Impressionist artists who loved the effect of the light, including Monet as seen in his "Sunrise at Le Havre". Completely destroyed during the 1944 bombardments, the city was rebuilt in modernist style by famous architect Auguste Perret, and has now been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Malraux Museum is worth a visit as well as the Notre Dame cathedral, Natural History Museum and the Graville Priory.
With its privileged position facing the Channel on the end of the Cotentin Peninsula and bathing in the mildness of the Gulf Stream, Cherbourg is very much a town open to the sea. A transatlantic port of call for the world's biggest and finest liners (such as the Queen Mary II), fishing, merchant, naval and yachting port, Cherbourg is often the centre for major maritime events such as the Figaro Single-Handed Race.
Alençon, the capital of the Orne department, is known the world over for its fine lace. You will enjoy discovering charming chateaux, manors and other monuments, savouring the delicious gastronomic specialities which continue to make Normandy a region of good living.
Deauvilleis a glamorous seaside resort which has plenty to offer all year round. It is home to the American Film Festival and various international polo and horse-racing events. The town is often frequented by stars that enjoy its traditional glamorous atmosphere but modern facilities. This sophisticated town of elegant distractions and good taste knows how to extend a welcome. A long-time favourite with yachtsmen, the internationally-renowned sea resort offers a stylish appeal to visitors, with its fine hotels, casino and sea bathing establishment. The famous 700 yard-long wooden promenade provides an amazing spectacle, with its expanse of multi-coloured parasols.