Normandy is located in the northwest of France, on the banks of the canal, between Picardy and Brittany.
Normandy is at the same time a rural and maritime region with a mild and humid climate, which I consider a Heavenly gift.
Normandy is all about beauty, peace and charm, along the roads the landscape unfolds successively in enchanting gardens, fortified farmhouses, cozy cottages, green fields full of cows and sheep, croplands, orchards and endless beaches.
The gastronomic fame of Normandy is widely known, numerous Norman dishes are prepared with delicious cream made locally or from Isigny.
Everything is washed down with a barrel cider. Between each dish you can drink a glass of Calvados serving as the infamous “Norman hole”, either to eat more or to digest better.
In some cases, however, it is replaced by a sorbet based on “Calva”.
The famous farm cheeses – Neufchâtel , Pavé d’auge, Brillat-savarin and especially Pont-l’évêque, Livarot and Camembert belong to the French top. During my organized tours I try to serve as much as possible these delicious Normandy dishes and proven as: Oysters of Bessin and Contentin, Scallops, Normandy Sole strips, fried fish, “Tripes à la mode de Caen” (stewed beef stomach and tripe), Andouilles (sausages) from Vire, black pudding with apple compote, Rouen sheep’s foot, veal steaks on chicken “Vallée d’Auge” (with mushrooms, cider & cream), chicken in white wine, terrine of duck, ducklings in the style of Rouen, Normandy soufflé and rice & apple sugar from Rouen to name but a few.
Normandy captivated by the sea.
The Normandy coast starts at Le Tréport and ends at Mont Saint-Michel.
These 580 kilometres of winding banks, 380 kilometres of which are on the canal coast, lead from the White cliffs of the land of Caux to the gigantic beaches of the Côte de Nacre and the Côte Fleurie. Finally, you reach the wild places of the Contentin peninsula and the family beaches along the canal.
Duke of Morny half-brother of Napoleon III who, as a cunning project developer, developed the tiny villages of Deauville & Trouville with the help of the bank Faffitte.
The harbor town of Saint-Valéry-en-Caux is worth discovering, especially where the fishermen sell their freshly caught sole from their boats shortly after their return.
The ever glowing Etretat and its beautiful ivory-coloured cliffs, to which erosion gave strange shapes, surround white pebble beaches.
Le Havre the favorite port of the pre-war French film world from where the passenger ship “Le Normandie” departed for New York.
After WWII, Le Havre was completely rebuilt, but the Saint-François district is still a must to visit, as is the museum for the art lovers for the numerous canvases of the artist Eugène Boudin.
If you like film, you can make a small pilgrimage in Cherbourg, which has been completely restored, where Jacques Demy shot the full film “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” in 1963.
Cherbourg was the first stop of the RMS Titanic in 1912, the harbor was very important to the Allies in WWII and suffered greatly.
Normandy and its delightful gardens.
With its beautiful, rural and maritime landscapes, the whole of Normandy can be regarded as a green garden, and certainly its typical bocage landscape which gave the Allies a hard time in June 1944. Nevertheless, a number of lovers of flowers, trees and plants have created delightful gardens here and there where colors, shapes and scents predominate.
Visit the gardens of “Bois des Moutiers” near Varengeville, and the wonderful garden of Giverny, which was created by the famous impressionist painter Claude Monet.
Then “Les Jardins d’Angélique” “Castle garden of Acquigny” Castle garden of “Chateau du Champ de Bataille” and castle garden of “Chateau de Vascoeuil” and finally castle garden of “Bois-Guilbert”. Other castle gardens such as “Jardin du Château de Brécy” can always be programmed.
The Norman abbeys and ruins.
The abbeys of Jumièges, founded in 654, are remarkable ruins.
After it had been sold as a national property after the French Revolution, the buildings were dismantled and the stones dispersed.
But it was built so solidly that the copper destroyer failed to reach his goal.
In the middle of the 19th century some remains were saved, and today the stately Jumièges has the reputation of being the most beautiful ruin in France.
This is the story of one abbey but there are many equally fascinating beautiful abbeys, ruins such as “Le Bec-Hellouin” – “Abbey of Saint-Wandrille” – “Abbaye de Lessay” – “Notre Dame de Hambye” –
“Abbaye Sainte-Marie” in Longues-Sur-Mer to name but a few and above all the crown jewel of Normandy “Le Mont-Saint-Michel “.
Ecclesiastical architecture and Norman-Romanesque art.
From the second half of the 11th century, Normandy became one of the best governed states of the west.
There was a relative form of security. Because the area was largely destroyed by the invasion of the Vikings, hardly any traces of Carolingian art remained.
From 1050 a style emerged that was valid until the beginning of the 12th century.
The originality of Norman-Romanesque architecture lies in the appearance and the search for light. The most interesting buildings are probably the abbey churches that are now mostly in ruins, but the charming rural churches, which you encounter along the way, are definitely worth a visit, such as in Caen “Église Saint-Nicola” & “Église Saint-étienne-Le-Vieuw “&“ Église Saint-Michel de Vaucelles to name just a few.
Norman Gothic appeared as the countryside became richer and trade began to develop in the cities.
Gothic sought for space, light and verticality because the conception of God had evolved.
Since the divine did not start from the interior of the sanctuary, the mysterious, gilded half-darkness was no longer needed. God flooded the world with his blissful light. The sun was now coming in through fire windows in countless shades of color.
There are examples such as the choir of the Cathedral of Bayeux & Rouen “Notre Dame de Coutances” “Mont Saint-Michel” – “Cathedral of Sees” &
“Notre Dames d’Evreux” is in my opinion one of the most beautiful cathedrals in France and there are still many structures worth visiting that can be included in a tour program.
Castles, Mansions and sights.
As you move away from the coast and the often bizarre houses, most of which were built at the beginning of the century, you will discover hundreds of country houses and castles in excellent condition and surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Plenty of choice. It would take months to visit them all, so I dare to mention a few that should definitely be on your wish list and that I always include in one of my tour programs.
The finest are usually still inhabited by the descendants of the ancient families, whose name is also associated with the estate in question.
Some castles and parks are open to the public, others such as the “Creully Castle” can only be visited on special occasions, but from the outside one can also get a good idea of the splendor with which they were built.
Dieppe Castle with its beautiful sandstone walls and carved flint is one of them, the tower being a remnant of the original keep founded by Richard I, Duke of Normandy.
Another pearl is the “Castle of Crèvecoeur-en-Auge” and the estate “Ango” a few kilometers from Varengeville as well as the “Castle of Saint-Germain-de-Liver” and “Castle of Vendeuvre” of “William the conqueror in Falaise ”to name but a few.
What should certainly not be missing on your wish list is “The Tappisserie de Bayeux” and its fascinating story, this Unique carpet is always included in one of my tours because it covers an important part about the origin of Normandy.
D-Day & the Landing Beaches.
On this exquisite Norman land, situated along the “Côte de Nacre”, which lies particularly peacefully in spite of its richly filled past, during WWII this extraordinary, gigantic landing operation “Overlord” took place.
In the utmost secrecy, it involved about 3,000,000 men who would land in those places. In full moon night on June 5 & 6, 1944, thousands of soldiers, ships, gliders, paratroopers, and pontoon bridges were brought across the canal and gathered at five points codenamed “UTAH, OMAHA (Americans), GOLD (British), JUNO (Canadians ), & “SWORD” (English and French).
The following sites are always included in my program if one wants to explore and discover the theme of WWII with the necessary expert guidance : Caen and its Memorial – Sainte-Mère-Eglise – “Pointe du Hoc” – “Pegasus-Bridge” – “The Falaise pocket” – “Arromanches-les-Bains“ -«Batterie of Longues-Sur-Mer»
“In Colleville Military Cemetery” where 9,841 crosses and stars of white Carrara marble are scattered on a perfectly maintained lawn, amid carefully selected trees, equality and uniformity prevail.
British military cemeteries, on the other hand, prefer rose bushes and hornbeams to commemorate their young soldiers, who lay scattered left and right.
Finally, the Germans chose Their soldiers, almost all of which can be found in “La Cambe” between Bayeux and Isigny.
Important Dates for Normandy Listed Chronologically.
275: Galia Transalpina is overrun by Barbarians in the 4th century
649: Fontenelle Foundation (later Abbey of Saint-Wandrille)
708: Appearance of Saint Michael to Bishop Aubertus and creation of the first Sanctuary on Mont-Saint-Michel
820: Commencement of the Norman attacks
911: Foundation of Normandy by the Treaty of Saint-Clair-Sur-Epte, signed by Charles the Simple, King of France and by Viking Rollo
1066: William the Bastard, aka William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy conquers England and is crowned King in Westminster.
1152: Henry II Plantagnet marries Eleanor of Aquitaine
1204: Capture of Château-Gailliard by Philip-August, who confiscates Normandy and settles with France.
1259: Treaty of Paris: Henry III distances himself from Normandy
1315: Issue of the “Charter Normande” the privilege that defines the freedoms.
1431: Joan of Arc dies at the stake in Rouen.
1469: Louis XI has the ducal seal broken in Rouen, Normandy becomes a French Province again.
1517: Francis I founds Le Havre de Grâce, at the mouth of the Seine
1562: Looting and destruction in Normandy
1639: Revolt of the Nus-Pieds, caused by the gabel (salt tax)
1730: Foundation of the “Haras du Pin” (horse stud farm)
1820: Launch of a new trend in Dieppe (taking sea baths)
1824: Birth of the painter Eugène Boudin.
1838: Jean François Millet paints “The Angelus”
1843: Inauguration of the first Norman railway line Paris-Rouen.
1883: The painter Claude Monet settles in Giverny.
1944: June 6 D-Day
1995: Inauguration of the Pont de Normandie.
As you can see for yourself, Normandy is a fascinating provincial history and landscape to be explored under the guidance of an expert tour guide.
Therefore, to discover and cover all this beauty, a three day trip is the minimum, and a five day trip is an ideal formula