The rolling green countryside of Normandy is ideal for dairy farming and apple orchards, which is why Normandy produces cider, apple dishes such as tarte Normande, Calvados and several delicious cheeses, including Camembert and Pont l’Eveque. In fact, at mealtimes in Normandy it’s traditional to have a break between courses for a trou Normande: a snifter of Calvados to aid digestion. Fresh seafood such as oysters, mussels and scallops in particular are also a regional speciality.
Explore the well preserved medieval town centre in Rouen, with its quaint colourful half-timbered houses. Rouen has had a long and colourful history; it was here that Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake. Rouen’s massive, gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dame was famously painted by Monet. Like many painters over the years, including Turner, Monet was attracted to Normandy for its light and landscapes. Monet’s house in Giverny, the Claude Monet Foundation has a substantial collection of his work, and in the garden you can admire his lily pond for yourself.
Normandy is also known for the D-Day landings at the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War, when allied troops landed along the coast near Arromanches. There are several cemeteries in the area, and the Arromanches 360 Museum projects a 360° film with original footage.
The town of Le Havre was much destroyed in the war and the innovative and harmonious rebuild is now a rare modern listed Unesco site. Caen, too, suffered damage during the war, but William the Conquerer’s 11th century Chateau de Caen, stands as proudly as ever in the centre of the town, and now houses both the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Normandy.
In the Bayeux Tapestry Museum in Bayeux, you can see this famous 11th century tapestry up close. Depicting the Norman conquest of England in 1066, this fascinating 70 metre long “cartoon strip” is full of charming anecdotes.
The wild and beautiful coastline of Normandy is truly breathtaking. To enjoy a memorable clifftop view, head to Etretat, a village nestled between soaring cliffs with impressive arches and stacks formed by the wind and the sea.
De gare à gare