Normandy (French: Normandie, Norman: Normaundie) is a region of northern France, bordering the English Channel. Once the centre of a powerful medieval empire that controlled a significant region of France, and most of England and Wales, Normandy has an incredibly rich heritage to draw from. Many visitors come to be enchanted by historical attractions such as the triple peaks of Rouen cathedral, the Bayeux Tapestry's engrossing tale of vengeance and conquest, and the fantastical structure that is Mont Saint-Michel. More recently, Normandy is famed for the D-Day Allied invasion on 6 June, 1944, and the brutal inland fighting that ensued but which eventually resulted in the liberation of France from Nazi rule. However, Normandy is more than just a history museum; this is a region of natural beauty too, from the chalky cliffs of the Alabaster Coast, to the rocky hills of the Suisse Normande, and the Cotentin marshlands. And where better to savour to twin pillars of Norman cuisine, milk and apples?
- Honfleur — a little 17th-century harbour; stay a few days or see at least the impressive wooden church
- Le Havre
Normandy is the land of the Normans, the then partially French-acculturated Norsemen who invaded England in 1066, and expanded their territory into much of Wales in the decades that followed. England in turn invaded France later, and Normandy was for several centuries a part of the Kingdom of England. Normandy was also the subject of a much more recent invasion, the crucial D-Day landings by Allied forces during World War II, which were essential for the defeat of Nazi Germany. Today, Normandy is a peaceful land that is an integral part of France but remains very accessible from Britain and is also a favored day or weekend trip for people from Paris and the Ile de France.
Weather in Normandy can be unpredictable but is often very nice. The best months to visit Normandy are June or September, before and after the tourists throng the region.
Since 1 January 2016, Upper Normandy and Lower Normandy have been combined to form a single administrative region of Normandy.
Trains leave Paris from Gare Saint-Lazare to Rouen, Le Havre, Caen, Cherbourg and other places. You can catch trains from these places to other destinations such as Deauville, Valognes, Carentan or Bayeux.
Travelers from London and South East England may find it quicker and more flexible to use the shorter, and more frequent, ferry services, or the Channel Tunnel to Calais, and then drive to Normandy on the good motorway routes across Northern France.
A (mostly) coastal footpath (the 'GR223') goes all the way from Honfleur on the east to Avranches and then to Mont Saint Michel, on the Brittany border on the west. You can choose to go the whole way if you can walk for a month ! Otherwise select day trips or 2-3 days trips in the most interesting parts: History fans will choose the D-Day beaches, while lovers of spectacular nature (cliffs and coves) will walk around la Cap de la Hague, west of Cherbourg, or choose to walk to Mont Saint Michel.
Discover the Alabaster Coast: Lined up along the Normandy steep coast with its spectacular chalk cliffs, a number of scenic villages invites visitors to explore, discover and enjoy their surroundings: the beaches of Pourville (treat yourself to a serving of excellent oysters!) and Quiberville, Varengeville with its old church perched high up on a rock and its enchanting park «Bois de Moutier«, in Veules les Roses the ancient water mills on France's tiniest river, the Benedictine monastery of Fécamp — or take a walk across the beach to admire the famous chalky pinnacles and arches of Etretat. And don't forget to visit some of the numerous antiquities shops that are known to have surprised many browsers with unexpected finds! In the hinterland there are a lot of beautiful places to discover, for instance the Sâane valley with its moated castle of Imbleville, or the Château de Miromesnil, birthplace of novelist Guy de Maupassant.
The Normandy Coasts: The white cliffs of the Alabaster Coast in Étretat, the posh resorts of the Cote Fleurie, Deauville, Trouville, Cabourg, Houlgate, and the old city of Honfleur, the beaches of the Cote de Nacre, the D-Day landing beaches of Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, the Cotentin Peninsula, with the lively harbors of Barfleur and St-Vaast in the Val de Saire, and the wild and rugged landscapes around La Hague, and the long stretch of sandy beaches that lead south to the Mont-St-Michel.
Norman cuisine is based around the three main products of the region: seafood, apples and dairy products.
Specialities from the sea include Dieppe sole and Normandy oysters.
Normandy is the home of several world-famous cheeses: Neufchâtel, Pont-L'Evêque, Livarot (also known as the "Colonel"), and the round Camembert of Marie Harel.
Normandy is renowned for its variety of meats, from the delicate flavor of saltmarsh lamb to creamy chicken à la Vallée d'Auge and duck à la Rouennaise.
The creamy omelettes of the Mont Saint Michel, the Vire andouille sausages, tripes cooked à la mode de Caen, the boudin sausages of Mortagne, and the recent introduction to the region of foie gras, are also guaranteed to satisfy the most demanding gastronome.
Local desserts include bourdelots or teurgoule, or such sweets as Isigny toffees or apple sugars from Rouen.
Apples being a major item of produce in the orchards of Normandy, it is not surprising that cider - still or sparkling, dry or sweet, or perry - is a favorite regional tipple. Also derived from Norman apples is the famous calvados apple brandy (the trou normand).
Produced and originating in the region (from the abbey at Fécamp on the coast) is the famous Bénédictine liqueur.