History, cider, crepes & art, what more could you want?
Who could resist a road trip around Normandy, well we certainly couldn’t.
Normandy was a region of France that we hadn’t really toured around much previously; we’d often headed south to visit the sun-kissed regions of Provence & Cote d’Azur or east to Champagne and Alsace.
This time we wanted to discover more about our close neighbours and the history that links us.
What Gary & I love about France is that no matter how many times we visit, we always leave wanting more, and Normandy was no exception.
It was such an enjoyable break, particularly touring the coastline. However, to ensure that Normandy floats higher on your bucket list, we have chosen our favourite bits to share them with you.
A useful guide
We love visiting France and each region so different from one another. I find the DK Eyewitness Guides really helpful in planning a trip and so often find interesting little snippets of info.
Take a peek at this revised Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide and see what you can discover.
D-Day Landing Beaches – Visiting the historic beaches of Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno & Sword and the touching cemeteries, holds so many poignant memories.
The Mulberry harbour at Arromanches-Les-Bains is particularly incredible.
Le Mont-Saint-Michel – This is one of France’s most visited sights, and it’s not surprising.
When the rocky outcrop first comes into your view it is astonishing, it hard to believe how the abbey was ever built. Take a Medieval stroll along the lanes and the ramparts for free.
Rouen – This city is steeped in so much history, taking pride of place is the Gothic Cathedral, which was consecrated in 1063 in the presence of William the Conqueror.
This city is also where Maid of Orléans (Joan of Arc), came to her untimely death. We found some lovely local restaurants here.
Beuvron-en-Auge – While we were driving the ‘Route de Cidre’ through the Normandy countryside, we came to the quaint village of Beuvron-en-Auge.
Having a wander amongst the half-timbered buildings and lanes was like stepping back in time.
Caen – The colourful city of Caen has a bit of everything, a harbour, pleasant relaxing squares, ‘his’ and ‘hers’ abbeys and of course a castle!
What more could you want, oh yes and some rather lovely bistros?
Jumièges Abbey – Not too far from Rouen are the ruins of Jumièges Abbey, we arrived late it the day, and there was hardly anyone around.
It was fantastic with its imposing towers and birds soaring through the broken windows; it made it quite atmospheric just wandering around on your own.
Route de Cidre – If you are also planning a road trip around Normandy, this is one to add to your list.
As the 40km (25-mile) scenic route winds you through some lovely rural lanes and villages, where you can buy a bottle the local tipple to try once your car is parked up at the end of the day.
Giverny – If you are a fan of Monet like me, you may already know of the French impressionist’s colourful home in Giverny.
Not only can you wander around his family home and walled garden it is also where he painted his iconic lily pond masterpieces.
Cider & Crêpe – Well what a combination.
You’d struggle to better the experience of sitting at Honfleur’s harbour front enjoying the crêpe of your choice, washed down with a glass of sparkling cold cider.
Oeuf Cocotte – on this journey I discover this simplest of egg dishes. Whilst struggling to find a starter that appealed, Gary suggested I try an oeuf cocotte with bacon and red wine. It was delicious, which begs the question why hadn’t Gary suggested this before?
Étretat – The unforgiving white cliffs at Étretat, do draw a few crowds, so parking may be tricky in town.
However, you can see why artists have been flocking here over the decades, as it is a beautiful view and worth the visit.
Alençon – Perhaps not prominent on the tourist map, but that was part of its appeal.
Along with its impressive cathedral, Le Chateau des Ducs which was used by the Gestapo and a Hogwarts styled library, hidden behind the walls of a 17th-century Baroque church. To top it off it had some very reasonably priced bistros.
Rouen Cathedral Light Show – This is certainly a memory that will remain with us. It may appear a simple concept.
However, the free light display of Rouen’s ancient history projected across the front of the cathedral was impressive. The show lasted around 15 minutes and charted through sight and sound the lives of William the Conqueror and Joan of Arc.
Discovering little villages – we came across Lyons-la-Forêt while we were touring, and couldn’t resist pulling up and enjoying some petit déjeuner.
History – As with any place Gary & I visit, we are always in search of the local history and this region of France has so much of it.
I found that the museum at Pegasus Bridge was indeed worth a visit, the incredibly touching military stories are not for the faint-hearted.
Honfleur – The disappointment was that we had visited Honfleur 10 years previously, and I wanted to match those memories.
However, it has become a bit of a victim of its own success. Although having said that it is a lovely town & perhaps we should have visited off season.
Point of Note
Inspired to visit Normandy?
As you can see this region of France offers so much diversity. Why not give it a go.
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