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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrNormandy is a popular region with tourists. Easily accessible from the United Kingdom, it offers sandy beaches, historic sites, quaint market towns, and plenty of local culinary specialties. The larger towns and the beaches will be busy in the summer, but there are plenty of less well-known seaside spots and quiet, rural areas. Visiting off peak lets you see a different side of this region, and there’s just as much to see and do.
HistoryThe region of Normandy has been in existence since the 10th century AD. Its name comes from ‘Northman’, referring to the invading Vikings from Scandinavia who settled in the area. William the Conqueror, who invaded England in 1066 and ruled as William I, was Duke of Normandy, and the Bayeux Tapestry , which tells the story of the Norman conquest, is still on display in the town of Bayeux.
In the 19th century, with the rise in popularity of the seaside holiday, coastal towns like Dieppe and Deauville became fashionable beach resorts. Later, their casinos also drew tourists in.
The D-Day invasion by Allied Forces on June 6, 1944, which marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War, commenced in Normandy.
How to Get ThereSituated on the northern coast of France, Normandy is the first part of continental Europe many tourists encounter, whether they’re staying or passing through. There are four major ferry ports, Le Havre, Dieppe, Cherbourg and Caen , with services from Poole, Portsmouth and Newhaven. Several Normandy ports also serve Ireland and the Channel Islands. There are direct flights from Birmingham, Bournemouth, Exeter and London Stansted to Deauville, and from Southend to Caen. Destinations in Normandy can also be reached from the Eurotunnel terminal in nearby Calais.
What to DoIn Normandy, you can do as much or as little as you like. Families with young children might prefer to stick to the perfect sands of the beaches, or enjoy a peaceful holiday in the countryside. Family attractions for the more adventurous include zoos and water parks.
The island of Mont Saint-Michel with its cluster of buildings, topped with a spire, is perhaps the most iconic sight Normandy has to offer. Another must-see is the picturesque harbor town of Honfleur, while a more modern icon is the Pont de Normandie which spans the Seine from Honfleur to Le Havre.
The Impressionist artistic movement was formed in Normandy, inspired by the region’s unique light. You can visit Monet’s house in Giverny as well as seeing Impressionist paintings in museums like MuMa in Le Havre and the Rouen Fine Arts Museum.
D-Day BeachesHistory buffs can explore the D-Day landing beaches, Sword, Gold, Juno, Utah and Omaha. There are walking and cycling trails, museums including the Airborne Museum at Sainte-Mere-Eglise and the Juno Beach Center, and military cemeteries steeped in history. Look out for the German Tiger tank on the road near Vimoutiers, still standing where it ran out of petrol and was abandoned.
Food and DrinkNormandy prides itself on being one of the richest regions in France for food and drink products. Apple orchards provide the raw material for cider and calvados (apple brandy), with the pretty village of Cambremer at the heart of the cider region. There’s an official cider trail to follow by car or bicycle, stopping at farms where you can see cider being made, drink samples, and purchase bottles to take away with you. Try a kir Normande: cider topped with the blackcurrant liqueur, crème de cassis.
Milk, cream, and cheese are produced in great quantities, and some of the most famous cheeses in the world come from Normandy, like Camembert, Pont-L'Evêque and Livarot. Proximity to the sea and a thriving fishing industry means that fresh, high quality seafood is widely available, and features in many traditional local dishes. Expect to see mussels, oysters and scallops on the menu, as well as a wide variety of fish. Meat from the sheep grazing the salt meadows around Mont Saint-Michel has a distinctive flavor, and can be found on menus as agneau de pré-salé.
Many towns have a farmers’ market where you can buy local fruit and vegetables, delicious fresh bread, and treats like olives.
Where to StayFamilies or groups of friends can stay in a gîte, a self-catering holiday house or cottage. The owners usually live on the property or close by, but you’ll be left to your own devices, and it’s a fun, economical form of holiday accommodation. B&Bs also offer good value for money.
The larger towns have a choice of hotels, from chic, modern options to opulent, 19th-century buildings built in the heyday of the French beach resort. Normandy also boasts some uniquely quirky options, from a converted dovecote to a former lighthouse keeper’s cottage at the base of the lighthouse itself.
For beach holidays, choose a bustling town like Deauville or pick a quieter spot like the nearby village of Villerville. Coastal towns are also a good base for D-Day tourism. Cider fans can choose one of the towns and villages on the cider trail, while lovers of city life might pick Rouen, Normandy’s largest city, situated on the Seine river.
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Author: Huskyteer. Last updated: Feb 03, 2015