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The Normandy region of North West France


Regional Departments
Calvados, Manche, Seine-Maritime, Eure, Orne.

Main Towns
Rouen, Dieppe, Le Havre, Evreux, Lisieux, Caen, Bayeux, Saint-Lô, Vire, Granville, Avranches, Argentan, Alençon, Cherbourg, Deauville.

The north coast of Normandy faces onto the English Channel, bounded by Brittany to the west, Picardie to the east and the Loire Valley to the south. Essentially flat, it is a land of colombage beamed farmhouses, undisturbed villages and granite cottages, delightful manor houses and fine cathedrals in a naturally rich pastureland with hedgerows, woodland and vast forested nature reserves. The wild, craggy granite coastline of the Cotentin gives way to long sandy beaches and white cliffs at Etretat. Inland there are ancient beech woods, the apple orchards of Calvados and the meandering streams, valleys and hills of the Suisse Normande. Mont St Michel is a remarkable Benedictine abbey near Granville, built on a huge rock, only accessible at low tide. Further east, in the Eure, are the gardens of Giverny, where the painter Claude Monet lived and worked.



The dairy herds in this region of France produce the thick cream, butter and soft cheeses, which are used lavishly in Norman cooking. Apples from the orchards of the Pays d'Auge are made into calvados brandy and cider. Great horse country, there are several famous studs and equestrian centres. The River Seine runs through the region from Paris, 75 kilometres away, to its mouth at the port of Le Havre.

Rouen, lies on the left bank of the Seine and is the capital of Normandy. Dominated by the great cathedral of Notre Dame ( a favourite subject of Monet's), it was here that the trial of Joan of Arc took place and where she was burned at the stake. Noted particularly for its distinctive porcelain, there is good shopping and many places of interest.

Along the coast are the ports of Cherbourg, Dieppe and Le Havre and between them the elegant fashionable seaside towns of Cabourg, Trouville and Deauville. Good beaches and excellent restaurants. Trouville has a fine marina and casino. The D-Day Normandy Landing beaches include Arromanches, Omaha and Juno. Near the coast is Bayeux, famous for the Bayeux Tapestry, an 11th century embroidery depicting the Norman conquest of England in 1066.

Food

A huge variety of fresh fish and shellfish. Excellent fruits-de-mer along the coast. Market stalls groaning with fruit and vegetables, mushrooms, herbs and flowers. Butter from Isigny and Gournay carved from great blocks, bowls of thick cream, the cheeses of Camembert, Pont l'Evêque, Livarot, the Pays d'Auge and a dozen others on the dairy counters.
Patés and terrines, andouille de Vire, a lightly smoked pork chitterling sausage with a black skin, mounds of rillets, potted pork, and fresh bread.
Lamb from the meadows of Avranches, gamey duck and chicken roasted or casseroled and served in a cream sauce with a dash of calvados or cider, which gives the cooking here its characteristic flavour. Good beef.
Fruit tarts, apple turnovers, butter brioches, puff-pastry galettes with jam, fallues, sweet pancakes, custards.
Calvados, as well as wine, is consumed traditionally between courses. Café-calva, when the brandy is served either in a small glass at the same time as the coffee, or else poured into the coffee cup when it is still warm, is a popular custom in cafes as well as at the table.

Activities

Excellent sailing along the coast and numerous small ports and marinas, which have berths reserved for visiting boats. Regattas during the summer. Beaches from Honfleur to Granville, most with water sport facilities. Golf courses throughout the region. Wonderful walking and cycling country.
Normandy is also serious horse country with studs and equestrian farms that hire out horses and organise treks for an hour or a day to riders of all levels of experience. Children are welcomed everywhere and included in all activities. Good fishing in the lakes and rivers. Exhibitions, concerts, fetes and festivals of all kinds. Lace from Alençon. Markets in most towns and villages on different days of the week.

Climate

Maritime. Warm summers with temperatures often reaching 30 degrees C. Rainfall concentrated in the autumn.

Travel

By Air
Regional airports in Normandy include Dinard, Caen with links to Paris, Ireland and the UK.

By Road
Paris is anywhere between 2 to 4 hours drive to most parts of Normandy. Ferry ports are Caen, Cherbourg, Dieppe and Le Havre.

By Train
Normandy is well connected by rail to Paris. Car hire is available at most main destinations.


 
 
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