Normandy is a region of northern France, bordering the English Channel. Once the centre of a powerful medieval empire that controlled a significant area of continental Europe, 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 abbey atop Mont Saint-Michel. Normandy is also 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 the twin pillars of Norman cuisine, milk and apples?
The climate in Normandy is very similar to that of southern England, with mild winters and warm, sometimes hot, summers. The weather can be unpredictable and is rainy by French standards, but is also often very nice. Most people visit during the summer, from June when the annual D-Day commemorations take place, through to the end of August.
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Both the 'ruined fortress' and 'fancy château' varieties are present in Normandy. A notable example of the former is Richard the Lionheart's Château Gaillard in Les Andelys, a seemingly-impregnable fortress commanding an impressive vantage point, but which lasted only a few years before being captured by the Spanish. An example of a castle that provided comfort as well as defence can be seen in the Dukes' Castle at Alençon. There are also some châteaux in the region with no defensive purpose which were built purely to show off their owners' wealth and prestige. Examples include the slightly worn-around-the-edges renaissance Château de Gaillon in the town of the same name, and the 17th century Château de Balleroy near Bayeux, which is now owned by the hot air balloon-obsessed Forbes family, of American business media fame.
Places to Visit
·Giverny (near Vernon, 27) Visit the home of the greatest Impressionist, Claude Monet, and the Giverny Museum of Impressionism formerly the Museum of American art.
·There are more works by the major Impressionists in the museums at Rouen and Le Havre.
·Caen , a large part of which was destroyed in the Second World War, has a Memorial museum of the Normandy Landings and the Liberation
·The Normandy Beaches the site of the D-Day Landings in World War 2 - Omaha Beach, Juno Beach, Utah Beach and the others. The landings are commemorated in monuments, museums and the war graves of the thousands who gave their lives. Normandy beach Coach tours depart from Bayeux.
·Bayeux, attractive old Norman town where the historic Bayeux tapestry was made, and is still preserved, 900 years after it was made. The museum is open 7/7. Departure point of coach tours of the Normandy beaches.
·Falaise, impressive Medieval fortress, birthplace of William the Conqueror.
·The Lower Normandy seaside Between the Seine and Caen, the coast of lower Normandy offers a succession of genteel seaside resorts, including Trouville, Houlgate and Cabourg, etc. - resorts that flourished in the nineteenth century, as the closest to Paris.
·Honfleur Attractive small port at the mouth of the Seine. Old harbour with picturesque quayside; Eugène Boudin museum. St Catherine's church, from the 15th century, is the largest historic wooden church in France.
·Rouen, with its quays on the river Seine, its picturesque historic centre, with half-timbered houses, an ancient clock, and a magnificent gothic cathedral, one of the finest in France. The Rouen Fine Arts museum musée des beaux arts has the best collection of works by the Impressionists outside Paris, plus a broad collection of old masters from 15th century to the 20th century, including Rubens, Velasquez, Poussin and many more. There is also the Joan of Arc museum.
·Le Havre In the 1950's, the old town, destroyed in the war, was rebuilt in concrete by architect Auguste Perret, to the wishes of the Communist city council. This example of postwar urban planning is classed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
·Le Havre Musée Malraux one of the best museums outside Paris for impressionism & fauvism. Large collection of 19th & 20th century masters including Monet, Renoir, Boudin, Marquet, Pissaro and many others
·The White Cliffs of Etretat the most famous cliffs in France.
·Pays d'Auge the archetypal Norman countryside, with its small villages and traditional half-timbered cottages.
·La Suisse Normande the highest hills in Normandy, around 1000 ft., loved by hikers and ramblers - though they are a long way from being mountains.
·Le Mont Saint Michel, the world famous medieval abbey built on a rock in the bay a UNESCO world heritage site. One of France's most visited historic monuments.
·Le Cotentin countryside, cliffs and sandy beaches, on this granite promontory jutting out into the English Channel. The Cotentin coastline, from Juno beach up to Cherbourg, and then down again to Mont Saint Michel, has numerous attractive beaches and small seaside towns, many of them free from crowds even in high summer.
·Le Cité de la Mer, Cherbourg Devoted to underwater exploration, the museum includes a visit of the Redoutable, the biggest visitable sub in the world, plus the deepest aquarium in Europe.