With countless orchards dotted across the lush, green landscape and a profusion of apple blossom in spring, you won’t be surprised to hear that Normandy is famed for its ciders, calvados apple brandy and delicious apple ‘tartes’.
You don’t need to be an apple aficionado, however, to fall in love with this tranquil, exceptionally rural region of Northern France. Normandy is a place of half-timbered farmhouses, ancient churches and rolling green countryside and it’s the home of the famous Bayeux Tapestry.
The region is famed for its seafood, in particular the oysters, scallops and lobsters. There are numerous local cheeses, of which the most famous is, undoubtedly, Camembert, while chicken cooked in calvados and cream is a favourite local dish.
West of Caen the landscape is hillier and becomes interspersed with gorges and wooded valleys. Fashionable resorts, such as Honfleur, have sprung up along the coast between tiny fishing villages, and stylish marinas have developed in the more sheltered inlets.
The Côte d’Albatre (Alabaster Coast), with its towering white cliffs, stretches for around 140 kilometres from the estuaries of the Somme and Seine. The beaches have become immortalised in history as the location of the D-Day Landings. While many fascinating historical buildings, castles and monuments provide a constant reminder of Normandy’s rich and colourful past.
The birthplace of Eugene Boudin, the father of Impressionism, way back in 1824, Honfleur has attracted Monet, Corot and many other artists as a result of its superb natural light. A pretty yachting harbour edged by tall slate-fronted houses that date back to the 17th Century, Honfleur’s cobbled streets are packed with cafés, galleries and antique shops. Make sure you see the fascinating inner harbour, the half-timbered properties along Quai Ste-Catherine and the Musée de la Marine.
Don your D&G sunglasses before you hit Deauville, because this stylish resort truly is the haunt of the rich and famous. Once a fishing hamlet, Deauville is today better known as the Monte Carlo of the North. Deauville has an attractive wide promenade, a casino and a sandy beach. The delightful old harbour is the haunt of many artists in summer and during September it sees the glitz, glamour and Hollywood stars of the Deauville Film Festival.
Separated from Deauville by the River Touques, Trouville is just a bit more down-to-earth than its glitzy neighbour. A popular seaside resort, Trouville has glamorous villas and a superb sandy beach backed by a wooden promenade. For fresh fish, head down to the quayside in the morning and strike a deal with one of the local fishermen. Better still, let someone else do the hard work - treat yourself to a delicious meal in one of the town’s stylish brasseries or fish restaurants.
With its elegant villas (albeit in a multitude of styles), this Edwardian resort has an attractive promenade, as well as lovely bars and restaurants. There is also a casino where many holidaymakers simply can’t resist the temptation of having a flutter. As Houlgate can sometimes be a little quieter than other nearby resorts, it can offer a particularly relaxing day. The wide beach is excellent for children’s games. The shops on Rue des Baines are worth exploring. And the black cliffs of nearby Vaches Noires merit strolling along the headland to view.
Think back to those history lessons in Primary School and you’re bound to recall the 11th Century Bayeux tapestry. Depicting the story of the Norman Conquest, this magnificent tapestry is 68.38 metres long and can be viewed at the Guillaume-le Conquérant visitor centre with the option of an audio guide. With so much fascinating detail, it provides an amazing insight into times gone by that even younger holidaymakers will enjoy. One of the oldest towns in Normandy, Bayeux has many other attractions and is well-worth allowing a day to explore.
Take a trip over to Mont-St-Michel (located along a causeway, a mile off the coast) and you’ll be left in no doubt whatsoever as to why this is one of the most visited sites in France. After all, it’s not every day you see what appears to be a mythical palace reaching out from the surrounding sands – an island at high tide. See the spiralled cobblestone street and Benedictine abbey at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The cultural centre of Basse-Normandie, Caen is a thriving university city, with fascinating churches and monastery buildings, an abbey for men (Abbaye-aux-Hommes) and an abbey for women (Abbaye-aux-Dames). Once William the Conqueror’s 11th Century fortress, Caen also houses Le Mémorial, a fascinating museum centred mainly around the Second World War.
A bustling seaside resort, Granville sits on a rocky headland and is frequently described as the ‘Monaco of the North’. Split into a lower town where the main resort area is to be found and a fortified upper town, Granville has great beaches and a lively yachting centre. It’s also an ideal place to take a boat trip to the Channel Islands.
A quaint fishing port and street-after-street of elegant medieval houses have helped Barfleur establish a reputation as one of the prettiest villages in France. Famous for its oysters, Barfleur is also home to the Phare Lighthouse, which stands at over 70 metres tall.
Originally a fishing village, Cabourg has grown into a large seaside resort with a yacht marina. Still retaining its Edwardian elegance, Cabourg has stylish villas, formal gardens, a casino and a racecourse.
This small and friendly family resort once fought with Dieppe for the title of first seaside resort of the English Channel. Today, Luc-sur-Mer offers visitors a relaxing break. There are attractive gardens as well as ‘The House of the Whale’, which houses the skeleton of a massive whale that beached here in 1885. Kids will love it!
Wear the kids out at Parc Viking Adventure in Aizier, located between Rouen and Le Havre. They’re sure to have lots of fun swinging in the ropes, bridges, rope ladders, tree jumping, nets and other obstacles in this adventure park from 7 years upwards.
Fun Park for kids, including Viking ship roller coasters, jousting, an aqua park and much more. Visit during July and August to experience Ragnarok, a Viking battle which is held every day.
Best known for the famous creamy cheese that shares its name, as well as calvados, Pont l’Evêque offers a evocative mix of half-timbered houses and more modern dwellings that have been constructed since WWII. Go on a Monday (market day) to see – and sample – the many cheeses produced by local farmers. And look out for the traditional Sunday markets at Easter, May half term and during July and August when traditional costume is worn.
If you adore Monet, you should immediately recognise the city’s Notre-Dame cathedral, as he painted it numerous times! Rouen is so rich in history, it would be near impossible to do it justice in a sentence or two. But here goes… Joan of Arc was burned at the stake here; William the Conqueror died here; the Romans built the port of Rotomagus here. And both King Richard and King John became Dukes of Normandy here. Although Rouen suffered much damage in WWII, it is seriously worth a visit. Visit the cathedral, the quaint Place de la Cathédrale, the half-timbered houses of Rou St-Romain and the gruesome Aitre St-Maclou.
The facilities are very well maintained here, and include an 18th century château housing the newly refurbished bar and shop. It’s also an ideal base for exploring Normandy.
Sitting on the outskirts of St Aubin-sur-Mer and within easy reach of the Channel ports, this modern family-run parc is also close to miles of sandy beaches.
This immaculate, tree-lined parc is ideally located for families looking to explore Northern France.
Set in the heart of the Calvados region, La Vallée is a well kept parc near to fine, sandy beaches and just a mile from the Edwardian resort of Houlgate.
A sunny glasshouse forms the centrepiece of this well planned residence, just minutes from Normandy's resort-studded coast.
This residence is just 5 km from Omaha beach, with three swimming pools on site and perfectly designed to fit effortlessly into the rolling Normandy landscape.
Set alongside the Deauville golf course, just 2km from Deauville's harbour, this residence has traditional Normandy architecture – half timbering, stone walls and red tiled roofing – setting this Pierre et Vacances development in a class of its own.
This superb Apartment Resort is situated by Port Guillaume, a small, charming, Normandy town, and just 300m from Cabourg beach.
The perfect opportunity to have a second Keycamp holiday!
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