The Normandy region of France combines a 360-mile dramatic coastline, including the dramatically evocative World War II landing beaches, with a verdant interior of lush farmland, bustling market towns, and historic landmarks such as the cities of Caen, Bayeux and Rouen. Gastronomic delights abound, from fine cheeses to cider and Calvados. (Normandy map)
We offer three ways to visit Normandy
A few quick facts about Normandy:That pat of butter on your plate in a Paris restaurant is almost certainly from Normandy. The port of Le Havre is France’s largest international shipping port, though in the 19th century, European immigrants to America always sailed out of Cherbourg. 300,000 troops landed on June 6, 1944 for the Normandy invasion which spelled the beginning of the end for World War II in Europe.
Landing Beaches: The largest military landing in history took place in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Monuments, museums, bunkers and cemeteries are a living commemoration to the Battle of Normandy. A perfect base from which to tour the beaches was the first town liberated by the Allies: the historic town of Bayeux. Built around the magnificent Cathedral of Notre-Dame, it is home to the 200-foot long Bayeux Tapestry, a world famous masterpiece of embroidery whose vivid scenes depict the epic tale of William the Conqueror's expedition to England in the 11th century.
Caen War Memorial: The Caen Memorial continues a visitor's journey through the 20th century, from the second World War to the world at the time of the Cold War. Exhibits offer thoughtful commentary about peace and the future of war. The museum is a good starting point for local touring, reminding the visitor of the complicated and extensive political origins of the second World War.
Giverny: During a fateful train ride, Claude Monet spotted this small village along the Seine, 50 miles from Paris, and vowed to live there. By 1890 he had bought the land and home memorialized in so many of his paintings, particularly the water lily series. Today, art lovers take the train to Vernon and a short bus ride to see the house gardens, open from April to October. Also locally, visitors can see the colony of houses occupied by American Impressionist painters of the mid 19th century and an excellent local museum featuring rare Impressionist works.
Rouen: A thriving industrial and commercial center and the third largest port in France, Rouen is steeped in history. Both William the Conqueror and Joan of Arc died in the town Victor Hugo called "the city of a hundred spires". Rouen is home to many museums as well as the Gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dame, immortalized by French Impressionist Claude Monet.
Dieppe/Fecamp/Etretat: As the oldest seaside resort in France, Dieppe has something for everyone. Its history is retold in the castle museum. The Benedictine Palace & Museum, home of the famous Benedictine liqueur, is Fécamp's main claim to fame. Also, don't miss its picturesque marina. A short drive down the coast lies the village of Etretat, nestled between striking white cliffs.
Deauville/Trouville: Driving along the "Flowered Coast", three picture perfect towns stand out: the glamorous resort town of Deauville, home to the rich and famous (and a film festival), is a thriving vacation spot of luxury hotels, casinos, race tracks, golf courses and polo grounds. Its twin city, Trouville, separated from Deauville by the Touques river, is a more sedate fishing village. Both towns boast wide sandy beaches. Further along the coast you find Honfleur, considered the birthplace of impressionist painting. This charming harbor village, with narrow timbered houses dates from the 11th century, and has always attracted artists, among them Monet and the poet Baudelaire.
Mont Saint Michel: The enchanting Abbey of Mont-St-Michel is perched precariously on a 264-foot high rocky islet connected to mainland France by a causeway. Surrounded by over half a mile of massive walls and reached by a steep climb up winding streets, it remains one of the greatest sightseeing attractions in Europe and the second most visited place in France after the Eiffel Tower. Mont-St. Michel is also known for its tides, the highest on the continent, which race towards the isle at the speed of "galloping horses".
A priest's repeated dreams of St. Michael led to the multi-century building of the monastery and town below; the monastery to this day holds daily masses in Latin.
Alencon/Haras du Pin/Bagnole de L'Orne: A discovery of Normandy would be incomplete without a mention of this region's passion for horses, Tourists are welcome to attend any of the numerous horse shows and competitions and visit the many horse breeding estates, of which the Haras du Pin, or the "Versailles of horses", is the most exceptional. Alencon's Fine Arts and Lace Museum presents a major collection of French and European lace from the 17TH to the 20TH century. Bagnoles de l'Orne, a premier spa center, is also worth a visit.
American Art museum of Giverny: The American art museum of Giverny will give you a global understanding of the work of the American artists that came to France at the end of 19th century to study and work on painting.
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