is a region dominated by farming, with mile upon mile of unbroken
farmland, which eventually gives way in the west to the waters of
the English Channel. Normandy contains five départements:
Seine Maritime, Calvados, Manche, Eure and Orne,
with all but the last two touching on the sea. On its southern border
is the River Couesnon which has, over the years,
shifted its course as it flows over almost flat country, gradually
moving south of Mont-Saint-Michel, one of Europe’s
best-known architectural curiosities. Mont-Saint-Michel
and its bay are on UNESCO’s World
Heritage List. The tides are phenomenal and at their peak,
there is a difference of about 15m (50ft) between the ebb and the
flow, the height of a five-storey building. The sands in the bay
are flat and, when the tides are at their highest, the sea runs
in over a distance of some 24km (15 miles) forming a wave about
70cm (2ft) deep. The sandbank changes from tide to tide and, if
the legend of the sea entering the bay at the speed of a galloping
horse is perhaps a slight exaggeration, the danger of quicksand
is real enough. The present Abbey of Saint-Michel
was built in the 8th century by Bishop Aubert, his skull bears the
mark of the finger of Saint Michel, the archangel
Michael. Cabourg is the Balbec in Proust’s novels. Maupassant
and Flaubert included Norman scenes in their novels and Monet, Sisley
and Pissarro painted scenes of the coast and the countryside.
Deauville, with its beach, casino, golf course
and race track, is the social capital of the area. Bayeux
is worth a visit for the fantastic tapestry as there is nothing
like it in the world. The landing beaches and World War II battlefields
are remembered by excellent small museums in Arromanches
(the landings) and Bayeux (battle of Normandy).
There is also a peace museum in Caen, with its
beautiful Romanesque church and ruins of an enormous castle, founded
by William the Conqueror. Other monuments worth visiting include
the 14th-century Church of St-Etienne, the Church
of St-Pierre (Renaissance) and the Abbaye aux Dames.
There is also a museum of local crafts from the Gallo-Roman period
to the present.
The cross-Channel terminus and the port of Dieppe
has attractive winding streets and a 15th-century castle, housing
the Musée de Dieppe. There are some beautiful
châteaux in Normandy, particularly along
the route between Paris and Rouen.
They include the Boury-en-Vexin, Bizy-Vernon,
Gaillon, Gaillard-les-Andelys, Vascoeuil and Martinville.
Along the same route are found a number of other sites classed monument
historique; the Claude Monet House and garden in
Giverny, the Abbey de Mortemer
(Lisors) and the village of Lyon-la-Fôret.
All of these merit a detour.
The ancient capital of Rouen features restored
ancient streets and houses, including the Vieille Maison
of 1466 and the place du Vieux-Marché,
where Jeanne d’Arc was burnt in 1432. There
is a magnificent 13th-century cathedral, as well as many fine museums
and churches, including St Ouen and St
Maclou. The cloister of St Maclou was
a cemetery for victims of the Great Plague. The
old port of Honfleur, with its well-preserved 18th-century
waterfront houses, is also well worth a visit.
is a land of fishermen and farmers and is one of the finest gastronomic
regions of France. Exquisite butter, thick fresh cream and excellent
cheeses, including the world-famous camembert,
pont l’evêque and liverot,
are all produced in Normandy. Both crustaceans and saltwater fish
abound, sole Normande is one of the greatest dishes known to the
gastronomic world. There is also lobster from Barfleur,
shrimp from Cherbourg and oysters from Dive-sur-Mur.
Inland one finds duck from Rouen and Nantes,
lamb from the salt meadows near Mont-Saint-Michel,
cream from Isigny, chicken and veal from the
Cotentin, and cider and calvados (apple brandy) from the