|LANDSCAPE: Normandy has a sophisticated landscape of manors, castles with moats, neat orchards, prestigious stud farms, thatched cottages and tall hedgerows. Soaring white cliffs stand guard over long sandy beaches - most spectacularly at Etretat. Mont-St.Michel is a dreamy 'pyramid in the sea', which marks the boundary with Brittany. To seaward, there are the flowery harbour of Honfleur, the hollowed-out rock at Etretat, the beaches of Deauville or the wild Cotentin coasts. Inland, there are the cider and mill routes, the half-timbered houses in Rouen, the Bayeux cathedral, the famous Haras in Orne, the Abbaye-aux-Hommes in Caen. Wherever you go, the region reveals new attractions. Its painters and writers came for the soft light of the Seine, the charm of the seaside, and the atmosphere of the countryside were sources of inspiration for Millet, Eugène Boudin, Corot, Pissarro, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas. Profoundly influenced by its stormy past, Normandy is a land of major artistic and historic importance.
PRIME ATTRACTIONS:Visit the D-Day Normandy beaches and the Memorial War Museum at Caen - and don't miss Caen's famous Abbaye aux Hommes, a magnificent monastery built by William the Conqueror. Well worth visiting too is medieval Bayeaux with its celebrated 225 ft. tapestry housed in the Musée de la Tapisserie, and the Cathédrale Notre-Dame. Children will particularly enjoy seeing the animals roaming free around the wonderful wildlife park at Parc Zoologique de Clères, north of Rouen.
FOOD & WINE: The character of Normandy can even been discerned in its cuisine: its butter, its 32 cheeses, its thick cream, Caen tripe, Vire andouille and Calvados apple brandy are monuments in their own right! A paradise for hearty eaters, Normandy makes delicious use of local products. Try veal or chicken in a sauce normande - cooked in butter and cream, flamed in Calvados, and served with slices of apple. On the coast you can enjoy oysters, lobster and mussels. It is the apple, rather than the grape, that provides Normandy's favourite drink - made into cider (still or sparkling), or distilled as Calvados. The popular trou normand fills a gap between courses with a shot of Calvados - purely to help digestion!
HISTORY: Normandy owes its name to the Vikings, who seized the region in the 9th century. The Normans also ruled southern Italy and Sicily and their riches first built new cities, manor houses and churches. Later came elegant Renaissance châteaux and mansions, such as Fontaine-Henry and Balleroy.
ACTIVITIES: The seaside resorts, rivers and lakes offer plenty of water-sporting activities - especially windsurfing, water-skiing, boating and sailing. Inland there are many opportunities for golfing, biking, horse riding and fresh water fishing. Walkers will love The Orne Valley, the Parc Régional de Brotonne and the Parc Régional de Normandie-Maine, France's largest regional park.
SOUVENIRS: A bottle of Calvados is an essential souvenir of Normandy - especially as it is not easy to find this apple brandy outside France. Local handmade lace is exquisite, although expensive. If you love bric-a-brac, Caen holds two fascinating morning flea markets, every Sunday and Friday.
CLIMATE: Apple orchards blossom in April and May, followed by fields turned blue with flax. By June, sunny days predominate with the warmth lingering to apple harvest time.
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