Normandy acquired its present name during the Middle Ages, when the Vikings conquered the country and mingled with the native population. The result was a new tribe – the “Northmen”. To pacify them, their leader, Gånge Rolf, was awarded the fief of Normandy. He and his descendants became dukes, one of which, namely Wilhelm, conquered England in 1066. 900 years later the English came back, but as holidaymakers on the Norman beaches. That way Dieppe became the first holiday destination in “Romantic Normandy”. In addition to sandy beaches and history, there are other attractions: The three big C's stand for the Norman Cuisine: Cider, Calvados and Camembert. The mild and humid climate provides ideal conditions for livestock and the cultivation of apples. There are approximately 10 million apple trees in Normandy, making for a sea of apple blossoms during spring.
Ruin with spiritual power
Once the abbey was one of the richest in France; today it is in ruins. However, they suggest the former significance of the monastery. Completely preserved are the 47-meter-high twin towers, which are well visible from far away. The roofless nave is of huge dimensions. It has a length of over 120 meters. The cloister built in late gothic style is partially destroyed. Lord Stuart de Rothesay had bought a wing and had it installed in his Highcliffe Castle near Bournemouth. In the middle of the rest of the cloister grows a powerful yew tree for more than 500 years. In St-Peters-Church next to the main church remains of Carolingian murals are preserved. An arch in the westwork shows the typical meander pattern. On the south wall a portrait can be seen, but of whom is not known.
Charming place with castle and gardens
The small village of Acquigny developed at the confluence of two rivers: the Eure, once navigable as far as Chartres, and the Iton, created in the 12th century by the monks of Conches to power mills. This river also supplied the moats with enough water to protect the priory of Saint Mauxe and the medieval village behind the present castle. Also worth a detour to Acquigny is the Renaissance chateau and its gardens. The chateau was built from 1557 onwards by order of Anne de Montmorency Laval, whose complex ground plan has the shape of the four intertwined initials of her husband and herself. The gardens, which include an orangery and a chapel, are divided into different areas crossed and connected by small rivers and canals.
In the focus of D-Day
1,000 years ago, the Normans built a fortress on an island between the rivers Orne and Odon. Under William the Conqueror two abbeys were added. In the Hundred Years' War between England and France, the city was constantly besieged. However the greatest destruction of Caen began in the early summer of 1944. On D-Day, June 6, 1944 a servere battle between the Allies and the German occupiers started. On July 9, 1944, the Germans gave up Caen and thus the city was liberated. Around the restored historic buildings, the new Caen was built, a green city, whose student flair attracts numerous visitors with cafes and boutiques.
Cheese village in Normandy
This town in Normandy is known for the soft cheese that bears its name. Camembert cheese is said to have been invented in 1791 by a peasant woman named Mari Harel. The the farm known as “La Héronnière” is located not far from the country estate of Beaumoncel, where Marie Harel once lived. La Héronnière is the only farm in Camembert where Camembert is still made in the traditional way. The farm and cheese factory are run by François and Nadia Durand. Their cheese bears the AOC seal (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée).
Defensive structure built by Richard the Lionheart
Château Gaillard rises on a limestone cliff above a loop in the Seine near the small town of Les Andelys in the Eure department. It was built at the end of the 12th century by Richard the Lionheart as a defensive structure far larger than the fortress that can still be seen today, which was once merely the center. It was surrounded by a series of outposts and other fortified points, as well as numerous ditches that ran through what was then a marshy valley. Where today a bridge crosses the river, in those days wooden posts stood in the water to prevent ships from passing through. As early as 1862, the ruins of Château Gaillard, which was one of the most important castles of the Middle Ages, were included in the list of Monuments historiques.
Nature's piece of art: water, flowers and peace
Monet allegedly claimed that there was nothing he could do besides painting and gardening. His gardens are themselves a work of art and not merely a collection of flower beds. The famous impressionist specifically designed the gardens as a source of inspiration for his paintings. Conversely, he converted images in his head into real arrangements in his park. The painter achieved his dream at great effort and expense: six gardeners were hired to help him implement his ideas. Beds were created that overflow with flowers from early spring to late autumn. Monet skillfully arranged the flowers and plants to provide a full range of carefully coordinated shades of color. Such famous works as the water lily and the Japanese bridge paintings were created in Giverny, where Monet lived from 1883 until his death in 1926. Today his gardens are a living museum open to the public.
The 416-meter-high mountain is the highest point in a long series of hills. Since 1992 a pavilion at the summit enables a wide panoramic view over the treetops. Several beautiful hiking trails lead through the Armorican forest .
The unusual Benedictine Abbey jutting out of the waters of the English Channel is considered the most important monastic structure of the European Middle Ages. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, it occupies most of a one-kilometer-diameter clump of rocks which was originally connected to the mainland by a thin natural bridge. According to legend, it was the Archangel Michael himself who ordered the Bishop of Avranches to found the monastery in 708. The building is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and guided tours are offered. Visitors should be prepared for large crowds of tourists. This is also where the greatest tides in Europe occur. The ocean recedes by around 14 km at low tide, then rushes back at a speed of 15 km per hour at high tide.
View of the Channel Islands
The 128 meters high towering rock cliffs belong to the highest in Europe. From the top you have a magnificent view of all the Channel Islands, namely on Jersey, Guernsey and Sark. At the foot of the cliffs there are several caves, such as the fairy groote or the lion grotto formed both by the sea. Between the grotto of the small church and the grotto of the big church smugglers are said to have dug a canal.
Where Jeanne d'Arc was burned at the stake
More than 2,000 timber-framed buildings and several Gothic churches testify to the wealth of bygone centuries, which this city owes to its harbor on the lower Seine. The river is even navigable for ocean-going vessels this far inland. Rouen was conquered during the Hundred Years' War when the entire region of Normandy fell under British rule. In 1431, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake here. The old town surrounding Notre Dame Cathedral and the Great-Clock is especially worth a visit.
Alabaster cliffs on the English channel
The Alabaster Coast stretches 120 kilometers northeast from the mouth of the Seine near Le Havre to Le Tréport in Picardy. Characteristic and eponymous are (...)