Rugged Coast of France with a Turbulent History
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Normandy stands for a rugged coastline, beautiful beaches, and a turbulent history. The province is located in the north of France. This region is perfect for hiking and enjoying local French food and drinks. In this article, you will find the most beautiful sights in Normandy. I will also mention some tours and excursions I have done.
This was also where the Impressionist French painter Claude Monet lived. When you are here you understand why he wanted to capture the landscapes. This French region is not only diverse but also very beautiful. I made a journey along the well-known chalk cliffs, the cosy towns and villages and the rich hinterland. Where you can also experience an important part of Europe's history, with the famous D-day beaches as a crowd puller.
Mont Saint-Michel is an absolute must-visit. It is a unique granite island with a small town on top. It is often associated with Brittany but is located in Normandy. You can enjoy mudflat hiking, shopping and taking photos. And there is a shepherd with his flock of sheep in the surrounding area.
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Étretat is a series of chalk cliffs. Due to erosion, a kind of gate has been created, which can be viewed from two sides. At any moment of the day, the light falls differently, which allows you to take amazing pictures. There are also beautiful hiking trails.
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Kayaking at Étretat is the best excursion to discover the steep chalk cliffs in a different way. You can easily rent a kayak or canoe from the beach in the village along the coast. The weather is often nice here, which means there are surprisingly few waves. You can then easily sail along the steep coasts and natural arches. I made this trip at the end of the day with remarkably soft light.
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This charming town is located across from Le Havre, where the Seine River flows into the Channel. You enter this port town via the Pont de Normandie, one of the longest suspension bridges in Europe. The old harbour in particular is a great place to enjoy a meal, including the delicious fruits de mer with oysters, mussels and other seafood. Don't forget to visit the wooden St. Catherine's Church, which stands by the harbour. This church dates back to the 15th century. Look up, and you'll see the shape of a ship.
The city of Le Havre played an important role during the Second World War. Primarily due to its strategic location. The city centre was completely destroyed. After the war, architect Auguste Perret developed a new city plan. He reconstructed Le Havre with modern concrete architecture. It has since become a remarkable example of post-war reconstruction. The city centre is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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I have spent several nights in different villages. You will find numerous small hotels, holiday homes, and apartments along the coast, in nature, or in the middle of charming villages. Be sure to book on time, as many locations are quickly fully booked.
In the Second World War, Normandy played an important role. This was especially due to the landing of the Allied forces on world-famous beaches such as Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach, and Sword Beach. One of the most decisive battles of World War II took place at these beaches. The landings of thousands of soldiers occurred on 6 June 1944, now known as D-Day. You can still visit the beaches today. There are many reminders of the turning point in the Second World War that you can see.
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With a jeep excursion, you can explore the D-Day beaches in Normandy. There are specific tours where you are driven around by a local guide. He (or she) tells you about the rich history of this part of France, as well as the many lessons on the most important turning point in World War II.
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This is the place where the French heroine Joan of Arc met her death on the stake in 1431. A 20-meter-tall cross near the Église Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc is a reminder of this fact. But Rouen has more to offer and is nowadays mostly known for its half-timbered houses. The 13th-century Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame is also impressive, with many ornate stones. You can see the 151-meter-high tower from afar. Rouen is a delightful stopover for a tour through Normandy.
The city of Caen has a long history. It is perfect as a base, with many cosy bars and restaurants for the evening. The sights include the Castle of Caen, built by William the Conqueror in 1060, the Palace of Justice (Échiquier de Normandie), the Abbaye aux Hommes (Men's Abbey) and Abbaye aux Dames (Women's Abbey). The city also has numerous beautiful churches.
Few people know that the name comes from Normans, whom we also know as Vikings. After various raids, in 911 King Rollo received the duchy of Normandy from the West Frankish king Charles III. However, they had to leave everyone alone. Unfortunately, there is almost nothing left of this legacy. In the Parc Ornavik in Hérouville-Saint-Clair, there is a theme park dedicated to the Viking past.
The region of Normandy is popular. And not just passing through to other parts of France. The coast, the beaches, and the villages and cities are perfect for a seaside vacation. Keep in mind that the major attractions are often visited during the high season. You can somewhat avoid this by going early in the day. And if you can avoid the weekends.
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