Normandy


The total population according to a 2006 census estimated about 3,260,000 people with average population density being 109 people per square kilometer but the density was estimated to about 147 in the Upper Normandy.

5.5 % of the total Normandy population is made up of immigrants from France.

Languages

French is the official language in the continental Normandy. However, English is the official language in Channel Islands. Also, there is a Norman language mainly spoken by the minority with its concentration in the far West and in the East. Most of the names in Normandy come from Norman language.

Geography

The region borders English Channel to the north, granite cliffs to the west and lime stone cliffs to the east. At the center lie a long beach and natural meanders of Seine. The highest place in Normandy is Signal d’Ecouves which is 417 meters above sea level in the Massif armoricain.

Normandy is lowly forested with 12.8% forestation in comparison with the 23.6% of France being forested.

History

Archaeological findings such as cave paintings proved that humans existed in the region during the prehistoric times. Julius Caesar invaded the Gaul when the island had different Gallic tribes. The Romanization of the island was achieved by common methods that included urbanization and Roman roads policy. Classicists have shown evidence of numerous Gallo- Roman villas on the island. Beagle & Celts invaded the island in waves from 4th BC to 3rd BC when they conquered it.

In the 1790, 5 departments of Normandy replaced former province. The Normans did not react to the numerous political upheavals which occurred during the 19th century. The population warily accepted regime change from First French Empire to Bourbon Restoration to July Monarchy to French Second Republic to Second French Empire and lastly to French Third Republic.

After the start of French Revolution Wars & Napoleonic Wars that occurred from 1792-1815, there was economic revival due to mechanization of textile industries.

Weather

It is usually sunny on March and experiences wet Augusts. The best time to travel is between May to mid-October though there is congestion. Winter occurs from mid-November to mid-February but it does not affect any activities.

Religion

There is no established church in Normandy since the separation of the State and the Churches in 1905. However, the Church of England is well established in the Channels Islands.

Major Attractions

Bayeux

During the Battle of Normandy, Bayeux became the 1st town to get liberated. Although it was steeped in history, it was home to the Norman Gothic Cathedral & the Bayeux Tapestry which is the most celebrated needle work in the world. The cathedral is all intact since the town did not offer any threats to the enemies.

Caen

Caen which serves as the capital of Lower Normandy and an administrative city offers a different experience from costal resorts. In the 11th century, William ruled and later conquered England. In 1944 during the battle of Caen, a fire burnt the town and these days it’s a modern & commercial center with a vibrant student scene. Caen memorial is an impressive museum of the WW II. This place is a must-see for history lovers. While still here visit Rue Ecuyere & Place St- Sauver.

The D- Day Beaches

History was made on June 6, 1944 at 6:30 am when 135,000 men & 20,000 vehicles of ally troops invaded the land. This operation coded Operation Overland created the longest day in the island. The enemies established centers at Omaha, Gold, Sword and Utah which were all along the coast. The British had started in mid-1943 by starting an artificial harbor at mulberries for landing equipment. After landing at Gold & Juno, the troops pushed inlands to join with the back lines of the Germans before they encountered a fierce resistance at Caen. The best way to tour Caen is by car or a public bus.

Deauville-Trouville

The two towns on the beach, divided by River Touques, compete for the Most Extravagant Town. They were the most fashionable towns in the 19th century but lost their charm in the 20th century due to over construction. Deauville is the worst victim with its main street being turned into apartment buildings.

Falaises d’Etretat

It is a large village with a stretch of pebble beach and is renowned for the beautiful tall rock formations which extend into the sea. The Falaises d’Etretat is the white cliffs which are equally famous as Dover’s in England. Travelers come here for rock climbing and to see the numerous paintings painted on the rocks by famous painters. The place is believed to experience several great weather patterns per day. Also watch as the water crashes on the rocks.

Chateau Ducal

Built in 1060, the ruins of William the great Conqueror fortress stand here and were renovated after the war. Travelers enjoy strolling in the castle gardens which also offer good views of the city. There are two museums at Chateau namely the Musee de Normandie and Musee des Beaux-Arts while St Georges which is a medieval church was used for exhibitions.

Musee Airborne (Airborne Museum)

It was constructed in 1964 behind the town church in the form of open parachute. This museum is used to drop troops and houses maps, mementos, and museum documents.

Where to Eat

Normandy has accommodation to suite every taste from the simple bed & breakfast to luxurious hotels. You can also find affordable resorts in Deauville & Trouville while Rouen & Caen cities which are the largest do not offer high end resorts. During the summer, the prices sky-rockets and it’s advisable to book ahead of time. The resorts are usually closed during winter which runs from April to October

Château d’Audrieu

It is a family hotel that was built in the 18th century and fulfills a Hollywood notion of the palatial property. It has 50 guest rooms but closes on all Mondays. It does not offer lunches during weekdays. It has crystal chandeliers, white wainscoting & gilt accents. Travelers can enjoy some exotic dishes like scallops together with chestnuts & cranberry juice and extensive wines. Shop a few blocks from the hotel.

Bastion Hotel

It is a modern luxurious hotel located in Caen’s CBD. The guest rooms are handsome, extremely spacious with jewels & earth tones, sleek bathrooms and balcony. The hotel offers regular as well as special orders which includes exceptional dining, special rates for the local golfers and small private D-Day beach tours.

The hotel is well maintained, has a spa and offers hearty breakfast and splendid dining and shopping areas for antiques.

Best Western Art Hotel

The hotel is located in Bassin de Commerce and was designed by a famous architect called Auguste Perret. The hotel has excellent natural lighting, airy rooms with contemporary furniture and balconies that offer great views of the port. However they charge high according to the room-size. They offer meals in partnership with the neighboring Japanese, French and Italian hotels that provide bistro-style dishes & bar, a sleek & soigné sanctum in designer fabric and teak wood.

Best Western Dauphin

It is a pricey hotel located in the middle of the city. It was constructed in the12th century though it has had a number of repairs. It has small guest rooms with the ones facing the street being sound proof while the others overlooks the back courtyard. The hotel has excellent services and quality food.

The hotel is fitted with a spa and a fitness center.

Auberge de la Rouge

Located in the south of Fecamp, the little inn has guest rooms overlooking some pretty gardens & fine restaurants. The rooms are of good size, with ladders and balcony beds if sleeping four. The restaurant closes on Mondays and does not serve dinner on Sundays. Special foods such as Langoustine & marine vegetables with sauce, roast turbot or beef fillet with black truffle oil. Add the local favorite, soufflé a la Benedictine. It is also a great place with the family and offers kids menu.

Shopping

81 L’Hôtel

The mansion hotel was built in 1906 and has parquet floors, impossible high ceilings, and magnificent fire place and stained glass windows. The place has been modernized by adding chandeliers, crocodile chairs and silver furniture. Although it has been built along a main road, its guest rooms are constructed far behind to cater for a quiet place. Top floors are the best for travelers who want to see the town where you can do shopping.

Where to Have Fun

Normandy nightlife ranges from bars, dancing clubs, art centers, casinos and festivals. The island offers travelers a diverse culture with both traditional and modern aspects well blended. After a busy day, integrate with the locals or with fellow travelers at some of the coolest joints listed below:

American Film Festival

Being held in Deauville, it is the biggest cultural events that hosts one week of American Film Festival. It’s held on every early September.

Fête des Marins (Marine Festival)

The 2-day Fete des Marins is held 50 days after Easter on Pentecost Sunday & Monday. On Pentecost Sunday, all boats are marked with flags & paper roses while a priest bestows his blessings. On Monday, the children lead a musical session.

Fête Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc Festival)

The annual homage to martyr Rouen Fable is marked by Street plays, Parades, medieval markets, exhibitions and concerts among others. The occasion occurs on the Sunday closest to May 30th.

Famous bars include Bar de la Crosse and Le Seven that open until late night. They are very popular for being lively but are overcrowded. They are nice joints to taste the local brew and closes latest at 5 am (next morning).

Famous casinos include Casino de Deauville and Casino de Trouville which require formal dress code before admission. They are great place to mingle with the high life of Normandy. However, Casino de Trouville is lesser than Casino de Deauville.

How to Get Around

Bus Tours

Cityrama usually run full day excursions with meals from Paris to Mont-St-Michel. However, the excursion is long since it departs Paris at 7:15 am and arrives back at 9:00 pm.

In Caen, minibus tours are organized to go to D-Day landing beaches for 5-hours-English-language that includes an entrance fees.

Air Travel

Orly and Paris’s Charles de Gaille (Roissy) airports link Normandy to other destinations. In summer, there are direct flights from London to Deauville while a year-round service is usually offered between Cherbourg and Jersey which is located to the north of the peninsula. Air France gives flight to Caen from Paris while Ryanair flies to Dinard which is 56km west of Mt—St-Michel from Stansted Airport in London.

Bike & Moped Travel

There is no extra charge for travelling with your bike on all trains & numerous national lines. However, do ask before booking to avoid any inconveniency.

Boat, Ferry, & Eurotunnel Travel

Numerous ferry companies operate between UK and ports in Normandy.

The famous Brittany Ferries operate between Caen & Portsmouth and between Cherbourg and Poole/Portsmouth. A daily service covers the Dieppe-Newhaven route to Transmanche.

Drive your car or ride your bike under the English tunnel which stretches for over 35 minutes.

Bus Travel

Cars Perier usually run from Fecamp to Le Havre, only stopping at hotels along the way while Bus Verts du Calvados cover the coast connecting other towns like Caen, Honfleur, and Bayeux. The buses usually depart from their offices in Bayeux & Caen. Other buses connect cities like Rouen, Fecamp, Dieppe, Le Havre, etretat, Caen, Trouville, Deauville, Cabourg, and Arromanches.

Cars Perier runs buses from Fecamp to Le Havre, stopping in étretat along the way. Bus Verts du Calvados covers the coast, connecting with Caen and Honfleur, Bayeux, and other towns. These buses depart from the train stations in Bayeux and Caen. Bus routes connect many towns, including Rouen, Dieppe, Fecamp, étretat, Le Havre, Caen, Honfleur, Deauville, Trouville,

Car Travel

From Paris, A13 road slices its way to Rouen in 1.5 hours before forking to Caen town in another hour or travel to Le Havre for 45 minutes along A131 road. N13 road continues from Caen town to Bayeux in 2hours time. At Caen town, A84 road branches off southwest to Mont-St-Michel & Rennes. From Paris, D915 road will take you to Dieppe town in 3hours. Pont de Normandie which is between Le Havre & Honfleur unites Upper & Lower Normandy.

Train Travel

From Gare St-Lazare in Paris, separate train lines goes to Upper Normandy and Lower Normandy. The frequent trains from Paris to Rouen take about 70minutes while the trip from Paris City to Deauville town takes 2hours and requires an interchange at Lisieux

Jason Peterson

My name is Jason Peterson and I caught the travel bug during my time traveling the world in the Navy. I am super fortunate that my wife and I can now travel together and share our knowledge, hacks and tips with our friends and readers. Never hesitate to reach out with suggestions or questions. jason@howtotravel.info

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