Caen The old town is made up of narrow streets, a castle and two magnificent abbeys. The wonderful Caen Memorial Museum uses audio visual and computer technology to tell the story of World War I, the dark years leading to World War II and features the D-Day landings including stunning archive films of the Allied preparation before Operation Overlord. www.memorial-caen.fr
D-Day landing beaches, famous for their strategic role in the 2nd World War stretch due west of the port of Ouistreham round to Carentan. Airborne divisions of Operation Overlord under the supervision of Montgomery and Eisenhower landed at the two extremes of the invasion front Ste Mère Eglise and Bénouville. Meanwhile beach-heads were established in the Anglo-Canadian sector under the names Gold, Juno and Sword beach and in the American sector under Omaha and Utah. Visitors to these beaches can now see commemorative monuments, war museums and cemeteries.
Bayeux only a few minutes from the landing beaches has an exceptional architectural heritage including streets lined with attractive slate-roofed houses and a magnificent cathedral. The town owes it fame to the unique Bayeux tapestry, an embroidery in wool on a linen background 70m x 0.5m, a pictorial account of the events leading up to the military invasion of England by William the Conqueror.
Lisieux is not only famous as an important shrine with a basilica erected in honour of Ste. Thérèse, but is also worth visiting to see its pretty town centre with half-timbered houses.
Falaise birth place of William the Conqueror is dominated by an immense castle which has been of strategic importance since the Middle Ages.
Honfleur is a delightful little fishing port and yachting harbour with pretty narrow streets of timber framed houses, homes once occupied by famous Frenchmen, including Baudelaire and Monet.
Deauville, Trouville and Cabourg have all become fashionable resorts. Deauville is full of expensive hotels, designer boutiques and is well known for horse-racing, regattas and car rallies.
Rouen is the capital of Normandy, famous for its flamboyant Gothic cathedral and the Rue du Gros Horloge with its large 14th century clock tower spanning the street with a golden clock face on either side.
Route des Abbayes runs through the Seine valley.
The majestic ruins of the Benedictine abbeys of Jumièges and Saint Wadrille are worth a visit along with St Martin de Boscherville, a jewel of Norman architecture. Spanning the valley you cannot fail to be impressed by the gracious bridges of Pont de Tancarville and Pont de Brotonne. The Pont de Normandie joins Le Havre and Honfleur.
Along the Alabaster coast, Fécamp and Etretat are both worth a detour.
The western area of Normandy called La Manche (channel) runs the length of coastline immediately opposite Great Britain and stretches from Cherbourg in the north to le Mont St Michel in the south. Bricquebec and Valognes in the north of the region are worth viewing.
Coutances almost due south of Cherbourg is the religious centre of the Cotentin peninsula and is best known for its beautifully preserved cathedral.
Granville offers the visitor the chance to experience a lively seaside resort, sailing centre and commercial fishing port with the highest tides in Europe. You can also climb up to the fortified city above.
Villedieu-les-Poêles as the name suggests has an ancient craft tradition for making copper pots and pans which stretches back almost 800 years. You can still witness it today at the Copper Workshop as well as visiting a museum of modern furniture and the Lace Making museum.
Avranches the city of flowers is a bustling town overlooking the Bay of Mont St Michel.
Le Mont St Michel is one of the most stunning attractions in Europe. Although actually in Normandy it borders Northern Brittany and is regarded by some as the 8th wonder of the world. Mont Saint-Michel and its Bay are listed by UNESCO as a World Natural and Cultural Site. It is probably the most visited tourist attraction in France outside Paris. Rising out of an ever-changing environment of sand and sea, the mount exemplifies man’s ingenuity when faced with the challenge of time and the elements. Perched on the uppermost point of a solitary rock in a landscape smoothed by the passage of the winds, the abbey reminds us of the daring ambition of the builders and those who, since 708, desired to make this isolated place a meeting point for all. Viewed from its heights, everything takes on a special allure: the wonders of medieval architecture, the force of nature, the quality of the light. Built in the 8th century as a simple oratory, it has been the destination of pilgrimages ever since. Richard 1, Duke of Normandy, started building the impressive abbey on top of the mount in 966, but sections were added right up to the 16th century, so it is now a quite an extraordinary mix of architectural styles. The movement of the tides in the bay is fascinating and the difference in sea level between high and low water can be over 12m, the highest in France. As the sea bed is flat, the sea retreats a long way exposing 15km of sand. The tide comes in very rapidly and combined with numerous currents can spell danger for the unwary.
Not only is Normandy a wonderful holiday destination, but it is also renowned for its delicious cuisine. Moules à la crème, truite au cidre and the creamy sole normande are all highly recommended. It is also famous for its cheeses: Camembert, Pont l’Evêque, Livarot and the Pavé d’Auge. The countryside is dotted with orchards that produce local cider and the famous Calvados liqueur. The cider is much lighter and dryer than British cider and has a gentle fizz. Calvados is distilled from apples according to ancient methods and matured in centuries old cellars. La Route du Cidre and La Route du Fromage are two well signposted routes you can follow to fully appreciate these specialities.