Northwest of Paris and stretching to the coastline is the gorgeous region of Normandy, an area which offers a variety of romantic and memorable experiences. From farmland to beaches, amazing architecture to medieval villages, Normandy is full of possibilities for those who want to get away from the big city and explore a different side of France.
The Cotentin Peninsula is the most northwest area of the region. Here, you'll find the medieval harbor of Barfleur, with several low key restaurants and a few cozy hotels. Barfleur is also the location of the Gatteville lighthouse, the third tallest traditional lighthouse in the world which was first lit in 1775. Visitors can climb the 365 steps to the top and enjoy the breathtaking view; the sea current is quite strong, which caused numerous shipwrecks and thus necessitated the placement of the lighthouse here. Also on the Cotentin Peninsula is the bustling port town of Cherbourg, which has larger hotels and many seafood restaurants. Cherbourg also has a large museum called La Cité de la Mer, which offers an aquarium, a nuclear submarine, and various sea-themed exhibitions throughout the year.
Further east along the coastline, you'll find the 19th century resort town of Deauville and its less sophisticated but equally charming neighbor Trouville. The port towns share a train station but have a decidedly different feel. While Trouville is full of casual restaurants, families, and shops selling beach toys, Deauville hosts the world famous Deauville American Film Festival each September, drawing big names and celebrity watchers from far and wide. Mornings, you can find racehorses being exercised on the beach from the Deauville-La Touques Racecourse, an unexpected and mesmerizing sight.
Deauville and Trouville are located in an area of Normandy called the Pays d'Auge, which, going south from the coastline, boasts tiny villages and half-timbered manor houses that have been converted into hotels and restaurants. The landscape is pastoral and idyllic, with trees hanging heavy with apples that are used for Normandy's famous cider and Calvados brandy. This area is also a dairy heartland, with cheese and cream being major products. The tiny village of Camembert is where the famous cheese was first created during the French Revolution. A drive through this area uncovers surprises at every bend.
Normandy also offers plenty of art and architecture. In Bayeux, there is a huge Romanesque cathedral with Gothic touches, as well as the famous Bayeux Tapestry, a piece of embroidery over a thousand years old that is full of details of medieval life. The cities of Rouen and Coutances also have beautiful cathedrals. Rouen is the largest city in Normandy, and its cathedral of Notre Dame was painted numerous times by Monet. In the summer, the outside of the cathedral is lit in such a way as to closely resemble the colors used in the Impressionist's masterpieces.Offers
If you are interested in a private day tour through idyllic French countryside, then Normandy offers a surprising variety of both wild and rugged coastline, and rich green farmland strewn with half timbered houses surrounded by apple orchards, fresh undulating landscape, and forests of beech and pine which creates a haven of peace and serenity. The region also produces some of the best produce in France.
Below are itinerary examples however, we will personalized the final itinerary to your interest in food, wine, history, art and landing beaches for either long day tours or an overnight adventure.
Rouen and lunch at the oldest restarant in France or Picnic in Etretat / Return visiting Monet's Home and Garden and if time a Cider tasting.
William the Conqueror Route
Bayeux Tapestry / Longues sur Mer / Lunch at the Caen Castle Art Museum / William the Conqueror's castle in Falaise.
Richard the Lionheart Route
Chateau Gaillard in Les Andelys / Rouen / Lunch Lyon le Foret / Cider tasting. If overnight in Honfleur return via Giverny / La Roche Guyon Castle.
Secret Gisors, Giverny and Vernon, lunch in Lyon de Foret known as a flowering villages, Cider stop, Cliffs at Etretat, Romantic Stops en route.
Day 1: Giverny / Cider Tastings / Lunch near Giverny / Chateau Gaillard / Rouen / Etretat / Overnight Honfleur/
Day 2: William the Conqueror's castle / Cheese producer visit / Caen Castle / Wine Visit / Calvados Distillery Visit.
Following the Seine is Les Andelys dominated by the Chateau Gaillard. Think back to the fantastic life of Richard the Lionheart, the friend of Robin Hood, as Walter Scott related it in his novel Ivanhoe. Chateau-Gaillard is the very place where these romanticized stories meet history for this fortress was dreamed of, skillfully designed and built by the fiery Richard I of England, feudal Duke of Normandy, better known as Richard the Lionheart to keep the King of France from reaching Rouen. This nickname was given in recognition of his bravery in the Crusades. It seems hard to believe that the construction of this massive stronghold was completed in one year, but it is historically true. One imagines the site swarming with thousands of laborers. Over 6,000 of them had to work relentlessly to achieve such a feat. Construction began in 1197 and was completed in 1198. Richard-who had spent a huge amount of money on it-could then exclaim: How beautiful she is, my one-year-old daughter! What a 'gaillard' (well fortified) castle! By 1203 when Richard I was succeeded by King John, after a fierce siege, the castle was taken and Rouen fell to the French king. Normandy, of course, has many chateaux and historic sites and possesses a rich heritage of sacred architecture in its cathedrals and abbeys.
Capital of Normandy, the 2000 year-old city of Rouen with its gothic churches and cathedral immortalized by Monet, who painted it at different times of day and in different lights. The many beautiful half-timbered houses characteristic of Norman architecture still stand in Rouen's old quarter. It was here that Joan of Arc was convicted of heresy by the French clergy and burnt at the stake in 1431. And, not forgetting the wonderfully impressionist collection at the Museum of Beaux Arts. It was one of the capitals of the Anglo-Norman dynasties, which ruled both England and large parts of modern France from the 11th century to the 15th century. After a guided tour, we leave in the direction of Rouen and lunch in the medieval centre… visit of the Place du Marché where Joan of Arc was burnt on Wednesday 30th May, 1431…See half-timbered houses, the "Gros Horloge", the cathedral (11th and 12th century), churches of St Maclou (1437-1517) and St Ouen (1318 -15th century)
South-east of Rouen, is the pretty village of Lyon-le-Foret in the Foret de Lyons, the favorite hunting ground of the Dukes of Normandy and the largest beechwood in Europe. The village is located around the remains of the castle where Henry the first of England died. Maurice Ravel wrote some of his finest music in ‘Le Fresne’, one of the old mansions you can visit. Other designated beautiful and historic villages in Normandy are Barfleur, Beuvron en Auge, Saint Ceneri Le Gerei, Gerberoy, Argentan, Domfront, Granville, Eu, Forges-les-Eaux, Pont-Audemer and more.