The NORMANDY region of France combines a 360-mile dramatic coastline, including the dramatically evocative World War II landing beaches. It has a number of bustling market towns each with historic landmarks, such as the cities of Caen, Bayeux and Rouen. Gastronomic delights abound – from fine cheeses to cider and Calvados.
GIVERNY: During a fateful train ride, Claude Monet spotted this small village along the Seine, 50 miles from Paris, and vowed to live there. By 1890 he had bought the land and home memorialized in so many of his paintings, particularly the water lily series. Today, art lovers visit the gardens and also a colony of houses occupied by American Impressionist painters of the mid-19th century. There is also an excellent local museum featuring rare Impressionist works.
ROUEN: A thriving industrial and commercial centre and the third largest port in France, Rouen is steeped in history. Both William the Conqueror and Joan of Arc died in the town & Victor Hugo called it "the city of a hundred spires". Rouen is home to many museums as well as the Gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dame, immortalized by French Impressionist Claude Monet.
LANDING BEACHES: The largest military landing in history took place in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Monuments, museums, bunkers and cemeteries are a living commemoration to the Battle of Normandy. The first town to be liberated by the Allies was the historic town of Bayeux. Built around the magnificent Cathedral of Notre-Dame, it is home to the 65m long Bayeux Tapestry, a world famous masterpiece of embroidery, whose vivid scenes depict the epic tale of William the Conqueror's expedition to England in the 11th century.
CAEN WAR MEMORIAL: The Caen Memorial continues a visitor's journey through the 20th century, from the second World War to the world at the time of the Cold War. Exhibits offer thoughtful commentary about peace and the future of war. The museum is a good starting point for local touring, reminding the visitor of the complicated and extensive political origins of the second World War.
DEAUVILLE / TROUVILLE / HONFLEUR: Driving along the "Flowered Coast", three picture perfect towns stand out: the glamorous resort town of Deauville, home to the rich and famous (and a film festival), is a thriving vacation spot of luxury hotels, casinos, race tracks, golf courses and polo grounds. Its twin city, Trouville, separated from Deauville by the River Touques is a more sedate fishing village. Both towns boast wide sandy beaches. Further along the coast you find Honfleur, considered the birthplace of impressionist painting. This charming harbour village, with narrow timbered houses dates from the 11th century has always attracted artists, among them Monet and the poet Baudelaire.
MONT SAINT MICHEL: The enchanting Abbey of Mont-St-Michel is perched precariously on an 80m high rocky islet, connected to mainland France by a causeway. Surrounded by over half a mile of massive walls and reached by a steep climb up winding streets, it remains one of the greatest sightseeing attractions in Europe and the second most visited place in France after the Eiffel Tower. Mont-St. Michel is also known for its tides, the highest on the continent, which race towards the isle at the speed of "galloping horses". A priest's repeated dreams of St. Michael led to the multi-century building of the monastery and town below; the monastery to this day holds daily masses in Latin
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