Are you thinking of moving to France but want to be not much more than a Channel hop away? This is why many Brits are interested in the Normandy region so let us help you by giving you some info on normandie.
Where is the Normandy region?
Normandy, situated in the north west of France and bordering (clockwise) Picardy, Ile de France, Centre, Western Loire, Brittany and the English Channel, really consists of two regions: Upper Normandy and Lower Normandy.
Upper Normandy, as the name suggests, covers the northern part and has two departments Eure (27) and Seine-Maritime (76). The capital is Rouen, an important city in history and one that probably most people associate with Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) whose execution by burning took place here. Quite a few historic structures have survived e.g. the Cathedral of Notre Dame, as have many lovely half-timbered buildings. Nowadays this city, birthplace of Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary), is a dynamic industrial and commercial centre.
Lower Normandy covers the southern part of Normandy and has three departments : Calvados (14), Manche (50)and Orne (61). Here the capital is Caen, also a city with a rich history but most of the city was destroyed during WWII and although it has been rebuilt and is now an industrial city it misses the charm of e.g. Rouen. Some of its historical heritage has survived though e.g. Château Ducal dating back to the time of William the Conqueror, who was buried in Caen.
What is there in the Normandy region?
Normandy, once part of ancient Gaul, is surely one of the most historic and fascinating regions of France. There are many castles, each with great stories to tell, but we will mention just two: Richard The Lionheart's Château Gaillard in the Seine Valley and Falaise, the birthplace of William the Conqueror, the man who played such an important part in the history of England.
Normandy has a long coast, some parts are very beautiful like the chalk cliffs by Étretat and some parts stir very different emotions: the Normandy landing beaches.
Along the coast you will find France's second largest seaport Le Havre. This busy, industrial area forms such a contrast to Honfleur, which is a few miles further south. It is an incredibly charming 11th century port, an artists' (Monet, Baudelaire) and art-lovers' paradise, nowadays swarming with tourists. Talking of which, what about one of France's greatest tourist attractions, the absolutely stunning sight of the Benedictine Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel perched on a rocky islet which rises out of the water. Having such an enormous coastline it is needless to say that fishing and water sports are important.
Normandy has always been popular with artists, especially painters who love the light and the variety of subjects to paint. Probably the most beautiful part of the river Seine flows through Normandy, from Vernon to Les Andelys and here too many painters, poets, writers and even kings have settled. Giverny, right by Vernon, is where Claude Monet lived and died and you can visit his house, now a museum, and the charming gardens incl. ponds with water-lilies.
Normandy is known for its lovely rolling countryside, its lush farmland, picturesque villages both on the coast and inland and its bustling market towns as well as cities. It is largely agricultural, diary – the cheeses have the wow factor - and orchards growing apples which are used to make cider and the region's famous Calvados, an apple-brandy. You will also encounter a great love of horses in Normandy. There are horse shows, competitions and some well known breeding estates e.g. Haras du Pin.
Climate of Normandy:
This region has a maritime climate which means that the winters are often relatively mild but it can freeze and snow. The summers get better the further south you go, where it can get quite hot whilst in the north it is more like a summer in the south east of England. Normandy can be quite windy and wet too especially in autumn, in fact ,the weather is quite changeable.
Property in the Normandy region:
The region is very popular with the Brits despite the weather not being all that different. It is convenient for popping over to the UK, if necessary, and Paris is not all that far either. If you want to live on or near the coast property is not exactly cheap but further inland you have more of a chance of finding something at a reasonable price.
Food and cider in Normandy:
You will find just about everything here from healthy seafood, fruit and an abundance of veggies to the maybe not so healthy but oh so delicious creamy sauces (with a dash of calvados) and buttery cuisine. The meat and poultry, patés, casseroles, sweet and savoury pancakes, fruit tarts all make life worth living and we haven't mentioned the boulangerie or patisserie yet! Some very famous cheeses are produced here, Pont-l' Évêque, Livarot and let's not forget Camembert comes from Normandy and from all those apples they make not only scrumptious tarts but of course cider, pommeau and Calvados, an apple brandy.
Getting to Normandy :
Although there are airports in Caen and Le Havre, we cannot find any direct flights to the UK or Ireland from either. You may want to use an airline which flies to Paris (e.g. British Airways, Air France, easyjet, Flybe, Jet2) and then either fly to a regional airport, take the train or go by car. As always, beware of the low cost airlines, we do not know how long the service will last.
You have a choice of ferry ports (see below) : Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre, Dieppe or Calais (where the crossing might be cheaper) and of course you can use the Channel Tunnel. There is a good road network.
The region has a good regular train network but for high speed services have a look at this website.
Dieppe : Transmanche/ LD Lines Ferries to Newhaven
Le Havre : LD Lines to Portsmouth
Caen : Brittany Ferries to Portsmouth
Cherbourg : Brittany Ferries to Portsmouth&Poole but not during the winter months, Condor Ferries from Portsmouth but only in summer.
St Malo just over the border in Brittany : Brittany Ferries to Portsmouth, Condor Ferries to Poole (usually from May to September) and hopefully Weymouth once repairs to the ferry port are completed.
If you travel over the border further north into Nord you can take the Norfolkline/DFDS Seaways from Dunkerque to Dover in the far north, P&O Ferries, LD Lines or MyFerryLink from Calais to Dover.
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