The Normandy Region of France (Normandie in French) is divided into two parts: Haute-Normandie (Upper Normandy) which consists of the Eure and Seine-Maritime departments and Basse-Normandie (Lower Normandy) which consists of the Orne, Calvados (home to Calvados apple brandy) and Manche departments.
Every part of France suffered from the effects of World War II but Normandy France had more physical damage than any other region. Here in Normandy you will find cemeteries, memorials and a host of museums to the D-Day landings. But it is not all a war memory. Normandy France is a beautiful region with coastal resorts, beautiful cathedrals and an amazing abbey, Mont Saint Michel.
The capital of Normandy is Rouen. Located on the Seine River, Rouen is the city of Joan of Arc. St Joan was burned at the stake here on May 30, 1431. Rouen is a pedestrian friendly city that sports cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, an amazing Gothic cathedral and an ornate Gros-Horlage (Great Clock).
Northeast of Rouen, Étretat is one of several Normandy beach resorts. The arched chalk headlands are beautiful and a cathedral size cave is accessible from the beach.
The coastline between Caen and Cherbourg is best known for the Allied D-Day landing beaches and the Battle of Normandy that ultimately liberated France. A visit to La Pointe du Hoc allows you walk through craters left by the D-Day bombings and go inside German bunkers. My visit there left an indelible imprint on my heart. The Caen Memorial is also well worth a visit as it contains information and displays from World War II through the Cold War.
While in this region you can also visit the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, near Omaha beach. In fact, the cemetery sits on a cliff overlooking Omaha beach. The German cemetary is a stark contrast to the American cemetery as you can see from the two pictures below.
After a visit to the D-Day beaches it is less than 2 hours by car to Mont Saint Michel. Quicksands and sudden tides separate Mont Saint Michel from the mainland. This amazing abbey is connect ot the mainland via a causeway and a shuttle.
If you only have time for a day trip to Normandy, Giverney is a short 1 hour 15 minute drive from Paris. By train (Paris / Rouen / Le Havre railway line) it is only 45 minutes but be prepared to either walk or cycle the very agreeable path the 4 kilometres to Monet’s gardens or take the shuttle bus. Wandering through the gardens that inspired Claude Monet is better than a museum, I think. They are at their best in early summer when everything is in full bloom and also early in the day before they become too crowded.
Map of Normandy France
Click on map for interactive version