ROUEN- NORMANDY’S VIBRANT, HISTORIC & CULTURAL CAPITAL

The Gros Horloge Rouen. Photo, travelawaits

Situated on the banks of the river Seine, Rouen is the capital of the Haute Normandie region.  An active port and commercial city even in the Roman era and Middle ages, Rouen has a number of ornate Gothic churches, beautiful medieval half-timbered houses, a cobblestoned pedestrian centre and its famous astronomical clock.  Even if you’ve never been there, you’ll likely to recognise its Cathedral of Notre Dame from the numerous paintings of Claude Monet and J.M.W. Turner, and of course, know it as the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431.  As well as its long, and often turbulent history, Rouen is also a modern city known for its art, culture and excellent food.

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HISTORIC NORMANDY – FROM THE BAYEUX TAPESTRY, CHÂTEAUX, MEDIEVAL TOWNS & A RICH CUISINE

Beauvour-Druval, on the Route de Cidre. Photo, tripadvisor

Normandy offers a rich feast of contrasts for the visitor, ranging from fashionable beach resorts, stunning scenery that inspired the Impressionists and the dramatic coast of the D-Day Landings, which we’ve touched on in the last couple of blogs.  There’s a whole lot more to explore though, from historic artefacts, medieval fairs and ruined abbeys, to châteaux, cheeses, cider, conquerors and the childhood home of one of the greatest couturiers of the 20th century.

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NORMANDY AND THE D-DAY LANDINGS

‘The Braves’ sculpture on Omaha Beach. Photo, ricksteves

As well as the delightful seaside towns such as Deauville, Trouville and Honfleur and the extraordinary natural phenomena of Étretat, there’s another important aspect of the Normandy coast.  It’s something of a pilgrimage site for travellers who want to visit the landscape of the momentous day that changed the course of history.  The D-Day Landings just before dawn on 06 June 1944 were nothing less than the largest and most complex combined airborne and amphibious military operation of all time.

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EXPLORING SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF NORMANDY’S NORTH COAST

The dramatic white falaises at Etretat. Photo, faceebook-LaNormandie

If Deauville is the most recognised resort in Normandy, with its long, sandy beach, grand Belle Epoque hotels and typical Norman houses, it’s only the introduction to so many outstanding attractions that the region has to offer with its beautiful, varied scenery and rich history.  Boasting gorgeous countryside, coastline and woodlands, as well as impressive castles, splendid churches, plus picturesque ancient towns and villages, Normandy is the perfect destination for the visitor.  Here we’ll look at just a small selection, not far from Deauville.

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DEAUVILLE, THE RIVIERA OF NORMANDY, AND COCO CHANEL

Sketch of Coco Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld, attached to the shop where she opened her first boutique. Photo, thegoodlifefrance

Just 2 ½ hrs from Paris by train, Deauville is a favourite destination for many well-heeled Parisians looking for a weekend getaway.  It’s often referred to as the Queen of the Normandy coast, ‘Paris-sur-Mer’ or the Kingdom of Elegance.  Notable for its long sandy beach, beautiful Belle Epoque hotels, casino and racecourses, Deauville has been a playground for the rich and famous since the mid 19th century.  There was a second wave of development at the turn of the century, and Deauville became a favourite resort with the “fast set” including the dashing English polo player, ‘Boy’ Capel and his mistress, Coco Chanel.  She was quick to see the town’s potential for the leisured classes to indulge themselves further with some retail therapy, and opened her first shop here in 1913, marking the beginning of her fashion empire.  Deauville has also been the background for countless films—the infamous Lord Lucan was once screen tested for the role of James Bond here!

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