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.
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.
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.
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!
There are many good reasons to plan a visit to the Champagne District. By focussing on the two Champagne “capitals”—the city of Reims and the town of Épernay, the visitor is missing out on so many other attractions of this unique area. This region is rich with World Heritage sites, history and art. It’s easy to spend a couple of extra days divided between châteaux and vineyards, extensive underground cellars—called crayères—hewn out of the chalky earth, wandering through charming little villages, or hiking along quiet country footpaths and forests. Some say it’s out in the countryside with its innumerable tiny villages where you’ll find the true beating heart of the Champagne District.