A moving rendezvous with history - Normandy
(Départements 76, 14 and 50)
The Normandy coastline stretches for nearly 640km via a series of smaller "côtes" with incredibly evocative names: Côte d’Albâtre (Alabaster Coast), Côte Fleurie (Flower Coast), Côte de Nacre (Mother of Pearl Coast), and so on. From Le Tréport to Cancale, the Normandy coast is a long succession of flat beaches and spectacular cliffs.
It is also a region marked by history with a capital H.
The Côte d’Albâtre extends from the charming resort of Le Tréport to the large port of Le Havre, the superb post-war reconstruction of which resulted in the supreme accolade of a UNESCO World Heritage Site listing. Its cliffs form an imposing wall of chalk which rise in places to over 100m in height. As you travel from one place to the next, you'll come across valleys and narrow creeks which are home to fishing ports and tourist resorts.
These include Étretat, known around the world for its monumental arch at the Aval cliffs, Dieppe, a large port within easy range of the English coast, and Rouen, the city of a hundred bell towers.
From the Seine to the Orne, a succession of meadows and apple orchards in the Pays d'Auge makes way for a shoreline bordered by terraces with flower beds, shaded alleyways and elegant villas. The 40km-long Côte Fleurie, meanwhile, is a mix of sandy beaches, cliffs and rocks, as well as traditional seaside resorts with timeless charm and a unique personality, such as Deauville, Trouville, Honfleur and Cabourg, known for its "Plage des Romantiques."
D-Day Landing Beaches - Côte de Nacre and Côte du Bessin
The beaches in the British and Canadian (Sword, Juno and Gold) and American (Omaha and Utah) sectors are located one after the other between Ouistreham and Sainte-Marie-du-Mont.
Some of these have retained their wartime names, which have permanently replaced their original names.
Arromanches and its artificial harbor, military cemeteries, the Pointe du Hoc (a symbol of the courage of young American soldiers), museums, monuments, marker stones, cannons and tanks are all a reminder of the fighting that raged there. These sandy beaches will always be a place of remembrance as well as a place of recreation where holidaymakers now come to enjoy a multitude of water sports.
Caen, on the banks of the Orne river, is just a few kilometres from the landing beaches, and was a key city in the reconquest of France from the day after the landings. The famous Mémorial de Caen, nearby, is an impressive museum mainly dedicated to the history of the Second World War, as well as to the history of the 20th century and to the noble cause of peace.
The Cotentin peninsula
Following on from the vague sandy outline of the Baie des Veys, the rocky spur of the Northern Cotentin juts out into the sea. This isolated landscape is dotted with wild cliffs and lined by a shore backed by moorland abundant in heather and gorse. The Jobourg cliffs, rising to a height of 128m, are the highest in Europe. In the distance, to the north, the profile of the coast is more gentle, heralding the extensive beaches of the west coast. To the west of the Cotentin, off the coast of the Manche département, the Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Herm and Sark are renowned for their enchanting landscapes.
The town of Cherbourg occupies a superb strategic location at the northern tip of the Cotentin peninsula, right in the middle of the English Channel.
Sheltered from the winds from the north and east, the west coast benefits from the warm currents of the Gulf Stream. This 100km-long ribbon of sand, punctuated here and there by rocks and small ports with melancholic charm, culminates in the magnificent site of Mont Saint Michel, a marvel of the Western world. Here, the beaches are some of the sunniest in the region and the galloping tides are the highest in Europe.