The boardwalk of Deauville is legendary, tempting visitors to tread in the steps of the stars of cinema in between a spot of fabulous shopping in the town’s prestigious stores and a visit to the number one attraction in Normandy – the Mont-Saint-Michel. However, as extraordinary as it is, this icon of monastic art doesn’t totally eclipse other exceptional Norman treasures.
When you visit Normandy you’ll discover bucolic countryside where delicious cheeses abound, majestic cliffs steeped in myth, and unspoiled seaside towns immortalised by the painters of the Impressionist movement. There are immense sandy beaches, some of which are memorials to key events of the Second World War.
A land of memorials
At Omaha Beach, near Colleville-sur-Mer, 9387 surnames are recorded on simple white crosses planted in an ocean of pristine lawn: An homage to the American soldiers of World War II who fell during the Battle for Normandy in 1944. Between Sainte-Marie du Mont and Ouistreham, five Normandy landing beaches safeguard the memory of the largest amphibious and airborne operation of all time. And in Caen, at the Peace Memorial, extraordinary museography plunges visitors into the dark atmosphere of the greatest conflict in history.
Go back much further in time to 1066 and The Battle of Hastings when William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, conquered England. The almost thousand year old history of the dramatic events is captured in the Bayeux Tapestry, a 70-metre-long embroidered chronicle and an incredible masterpiece of Romanesque art.
Cinema in Normandy
Make your cinematic debut in Deauville! Just head to the famous boardwalk: 643 metres of wooden walkway which hosts the movie elite each September for the American Film Festival. Think Hollywood Hall of Fame meets Normandy as the names of the finest in film are featured alongside Deauville’s Art Deco boardwalk beach huts…
Located in a beautiful bay, the remarkable silhouette of the castle perched atop a rocky island is an unforgettable sight. If you visit Normandy then you’re sure to want to visit the Mont Saint-Michel. But how do you reach it when it’s cut off by the tide? One way is to take a free shuttle bus that drops passengers off just 400 metres from the entrance.
But, for the most glorious views of the island, the best way to visit is on foot via the pedestrianised bridge. When you arrive, climb steep stairs which rise between the quaint shops and medieval courtyards to reach the highlight of Mont Saint-Michel: The Abbey. This major site of Christian pilgrimage has witnessed 13 centuries of history. Visit the former dining hall with its imposing chimneys, the scriptorium, refectory and cloisters from where you will have the most beautiful views over the bay.
Normandy, the cradle of impressionism
When you visit Normandy, you walk in the footsteps of Claude Monet, considered a leader of the Impressionist movement. He spent the winter of 1868 painting in the port of Etretat and was drawn by its beauty to return many times. The changing light and vistas on the dizzying white chalk cliffs inspired several artists to capture its splendour on canvas. But it was at Le Havre that Claude Monet created Impression, Sunrise - the painting which gave its name to the aesthetic movement. Facing the sea, the Museum of Modern Art André Malraux - MuMa Le Havre reflects this artistic birth: The Impressionist collection is the second most important in France after the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
Monet lived in Le Havre and explored the Normandy coast from there for several years. But, it was in Giverny, a small village in the Eure not far from Paris, that he settled in 1883, sealing the link between Normandy and Ile-de-France, the two cradles of Impressionism. In Giverny, the Claude Monet Foundation today ensures that the artist’s house and gorgeous gardens are preserved as they were when he lived there. Don’t miss a trip to the Musée des Impressionnismes when you visit Giverny, here you’ll discover how the movement achieved global recognition.
Complete your exploration at the beautiful Castle Museum at Dieppe harbour, where the vogue for sea bathing in France was born. Impressionism is well represented here with works by Pissaro and Boudin who was himself a native of Normandy.
You can’t have great Norman cheese without great Norman cows. They’re a breed renowned for the quality of their milk. Normandy’s cheeses often have distinctive aromas, just think of Camembert which originated in a village of the same name. Since it was adored by Napoleon III, it’s success had the royal seal of approval. Click here to discover all about Norman cheeses.