Mini guide to Normandy, France
The rocky tidal island of Mont St Michel on the Normandy coast. (Donald C. & Priscilla Alexander Eastman/LPI)
Famous for the Bayeux Tapestry, the D-Day Landings and fortified Mont St-Michel, Normandy’s eventful history draws in visitors. Equally beguiling are the pastoral landscapes, small fishing ports, dramatic coastline – and distinctive regional cuisine, with Camembert and cider taking pride of place.
Normandy’s 25-mile Route du Cidre starts east of Caen and wends through the Pays d’Auge, a rural area of orchards, through villages such as Beuvron-en-Auge. On the way, Cru de Cambremer signs direct you to local producers happy to sell you their homegrown cider.
Rouen’s centre is a medley of architectural treasures. The main thoroughfare, rue du Gros Horloge, is spanned by an impressive Gothic belfry and nearby are the grand Notre Dame cathedral and Place du Vieux Marché, where Joan of Arc was executed.
The Maison et Jardins de Claude Monet in Giverny was home to the painter for the last 43 years of his life. His pink house and Water Lily studio stand on the periphery of the Clos Normand (00 332 32 512821; 84 rue Claude-Monet, Giverny; 9.30am- 6pm Apr-Oct; £7).
The world’s most celebrated embroidery, the Bayeux Tapestry, is in the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux and recounts the Norman invasion of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror (00 332 31 512550; rue de Nesmond, Bayeux; daily; £7).
Trouville is a laid-back beach resort for weekending Parisians. The historic town was frequented by painters and writers during the 19th century, including Mozin and Flaubert, no doubt lured here by the sandy, mile-long beach. Nearby Honfleur is an amazingly picturesque old fishing port.
Eat and drink
Bayeux’s La Reine Mathilde is a sumptuous, turn-of-thecentury pâtisserie and salon de thé where you can sample soft nougats and fruit tarts beneath ornate chandeliers (00 332 31 920059; 47 rue St-Martin, Bayeux; breakfast, lunch and tea Tue-Sun; cakes from £2).
Caen’s warm and unpretentious Le Bouchon du Vaugueux is well worth booking for. Popular with locals, it serves spectacular modern Norman cooking such as fried chanterelle mushrooms and snails with red beetroot emulsion (00 332 31 442626; 4 rue Graindorge, Caen; lunch and dinner Tue-Sat; mains £8-£14).
Les Vapeurs, Trouville’s most famous restaurant, is a home from home for Parisian weekenders in designer shades. The menu focuses on local fish and seafood dishes served up in grand brasserie style (00 332 31 884585; 160 quail Fernand Moureaux, Trouville; lunch and dinner; mains £8-£25).
Double Michelin-starred Gill serves gastronomic French cuisine by the banks of the River Seine. Try the Rouen-style pigeon stewed in vegetable consommé (00 332 35 711614; gill.fr; 8-9 quai de la Bourse, Rouen; lunch and dinner Tue-Sat; mains £20-£30).
Les Nymphéas bases its cuisine on local ingredients, including cider, giving a rich Norman twist to dishes such as farm-raised wild duck, scallops and lobster (00 332 35 892669; 7-9 rue de la Pie, Rouen; lunch and dinner Tue-Sat; mains £20-£45).
Stay in 17th-century La Maison Normande and you’ll feel like you’re visiting your Norman grandma. The cottage-style rooms are decorated in warm colours and toile de jouy wallpaper. The best have views of the nearby Gothic church (00 332 31 881225; 4 place du Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny, Trouville; from £42).
Occupying a red 19th-century seaside villa in the centre of Trouville, Le Fer à Cheval has 34 comfortable rooms with large French windows and wrought-iron balconies. Owned by a retired baker, the croissants at breakfast are a treat (00 332 31 983020; 11 rue Victor Hugo, Trouville; from £75).
The impressive 18th-century Château de Bellefontaine, one mile outside Bayeux, is surrounded by a five-acre park. The spacious rooms have views over a tranquil brook. The suites in the converted barn are more modern and rather less charming (00 332 31 220010; 49 rue de Bellefontaine, Bayeux; from £105).
La Maison de Lucie in Honfleur is the former home of novelist Lucie Mardrus. Its rooms are decorated with antiques and contemporary objets d’art, and some have fantastic views of the Pont de Normandie – the world's second-longest cable-stayed bridge (00 332 31 144040; 44 rue des Capucins, Honfleur; from £128).
The elegant conversion of Hôtel de Bourgtheroulde adds some glamour to Rouen’s hotel scene. A 15th-century mansion house, the modern rooms have wood-panelling (00 332 35 145050; 15 place de la Pucelle, Rouen; from £180).
Trains serve Rouen, Amiens, Caen, Bayeux and Le Havre. Elsewhere, you’ll be relying on local buses. Car hire is best if you want to explore the countryside and coast. Avis and Europcar have offices in Rouen train station (£25 per day).
Ferries run from Portsmouth to Cherbourg (£125) and Le Havre (£200). Taking a car by Eurotunnel costs £53 one way. Rouen is reached by train from London, via Paris (£90). Paris has flights from Edinburgh (£105).