visitors dedicate just a few days to explore historic Normandy, Iberian
Traveler has prepared an in-depth journey to explore its architectural
treasures, ancient fishing ports, fashionable coastal resorts, and beautiful
rolling farmland of this large and diverse region, and of course, the many
important battleground sites of World War II’s Allied Invasion.
River, flowing northwest from Paris into the English Channel, divides Normandy
into two regions, Haute (Upper) and Basse (Lower) Normandie. Because of its size, your exploration
of Normandy can also be divided into two distinct parts, beginning with four
days in the north, in Haute Normandie
before moving south for another week in Basse Normandie, the picture
postcard world of half-timbered cottages, apple orchards, grazing cows, the
classic Normandy of the four Cs - Cider, Camembert, Calvados and Crème.
begin your exploration in the Norman capital of Rouen, the
lively, cultured gateway city on the banks of the River Seine. Rich in history, it was where William
the Conqueror died in 1087 and where 19th century novelist Gustave Flaubert,
author of Madam Bovary, was born.
Known for its magnificent Gothic spires and superb medieval
architecture, 45% of the city was destroyed by bombing raids during World War
II. But its beautiful medieval
core has been so magnificently restored, it is difficult to imagine the scale
of the damage it suffered during the Battle of Normandy.
Highlights of Rouen, Capital of Haute-Normandie
atmospheric old quarter, Vieux Rouen, is filled with highly
picturesque half-timbered homes, and a fine Musée de Beaux Arts,
richly endowed with the Impressionist masterpieces of Monet, Sisley, Pissarro
and Renoir. Its Ceramic
Museum is devoted to 17th and 18th century Rouen faïence,
decorated earthenware. You’ll also
find the great abbey church of St-Ouen in Vieux Rouen and
of course the sights associated with Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc),
patron saint of France, who was tried for witchcraft and burned at the stake in
the city’s historic market square in 1431.
of the finest church architecture in France can be found in Rouen, in
particular its cathedral, one of Europe’s finest Gothic masterpieces, whose
west façade Monet painted 28 times in his studies of changing light. The
16th century stain glass windows of Eglise Sainte Jeanne d’Arc Rouen, salvaged
from the original church of Saint Vincent, severely damaged in 1944, are
the third day in Rouen you journey eastward by car to the picture perfect
postcard village of Lyons-la-Fôret, chock filled with flower
bedecked 17th century timber framed houses (one, the former residence of
composer Maurice Ravel) and the hamlet used as the set for the Madame
Bovary films. The village sits
within one of Europe’s finest beech grove forest.
Monet’s studio-gardens at Giverny and on to the ruins of Richard
the Lionheart’sChâteau-Gaillard in Le Petit-Andely.
the fourth day you drive west through the highly scenic Seine valley, exploring
the evocative Romanesque Abbey Route; the haunting ruins of Jumièges,
the abbey church and gardens of St-Georges de Boscherville
and the ruins of St-Wandrille before reaching the dramatic Alabaster
Coast, with its eighty miles of lofty white chalk cliffs, some 120
meters high, reminiscent of the white cliffs of Dover and much loved by the
the pretty port village of Étretat, with its shingle beaches and
colorful timbered houses, on each side of the beach, you see the striking
alabaster cliffs at their most spectacular, where the wind and waves have
carved fascinating rock formations or falaises: arches, tunnels and a
solitary “needle” out to the sea, the Falais d’Aval, immortalized
on so many Impressionists’ canvases.
the ancient cod-fishing port of Fécamp you will sample the “medicinal
elixir”, first concocted from local wild plants by the Bénédictine monk Dom Bernardo Vincelli in the 16th century and
now one of the world’s most famous digestives, B&B, Bénédictine
& Brandy, at the wildly ornate, Neo-Gothic distillery, Le Palais
gastronomic discoveries in Rouen included the sleek contemporary bistro Le
37, 37 rue St-Étienne-des-Tonneliers, opened by Michelin starred chef Gilles Tournadre, and the
charmingly traditional le Bistrot de Panurge on Rue Ecuyère,
where we feasted on its delectable gigot, roast leg of lamb.
You can stop for lunch at the country-cute Le Grand Cerf with
open kitchenin picturesque village of Lyons-la-Fôret,and, on your
fourth day, while on the Côte d’Albâtre,
Alabaster Coast, at the family-owned seafood restaurant-fish market of La
Marée, while visiting Fécamp.
4-day base for exploring Upper Normandy we chose a very charming and slightly
hidden treasure of a B&B, Le Clos Jouvenet. This little
4-room gem is a quite sophisticated yet reasonably priced 19th century mansion
located in a calm, architecturally interesting and well-to-do residential
neighborhood, Quartier Jouvenet, on a hill above the hustle and bustle of the
city. Yet we were within a
15-minute walk of its compact medieval core.
pretty home with its refined décor is surrounded by a walled, tree-filled
garden, making it a haven of tranquility.
From our large, handsome, well-appointed room we enjoyed a view of the
cathedral spires and slept soundly in the comfortable queen bed dressed with
fine linens. The house boasts a cozy upstairs library with computer for guests’
use, a designer-chic, antique-filled living room with open fireplace and a
charming winter garden where guests can relax in the evening and dine on a
light repast of local cheeses, bread and Norman cider purchased at the high
quality neighborhood epicerie,charcuterie and boulangerie.
delicious, gourmet continental-plus breakfasts, elegantly presented on antique
silver, china and crystal, can be taken in the formal dining room or in the
conservatory facing the garden and are included in the room rate. The owners
also provide sun loungers and tables in the well-manicured garden,
complimentary W-Fi and off-street parking.
Clos Jouvenet simply delivered with style all the creature
comforts we needed for a truly perfect stay. Thanks to the genuinely warm
welcome, attention to detail and excellent touring and dining advice from its
gracious hostess, Madame De Witte, we began our Norman adventures on a most
cosseting and relaxing note. We
highly recommend this lovely chambre d’hôte, one of the very finest
European B&Bs we have experienced!
highly recommend a Normandy holiday for all lovers of French art, history and
literature. Ask Iberian Traveler
to prepare a special, very unique, package for you to this captivating
northwestern corner of France