- Fecund farmland-on-sea
- Country life
- Beachcombing, rustic roaming
A vast rural region of castles, Camembert and clifftops, Normandy is as rich in history as it is in mouthwatering rustic produce.
Normandy’s miles of fertile field and orchard are its heart and soul; Channel-side, sandy strands and chalky cliffs are punctuated by ports great and small, as well as elegant seaside resorts such as Deauville and Trouville. It is weightily historic, the place where William the Conqueror was born, Joan of Arc perished at the stake, and Allied forces invaded and liberated Europe during World War II; you’ll find rich pickings among castles, cathedrals and museums. Gastronomically, Normandy is celebrated for Camembert, oysters, forestfuls of fungi, and all things appley, from sugar candy to Calvados. And don’t fret about food miles – in a fat-of-the-land destination like this one, your lunch will have travelled no more than yards.
Apples. Fresh from the orchard or fortified into Calvados brandy, this humble fruit is the bedrock of Norman cuisine. Find them filling tarts, fermented into cider, pickled into chutney, and flavouring mussel dishes. Pommeau is particularly lovely, an aged blend of Calvados and apple juice and, mercifully, half the strength of apple brandy. Uncork it with a creamy blue cheese for company.
- There are few Norman towns big enough to warrant cabbing it. In Rouen, you’ll find taxi stands on both sides of the river. Caen’s pick-up points include the train station. In remoter areas, ask your hotel to book a car for you.
- Tipping culture
- A 15 per cent service charge is included in French restaurant and café bills by law; it is also usual to round up the bill or leave a few euros. Tip taxis 10 per cent.
- Siesta and fiesta
- In bigger towns, shops are open 9am–7pm, banks 9am–5pm. Banks close on Saturday afternoons, and most businesses have a two-day weekend on Sundays and Mondays. In small towns and villages, shops generally shut 12pm–2pm.
- Packing tips
- A sturdy, airtight Tupperware box, into which you can seal your homebound Camembert, leaving your luggage unperfumed.
- Recommended reads
- Madame Bovary in particular, of Rouen-born Gustave Flaubert’s novels. Short stories by Guy de Maupassant (we love 'Boule de Suif'). Jane Webster’s Normandy-themed book of photographs, stories and recipes, At My French Table.
- Typically, Norman food is steeped in country tradition. There’s cider from Pays d’Auge, Calvados from its namesake département, and a thousand creamy cheeses, including Camembert, Livarot and Pont-l’Evêque. Normandy also has its own version of dulce de leche, called confiture de lait.
- Euro (€).
- Time zone
- GMT +1.
- Dialling codes
- France: 33. Normandy: 02 (drop the zero when ringing from abroad).
- Do go/don't go
- As you’d expect of a northwesterly, coastal area, Normandy can be wet and windy. July and August are the sunniest months, June and September quieter. Whenever you go, take rainy-day gear. As you’d expect of a northwesterly, coastal area, Normandy can be wet and windy. July and August are the sunniest months, June and September quieter. Whenever you go, take rainy-day gear.
Don't go home without...
…seeing the Bayeux tapestry, 70 metres wide and 1,000 years old, a crazily detailed chronicle in cloth. Starring Edward the Confessor, William the Conqueror and the unlucky Harold, it’s a pictorial account of William’s rise to the throne of England, and its immediacy affords a true frisson. See it at the museum in central Bayeux on Rue de Nesmond (+33 (0)2 31 51 25 50; www.tapisserie-bayeux.fr).