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Normandy combines a 360-mile dramatic coastline, with a verdant interior of lush farmland, bustling market towns, and historic landmarks such as the cities of Caen, Bayeux and Rouen. Gastronomic delights abound, from fine cheeses to cider and great seafood.
Gastronomy Parts of Normandy consist of rolling countryside typified by pasture for dairy cattle and apple orchards. A wide range of dairy products are produced and exported. Norman cheeses include Camembert, Livarot, Pont l'Evêque, Brillat-Savarin, Neufchâtel, Petit Suisse and Boursin. Its butter and cream are lavishly used in gastronomic specialties. Fish and seafood are of superior quality in Normandy – turbot and oysters from the Cotentin peninsula are major delicacies throughout France.
This is a major cider-producing area. Perry (a pear brandy) is also produced, but in less significant quantities. Apple brandy, of which the most famous variety is calvados, is also popular. The mealtime “trou normand”, or Norman break, is a pause between meal courses in which diners partake of a glassful of calvados, and is still observed in many homes and restaurants. Apples are also used in cooking: for example, “moules à la normande” are mussels cooked with apples and cream, “bourdelots” are apples baked in pastry, partridges are flamed with reinette apples, and localities all over the province have their own variation of apple tart.
Other regional specialities include “tripes à la mode de Caen”, “andouilles” and “andouillettes”, salt meadow (pré salé) lamb, seafood (mussels, scallops, lobsters, mackerel…), and “teurgoule” (spiced rice pudding). Normandy dishes include duckling “à la rouennaise”, sautéed chicken “yvetois”, and goose “en daube”. Rabbit is cooked with morels, or à la havraise (stuffed with truffled pigs' trotters). Other dishes are casseroled veal, larded calf's liver braised with carrots, and veal (or turkey) in cream and mushrooms. Normandy is also noted for its pastries – it is the birthplace of brioches (especially those from Évreux and Gisors) and also turns out “douillons” (pears baked in pastry), “craquelins”, “roulettes” in Rouen, “fouaces” in Caen, “fallues” in Lisieux. Confectionery of the region includes Rouen apple sugar, Isigny caramels, Bayeux mint chews, Falaise berlingots, Le Havre marzipans, Argentan “croquettes”, and Rouen macaroons. The region boasts a number of excellent restaurants and has a total of 28 Michelin stars.
History Normandy may have been populated since time immemorial but its historical identity the Norman Invasion (Danes, Norwegians) from whence it gets its name. It will also be forever linked with Britain, at least in the British Isles, for one of the most important events in Mediaeval history was the Conquest of England by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy - in 1066 - and with it he gained the crown of England. The famous Bayeux tapestry depicts the pivotal battle of Hastings with William victorious and King Harold of England vanquished, killed by an arrow in the eye. It set the stage for a rivalry between France and Britain that was to last for centuries. By the time of the Hundred Years War, Normandy was in turn invaded by the English, most notably by Henry the 5th in 1415. The end of this major war meant a relative return to prosperity but subsequent religious wars, when many Norman towns, including Alençon, Rouen, Caen and Bayeux joined the reformation meant an eventual loss of status and privileges. In terms of recent history the region set the stage for the Normandy landings of 1944, in effect the biggest landing operation of WW2 and the beginning of the end of the war itself.
Culture The Breton language is the only Celtic language spoken on the continent. Like in Scotland, Wales and Ireland on the British Isles, there is a real movement in favour of keeping the old language alive in Normandy today. The Dukes of Normandy commissioned and inspired epic literature to record and legitimise their rule. After the division of 1204, French literature provided the model for the development of the arts – Olivier Basselin wrote of the Vaux de Vire, the origin of literary “vaudeville”. The Corneille brothers, Pierre and Thomas, born in Rouen, were great figures of French classical literature, while David Ferrand (1591-1660) in his “Muse Normande” established a landmark of Norman language literature. Romanticism drew painters to the Channel coasts of Normandy – Bonington and Turner crossed its waters from Great Britain, attracted by the light and landscapes. From the 1860s, “plein-air” painters, who worked outside the studio, were attracted to Normandy by the ease of railway access from Paris and the development of a market among the growing number of affluent tourists visiting the coasts of Calvados. Eugène Boudin's paintings of fashionable seaside scenes are typical of this period. Claude Monet's water lily garden at Giverny is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region – it was his “Impression, Sunrise” that led to the movement being dubbed "Impressionism". French is the only official language in continental Normandy, whilst English is also an official language in the Channel Islands.
Architecturally, Norman cathedrals, abbeys (such as the Abbey of Bec) and castles characterize the former Duchy in a way that mirrors the similar pattern of Norman architecture in England following the Norman Conquest of 1066. Vernacular architecture in lower Normandy takes its form from granite, the predominant local building material. The Channel Islands also share this influence – Chausey was for many years a source of quarried granite, including that used for the construction of Mont Saint-Michel. The south part of Bagnoles-de-l'Orne is filled with bourgeois villas in “Belle Époque” style with polychrome facades, bay windows and unique roofing. This area, built between 1886 and 1914, has an authentic “Bagnolese” style and is typical of high-society country vacation of the time
Activities Normandy is a country full of contrasts, a mixture of seaside and countryside that will fire the imagination of the lovers of culture and greenery. It is a region full of natural resources – rivers, woods, and never too far from the seaside. The small fishing ports have become through the years famous seaside resorts where people from all over the world like to spend their holidays.
But while many will make the most of the beaches and lovely ports, the countryside still attracts lots of tourists with its nice prairies and green fields, remaining a nice and quiet place to relax and enjoy nature. With its undulating landscapes and green fields, Normandy will offer you fantastic and authentic sceneries. You will also discover manors, abbeys, chateaux and many other traditional places to keep lovely memories from! The Horse Country, that’s how we could also describe Normandy, with its prestigious stud farms and very famous races that are a very traditional event in this region, above all in Deauville, where the famous yearling’s sale takes place each year. This land is a real paradise for golfers – it has 23 eighteen-hole courses which are open all the year round. It is definitely one of the best regions for sea-trout and salmon – its lakes and rivers seem to have an endless amount of fish. Normandy is very famous for its green landscapes and countryside and you will enjoy its delights on foot, on horseback or by bicycle.
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