The Normandy region of France
Normandy is separated into two regions situated along the edge of the English Channel, which are Upper Normandy or Haute Normandie and Lower Normandy or Basse-Normandie. Although under English rule, the Channel Islands are both historically and culturally connected to the Dutch of Normandy. The landscape of Normandy often brings to mind pictures of landscape painting with livestock lazily grazing abundant fields spotted with pastoral wood-framed homes. In contrast, modern buildings shoot up here and there creating a unique presentation of the past and present living in a harmonious manner.
Rouen is the capital of Upper Normandy and Caen is the capital of Lower Normandy. Other notable towns in Normandy include LeHavre, Cherbourg, Alencon, Bayeux, Doudeville, Lisieux, Saint-Lo, Sainte-Mere-Eglise and Villers-Bocage. Smaller regions in Normandy include Suisse Normande to the south with craggy land and Pays d’Auge, which represents the distinctive and rich agrarian landscape of central Normandy. The west of Normandy boasts cliffs of granite while the east features limestone cliffs along beautiful areas of beach in the center of the region. Western areas in Normandy are spotted with small fields and tall rows of hedges.
Normandy was where the Normans resided during the first part of the Middle Ages. The Normans were a blend of native Gauls and Viking intruders who surrounded Paris and were given Normandy in exchange for protection from future attacks. The Normans in Normandy have the distinction of being the last group to invade England with success. The Duke of Normandy in 1066 moved into England and as a result became King William I of England. Normandy, in turn, was invaded by the English during the Hundred Years War and again later during the 1400’s. The town of Dieppe and Normandy beach are have significant history related to World War II involving the English, US and Canadian troops in what was, at the time, German-occupied France.
The Channel Islands have interesting circumstances in relation to Normandy. The Channel Islands have stayed devoted to the English Crown from the time Normandy was divided in 1204, but they are a domain controlled by the Duchy of Normandy, which is presently Queen Elizabeth I who is honored as the Duke of Normandy. Since all claims by English monarchs were forfeited with the Treaty of Paris, Queen Elizabeth I is not considered the Duke of Normandy beyond her domains.
The architecture of Normandy features an assortment of abbeys, cathedrals and castles and distinguishes the land as part of the dukedom that can be recognized as similar to that in England from the period of the Norman Conquest. Upper Normandy also reflects English architecture in buildings with exposed wood framing that are filled with masonry much like Tudor architecture. Areas with similar Tudor-style buildings are more individual to particular needs, accommodating harsh landscapes and climate conditions. Architecture in lower Normandy is heavily influenced by the most common building material, which is granite. The Channel Islands also share the granite building influence.
The cuisine of Normandy reflects its abundant production from both dairy cattle and apple orchards. Normandy cheeses such as Livarot, Pont l’Eveque and Camembert as well as Normandy butter and cream are appreciated around the world and featured quite often in local cooking. The apples in Normandy are used to produce apple cider or dry apple brandy called ‘calvados’. Normans also use apples in cooking regional dishes like bourdelots, Flan Normande and moules a la normande. Seafood is common in Normandy and the region has the most substantial oyster production in France.
Both upper and lower Normandy are regions of great culture, history and architectural discoveries. A region of contrasting landscapes and structures, visitors can delight in a new discovery every day. From Monet’s Giverny to the extensive beaches, Normandy has something for everyone.