Visit Nor­mandy for its rich his­tory and sigh-wor­thy cheeses

The dairy heart­land of France is home to fas­ci­nat­ing his­tor­i­cal sites and breath­tak­ing scenery

Arab News - - CORPORATE PR - SAFFIYA AN­SARI

NOR­MANDY is blessed with stun­ning land­scapes, a rich his­tory and some of the best cheese and cream in all of Europe. Sprawled across France’s north­west­ern cor­ner, the spec­tac­u­lar cliff-lined coast and rolling green fields have in­spired cen­turies of cre­ative tal­ents, in­clud­ing Im­pres­sion­ist painter Claude Monet.

Lapped by the Chan­nel, Nor­mandy is home to a sandy coast­line and was the site of the D-Day land­ings in World War II, when US, Bri­tish and Cana­dian forces landed on five beaches along the heav­ily for­ti­fied coast in 1944.

De­spite the tall, wind-rus­tled grasses and peace­ful dunes, mem­o­ries of the bru­tal episode in the war re­veal the grit­tier side of Nor­mandy, an area that was home to the Nor­man war­riors who con­quered Eng­land in 1066 and were said to have ter­ror­ized parts of Europe.

For vis­i­tors who wish to un­der­stand more about this fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory, and en­joy gas­tro­nomic de­lights at the same time, Nor­mandy is well worth a visit. From the Bayeux Ta­pes­try to the mag­nif­i­cent is­land com­mune of Mont St-Michel, there are plenty of at­trac­tions to visit in the area.

If you are plan­ning a trip to Europe’s cream cap­i­tal — Nor­mandy is famed for its dairy ven­tures — look no fur­ther than this guide. Be sure to pack a rain­coat, how­ever, as the area is known for its al­most-con­stant driz­zle. Tem­per­a­tures re­main mild through­out the year, and range between 10 and 25 de­grees Cel­sius. even­tu­ally led to an Al­lied vic­tory on the western front of the war.

Wartime plan­ners di­vided the stretch of golden coast­line into five sec­tors, which are still known by their code names. Sword, Juno and Gold were stormed by Bri­tish and Com­mon­wealth troops, while the Amer­i­cans came ashore on Omaha and Utah.

One of the most vis­ited sites is the poignantly huge Amer­i­can ceme­tery at Colleville-sur-Mer, which houses the graves of 9,387 US mil­i­tary per­son­nel. Vis­i­tors can also stop at the town of Ar­ro­manches, where Mul­berry har­bor, which fa­cil­i­tated 2.5 mil­lion men in com­ing ashore, still lies ex­posed off­shore.

The 1,000-year-old town of Bayeux, with its me­dieval cob­bled streets and Nor­man-Gothic cathe­dral, is breath­tak­ing. Tourists can flock to the over­pow­er­ing Cathe­dral of Our Lady of Bayeux, wan­der the his­tory-dipped streets, then pay a visit to the undis­puted jewel of the area, the Bayeux Ta­pes­try.

The 70-me­ter-long em­broi­dery, on show at the Bayeux Mu­seum, de­picts the story of Wil­liam the Con­queror’s in­va­sion of Eng­land in 1066. Wil­liam in­sisted he was the right­ful heir to the English throne af­ter the death of King Ed­ward the Con­fes­sor, and when the An­glo-Saxon Harold God­wins­son was anointed in­stead, an irate Wil­liam stormed the beaches of Eng­land and con­quered his de­trac­tors at the Bat­tle of Hast­ings on Oct. 14, 1066. French leg­end has it that the ta­pes­try was cre­ated by his wife Queen Matilda with her ladies in wait­ing. Although schol­arly anal­y­sis has not dug up any ev­i­dence on ex­actly who sewed the epic em­broi­dery, it is some­times called “La Tapis­serie de la Reine Mathilde” (“The Ta­pes­try of Queen Matilda”) in France.

Nor­mandy’s rep­u­ta­tion for cream, cheese and ap­ples rests on the mead­ows and or­chards of the Pays d’Auge. This idyl­lic slice of ru­ral France is dot­ted with hun­gry cows chew­ing on long grass, dairy farms, and long stretches of tree-topped hills and deep val­leys. The tiny vil­lage of Camem­bert is worth a visit due to its im­por­tant place in his­tory — and our di­ets — as the home of the de­li­ciously pun­gent cheese cre­ated there dur­ing the days of the French Rev­o­lu­tion.

Half-tim­bered houses and farms can be seen through­out the area, one that is per­fect for bi­cy­cle rides end­ing with a visit to Pays d’Auge’s prin­ci­pal town of Lisieux. The town is France’s sec­ond-rank­ing Ro­man Catholic pil­grim­age des­ti­na­tion af­ter the town of Lour­des, due to the Basil­ica of St. Thérèse, which was opened in 1937.

Rouen is Nor­mandy’s largest city and is home to a ma­jor port, which is the clos­est to Paris. The bustling city strad­dles the Seine river and boasts a me­dieval core, with tan­gled streets that are both au­then­tic and re­stored — Al­lied bomb­ing dur­ing World War II rav­aged the city and led to many of the river­banks and path­ways be­ing oblit­er­ated.

For his­tory buffs, the city is most rec­og­niz­able as the place where Ro­man Catholic St. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431, and as the home of the awe-in­spir­ing Rouen Cathe­dral. Built over three cen­turies, the cathe­dral has seen the crown­ing of var­i­ous dukes of Nor­mandy.

Sev­eral are buried in the cathe­dral, which also houses the heart of Eng­land’s King Richard I, who ruled in the 12th cen­tury. The famed king was known as Richard the Lion Heart, and is re­mem­bered for bat­tling the first sul­tan of Egypt and Syria, Sal­adin, dur­ing the Cru­sades. Fast for­ward to the 19th cen­tury, and the much-loved artist Monet made it his mis­sion to doc­u­ment the beau­ti­ful fa­cades of the cathe­dral in a se­ries of paint­ings com­pleted in the 1890s.

It is im­pos­si­ble to miss the abbey of Mont St. Michel as you drive to­ward it through twist­ing coun­try lanes — it is awein­spir­ing even at a dis­tance. The abbey was built on the high­est point of a tiny is­land near the fron­tier between Brit­tany and Nor­mandy more than 1,000 years ago.

What be­gan as a re­li­gious sanc­tu­ary, built on a rock in 708 AD by the bishop of the nearby town of Avranches, was de­vel­oped into the megas­truc­ture we see to­day between the 11th and 16th cen­turies. It quickly be­came one of the most im­por­tant places of me­dieval pil­grim­age, and was de­clared a UNESCO World Her­itage Site in 1979.

Nowa­days the site is a busy tourist trap, so make sure to visit early in the day or be pre­pared to climb the stone stair­ways in or­der to es­cape the hub­bub be­low. Whether you ar­rive by car or coach, you will park in a set of car parks about 20 min­utes away from the is­land, and can choose to travel by a free shut­tle or pay a fee for a horse-driven cart.

Nor­mandy is a mere three-hour drive from Paris, so jet­ting into the cap­i­tal and or­ga­niz­ing a car or coach trip is the best way to soak in the de­lights of this food, his­tory and art-rich stretch of France.

Rouen is Nor­mandy’s largest city.

What off port is vis­i­ble land­ing

War II a World Ar­ro­manches. is left of town of the coast of the

It is im­pos­si­ble to miss the abbey of Mont St. Michel as you drive to­ward it.

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