Normandie is famous for it's "chemins". These narrow roads are flanked by walls of stone and green, that in some cases grow completely over the road, turning it into a tunnel. These charming roads are a delight for the driver, even though the landscape is completely cut off from sight. However, around the corner waits a surprise in a sudden beautiful view over the surroundings or ... a person coming towards you by car. In the last case ... may the best one win - hahaha.
Unlike most French provinces, towns and districts, Normandie does not have the French lily in it's flag, coat of arms. No, here in Normandie it's (like in the Lowlands and England) the lion that can be found on these national items. And proud of it they are, these Normandians, as the flag waves in many many places and shows to the people that Normandy is different from the rest of France.
To be honest, I do not know the exact word in English, but the woodwork (vakwerk) houses are very present in the older villages and towns of Normandie, showing that this was a popular building style here (as well as in Germany and parts of England). The houses were constructed as a wooden frame in between which plasterwork (clay or so) was pressed, forming walls. The wooden patterns stay visible, leaving often a very colourful house, especially when the platsre later was painted in various (pastel) colours.
The waters surroundings Normandie are famous (and infamous) for their extreme tidal differences. People have had to adjust normal life to this in many ways, but also learned to coop with this outrageous behaviour of nature. Harbours are at low tide completely empty and ships lay scattered on the bottom of the "tub". Imagine what would happen if you tie your boat up with a short rope ... Most of the times the ships are tight on long ropes of course, but in some ports (Goury, La Perry, Port Racine) ships are tight with ropes on either side of the harbour walls. This leaves them hanging in the air when the water's run away.
Other places have to reckon with an enormous difference on the beach. At high tide the water leaves only a very small stretch of beach to walk on (or non at all), when at low tide the sea is not visible anymore. These floadlands are also quite dangerous, as they are not safe to take a walk on. When the water rushes in, you have to be quite fast and even then, the water can suddenly appear in front of you, by creeks and rivers in the lowlands here.
A favourite local activity takes place on low tide, when the sea retreats several kilometers away and the seabed is exposed. You will find many people walking and picking all kind of mussels (moules, coques, palourdes).
While for the coques or palourdes, you need already some equipment and knowledge, the easiest to pick are the mussels - just lying attached on seaweeds, rocks or directly in the sand. The only inconvenience is that you need to rinse really well in water all those picked on sand.
No permit is required if the picking is done for personal consumption and you respect the minimum sizes (shown on the small boards near the beach access).
Three agribusinesses have been historically strong in Normandie, effecting the present day landscape, traditions and welfare. First the apple orchards that stand at the bases of the famous Cidre Wine and Calvados, originating from this region. Furthermore cattle keeping, especially the meat producing cattle, have created it's own Normandian race. And last but not least, horses. Normandie is famous for it's studfarms, that have in past times delivered some exquisitely bread horses.
The Cotentin peninsula as well as further East coastline villages of Normandie, have many lighthouses. These variete from small port light houses to high towers that shine their lights over a far distance into the sea. The Gatteville-le-Phare lighthouse ("Phare", atually means lighthouse in French) is one of the highest in the world. Few pages also mention more detailed information on lighthouses, such as:
Gattesville-le-Phare, Goury (Cap la Hague) and Fermanville (Cap Levi).
The "Trou Normand" literaly translates as Norman hole; it is a very old tradition of gastronomy in the north of France. The tradition consists in drinking a couple sips of hard liqueur in the middle of a meal, to actually create a "hole" in one's stomach to renew the appetite. Specialists say that there are in reality three "Trous" the tradition should respect, the first being the "apéro", a glass of Absynth, Vermouth or Rhum offered to all guests before the meal to stimulate their appetite. The second one is a small glass of pure wine served right after the soup. The "Trou Normand" is what is called in the specialists' laguage, the "hole" of the middle, it's goal is to active digestion and provoque some sort of new appetite; usualy served after the 3rd course, it is now often presented as a scoop of apple sherbet drowned in a finger of Calvados, a liqueur made from cider. Very enjoyable indeed! You will find the Trou Normand on many menus throughout Normandy.
Twenty years ago, in May 1986 a wonderful woman at the Alliance Francaise said that if you want to try French cheese you must buy "Lanquetot - Camembert au lait cru", I don't know what's become of her since but I have become a Camembert lover...go to any French supermarket and choose your Camembert carefully, you are allowed to take off the cover and press into the paper wrap. I like mine bien fait, sweetly soft, perhaps you like yours firm, just gives a little and bounces right back....trop bon, a classic in France, Camembert...
Of course you must come here to try some because all lait cru (non pasturized milk) is banned in the States and in part of the EU as well... dommage
The Calvados area of Normadie is famous for its Cider and an apple flavoured brandy called Calvados. Over 50 types of apple are used in the making of the brandy, it is then aged for up to 30 years in oak caskets. Apple brandy has been made in Normadie for over 500 years, introduced by the Dutch
A great web site below where you can also buy your own if you fancy a taste!
The climate in Normandie is acceptionally mild, because of the presence of the sea. This seaclimate takes care of temperatures that never reach extremes, but always stay between +5 to +25 degrees Celsius. On top of that the Atlantic winds bring lots of rain or moist to the land. Therefore Normandie is very green, but also very furtile for a wide variety in plants and flowers. Many Normandian people have made their gardens to a true beauty parlor, with lots of colours and bushes (especially favourite are the Hortensia's) that give rich flowers in a many colours. Driving through Nomandie is a very big pleasure in the summertime, when most flowers are present in the streets and gardens.
The Normandian landscape is quite similar to the English / Irish landscape in it's many stone edged fields and acres. This comes from ancient times, in which stones were the most easiest and available material to create barriers between properties. Wood was to expensive and barb wire just wasn't invented yet. The stone walls are left 'til today and form a significant beautiful presence in many landscapes.
Jeu de Boules or Petanque, is a very traditionally Frenmch game that is played almost everywhere. In many villages and cities, one can find the special created Petanque lanes on shadowy places along the streets or on a square. Young and old play the game, but mostly one sees men doing it. We couldn't refuse when Lily (our camping entertainer) organised a smalle Petanque tournement in which we were (of course) absolutely crushed by the French comeptitors.
The clearing of forests and fields for farming or pasture leads to the accumulation of rubble which in some localities (long before ecology was conceptualized) was distributed at the edges of the cleared land (and not burned). Over decades this became clusters of dense shrubbery and trees: copses and hedgerows. The Norman (and French) term for this is bocage (originally boscage). During WWII the area south of the D-Day beaches unexpectedly made the advance much more difficult because it presented obstructions and presented ambush points. This was a better defense than the Germans had planned! Ultimately, cleverly developed tank-corps ingenuity overcame it, but the taking of St.-Lo was greatly delayed. The bocage extends beyond the southern edge of the "Suisse Normand"
This "former" custom of gourmandise is still observed in at least the Suisse Normand. It consists of downing a small glass of spirits (of course in Normandy it is Calvados) between the entree and the roast (meat course). (In other parts of France this may be called the "coup de milieu"). Nowadays in a less husky society , this eating pause has been replaced by a sorbet, sometimes doused in a spirit or strong liqueur. (The word trou means a hole or gap). Try it, you might like it.
Route du Mont Saint Michel, BP 8, Mont-St-Michel, Basse-Normandie, 50170, France
Good for: Solo
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