Spanning 674, 843 km², France is one of the largest countries in Europe, divided into 26 different regions. Each one of these regions are unique and offer something unique and distinctive to that area. This diversity is what makes France such a great destination to travel to. One of the most popular areas is Normandy, a region located in Nortwestern France, famed for the D-Day Allied invasion on June 6, 1944, but also known for so much more. From the rocky cliffs in the Cotentin peninsula and the famous white cliffs of Etretat, to wonderful small towns and villages with half-timbered houses in the inland area, there are many things to see in Normandy. Here’s a quick guide to the top sights and attractions in Normandy …
White Cliffs of Etretat
Famous for its beaches and chalky white cliffs, these 70meter high cliffs are a beauty to behold and one of the most beautiful features of Normandy – its three rock formations are known as Potre d’Amont or the Upstream Cliff, Porte d’Aval or the downstream cliff and Manneporte.
Carved by nature and adorned by mysterious names there are images of a hollow eye needle and an elephant dipping its trunk in the ocean.
A walk along the Pebble beach, climbing up the steep stairs to the top of the cliffs for a view, and discovering a 17th Century oyster bed are just some of the things you can do in Etreat.
An easy way to get to Normandy is to take the ferry from UK to Calais and continue down the coast from there – click here for information about ferries to Calais.
Mont St. Michel
This tiny tidal rocky island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited places in all of France.
This remarkable medieval walled city, crowned by its great gothic abbey, is built on a small granite outcrop standing all by itself in Mont Saint Michel bay.
At the peak is the spectacular and well-preserved Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Michel.
During the French Revolution, the abbey was used a prison, and today a few prison-era showpieces, like the human hamster wheel used to lift supplies in and out of the complex, have been kept.
Still to this day, people actually live in this village, and there are even a few places where you can eat on the island, such as La Mere Poulard, which is world-famous for its omelets (a specialty on the island).
The D-Day Landing Beaches
On June 6, 1944 – today known as D-Day, Operation Overlord, a long-awaited invasion of Northwest Europe, began with Allied landings along the coast of Normandy where the Germans had turned the coastline into an interlinked series of strongpoints.
The Allies launched a simultaneous landing of British, Canadian, U.S., and French forces on five separate beaches with the code names Sword Beach (British), Juno Beach (Canadian), Gold Beach (British), Omaha Beach (American) Utah Beach (American).
When they landed they stormed the mined beaches and stormed the gun positions, and continued fighting their way into the towns and hills advancing inland.
The victory was a turning point in World War II and led to the liberation of Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany.
While today the coast is dotted with lovely peaceful seaside towns, there are still many remains from German gun emplacements and bunkers, and war memorials and monuments marks where the allied forces landed on the beaches.
Since there is barely a square yard that wasn’t fought over, there are also monuments in almost every village and at every bend in the road.
These beaches can be reached from UK by taking a ferry from Dover to Calais and then continue by car for about 1.5 hours – you can simply drive your car on the ferry at Dover Port and drive down along Normandy when you land in Calais.
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