This charming region is located to the northwest of Paris, about 1 to 3 hours drive away, depending on which side of the region you’re heading to first. There are trains as well that connect Paris to Rouen, Dieppe, Le Havre and Mont Saint- Michel. But I recommend driving a car to and through Normandy, not only for convenience sake but also for the whole experience. The finest time to visit would be from Spring to Autumn that’s roughly from May to September I’d say.
A few famous places in this vast and varied region are ~ Mont Saint- Michel abbey, artist Monet’s house and gardens in the village of Giverny, the city of Rouen, an old port in Honfleur and finally the Etretat cliffs.
You can choose to wander through Normandy enjoying time in the lush countryside, discovering the rich cultural heritage of its cities, or picnic at the seaside filled with gaze worthy white cliffs and pebble beaches.
Whatever you decide to do with your time in Normandy, it is an ideal place to spend a long relaxing weekend away.
Here's more about my holiday in this scenic and charming region.
The two best things we did for this trip were to rent a car and book private houses to stay in. It was ideal for us to do this as a family as we didn’t have to worry about rushing the kids to get to the station for connecting transportation and we had enough of home away from home time and space.
Oh yes and the drive from Paris into Normandy is one of the most scenic especially in the Spring season. We passed by fields after fields of yellow canola fields and rows of windmills. As you can imagine it was irresistible to not stop and get a few snapshots.
Our stay was at locations a bit away from the main towns and coast that we planned to visit. So this gave us an opportunity to truly enjoy the quaint side of Normandy. One of the places we stayed at was a grand house neighbouring a farmland. We enjoyed our time watching cows line up to go grazing in the morning and return home on the same path by evening, while white little rabbits played hide and seek in the backyard and horses played in their pen at a nearby farm.
The quiet pastoral villages were the ultimate peaceful setting for our getaway.
Visit to Rouen – the historic capital of Normandy.
Wherever you decide to stay, be it the city or the countryside, Rouen is an ideal location to enjoy some legacy of French medieval times. The stunning architecture in this city will take you back in time and is sure to leave you as impressed if not more as the many famous artists including Claude Monet who painted a series of 30 impressionist paintings of the Notre Dame Cathedral, Rouen.
The city is mainly a pedestrian centre, so I loved strolling through the cobblestones, taking in the views, grabbing some food to have on the go, later had some terrace time outside a small restaurant and bought myself some pretty roses from a local florist.
Main sights at Rouen
The Gros Horloge – You’ll spot this huge ornate astronomical clock on the archway literally in middle of town, which dates back to the 14th century. Below snapshots show the two faces of the clock, from the east and west side, and then there’s my face 🙂 .
The church of St. Joan of Arc – Sadly this is the very town where saint Joan of Arc was burnt alive, many centuries ago and hence there is a church built here in her honour. The magnificent stained glass windows inside are originally from the 16th century church of St. Vincent, Rouen.
Notre Dame Cathedral of Rouen – Its history dates back 5 centuries. The architecture of this cathedral is unique being inspired by both Roman and Gothic styles. It holds the record of being the highest cathedral in the whole of France.
Seaside visit - Etretat
We arrived at Etretat on a sunny day, though it had rained the previous day and later that very same evening. The weather was typically that of mid European spring. The jacket that I wore all morning had no use by lunch time. Strangely, at one of the locations where we had halted, all the eating places had the same fixed menu with the same prices , which actually made it kind of easy for us to simply choose a suitable place to enjoy our meals, knowing we weren’t going to miss out on anything.
We went on to enjoy our little ride in a mini open air bus, up to the east side of the famous white cliff that looks like an elephant dipping its trunk in the water. The most prominent view from here is the sea below and the naturally carved white chalk cliff at a great distance. Also atop this side of the hill stands an old stone walled chapel with a lonely park bench in front of it and further away behind this chapel stands the white bird. Do read the lines below to know more.
La Chapelle Notre Dame de la Garde was built at some point in the 19th century by sailors , destroyed in the WWII and rebuilt in the 1950s.
The White Bird is a monument built to commemorate the attempted non stop biplane flight from Paris to New York which disappeared in 1927. Etretat was the last place where this plane was seen.
After getting some lovely snapshots of the area, spending some quiet time enjoying the cool sea breeze and taking in the view as well as playing around with our toddlers, it was time to take the mini bus downhill.