With its long and varied coastline, Normandy is synonymous with the sea. The D-Day Landing beaches are among the best wide expanses of sand to stroll along and soak up the sound of the waves, but there are plenty of other smaller beaches and shingly or pebbly coves where you can enjoy peace and solitude and be at one with nature. The Alabaster Coast is best known for, and named after, its awe-inspiring white cliffs and rock formations; this is the part of coast nearest the port towns of Dieppe and Le Havre. If you’re in Le Havre, why not sit at the stunningly-located Bar au Bout du Monde – there’s no music played here, so you can fully appreciate the sound of the waves crashing just beside you.
The scenery in and around Étretat is some of Normandy’s most dramatic, while the Côte Fleurie includes some picturesque resorts including Honfleur and the chic Trouville and Deauville. The section of coast between the Cotentin peninsula and Courseulles-sur-Mer includes most of the famous D-Day beaches, while at Arromanches-les-Bains you can see the floating port used during the landings. The Côte des Havres is on the western side of the Cotentin peninsula; it’s here, close to the border with Brittany, that Mont-Saint Michel proudly stands, as well as the resort of Granville. A popular trip from here is the boat trip to the Îles Chausey, a group of islands 15km away with pretty small beaches and natural harbours to explore.
Normandy has a vibrant musical scene! Coutances’ delightfully-named Jazz under the Apple Trees (www.jazzsouslespommiers.com) takes place in May, welcoming a wealth of jazz musicians for both stage and street performances over an exciting eight days. Later in the summer (7-9 July 2017), the rock/pop/indie festival Beauregard (www.festivalbeauregard.com) is the main draw to Hérouville-Saint-Clair – taking its name from the incredible château that hosts it, Beauregard has developed a large and loyal fan base since making its debut in 2009. The headliners for 2017 are Iggy Pop, Placebo, Phoenix and Midnight Oil. And if you’re coming to Normandy in the autumn, don’t miss the Septembre Musical de l’Orne (www.septembre-musical.com/en), heralding five weekends of music with 19 concerts, 19 venues and around 600 musicians.
Head inland away from Normandy’s coast and the landscape softens into a patchwork of softly undulating fields with lush grass and lots of grazing cows. The cow (la vache) is almost an emblem of the region, responsible for the milk that goes into almost all the local cheeses, and as well as for cream and beef. The Normande breed were first brought to Normandy by the Vikings in the 9th century and is now one of France’s most populous breeds, although average in size compared with their continental counterparts. Their markings make them look like they’re wearing glasses! At Saint-Philbert-sur-Orne in the heart of the countryside, 4 Pat‘Balad gives children the opportunity to ride well-trained, saddled-up cows, safely led by owner Annie.