Discovering Normandy: The Side of France You Never Knew

Ask a person from from Paris about their nationality, and they will tell you “I am French.” Ask a person from Rouen the same question, and they will reply “I am Normande.” The distinction is one you will enjoy on Vantage’s Normandy tours, The Seine: Paris & Highlights of Normandy. For this a part of France that has its own unique language, cuisine, and a culture whose influence far exceeds its borders. For American’s the area is most well-known as the Allied invasion point for the WWII D-Day landings. And indeed Vanatge’s Normandy tour includes visits to important Operation Overlord sites like Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer, and more. But there is more to discover here….

Step farther back in time to 1066, when the most famous Norman of all, William, invaded England and forever thereafter became known as William the Conqueror. His audacious invasion was immortlized on the stunning Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered linen that depicts fifty scenes with Latin inscriptions, culminating in the famous Battle of hastings. Nearly a thousand years old, it is displayed in a museum in Bayeux that is also featured on this Normandy tour. William’s descendant Richard the Lionheart also left his mark here, with a stronghold on a summit overlooking the Seine and its islands in Les Andelys. After exploring this romantic ruin, you can wander the cobbled streets of the town below.A keen counterpoint to the historic drama of the region is the soft beauy of the land that inspired so many artists. Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny will capture your imagination. Seeing its Japanese bridge, flowerbeds of irises, and ponds filled with water lilies will make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a canvas. In fact, many who visit this serene spot are compelled to paint scenes of this magical place where the great Impressionist lived and worked.

Another inspiring stop on this journey is picturesque Honfleur, a thriving artists’ colony. This seaside town’s distinctive slate-fronted buildings once were keen subjects for Eugene Boudin, Gustave Courbet and Monet himself—and are well worth capturing on your camera if not on canvas as well.

Jumieges Abbey and its church ruins eventually come into view as you continue your way down the Seine. Founded in 654 A.D. the abbey also has a “newer” attraction: a 500-year-old yew tree that stands triumphant in the middle of the former cloister.

The Vantage Normandy tours conclude back in the glittering capital, Paris, home to so many quintessentially French delights — the genius of the Louvre, fabulous cuisine, chic shops, the Eiffel Tower, and more. But after having also experienced the Norman side of the country, your love affair with all things French will certainly deepen.