France

Normandy

Shutterstock/16342411/Jo ChambersTranquil, picturesque and profoundly rural, the Duchy of Normandy today conveys a deep peace and contentment. At its heart there is picture-book charm, with half-timbered cottages, quiet lanes and mature hedges, pretty copses, orchards and small farms in rolling green countryside. Such a richly productive land gave rise to Normandy’s long tradition of hearty, flavoursome cooking served in generous quantities.

Yet Normandy has seen more than its share of strife over the centuries, and never more so than during the 1944 Liberation of France, when Allied troops landed on its beaches and swept through the region battling the German occupiers. The coastal areas, especially, preserve the memory of those days. In the struggle, some fine historic towns were almost completely destroyed but fortunately others escaped, and much has been restored, including some of France’s loveliest Gothic masterpieces.

Normandy has long been a place of high art and culture, too, especially beside the River Seine. Its winding valley was the focal point of the Vikings’ original Duchy of Normandy, and here they began to develop a distinctive Norman style of design and architecture. Some of Normandy’s greatest Romanesque and Gothic buildings stand on its banks. The Seine also gave birth to modern art, as the Impressionists gathered here to capture on canvas the pearly skies over the river and its estuary. 
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