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Lower Normandy (Basse-Normandie)

Basse-Normandie

Created in 1956, Lower Normandy consists of the three departments of Calvados, Manche and Orne. Inland is a region of forests, orchards and rich agricultural land which is an important producer of milk, butter, cream and cheese. Its extensive coast-line provides a wealth of sea-food and is the location for a number of attractive sea-side resorts.

Transport links in the region are all very good: three Brittany Ferry services link the UK ports of Portsmouth and Poole with Caen and Cherbourg. Within the region there are several rail connections and trains to Paris run regularly from both ports.

The varied coast-line of cliffs, coves, and wide sandy beaches makes this region an ideal holiday location particularly as the Cherbourg Peninsula and coast-line as a whole is warmed by the Gulf Stream. Some of the most popular and well-established are the resorts of Carbourg, Trouville and Deauville which is also famous as an up-market international venue.

Here you will find the famous Normandy and Royal Hotels and casino, established in the early 20th century. The countryside around Deauville is an important horse breeding centre and the area is internationally famous for its racing connections, especially the Deauville-La Touques race course.

Other highlights for visitors are connected to the history and culture of the region which results from the interesting mix of nationalities and languages dating back for many centuries.

The town of Falaise in Calvados was home to one of the most well-known names in English history – William the Conqueror, who began the merging of the English with the Norman French which commenced after 1066. Visitors can view the exhibition which charts the story of his amazing life.

The world famous Bayeux Tapestry, produced in the 11th century demonstrates the incredible embroidery skills of Norman noblewomen. The local population in general have for centuries used their skills of weaving and lace-making to make the regional costume. The Museum of Normandy in Caen features a display of the traditional bonnets and skirts still worn in on festival days.

Bayeux itself is the quintessential Norman town of medieval streets and houses which visitors will enjoy exploring.

Mont St Michel, which rises magnificently on the coastal skyline of Manche, is one of the most outstanding landmarks in France. It consists of the Romanesque Abbey itself, originally founded in the 11th century, and the medieval village of crowded alleyways and boutiques that surrounds it.

Luckily for visitors, the causeway from the mainland is not ever completely covered by water so there are always ways to access the attraction. Now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, it receives over 3 million visitors a year.

It is possible to explore more recent history by visiting the Second World War sites of the D Day Landings and Battle of Normandy. The Battle of Normandy Historical Area forms a kind of open-air museum of associated locations and memorials, such as the Tablet of D-Day in Port en Bessin.

Food and drink is a major feature of the pleasures this region has to offer. There is an enormous range of local produce and visitors will find that the food served in restaurants is largely locally sourced.

From the coastal waters around Manche come many varieties of shell-fish including lobster, clams, whelks, mussels and oysters. They are often served combined with sauces such as a la crème and au camembert. Port en Bessin is the home of the famous Coquilles St Jacques and a fish market is held there every Monday.

Meat dishes usually consist of veal or pork cooked in cider. A delicacy which comes from the sheep reared on the salt marshes of Manche is known as ‘Pre Sale Lamb’ and tripe is a favourite dish in Caen.

Locally grown apples are the basis of many sweet dishes such as the well known apple tart. Of course apples are also used in the production of the world-famous Calvados, a type of apple brandy indigenous to the region.

The brandy is made from specific varieties of apple and some producers use up to 100 different ones, ranging from sweet to tart to bitter. It has to be aged in oak barrels for at least two years. Around 70% of production is of the AOC Calvados type. More recently a Calvados has been made which includes a proportion of local pears. There are a few small-scale producers.

Most cheeses of the area will be known to visitors from the UK as they can be found widely in supermarkets over here. They include Pont L’Eveque, Livarot and Camembert, named after the village of the same name. Both cheese and cider can be purchased direct by taking the popular Cheese Road and Cider Road excursions.

Every day of the week a market is being held in one of the towns in the region, selling everything from fresh produce to handicrafts.

In experiencing Lower Normandy you will get an authentic taste of a romantic and culturally stimulating land which retains much of its tradition and dialect.

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