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Upper Normandy (Haute-Normandie)

Haute-Normandie (Upper Normandy)

Haute Normandie, created in 1984, consists of the two departements of Seine-Maritime and Eure. Being just across the Channel and not far from Paris, it is an ideal base for travellers from the UK, either for weekend breaks or longer holidays. It is considered one of the most cultural parts of France.

Although the climate is similar to that of southern England, the summers tend to be a little warmer and sunnier.

Rouen is the regional capital but by population Le Havre is its largest city. The coastline is varied and along its length visitors will find interesting harbour towns.

Inland, the scenery is equally attractive with its characteristically rural landscape of forests, rich agricultural land, apple orchards and charming villages dotted with quaint half timber-framed houses. The departement of Eure in particular has an important rural economy and is a major producer of beef, including veal and dairy products.

Running through the area is the River Seine ending at its estuary just south of Le Havre. The valley of the Seine provides the most fertile soil of the region in which fruit trees are grown. It is possible to buy products such as apples, pears and berries by following the Routes des Fruits.
Many other smaller rivers and streams criss-cross the landscape and provide some excellent fishing waters.

To return to some of the region’s tourist attractions, which are numerous, Rouen itself is one of the best. Situated on the banks of the Seine, Rouen is a modern industrial centre and busy port. Visitors should aim for the old town with its cobbled streets and many historic houses and churches. Pedestrianisation has added to the accessibility of the area and you can view the tower of the gothic cathedral which is the tallest in France and survived the extensive destruction of the city during World War 11. Also to be found in the district is the market square where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. The city’s Musee des Beaux Arts contains one of the biggest collections of impressionist painting outside Paris.

Dieppe, an attractive town and busy fishing harbour, is also worth a visit. With the nearest beach to Paris, Dieppe is easily reached from the UK by the twice daily ferry service from Newhaven. The beach, though pebbly, is bordered by limestone cliffs and a pleasant spot to pass the time.

The town has a plethora of restaurants which are mostly to be found on the promenade which runs along the quayside. You would expect to find dishes composed of sea fish such as sole – which is very highly regarded, sea bass, sea bream skate or monk fish.

In November, Dieppe plays host to the annual herring festival. Crowds of thousands gather in the streets where herrings are grilled in the open air and served in paper cones with a squeeze of lemon.

High above the town is the Chateau-Musee which houses a museum dedicated to the history of Dieppe. Every Saturday a farmers’ market is held in the streets of the town which includes stalls selling cheeses and vegetables.

Further west is Le Havre, France’s second largest sea-port and the deepest. Almost totally destroyed during the Second World War, it has since been redeveloped as a striking modern city. One noted piece of modern architecture is the Musee Malraux which contains the works of several famous artists. The city’s cathedral is one of the few old buildings remaining in the central area.

Other highlights for tourists include Monet’s garden at Giverny in Eure where the artist lived and worked for over 40 years and which now attracts half a million visitors a year. The beautiful house and gardens provided the main subject-matter for his works and everyone will be familiar with his paintings of water lilies.

The region offers several gastronomic specialities. The basis of many of these is local fresh sea fish, shell fish and duck, often cooked with cider and butter. Moules a la Normandie is made, not surprisingly, with cider and cream and marmite Diepoise is a spicy fish stew also stewed in cream and cider with onions.

The region’s characteristic cheese is Neufchatel, one of the oldest types in France. It is a soft ripe cheese, usually formed into a heart shape.

Produced from apples grown in the Seine valley, cider is the most famous alcoholic drink of the region, there being no vineyards. Considered one of the best ciders in the world, it is often served as an accompaniment to local cheeses.

The sea-side town of Fecamp is famous for its Benedictine liqueur. Named after the order of monks who first came up with the idea, it is a digestif blended from 27 different herbs and spices.

Throughout the Upper Normandy region are to be found treasures of art and culture and some of the best gastronomy in France.

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