Normandy, a region in the north-west of France, is famous not only for the Isle of Le Mont Saint-Michel but further to the north, the majestic Alabaster Coast. This coastline of white, limestone cliffs extends 130 kilometres overlooking the English Channel. It is interspersed with mostly inaccessible, pebbly beaches and breath-taking seascapes that have long inspired painters, composers and poets.
Normandy is rich in history and beauty, but it is its connection to ‘invasions’ which is often brought to mind when considering this region of France. The largest seaborne invasion, the D-Day Landings, occurred along its Coast in WWII, in 1944. In addition, Normandy is home of the famous Bayeaux Tapestry, depicting the successful Norman invasion of Britain in 1066.
There is so much more to Normandy though, and as we drove along her coast we were rewarded time and time again with peace, tranquillity and beauty.
Le Mont-Saint-Michel, dominated by its imposing medieval monastery, has long been a place of pilgrimage. It lies, as a monument in its own right, about one kilometre off the French mainland.
It was originally accessible only at low tide. However, it now has a bridge which allows year-round access. You also have the option to hire a guide and walk across the mud-flats at low tide. Just beware that the tidal shifts can be as much as fifteen metres.
Once you reach the island, entrance through the huge iron portico is free. However, you do need to pay an entrance fee to the Benedictine abbey. You can spend hours just wandering the boutiques, museums and medieval houses dating from the 15th century. Moreover, the views from the ramparts across the bay are spectacular.
Showery, blustery weather accompanied us on our arrival, but rather than dampen our experience it gave the island a moody feeling of isolation and aloofness.
The floral village of Saint-Fraimbault, consistently wins the award of four flowers in the annual, ‘Village Fleuri’, ‘villages in bloom’, in which towns throughout France are awarded 1-4 flowers, with four being the highest award. We visited in Spring and were greeted with daffodils and cherry blossom abound.
When you are all flowered out, you can enjoy the village 3-hectare lake which has leisure activities, such as paddle boats, fishing and picnic areas.
With a lone lighthouse and stunning sheer, white limestone cliffs, Cap d’Antifer is a serene location. Take a walk along the cliff top paths and you will just feel the stresses of life falling away. At a few points along the cliff path, you’ll find old war bunkers as well as some geocaches, carefully hidden.
We camped in the van right beside the lighthouse overlooking the ocean and nature gave us a captivating flame orange sunset. As if on cue, once the curtain fell on the sun’s dazzling display, the lighthouse began its own opening number. Like a star burning bright, it shone its beam of warning against the black night.
Famous for its limestone arches and the ‘Needle’, or Aiguille, this coastline abounds with spectacular scenery. If you look closely you may see what many claim to see, the head of an elephant dipping its trunk into the waves.
These photos were taken to the east of the town near the Notre-Dame de la Garde chapel. Just behind the chapel, you’ll find the ‘White Bird’ memorial, a tribute to two French aviators who disappeared whilst attempting the first aerial crossing of the North Atlantic.
The white chalk cliffs continue along this poetic coastline but here, near the charming farming village of Sotteville-sur-Mer, you will find a descending concrete stairway carved into them.
231 steps lead you down to the small pebbly beach, relentlessly pounded by the Atlantic Ocean. In times gone by the staircase was used by fishermen accessing their huts, also carved into the rock. It was also used to transport pebbles up to the town which were made into emery powder.
As the sun set, the sky turned crimson. A solemn reminder of when these same white alabaster cliffs were soaked with the blood of 425,000 lives lost in the D-Day Landings and Battle of Normandy.
Our five days in Normandy were filled with the beauty of nature and the Alabaster Coast will stay imprinted in our memories for a long while to come. From the wilderness of cliff tops, vast oceans and countryside, our campervan road trip takes us onwards to the Palace of Versaille and the most romantic capital of the world, Paris.
Good To Know
Campsites/ Parkings we stayed at in Normandy:
As we were now on a time schedule at the end of our year van road trip, we could only allow five days, which was why we skipped some of the coast and took a detour to Saint- Faimbault to see this flowering village.
- Motorhome Site near Mont-St-Michel: Ardevon, Normandy
- St. Fraimbault, Motorhome Park – No facilities but only €2 parking.
- Phare d’Antifer – Free, (no facilities) Parking Coordinates, 49.68303, 0.16476
- Sotteville-sur-Mer – Free, no facilities, parking coordinates, 49.887409, 0.829871
What are your favourite places to visit in Normandy? Which spots would you recommend to our readers? Please leave a comment below.
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Being an Australian boy brought up in the country, I learnt at an early age to enjoy the freedom and beauty of nature. Leaving Australia at the age of 20, although I didn’t know it then, would be the beginning of a life of adventure. So join me here on our travels and see the world through my eyes.