There is so much more to France than simply Paris or the French Rivera. While both of those areas should be on your bucket list and are well worth a visit in their own right, take a trip further north to explore Normandy and its surrounding areas. This beautiful French region has a lot to offer visitors and appeals to those wanting a holiday with historical significance and breathtaking views.
For my time spent in Normandy, I was based out of the gorgeous city of Rouen which is the region’s capital. Walking through the quaint streets will make you feel as if you’ve travelled back in time due to the countless churches and buildings with gothic architecture, like the Palais de Justice Law Courts and the flamboyant Church of Saint-Maclou. You can even still see evidence of shell holes from Allied bombings in 1944 on the exquisite façade of the Palais de Justice.
When visiting Rouen, check out one of the main attractions, the Gros-Horloge. It’s a fourteenth-century astronomical clock tower in the heart of the city. For those interested in tracing the steps of heroine Joan of Arc, Rouen is where she was imprisoned, went to trial and burnt at the stake. Any history buff would find this area fascinating! But when all this sightseeing becomes tiring, an ideal place to enjoy a French brunch is at the Hôtel de Bourgtheroulde. This hotel served the best strawberry macaroons I’ve ever had and a dessert spread that is a sugar addict’s heaven.
One of my favourite places in France is undoubtedly Étretat. It makes up part of the Alabaster Coast, Côte d'Albâtre, and is a stunning seaside town on the French side of the English Channel. The natural beauty in this part of Normandy will honestly take your breath away. From dramatic cliff formations to a thick pebble beach and jaw-dropping golf course, Étretat will not leave you disappointed. There is so much charm to be found here, so go for scenic walks along the cliff tops and take in the gorgeous views overlooking the ocean, village and surrounding chalk-white cliffs. It’s no wonder why famous Impressionists like Claude Monet painted this sublime coastal scenery so fondly.
Among France’s most picturesque sights is Mont Saint Michel, a beautiful island topped with a medieval monastery. For any Harry Potter fans like myself, Mont Saint Michel will immediately remind you of the Hogwarts Castle with all its magic and grandeur. It’s isolated in a bay and surrounded by expansive plains without any other man-made structure as far as the eye can see – making for a truly remarkable scene. Enjoy walking through the village and browsing in quaint stores as you make your way on foot up to the Abbey. You’ll come across a number of platforms that offer great views overlooking the Bay, so stop to take in this gorgeous setting and absorb the atmosphere of the island during your visit. Keep in mind that Mont Saint Michel should be reached by car via the causeway, as any other route can be dangerous due to the changing tide, deep mud and quicksand that circles the island.
Whether or not you’re into art history, a trip to Claude Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny is a must-do when staying in France. This serene property is nothing short of spectacular and you could easily spend a half-day there. Explore the gardens that inspired some of Monet’s most famous impressionist paintings like The Water Lily Pond, and see the renowned bridge over the water. It’s also great to walk through the artist’s impressive home that acts as a colourful time capsule back to the late 1800s. You can spend a gorgeous day amongst the flowers and greenery when you travel to Claude Monet’s Giverny property, so add it to your bucket list even if you’re not an art fan.
While this one isn’t exactly in Normandy, I included it because it’s close enough to do a day trip there and should be on the itinerary of any Aussie visiting France. In Villers-Bretonneux, you’ll find the main memorial dedicated to the Australian military personnel killed on the Western Front during World War 1. The site consists of a tower and Cross of Sacrifice within the Military Cemetery honouring the names of 10,773 soldiers, who were killed when Australian forces arrived in Belgium and France to fight alongside allied forces. Set amongst vast green paddocks, this National Memorial is a serene place where many people come to pay their respects to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Villers-Bretonneux is a moving experience for visitors and is a place not to be passed over.
When you want to go beyond the major tourist destinations in Paris, it’s time you head north and explore all there is to see in Normandy. As the region is rich with history, stunning views and unique places to visit, I can assure you that you’ll never grow tired of this charming region.
Amanda Earl is an Australian-based media and marketing professional who is constantly daydreaming about the next destination to jet off to. She’s always looking to explore new cultures and see parts of the world she hasn’t experienced before. Follow her on Instagram @amandaearl26 to keep up with her latest adventures.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.