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Week in Normandy after 10 months in Italy

Spello, Italy
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Week in Normandy after 10 months in Italy

I am looking for any and all guidance... We (husband and 3 children) have been living in Italy since summer of 2012, to depart this July (insert sigh here). For each child's birthday, we've gone on a trip, taking advantage of those fabulous Ryan Air fares. My daughter's birthday trip is scheduled for mid-June, and my husband and I have decided on Normandy. We chose Normandy first of all because my soon to be 11-year-old girl is passionate about cheese, (our stay in Umbria has been a bit wearying for her in that way) and 3 of her top 5 cheeses are made in Normandy. Also, it's a part of France we've never been to, and have always been curious about. Add in impressionism (she has been known to spend an hour at a museum sketching) and apples and seafood, and it sounds like a winner. Maybe it's a funny reason to travel, but that is pretty much what this year has been like, and it's worked splendidly.

Here's where I'd love ANY guidance-- we are not interested in classic medieval towns that are built of stone (half timbered is lovely), since we've been living in one and would like something different. And we're not that interested in D-Day sites. We'll have a car, and like to take our time. So ideally, we'd spend a few days in a bustling, larger town/city, and then a few days somewhere tranquil, preferably farm-like, and ideally in view of the ocean, where we can visit nearby towns at our leisure.

We have found that we struggle with tourists. Will go out of our way to avoid them. We don't feel the need to visit tourist destinations, we much prefer to wander, and eat, and wander, and sketch, and wander, and eat some more. We love festivals, the smaller the better. We are budget conscious, for reasons of necessity, but also we enjoy traveling close the ground, if that makes sense.

Summing up, we're looking for less stoney medieval and less touristed, one bustling place and one bucolic place, access to cheese and art and nature.

So-- TA folks-- where would you send us?

Huge thanks in advance for any and all input.

Michelle

http://www.ilbelcentro.com/

Paris, France
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1. Re: Week in Normandy after 10 months in Italy

The Pays d'Auge region in Normandy has everything you want except for the ocean views, since it's inland. This is the main cheese and cidre region in Normandy. The big tourist highlights nearby are the towns of Honfleur, Deauville, Trouville and a bit further west Bayeux. Bayeux and Honfleur are lovely but they are medieval towns with lots of tourists. Bayeux is also the central base for exploring D-Day sites.

If you want to spend a few days somewhere bustling/touristy with ocean views and beach access then Trouville or Deauville would be good. These are bustling beach resort towns within walking distance of each other separated only by a harbor. Deauville is a very posh place that was built for the wealthy during the 19th century. Trouville is a fishermans town turned resort. I prefer Trouville myself. Both places have excellent, large sandy beaches.

The Pays d'Auge is scenic, rural and tranquil. There are certainly tourists here like any other region worth visiting in France (or Italy for that matter) but it's at a much reduced number. No crowds. You could rent a nice gîte in the countryside or stay at a B&B (called chambres d'hôtes in French) or you could stay in one of the small villages here.

Just driving around the region you'll see signs everywhere for tasting and selling of cidre and cheese, often at the end of some guy's driveway or a stand set up at the side of the road, as well as in any store.

If you take a look at the thread below there is a lot of information about visiting Lower Normandy, including some good info on the Pays d'Auge and links to a photo album I made of visiting the Pays d'Auge. There's general info about exploring in France and the need for good maps and taking advantage of tourist office websites:

tripadvisor.com/…39058384

If you want to stay in a more rural gîte or chambre d'hôte vs. a non-touristy town or village let me know and I'll give you some resources to help your search.

St Louet sur Vire...
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for Bayeux
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2. Re: Week in Normandy after 10 months in Italy

FM's right, the pays d'Auge would be perfect for you and as your options for Ryanair flights will be Dinard, west of St Malo, or Beauvais, which is their airport for Paris. Beauvais is about an hour east of the Pays D'Auge so it would make sense to fly in there and base yourselves in a gite in the area. For ocean views, impressionism and sketching you really out to go to the cliffs at Etretat near Dieppe.

Paris, France
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3. Re: Week in Normandy after 10 months in Italy

Yes, I forgot to mention Etretat as a good option for an oceanside base. Many Impressionist painters worked there. It is touristy but it's not a large place so feels intimate despite the times it can be crowded. Here is the tourist office website:

etretat.net/office-de-tourisme-etretat/…

Le Bugue, France
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4. Re: Week in Normandy after 10 months in Italy

I think Rouen would be perfect for the city/half-timbered houses fix (though there are bound to be tourists).

Los Angeles
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5. Re: Week in Normandy after 10 months in Italy

If it's a farm you're looking for, check out Ferme du pressoir. It's a few miles inland from the Normandy beaches, it's a beautiful farm and the hostess, Odile, is wonderful. She makes a great breakfast. The farm is large and the rooms are very very tastefully decorated and modern. We stayed there and will go back again. The farm and Odile get great reviews from everyone who stays there.

Spello, Italy
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6. Re: Week in Normandy after 10 months in Italy

Wow. Thank you so much for all this incredible information. I am so grateful, and am looking forward to spending a nice chunk of my day researching the places you've mentioned. I should modify that I am absolutely accepting of a tourist presence (Spello, where I live, has no more than a mention in any guidebook to Italy, and yet I have people walking past my house all day)-- what I object to are tourist destinations, if that makes sense. For instance, I love Rome, as long as I avoid the sites. We just don't like bottlenecks of people all with their cameras above their heads to capture what they can't see, checking off sites. It's hard to get the real vibe of a place when that is what we are surrounded by.

I had thought about Rouen, as we like staying in cities (our town is just 8,000 people, so we like the shift in energy) for the metropolis half of our visit. Any more details about what it's like will be much appreciated. FM, I'd love any and all information about non-touristy/country places.

And thanks again to all-- it's great to have a starting point. At home I'd start with guidebooks, but those are hard to come by here.

Michelle

www.ilbelcentro.com

Paris, France
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7. Re: Week in Normandy after 10 months in Italy

If you want to do Rouen and the Pays d'Auge that means you won't be staying in an ocean view location if you don't mind that. You can still do day trips to the beaches and ocean.

If you're in Rouen and your daughter like Impressionism then Monet's house and gardens in Giverny are nearby, although this place is packed with tourists. Still worth a visit though. Buy your tickets ahead of time and be in line about 15 minutes before they open. You'll get about 10-15 minutes before the crowds start to arrive. Château Gaillard, Richard the Lionheart's castle, is also near Rouen and at the foot of the castle is the pretty medieval town of Le Petit Andely. I've written a trip report about exploring off the beaten path countryside near Giverny and it has lots of photos and descriptions if you want to take a look:

http://tinyurl.com/362xrle

In the thread I gave you earlier is a lot of general info about exploring in France. Pay very close attention to the info about using tourist office websites, especially since you aren't finding the guidebooks you want. These websites are better than guidebooks, although the beauty of the guidebook is having info about a lot of places in one book that you can carry with you. But the depth of info on a tourist website for a place or region is far more extensive than any guidebook.

Also pay close attention to the info about using the Michelin maps to explore. The report I linked to above was done just reading the icons on a Michelin map with no research whatsoever. Look for the designated scenic roads (unless they are going through forests) and look for the historic château icon. There is also an icon for non-historic châteaux that is hard to see on the maps but it's a tiny white rectangle. Incorporate scenic roads and châteaux into your drives.

In the thread I linked to in my first post you've got tourist office websites for many places I mentioned. Here's the site for Lyon-la-Forêt:

http://translate.google.com/translate?client=tmpg&hl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.paysdelyons.com%2F&langpair=fr|en

Lyons-la-Forêt is a Plus Beaux Villages (Most Beautiful Village), a designation you're probably familiar with in Italy as well. Here is the website for the Plus Beaux Villages in France:

http://www.france-beautiful-villages.org/en

And for France's flowered villages:

http://www.villes-et-villages-fleuris.com/

Also near to Rouen you can do the route of the abbeys:

www.abbayes-normandes.com/index.php…

http://www.rouentourisme.com/Default.aspx?title=LA_ROUTE_DES_ABBAYES_NORMANDES_-_ROUEN_|_Promenades_et_visites_guid%C3%A9es_-_Normandie&cat=17&id=1690&fromtab=1110&tabid=1171&language=fr-FR

Now, back to the Pays d'Auge. Thiaumerie, who commented earlier, lives in Normandy and can give you excellent suggestions I'm sure. She may add to or comment on my suggestions so I'd listen to her if she offers advice since she knows the region best whereas I am an occasional visitor. Look over the thread I linked to earlier and you'll find a lot of info about the Pays d'Auge and villages to visit there. One village I think I forgot to mention in this region is Cambremer. If you want to base in a small, pleasant and not too touristy village Cambremer might be good and further east you could consider Cormeilles. Looking at your map you'll notice many designated scenic roads and many châteaux in this area.

There are a few off the beaten path towns/villages just south and east of this area that I have never been to but I am putting them on my list for my next trip to Normandy. You can look into the towns/villages of Bernay, Orbec, Beaumont-le-Roger and Le Bec-Hellouin. Here are some websites:

http://www.bernaytourisme.fr/

http://www.tourisme-normandie.fr/

http://www.lebechellouin.fr/

beaumont-le-roger.fr/tourisme-et-patrimoine/…

I think you now have enough info to feel overwhelmed so I'll stop here and you can come back if/when you have more questions. Have fun planning. :)

Spello, Italy
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8. Re: Week in Normandy after 10 months in Italy

There is so much wow here, I will have to resort to the Italian "uou". Uou!

This is incredibly helpful, thank you.

I'm definitely getting a Michelin map (I wonder if I can order it on Amazon), and have started looking at town websites. Both great tips. Never would have thought of either. I'm already a little in love with Bernay.

Cambremer also looks lovely… so does Etretat… and other villages traveler's have suggested. I think we'll make the decision of which based on which have a place to stay for 3 days with beautiful outdoor space. Preferably a farm. If anyone has any leads for a farm location, very close (walkable?) to a sweet town like the ones you've suggested, and within striking distance of other interesting places to visit, let me know. In any case, I'll continue my restless wandering through possibilities. I feel very sure I'll find something lovely in one of the places suggested.

One thing I know-- Normandy is gorgeous, and this is going to be a great trip. Thanks to everyone's help!

Best,

Michelle

www.ilbelcentro.com

Paris, France
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9. Re: Week in Normandy after 10 months in Italy

You can buy the Michelin maps from their website and here is a link to the page that shows you the 1:200,000 scale maps of France: http://tinyurl.com/4bt96ev

And here is a link to the page that shows you the 1:150,000 scale maps of France:

http://tinyurl.com/6mt4n64

You can google the regional, departmental, city or town tourist office websites for any place you may want to visit. In doing a google search enter the words "office de tourisme" followed by the name of your region, department, city or town and this will bring that place to the top of your search.

I don't have any specific recommendations for places to stay but if you want to stay on a farm you can look at this website, which unfortunately only seems to be in French:

http://www.bienvenue-a-la-ferme.com/

The tourist office websites will also list much of the accommodation in their respective towns and environs, including hotels, gîtes, B&B's etc.

Hopefully someone can give you a recommendation on a specific place but I have no doubt you can find something on your own with a little detective work using the resources you now have. :)

Edited: 19 April 2013, 15:38
Paris, France
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10. Re: Week in Normandy after 10 months in Italy

Check this website (in English) for farm stays as well:

ferme-auberge.com/site/seasonal-holiday-rent…