Normandy – Mont St Michel and D-Day Beaches, is that it?

Normandy – once you’ve done the Beaches and MSM there’s not much to see, is there?

This travel Q and A article in the NYT was recently brought to my attention:

By By David G. Allan
Published: October 6, 2009
“I am thinking of going to Paris Thanksgiving week and would love to spend two days in Normandy with a trip to Mont-St.-Michel. Is two days enough to see these sites?”

The author of the article says “Two days for the highlights of Normandy is tight” – tight???? Sorry, but I think you’re barely going to scratch the surface in two days!  However, with inspired insight the author goes on to give a brief description of Mont St Michel and some links to info on the D-Day Beaches.

Unfortunately, when someone says they are “visiting Normandy” that is usually just what they mean – they are going to visit a handful of the D-Day sites and/or Mont Saint Michel, with Bayeux perhaps thrown in for good measure if they are really adventurous.    Just have a look at the comments after the article to see the proof of this.

It is not the public’s fault – after all, these are the best known sites – but wouldn’t it be nice, once in a while, to see a good, intelligent travel article which mentions something other than the obvious?  Why could this travel writer not take the opportunity to open readers’ eyes to at least a couple of other possibilities, rather than rehashing the same old stuff? I know it was a brief Q and A, but it could have mentioned, however briefly, at least a couple of other options.

In a moment of frustration, I dashed off this response in the “Comments” section of the article – still awaiting moderation. I may have been harsh, I most certainly was hasty. What do you think?

For the most part, these ideas for “Normandy” are somewhat narrow in scope. D-Day beaches, Bayeux and Mont St Michel are the usual clichés but amount to about 5% of what there is to see.

There are wonderful chateaux (Champ de Bataille, Carrouges, Beaumesnil, Sassy, Vendeuvre and loads more), medieval forts like Richard the Lionheart’s at Les Andelys and William the Conqueror’s at Falaise.

Great gardens to visit (Monet’s the best known but many more interesting ones like the Jardin Plume).

Superb churches and cathedrals like those at Sées, Alençon and Rouen – many people rate the latter above Notre Dame Paris.

The “bocage” (countryside typified by farmland being a mix of hedgerowed fields and woodland) of the Auge is littered with wonderful picturesque villages and towns, like Vimoutiers. Plus the famous “cheese” villages of Camembert, Livarot, Neufchâtel-en-Bray.

Then there are the seaside towns of Honfleur, Deauville, etc., and the fantastic coastline such as the cliffs of Etretat.

And never mind that there’s all of Upper Normandy, north of the Seine, as well!

“Doing Normandy” in two days lets you squeeze in a visit to a few of the sites on the D-Day beaches plus MSM – but please don’t think that that represents Normandy. There’s an awful lot more to it!

There – that’s that off my chest!  For those who are in search of fresh ideas for Normandy, I’ll be continuing to  spread the word about other sights and places to visit in Lower Normandy as well as the Pays de la Loire.

With thanks to one of my good friends on Twitter @TorreviejaVilla for bringing the article to my attention!

3 thoughts on “Normandy – Mont St Michel and D-Day Beaches, is that it?

  1. Well done! I lived in Normandy for a year and we only just discovered most of Calvados! As far as churches go, you didn’t mention my favorite one, the Bascilica in Lisieux, or any of the museums in Caen.
    You have a lovely blog and I think it’s a shame I didn’t see it sooner. I would have loved to take daytrips to any of the places that you are recommending!

  2. Yours is a perfectly toned response, very interesting and informative!

  3. Barry Frangipane 8 Oct 2009 — 11:14 am

    You are so right! Don’t forget Pont-St-Pierre, Caen, and did you mention Caudebec-en-Caux? You could “see” parts of Normandy in 2 days, but it would take at least two weeks to feel it.

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