Weekend Road Trip: 3 Places to Visit in Normandy, France
For our personal taste, Normandy is the loveliest region to take a road trip among all the others in the Northern part of France. We thought so a year ago, and we think so now, after returning there for the second time.
Why? Glad you asked, Dear Reader!
Firstly, for the picturesque villages. Flowery windows, colorful shutters, unique town decorations, pastry smell in the air – these are the simple things that makes Normandy villages extraordinary!
Secondly, for the cherished and nourished nature. From the small gardens in the main village squares to the ones in the backyards of small cottages – every little piece of nature is handled with love and care here. Blooming in all the rainbow colours, that’s how Normandy villages looks like in spring!
Finally, for the extraordinary city architecture. Stoned or timber-framed, ornamented or decorated – every small cottage and house in Normandy is worth to be captured!
Weekend Road Trip
We believe that the best road trip is the one farther from the highway and closer to small, local villages1. So, this spring we decided to get back to the region that owns probably the loveliest villages that we have discovered so far.
Yup! We planned a two-day road trip through the charming Normandy!
Now, Dear Reader, there could be many scenarios how you could plan yourself a road trip through Normandy. The easiest way is to reach it from Paris. Just an hour and you’re already exploring the best of the Northern France. Also, Normandy is just 2-4 hours drive from the Benelux countries. So, if you get up early on Saturday, open this blog post. It’s the best idea how to have a wonderful weekend road trip! Finally, if you are planning a longer trip across the Europe, and Northern part of France is included, the following information, Dear Reader, is essential for you.
Normandy is a big region and it needs a lot of time. So, unless you will have more than a week for Normandy, you probably won’t see all the things you need to discover. Anyway, let’s pick one part of Normandy and see what there is to discover. During our latest road trip, we chose to explore the Eastern part of the region, and made ourselves quite a picturesque route which today we would love to share with you!
Here are three places that you need to discover in the Eastern part of Normandy on your two-day road trip!
“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece” ― Claude Monet.
This is your first stop. Giverny is a small French village just 80 kilometers from Paris. One narrow main street, 500 local residents, small stone cottages, and… The house and gardens of French impressionist Claude Monet!
Until Claude Monet found this little town of Giverny in 1881, it was just an ordinary French village. Now it is a worldwide famous tourist attractions, bringing half a million tourist to Normandy every year! What is so special about the house and gardens of Monet? Well, artist here have created himself all the inspiration he needed for his work. His gardens are created in a way that they are blooming from the early spring to late autumn. His house is decorated in such a warm colours and such a warm materials that it itself looks like a masterpiece. The famous Monet water lilies not only hangs on the wall, but they also grows in the pond!
Personally, we planned of visiting Giverny from the first moment we saw the pictures of Monet water gardens a year ago. But back then, on our first road trip through Northern France, we chose to drive closer to the sea. Happily, we returned here to correct our mistake! And, I have to say, that it was sure worth returning. I’m not a huge fan of the museums, but this one I enjoyed a lot. I could hardly imagine discovering another such a warm, cozy and classy home.
Anyway, let’s move forward! It took us approximately three hours to explore whole Giverny and an hour more to reach the spectacular city of…
Yup, the one and only! Though, I have to admit, that at the time we planned our route across Normandy, Rouen didn’t sound like the-one-and-only type of destination. We have heard a bit about this city, but we hadn’t got high expectations about it. Actually, we chose it as a bigger city2 to spend a night and to see a Normandian city on our way to the sea. At the end, Rouen turned out to be the greatest discovery of whole road trip!
Rouen is the capital and the biggest city of Normandy. Once it was one of the most prosperous city of medieval Europe, and now it’s a living example of those times architecture. With glorious Gothic churches and crooked timber-framed houses around them, the old town of Rouen left us a huge, huuuge impression. If not the modern shop windows, you could easily state that it’s a some kind of medieval movie set. It’s truly unbelievable how such a crooked houses could still stand and even be inhabited!
One way or another, significant part of Rouen history is related to the terrifying times of inquisition. Undoubtedly, the most known history moment from that times is the tragic destiny of French national heroine Joan of Arc. Rouen was the place where she was sentenced to death and later burned at the stake in the middle of old market square. Centuries after the name of Joan of Arc was rehabilitated and now Rouen is full of places dedicated to this brave French lady.
What is more, it was really interesting to acknowledge that this city owns the oldest working restaurant in whole France. La Couronne is operating since 1345! Impressive, isn’t it?
Just an evening stroll wasn’t enough for us, and instead of keeping up to the plan to move straight towards the sea, we got up in the morning and went back to experience more of this city. After half a day wandering around, we finally decided that it’s time to move to our next destination. We jumped to our car and an hour later we were already standing at the seaside of the charming Etretat!
Etretat is a charming little resort town on the shores of the English Channel, famous for extraordinary cliff formation. Basically, town is surrounded by white chalk cliffs that, due to erosion, has gained really spectacular shapes. The most iconic one is called the Needle, because it forms the arch that reminds the loop of this sewing device.
Though cliffs of Etretat makes this town special, it’s not the only reason to visit this relaxing place. Firstly, the town itself is a cutie-pie. Though a bit touristy, the streets of Etretat breathes the relaxing holiday mood! After a day around classy old villas, cozy restaurants, little shops and promenades by the sea, you will definitely be in love with this charming town. Also, Etretat isn’t boring! There are long, twisty and extremely picturesque walking paths around the city. On the cliffs, above the sea, of course! Though we walked just a small piece of it, I think that I have already found the perfect spot for watching a sunset in France…
Anyway, sea, beaches, various walking and hiking options, water activities makes Etretat a great nature getaway. And you,Dear Reader, should definitely spend here at least half a day!
Even a thought of this two-day road trip through Normandy puts a smile on my face. I know that half of the happiness that Normandy brought to us this spring, wouldn’t have come if not the warm and sunny weather, but still! Sunny spring and blooming Normandy is the best idea for your, Dear Reader, weekend getaway. So, pack your things along with your travel companions, and get on the road towards Giverny. The rest of the directions you know!