Administratively, the region is divided into three departments whose borders are shown on the map: Manche on the west, Calvados east of that along the coast, and Orne inland on the south side. The northern part of Manche is the Cotentin Peninsula, also called the Cherbourg Peninsula,
This part of France saw intense fighting during the Second World War; the D-Day beaches, where the Allies landed in June 1944, are along the coast in Calvados, and the fighting soon extended to other parts of the region.
- Caen — capital of the region
- Bayeux — location of the famous Tapestry
- Cherbourg - port with ferries to [UK]] and Ireland
- Deauville — beach resort
- Falaise — birthplace of William the conqueror
- Honfleur — 17th-century harbor; stay a few day or see at least the impressive wooden church
- Lisieux — birthplace of Ste Therese and pilgrimage city
- Mont Saint Michel - historic island monastery on the UNESCO World Heritage List
French is the official language, and all the locals will speak it. Some may use some non-standard expressions, but most will make the effort not to use them if you are foreign.
Local expressions you might encounter are 'Tantôt' (Soon), meaning either this morning, this afternoon, tomorrow morning/afternoon or yesterday morning/afternoon, depending of the speaker, so ask for details. As Normandy is a premium tourist destinations, many of the younger people will speak English, and will be willing to speak it. Spanish, Italian, and German are also quite widely studied at school.
Although there are Norman languages, they are mostly dying out, and the speakers will also speak French. You may also meet the occasional speaker of the neighbouring regions' local languages, such as Breton or Picard, but in any case, a stranger would address you only in French (or maybe English if you were in a tourist area).
There is a ferry-port in Ouistréham, with ferries to Portsmouth with Brittany Ferries. Another popular option with the locals is the crossings run by LD Lines to Le Havre and Dieppe from Newhaven and Portsmouth, which are sometimes substantially cheaper. Cherbourg, Calais and Saint-Malo are also within driving distance.
A Ferry To: Price Comparison site
Rail is the most commonly used public transport in France for inter-regional travel. It is cheap, fast and reliable. Check out reductions for under-26, over-25 and group travellers. Tickets can usually be bought abroad, on the internet, at stations; in advance or on the day.
Caen is the main station, alongside Lisieux, Bayeux, Trouville-Deauville and Cabourg-Dives. There are also stations in Lison, Le Molay Littry, Audrieu, Bretteville Norrey, Frénouville Cagny, Mézidon, Moult Argences, St Pierre sur Dives, Coulibœuf, Le Grand Jardin, Pont L'Évêque, Blonville Bennerville, Villers/Mer, Houlgate and Dives Port-Guillaume.
Trains go towards Saint-Lô (Cherbourg and Rennes), Paris (2 hours away), Alençon (Le Mans), and Rouen.
Roads in France are good.
The main motorway is the A13 to Caen from Paris (225km / 139 miles). It then continues to Cherbourg (although it is not always a motorway). Some of it is toll, but quite cheap. The A84 goes from Caen to Rennes. You can also take the RN13 from Paris, which is free.
To cross the Seine, you can use the Pont de Normandie between Le Havre and Honfleur. Toll is 5€ for a car. A popular site in itself, the bridge, which opened in 1995, at the time was the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world, and had the record for the longest distance between piers; these records were lost in 1999 and 2004 respectively.
There is a free bridge further south at Tancarville, and more bridges as you go further south (where the Seine isn't as wide).
A very common method of getting around Normandy in general is to go by car, since distances between the beautiful sights that Normandy has to offer are far from another. While travelling on own terms, a road atlas will come in very handy. Car rentals are a common and convenient method of travelling, while other means of transportation such as train, car pooling or even coach do count as a valuable alternatives. Several comparison sites such as vivanoda fromAtoB may provide helpful assistance in deciding how to arrive at a certain sight in Normandy.
- UNESCO World Heritage Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Michel over a rock isolated by the high tide in Mont Saint Michel.
- D-Day Beaches of the Normandy landings near Caen
D-Day circuits are signposted, and take you around Normandy retracing the history of the 1944 events in the Region. Details can be obtained through the Official Site
- Chateau de Bruil, Le Breuil en Auge (0.21535), ☎ +33 2 31 65 60 00. tours 9:00-12:00,14:00-21:00. Guides tour of the calvados distillery and aging cellars followed by pommeau and calvados tasting and a visit to the shop.
- Le Dauphine, Rue de l'Église 2, ☎ +33 231650811. 12:00-14:00t, 7:15-21:00. Real gourmet restaurant. €50 menus.
The Calvados region produces a famous, and very potent, apple brandy which is usually just called Calvados. It is readily available anywhere in France and widely exported, but may be cheaper or better here.
France is a pretty safe country, and Normandy doesn't have any big cities with no-go areas, although as in any place, you should stick to a few obvious rules (don't walk down dark alleyways at 4 in the morning, etc...).
If in trouble, speak to a policeman (Policier or Gendarme) or go to a police station (Comissariat) where you will be given help.
For health issues, go see a doctor (médecin, around 20€). For ER/A&E, ask for Urgences. You can call SOS Médecin (Tél: 36 24), who can send out a doctor (very useful in rural areas). Chemist are Pharmacies, and most major towns will have a Pharmacien de garde who will stay open all night for emergencies (they take turns, check in the local paper to get the name and phone number).
Emergency phone numbers are:
- 15 for ambulances
- 17 for police
- 18 for fire service (who also serve as ambulances and deal with issues such as gas leaks, traffic collisions, etc...)
The European Emergency number 112 will also work.