Croissants in the morning, a baguette sandwich or crepes for lunch, mussels and oysters fresh from the sea, beautiful little towns, wonderful gardens, nature, great trails for extensive walks and hikes with amazing views, impressive coastlines, beaches and bays.
This is France, the Normandy.
1.100 km Berlin – Dieppe, France
1,080 km along the coastline of the Normandy from Dieppe to Mont Saint Michel
Here are the main spots that we marked on our map and are writing about in this report:
- Cote d’Albâtre
Dieppe – Veulettes-sur-Mer – Fécamp – Yport – Étretat
- Cote de Grace – Cote Fleurie
Honfleur – Trouville – Deauville – Houlgate
- Plateau du Calvados
St-Aubin-sur-Mer – Courseulles-sur-Mer – Arromanches-les-Bains
- The D-Day Beaches: Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah Beach
- Ravenoville – St-Vaast-la-Hougue – Barfleur
- Cherbourg – Landemer – Omonville-la-Rogue – St-Germain-des-Vaux – Cap de la Hague – Auderville
- Cap de Carteret – Gouville-sur-Mer
- Baie du Mont Saint Michel
When we planned our trip we went online and checked some apps and travel books for campgrounds in the region but ended up not to book any of those. We wanted to stay flexible when touring around and not having the campgrounds fixed or booked. This gave us much more freedom with our decisions on what to do or where to go next.
Normandy is so very well and perfectly organized for camping cars and RVs. A long the road and or when entering a town you will see signs and directions for campgrounds, parking areas for camping cars, or areas for getting fresh water or taking care of your waste disposal. For these waste disposal facilities you might need a token that you will have to purchase at the regional office of tourism or they just require a credit card. That’s how easy it is.
Again, there should be no worries finding a place to rest for the night and be assured there are many beautiful and well-located campgrounds. Some are located right of the beach or on a plateau with great views.
NOTE: Most of the bigger campgrounds, that are fully equipped, close at the end of September to April. But there are many other campsites or parking areas that will be open.
There was no campground or RV parking area where dogs wouldn’t be allowed. How great and easy is that? We loved it and sure our Tiger, too. Some beaches, like in any other beach areas don’t allow dogs in the summer months or show signs that your dog must be on the leash. But in September and October the beaches are open for dogs as well.
Dieppe – Veules-les-Roses – Saint-Valery-en-Caux – Veulettes-sur-Mer
> 50 km
Dieppe was our first stop when reaching the coast of the Normandy after a long 2-day drive of 1,200 km from Berlin. It felt good to smell the salty seawater and breath the fresh air. It was a good first spot to relax and getting exited for many great and beautiful sights.
Dieppe has a pebble beach like many of the beach areas in the northern Normandy. The tall cliffs in the west are impressive. The fishing port and marina is located in the heart of the town, which makes a beautiful picture and invites for walk through the town or a long the seaside promenade with many seafood restaurants, cultural attractions, sports facilities and areas for children.
The city has an interesting history that even includes the Vikings when sailing down south. The port city is also known in history for fishing and commerce for ivory and spices. In the early 19th century Dieppe became France’s first seaside resort for many Parisians, British, and painters visiting and holidaying at Dieppe’s seaside.
Places to see:
- Dieppe Castle: It’s located on top of the cliffs and gives a great view on the town. The castle museum holds a great exhibition on fine art and carvings.
- The memorial to the 19 August 1942 Dieppe raid. A theatre that was transferred into a museum holding an exhibition on the Dieppe raid in 1942 when a British-Canadian attack ended in a catastrophe.
- Saint-Jacques Church: a medieval pilgrims church, with amazing Gothic characteristics and it’s stained glass windows.
- The historical town centre: reconstructed by Louis XIV architect Ventabren to the end of the 17th
- Quartier du Pollet: a traditional fishermen’s quarter located on the eastern side of the harbour.
- Estran Cité de la Mer: this museum is located on the front seaside and holds exhibitions on Dieppe’s maritime tradition.
- GOLF? Golf de Dieppe-Pourville: If you like playing golf you should play this course. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring our gear this time. The cliffs between Dieppe and Pourville locate this old golf course from the 19th century with amazing views on the sea.
A small fishing port and very charming town situated in the Pays de Caux only 32 km west of Dieppe. Huge cliffs rise up from the pebble beach with views on the English Channel. The town is a must see.
- Campsite: There is a car park for camping cars right by the harbour and below the cliffs. It’s only walking distance from the town and has a great view on the cliffs.
It wasn’t on our list but when entering the town we found a really nice camping side, which was right off the seaside in the front and rangeland with cows in the back. It was a great spot for a walk with our dog Tiger and to rest for the night before carrying on the next day to the beautiful town of Honfleur and the famous beach resorts of Trouville, Deauville, Holgate, and Cabourg.
- Campsite: The campsite is located right in the back of the beachfront promenade and rangeland in back. Good for walking your dog. Waste disposal are at the entrance. The sanitary area offers toilettes only.
Fécamp – Yport – Etretat – Honfleur – Trouville – Deauville – Holgate
> 190 km
The next stop for the day was Fécamp. It’s beautifully located at the “Alabaster Coast” and surrounded by the tallest cliffs of Normandy.
You can tell that fishing was important to Fécamp over many centuries. It was one of France’s main cod-fishing ports with even fishing boats heading off all the way to Newfoundland. The port also known for one of the earliest coastal bases for the dukes of Normandy. In medieval times a Benedictine abbey was build and became important to the dukes of Normandy. The well-known herbal drink, a liquor called “Benedictine” was created here in the abbey.
Places to see:
- Le Palais Bénédictine: The Benedictine Palace is a must see in Fécamp. The architecture shows neo-Reneaissance and neo-Gothic characteristics. It contains a collection of religious works from the 15th – 16th centuries, a contemporary art gallery, and the distillery where the well-known “Benedictine” the liquor, a herbal drink is made.
Our next’s stop and already marked on our map as must see. It’s located right between Fércamp and Etretat. It is again a beautiful little fishermen town with pebble beaches and great views on the surrounding cliffs that you shouldn’t miss for taking some pictures or just walk through the town for a rest. Also in Yport the 19th century marked the beginning of the rise of sea-bathing coming into fashion. The casino, the beaches, and many great seafood restaurants show the change of Yport from a fishing village to a tourist town at the Alabaster Coast.
We couldn’t wait to get to Etretat to see the amazing cliffs and the impressive arches. Also known for famous impressionist that painted these characteristic arches. Take walk on the seaside of the town with its pebble beach, watch the fishermen, or the surfers. You can also go for great walks on top of the cliffs with amazing views. Etretat is a charming town with little streets, to stroll though, nice seafood restaurants, extravagant hotels, and nice little cafes with terraces to rest and enjoying a crepe.
Places to see:
- The cliffs with its amazing great arches. We were told that during the night the cliffs are lit up and make a beautiful picture.
- Notre-Dame Chrurch: A medieval Norman church with Gothic and Romanesque characters.
- Notre-Dame de la garde Chapel: located on the top of the resort on the east with great views on the town.
- The old market square: is a timber-framed covered market with boutiques inside.
- Golf d’Etretat: Again a beautiful golf course located in an exceptional spot on top of the cliffs, west of Etretat with amazing views on the sea.
Honfleur Honfleur … My mom was crazy about this town and told as over and over again to visit this charming and beautiful city, which we also seen many times on brochures and postcards. Its located only 23 km south of Le Havre via the “Pont de Normandy” and tucked away on the southern side of the Sein’s estuary.
Very enchanting with its harbour, the “Vieux Bassin” located in the centre of the village with lots of sailing yachts and surrounded by great seafood restaurants.
This made us hungry and though it would be the perfect place to have lunch. And the specialty for the area is mussels and French fries. No question, we sure did have our first dish of “moules et pommes des frites”. They come either just steamed with onions and white wine, or a Camembert or Roquefort sauce. YUMMY!
After lunch we took some time for a walk though the little streets behind the quays with a very picturesque setting. Shops offer articles from the region; galleries show great art; and again great restaurants with terraces a long the way across the cobbles. The quarters on the different sides of the Vieux Bassin have a very charming and enchanting atmosphere and are worth visiting.
Places to see:
- L’Enclos with the old port “Vieux Bassin”: very picturesque with all the yachts and surrounded restaurants and the church of Saint-Etienne.
- Saint-Léonard with the open-air washhouse behind the tourist office.
- Saint-Catherine Church: the largest wooden church in France with a separate bell tower. It was build around 1500 by ship carpenters. It is surrounded with quality restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and shops.
- Cote de Grace: a hill 1,5 km from the town for a nice walk and great views on Honfleur, the Seine, the Pont de Normandy, and Le Havre.
- Maison Satie: The composer Erik Satie was born here in 1866. His life is told while you walk through the house, with nice stories of the composer and music samples.
- Musée Eugène Boudin: Boudin is known for the impressionist movement and the museum houses around 90 of the painter’s works.
- Campsite: There is a campsite when entering the town and in walking distance to the centre with its Vieux Bassin. Another one is on the backside of the town and again walking distance to centre.
THE QUEEN OF BEACHES
After leaving Honfleur we had a beautiful drive to Trouville with all the great villas when entering the town from the north through the winding roads down to the centre, which gave us a very good impression on the wealth of its inhabitants and the beautiful 19th century architecture and its characteristics. Trouville was a spot on our map but we decided to just drive through and not to spend too much time in the city, although it offers great shops and many quality restaurants, especially for seafood. It is known as “The Queen of Beaches”, with famous visitors in history such as Flaubert and Proust, or Marguerite Duras, the popular French female writer in the 20th century. Monet and Boudin painted scenes of the 19th century bourgeois promenading a long the beachfront. After the artists the rich and famous started to visit the beautiful seaside resort. Wednesday and Sunday is known for its market in the lively port area. Galleries offer great and quality art.
Deauville is attached to Trouville and as well know to the rich and famous, especially the Parisians for a great seaside holiday. In 1975 the American Film Festival was inaugurated in Deauville and began bringing stars and many fans to the city. The city is recognized for its great and luxury hotels in the Anglo-Norman timber-frame style, bathing facilities, beautiful 19th century villas, the casino, upmarket shopping, art galleries, Polo, horseracing, and again many quality restaurant. Great sandy beaches and marinas with yachts round up the beauty of a seaside city.
Holgate was our next destination. It is a beautiful seaside resort with again great 19th century villas and Grand hotels and great sandy beaches. It is only a few kilometres away from Deauville but seamed to be a bid more relaxed.
On our way through the town we captures this sign for a campground called Camping de la Plage (3 stars). So we thought being 5 p.m. its time to check it out and rest for the rest of the day and night.
It was the perfect spot on a terrace, on top of the beach with a fantastic view. Yes, here we stay.
And we got treated with a really nice sunset.
- Campsite: located on a terrace on top of the beaches of Holgate with great views. Sanitary areas with laundry machines. Located in the town makes it easy for a nice evening walk and having dinner at quality seafood restaurants.
Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer – Courseulles-sur-Mer – Arromanches-les-Bains – Ravenoville – Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue – Barfleur
> 176 km
On day 5 we decided to path by the city of Caen and to drive up the Plateau du Calvados through Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, Courseulles-sur-Mer and Arromanches-les-Bains, around the Marais and Passe d’Isigny up Utah Beach to Ravenoville.
British, American and Canadian flags in every town and beachfront will now remind you to the D-Day Landing. You can still see the many bunkers and gun emplacements along many beaches. Memorials, museums, cemeteries and other sites are set along the coastline of the D-Day landing beaches. The museums are very impressive and show very good material, films, images, and plans on the D-Day landing.
The D-Day Landing Beaches: Sword, Juno, Gold, Utah and Omaha Beach
The Normandy coast west from the Orne River Estuary to the Cotenin Peninsula was chosen for its flat beaches of this invasion and the area was closer to Britain.
The invasion began in the night of the 5th to the 6th of June 1994.
The 60-mile coastline was divided into 5 sectors, which were nicknamed: Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah Beach
Go and visit some of these impressive and memorial sites.
We stopped at Arromanches. It is a very moving town and known for the portable harbour during the D-Day landing. You will still get a sense of the massive effort of the Allied invasion. Troops didn’t land at Arromanches but it became popular for its portable harbour named Mulberry Harbour, which also became known as Port Winston after Winston Churchill. It was build in Arromanches after the landing and was a temporary port for about five months to serve the Allies bringing in all their troops and equipment.
Besides all the reminders about D-Day, the town it self is very charming, with great beaches and cliffs for a nice walk.
Pleaces to see in Arromanches:
- D-Day Museum: the museum focuses on the D-Day landings. It shows fascinating detail about setting up the Mulberry Harbour, and videos about the landing and afterwards.
- Arromanches 360°: a cinema opened for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings and showing images of this time. Films take you through 100 days of the Battle of Normandy to the liberation of the region.
RAIN and misty weather
It started raining. So we decided not to stop in every town and beach. We thought it might be good to make some kilometres and therefore headed towards our next destination Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue and Barfleur.
On the way we stopped at Ravenoville-Plage. Misty and foggy weather; low tide and marchland; empty beachfront houses; and the horse on the beach. It was a great atmosphere for a walk in the marchland and taking pictures.
Next on the map was Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue with its oyster farms; located in a quite bay and sheltered from the winds. It invites you to discover its historical heritage, with its two towers classified world heritage of UNSECO. The fishing port is offering places to taste oysters or just having a rest in a bistro. Off the port is Tatihou island and a good place to see.
Is a very traditional and picturesque Norman fishing town, with its fishing port is anchored beside the channel of the Cotentin Peninsula. Granit houses, the church with its graveyard overlooking the bay towards the Gatteville lighthouse, unloading of the fisher boats with its catch, with restaurants gathering around the port gives it a very beautiful atmosphere with a Norman characteristic. It’s a great palace for making good pictures.
It was the perfect place to stay for the night and a stroll through the town. After a day of rain it was nice to choose a nice and cosy seafood restaurant for dinner. The restaurant was offering the delicious moules de Barfleur, which are wild mussels and harvested by the fishermen just out the sea.
BARFLEUR WILD MUSSELS
The majority of mussels nowadays come from mussel farms. We scoped many on our trip through Normandy and Brittany. But on the eastern side of the Cotentin Peninsula are still natural mussels banks providing the popular “Moules de Barfleur” or also know as “Barfleur blondes”. The mussels are harvested from fisher boats. Check the local restaurants for the season of the mussels. They are not available all the time because they are coming from natural banks.
Restaurants around the picturesque port are good places to taste them. They are cooked in three different ways:
- À la marinière – a classical white wine sauce with shallots.
- Cooked in a cream sauce with Camembert cheese.
- À la normande – with a fish stock, butter, egg yolks and cream
- Campsite: we found a parking area for camping cars on the backside of the town behind the quay walls. It is in a walking distance to the town. A fully equipped camping ground is located just 200 meters down the road.
Cherbourg – Landemer – Omonville-la-Rogue – St-Germain-des-Vaux – Cap de la Hague – Auderville – Cap de Carteret – Gouville-sur-Mer
> 147 km
The day in Barfleur started with beautiful weather. Perfect to take some last pictures of the port before heading towards the Cap de la Hague.
Again we followed the smaller roads with beautiful little towns and landscapes. We went through the port city of Cherbourg but didn’t stop. On this day we wanted to the amazing coast towards the cap.
Our first stop was Landemer. It’s a great spot a long the way with an astonishing view on the coastline and very different to what we saw on the previous days. A trail for walks along the coastline offers great views.
Stay on the little roads. Again you will be rewarded with beautiful sights on the way to Omonville-la-Rogue and the town of Saint-Germain-de-Vaux and Auderville. Be assured that you will stop many times for a view.
The Cap de Hague was now in front of us. Park your campervan at the parking lot at back of the town and head down the road to the cap with its lighthouse. There is no place for parking a campervan down there. But the walk is only about one kilometre and gives you time to rest from driving. It’s time for taking pictures.
Cap de Carteret was the next spot on the map and not to be missed. Cap de Carteret has amazing beaches and an impressive coastline. This was the perfect spot for a long walk on the beach and a nice picnic with a great view.
Beaches and oysters – that’s the Normandy. It’s getting late in the afternoon and here a signs shows up for a campsite in Gouville-sur-Mer. Yes, it’s time to sit on the beach and watch the sun go down after all the driving, the sights we have seen, views and pictures of today. And Mont Saint Michel is not that far for a morning drive.
THE END OF SEASON
The beach huts were empty, almost no people on the beach and we were lucky to get a beer at a nearby beach restaurant. But we like this atmosphere a lot and wrote about the beauty of this time in an earlier report on Dieppe.
- Campsite: there is one parking area for camping cars right on top of the beach, where we parked for the night. It has a waste disposal area and is very inexpensive. 100 meters down the road you will find a fully equipped campground.
Granville – Baie du Mont Saint Michel – Saint Malow
> 169 km
Good morning! We got up early like most of the days during our trip. It is good leaving the campsite at early morning and hitting the road when every one else is still sleeping. Let’s get a croissant at a nearby bakery to start the day with and go! The smell when entering the bakeries in the morning is amazing and we can’t forget this smell.
Granville was the next destination on our way to Mont Saint-Michel.Also called “Le Roc” with its dramatic headland when driving down to the town. You will get rewarded with an amazing view across the bay of Mont Saint-Michel. Below the headlands you will see the beach resort with the white beach huts and the extravagant villas by the seawater swimming pool.
Get out for a walk and take pictures before you are entering the town with its Gothic church, solid stone mansions, the Musée Anacréon, and the pink villa where the well-known fashion designer Christian Dior crew up. It is now a museum.
Places to see:
- Musée Christian Dior: the pink villa where the 20th century designer lived as a child is now hosting a museum with a fashion exhibition. The beautiful garden and the wonderful views you will get from the tearoom.
- Musée d’art moderne Richard Anacréon: located on the upper town and holds an amazing collection of modern art.
- The Haute-Ville: the upper town, with shops and restaurants, the amazing sea views, and grand buildings.
- Granville Carnival: it’s the biggest carnival in Normandy and known for its fancy costumes, street concerts and parades. The story is saying, that it were sailors from Granville that started the tradition of Mardi Gras to celebrate before leaving on long fishing trips to Newfoundland. This Carnival is held annually the weekend before Mardi Gras. You will need to check the calendars for the exact date because it’s changing every year, based on the Catholic calendar that puts Mardi Gras 40 days before Easter.
Oh when driving from Granville around the bay we have already scoped Mont Saint-Michel in the bay. We were so excited to get closer and see this impressive abbey or rock close in front of us.
When getting close you will be directed to a bigger car park. One is especially for camping cars. If you don’t want to walk, busses and horse carriages will than take you from the car park or main entrance over the 2.5 km dam to Mont Saint-Michel. All is very well organized!
We took our bikes and Tiger’s carriage to get all the way down where the dam and bridge (2.5km) crosses over to the Mont Saint-Michel.
However, we ended up not crossing the dam because it was closed for bikes from morning to the afternoon and unfortunately, Tiger can’t walk that far anymore and therefore we decided to take a good view on Mont Saint-Michel, take pictures and have lunch.
Mont Saint-Michel is located 600 meters off the coast, at the mouth of the Coueson River near Avranches. It is 100 hectares in size. Since the 8th century it has been the seat of the monastery. Mont Saint-Michel and its bay are on the UNSECO list of World Heritage Sites. More than 3 million people visit it each year.
It is an amazing landmark and must be seen. You can also take a flight around the bay.
THE END OF OUR ROAD TRIP NORMANDY
This was the last stop of our road trip along the Normandy coastline. If you liked it than go and also see the 2nd report from our tour along the coastline of Brittany.
Links and sites to visit in the region
- Normandy tourism site: http://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/normandy-tourism-1-2.html
- Honfleur tourism site: honfleur-tourism.co.uk/
- Official Mont Saint-Michel Tourist site: http://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/index.htm?lang=en
- Voyages en France avec les offices de Tourisme: http://www.tourisme.fr/