Rouen, Monet’s Gardens, the Route of the Abbeys and the Alabaster Coast
The coastline of northern France, known as Haute Normandie until 2015, includes white-chalk cliffs and WWII beachheads and is one of the most historical regions of the country. Visit the seaside resort of Deauville on the Côte Fleurie with its Belle Époque villas and half timbered buildings. Historic Rouen, the capital of Normandy is impressive, to say the least.
Take the time to explore the 500 years of medieval Normandy starting in Mont Saint Michel, on the border of Brittany. The must-sees include the Bayeux Tapestry, the ruins of the Jumièges Abbey, the Château-Gaillard and the medieval village of Domfront.
If you come, plan on enjoying the medieval fairs in the land of William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionheart and Joan of Arc.
Its atmospheric old quarter, Vieux Rouen, is filled with highly picturesque half-timbered homes, and its outstanding Musée de Beaux Arts, richly endowed with the Impressionist masterpieces of Monet, Sisley, Pissarro and Renoir. Its Ceramic Museum is devoted to 17th and 18th century Rouen faïence, decorated earthenware. You’ll also ﬁnd the great abbey church of St- Ouen in Vieux Rouen and of course the sights associated with Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), patron saint of France, who was tried for witchcraft and burned at the stake in the city’s historic market square in 1431.
Some of the ﬁnest church architecture in France can be found in Rouen, in particular its cathedral, one of Europe’s ﬁnest Gothic masterpieces, whose west façade Monet painted 28 times in his studies of changing light. The 16th century stain glass windows of Eglise Sainte Jeanne d’Arc Rouen, were salvaged from the original church of Saint Vincent, severely damaged in 1944, are magnificent.
From Rouen we journeyed eastward to the picture perfect postcard village of Lyons-la-Forêt, chock-ﬁlled with ﬂower bedecked 17th century timber framed houses (one, the former residence of composer Maurice Ravel) and the hamlet used as the set for the Madame Bovary ﬁlms. The village sits within one of Europe’s ﬁnest beech grove forest.
A must stop on any visit to Normandy are the famous gardens of impressionist painter Claude Monet in the village of Giverny, where Monet lived and painted for 43 years.
Exploring the Alabaster Coast
The Alabaster Coast extends for 45 kms between Le Havre and Fécamp and is perfect for exploring by car, or on a more leisurely pace by bicycle or walking the GR21; visiting the unspoiled villages that you might otherwise miss.
Impressive in their scale and setting in a beautiful mender on the River Seine. The original abbey was founded in 654 AD, and was the most powerful, charitable and renowned religious establish in France. Nearby in Villequier you’ll find the Victor Hugo Museum and the 12th-century Abbey of Saint-Georges-de-Boscherville, built in Norman romanesque style.
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