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The geographical area known outside France as Normandie (Normandy) no longer consists of two regions - Basse-Normandie (nearest to Bretagne) and Haute-Normandie. As of January 1, 2016, the two regions were joined to become Normandie. Most visitors from abroad are attracted by relatively few places and the beaches are much less visited than those in Bretagne. However those that do attract, attract a multitude and most are covered here. Check out this Short guide to Normandy for a more detailed introduction to the region.
Clockwise from the English Channel (La Manche) the surrounding regions are Hauts de France, Île-de-France, Centre-Val de la Loire, Pays de la Loire and Bretagne. The departments of Normandie are Seine-Maritime and Eure, Manch, Calvados and Orne.
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Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most popular sights in Normandie, or anywhere in France for that matter. Mont Saint-Michel (English: Saint Michael's Mount) is a rocky tidal island and a commune. It is located just off the north coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. The population of the island is just around 40!
The first week of May sees gourmands trek out to Cambremer to celebrate the best of Normandy’s cheeses, wines and culinary delights. A two day event, markets, tastings and games are enjoyed by families and children alike.
The Fetes Jeanne d’Arc and Medieval Market in early May in Rouen is dedicated to the folk heroine. The peasant girl who is said to have led the French army to victory is honored with a parade, religious procession and reenactments of the famous siege of Orléans.
Early July sees people parade the streets of Bayeux in Medieval costumes, with feasts, a ball and period pieces throughout the town. A few weeks later, the event moves to Crevecouer, and Mortemer and Domfront in August. Almost anywhere in Normandy you can find some semblance of celebration of the Middle Ages with jesters, jugglers, minstrels, knights and artisans.
From mid-October through November, 60 theater, music and dance performances and circus events are held throughout the region in cities like Dieppe, Rouen and Le Havre to celebrate the arts.
Held annually on June 6, the fateful day marks the anniversary of the 1944 landing of the allied troops to fight Nazi Germany. Set on Bayeux–Bessin beach, ceremonies and events are held as memorials to honor the 9,000 killed or wounded in the epic battle.
Normandie has a maritime climate with generally cool summers and mild winters. Most of the precipitation falls during the months of October to April, but showers in summer are common as well. Temperatures from June to August are mostly around 20 °C or a little more. Coastal areas are in general a little colder than inland areas during summer, but milder during winter. Winters last from December to March when it's mostly well above zero, at coastal areas even during the night. Inland, a little frost and snow is not unheard of but lately winters have been less severe than they used to be.
Norman cuisine is based around the three main products of the region: seafood, apples and dairy products.
Specialities from the sea include Dieppe sole and Normandy oysters.
Normandy is the home of several world-famous cheeses: Neufchâtel, Pont-L'Evêque, Livarot (also known as the "Colonel"), and the round Camembert of Marie Harel.
Normandy is renowned for its variety of meats, from the delicate flavor of saltmarsh lamb to creamy chicken "à la Vallée d'Auge" and duck "à la Rouennaise".
The creamy omelettes of the Mont Saint Michel, the Vire andouille sausages, tripes cooked "à la mode de Caen", the "boudin" sausages of Mortagne, and the recent introduction to the region of foie gras, are also guaranteed to satisfy the most demanding gastronome.
Local desserts include "bourdelots" or "teurgoule", or such sweets as Isigny toffees or apple sugars from Rouen.
Apples being a major item of produce in the orchards of Normandy, it is not surprising that cider - still or sparkling, dry or sweet, or perry - is a favorite regional tipple. Also derived from Norman apples is the famous calvados apple brandy (the trou normand).
Produced and originating in the region (from the abbey at Fécamp on the coast) is the famous Bénédictine liqueur.
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