On our circumnavigation of France last October (see here), we'd heard that 'Normandy is often described as the Devon of northern France, with Brittany as the corresponding Cornwall' Fortunate to have a few days to spare before we head south towards the Charente Maritime... we thought why not explore more of Normandy and where better to start than 'Vieux Port' near Honfleur.
For anyone new to the region, this area is part of a pictuersque driving route through rural Normandy (See here for a map of the 'Thatched Cottage Road') Similar to the Fruit Road (more east towards Jumièges and Duclair), the 'Thatched Cottage Route' meanders its way through Vatteville, Aizier and Vieux-Port and takes you to the western confines of the Vernier marhslands.
If you're looking for something that reminds you of the village scenes in Joanne Harris' novel 'Chocolat' then you'd be better heading for the likes of Sarlat or Talmont sur Gironde.... but if you're someone who liked the TV series 'Lovejoy'... then this place might just be for you... Full of half timbered rural cottages with glorious riverside views of the Seine... you could easily be mistaken for thinking you'd wandered in parts of Suffolk/Essex or even Kent.
Spending a day driving through Normandy, it's easy to see why the thatched cottage has become synonymous with the rural life of Normandy. Each house seems to own a river view, apple orchard and some of the prettiest 'wattle and daub' exteriors we've seen across France (perhaps only matched by those in Alsace.
The region itself is famed for it's Calvados (apple brandy) yet is also the birthplace of William the Conqueror, home to the world-famous D-Day Landing Beaches and has a coastline that has inspired many Impressionist artists in chic seaside locations such as Honfleur. With valleys and hillsides perfect for walking or cycling, it's also full of world-famous stud farms, highly popular races and secret pathways.
So if you like Gothic Cathedrals with elegant spires and well restored medieval quarters then you'll probably prefer heading to Rouen, but if you like to amble through the countryside enjoying the views and hunting for that perfect picnic stop or an opportunity to broaden your children's horizons... then Normandy and the Thatched Cottage of Fruit route is well worth va visit... just make sure you leave a little time to enjoy those colourful sunsets across the Seine after a busy day exploring the region.
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