The Best of Both Worlds
A pleasant hour and a half drive from the ferry ports of either Ouistreham/Caen or St Malo, lies a perfect location for those wanting to discover, or revisit, the many tourist attractions of Basse Normandie and northern Brittany, but prefer to return each day to a 'home from home', stylish and carefully maintained holiday home in the beautiful Normandie countryside. Away from the hustle and bustle of the larger towns, somewhere to reconnect with nature, relax and truly unwind.
The area of the Parc Naturel Régional de Normandie Maine http://www.parc-naturel-normandie-maine.fr/carte-interactive/index.html is predominantly agricultural. The region's landscape is defined by it's local produce. In the heart of the Basse Normandie countryside, patchwork scenes of apple orchards and pastures dotted with cattle hint at the cider, calvados, butter and cheese this area is renowned for. Driving along the mainly quiet roads, through picturesque villages and sprawling countryside, you could be forgiven for thinking that this modest region of France is just about the food, but think again! There are a wealth of activities, historic sites and tourist attractions within easy reach wherever you choose to stay in the departments of Manche, Calvados and Orne, and the northern border of Brittany is not too far away either.
Of course Normandie boasts the famous World Heritage Site Le Mont St Michel. This jewel in the crown of the Normandie coast is a 'must see' for first time visitors to the area, but if you have already been there during the day on a previous trip, have you seen it illuminated by night, or when it is completely surrounded by water at one of the high tides? http://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/index.htm?lang=en
And yes, the picturesque city of Bayeux is host to the famous tapestry depicting the 1066 Norman conquest of England, but did you know the medieval city also has an impressive cathedral, a WWII museum, plus British and Commonwealth cemetery and memorial, not to mention the cobbled streets of its medieval centre, lined with timber framed buildings now home to enticing shops and restaurants? http://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/discover/normandy-must-sees/the-10-top-normandy-must-sees/bayeux/worth-a-visit-192-2.html
True also, the D Day Landing Beaches stretch along the coast of Normandie. Visit the beaches themselves and peruse the museums for a fascinating insight into the events of 1944. Have you seen the remnants of Mulberry Harbour, still visible at Arromanches, and have you experienced the sights and sounds of the battle from original film footage in the 360° cinema there? http://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/sites-and-attractions/the-d-day-landing-beaches-5-2.html
The above historic sites come readily to mind when thinking of Normandie but, for travellers looking for an active holiday, were you aware of the Viaduc de la Souleuvre, where you can bungee jump, zipline, and ride the luge? Did you know there is Karting at Mortain, rock climbing at La Fosse Arthour, golf courses at Vire, Bagnoles de l'Orne, Clécy and Granville? Have we kept it too much of a secret that the area is great for cyclists and walkers? Whether you prefer to walk or cycle yourself back to nature, the western section of the 450 km véloscenic which stretches from Paris to Le Mont St Michel, is ideal for both, being mainly greenway and resurfaced disused railway line with well signposted routes. https://www.veloscenic.com/troncons/le-bocage-normand Did we fail to shout about Mortain, with its twin cascades, panoramic viewing point across the countryside to the coast, and historic Hill 314, all great for exploring on foot? https://www.mortainais-tourisme.org/
Would you have considered Normandie as a place to try your hand at water sports, a tandem parachute jump, helicopter ride or sandsurfing? Then a day trip to the bay of Le Mont St Michel and Granville could be for you. http://centre-regional-nautisme-granville.fr/activites-nautiques-individuel/
For a more leisurely 'escape the city' break, does the prospect of roaming around weekly markets such as those of St Hilaire du Harcouët, Vire or Flers appeal to you? Or would you prefer exploring the countryside while discovering delights such as the pretty spa town of Bagnoles de l'Orne, or Villedieu-les-Poeles with its history of copper production, or picturesque Ducey, medieval Domfront .... ? The list goes on.
And that is just Basse Normandie! Drive south half an hour and you are in Brittany, with good access from there to some of the regional attractions such as the castle town of Fougères, enchanting Dinan, and of course dramatic St Malo on the coast with Dinard a few minutes drive or a short ferry trip away.
In a nutshell, what a holiday in rural Basse Normandie has to offer is a slower pace of life, steeped in French history and culture, yet within easy reach of major towns and attractions. After living here since 2012, we still love the diversity of this region, and we think you will too!