After our trip to Santorini got cancelled due to COVID, my mom and I decided to go to Normandy instead. It’s only a 5h drive from Belgium so we packed our bags and took Naya with us. 🚘
In this article I will tell you about the places we went and our experiences. Normandy has a very rich history and there’s a lot of war memorabilia to be seen, but this was not our focus. Visiting museums wasn’t possible either because dogs aren’t allowed.
Day 1: Le Havre
After a long drive, we decided to go to the biggest city nearby: Le Havre. It used to be very industrial because of the port. ‘Le Havre’ literally means port in French! ⚓️ Now it’s home to a lot of museums and you’ll see plenty of modern architecture.
We walked around to see the highlights, like the Cathedral Notre Dame and Oscar Niemeyer’s ‘Le Volcan’.
Our favourite part was the port itself, where we saw some really big waves to our surprise! 🌊
There’s a lot of temporary art to be found, like the ‘Gold Coast’.
Day 2: Honfleur
The second day we went to Honfleur. What a lovely town! Such a picturesque place. 😍
We booked a tour with Honfleur Tours and absolutely loved it! Our guide showed us around and told us so many interesting things about the city’s rich history. Did you know that Canada was populated by 800 women that were sent from Normandy, known as the ‘Filles du Roi’ or ‘Daughters of the King’? 😲
Honfleur has some pretty impressive architecture, like this church. It was built by shipbuilders and therefore looks like a ship’s hull upside down! 🛳
We had lunch at Bistro des Artistes. It’s a cute place with a nice view on the port. French president Macron has lunch here every time he visits Honfleur! No worries, the prices are very reasonable. 😉
Lots of Parisians come to Honfleur for a nice weekend getaway. It has many art galleries 🎨 and antique shops.
If you go up to the ‘Notre Dame de Grace’ chapel, you have a panoramic view over the city. 🤩
It’s quite the climb so make sure you’re not wearing heels! A Husky comes in handy as well. 😂
Day 3: Étretat & Rouen
We took a long hike on the cliffs of Étretat in the morning. What a beautiful place! 😍 This was definitely my favourite part of our trip.
We first hiked up the Falaise d’Amont to the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde Chapel.
Then we did the trail on the side of the Falaise d’Aval. This part is more frequented and frankly quite touristy.
You can continue to Pointe de la Courtine, which is the most peaceful spot. If you don’t want to go that far, know that on the way you also pass the Falaise Manneporte from which you have a beautiful view of the Aiguille d’Étretat and the Porte d’Aval (the arch).
It’s quite the climb and I was grateful to do it with such a strong dog that is made for pulling. 😅
I overheard some people behind us say that we ‘probably live here and do this every day’, which made me quite proud. 😆
We then drove to Rouen, which is an hour from Étretat. It’s the capital city of Normandy. Rouen has a very medieval feel, but also has everything a modern city needs like shops, restaurants, etc.
Rouen has many beautiful churches and cathedrals. Did you know it’s the city of Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc)?
Day 4: Deauville / Trouville-sur-Mer
Since a lot of people recommended these towns, I had some pretty high expectations. But what happens when you have such expectations? You get more easily disappointed. I personally felt like there wasn’t that much to do. They’re nice to see, but half a day is definitely enough. Deauville is the dream for horse lovers though! 🐎
There’s a nice beach and some GORGEOUS mansions so it’s nice to stroll around. I couldn’t help but think about how this place used to look in its glory days. 😍 Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach, so that was a bit of a bummer since Naya loves it.
There’s one main street in Trouville-sur-Mer (not to be mistaken for Trouville!), where you can find some shops and restaurants. It’s mostly known for its sea food. 🦪
Fun fact: a glass of wine is cheaper than a glass of water! 🍷
Day 5: Le Mont Saint-Michel
When visiting Normandy, you just have to see the Mont Saint-Michel. You can either walk all the way there or take a shuttle (navettes). Go as early as possible. Around lunch there are so many people, it gave me anxiety. 😅
The walk there is nice, it’s as if you’re walking on an abandoned beach. They’ve build a wooden bridge to cross, in case the beach gets flooded. The Mont St.-Michel is a must-see but it’s very touristy. You can still enjoy the cathedral, churches and religious artefacts, but you have to be okay with waiting in line and pushy tourists browsing the little shops while taking a million pictures.
A word of advice: if you book a guided tour, keep in mind that dogs are not allowed on the shuttles so you’ll have to walk 40min to get to the Mont St.-Michel.
Staying in Normandy
We stayed in two different Airbnbs. The Mont St.-Michel is a 3h drive from the other places we visited, so we spent the first three nights at La Remuée and the last night in St.-Laurent-de-Terregate.
Our first stay was probably one of the best Airbnb experiences I’ve had so far! It’s a charming mansion that looks like a little chateau. 🏰 The host and his pup were simply amazing. Cosy rooms, breakfast was great and I highly recommend staying for dinner. All the ingredients are local and organic. It’s a lot cheaper than eating out and to be honest better than most restaurants! 😋
The second place was a little cabin by the lake. So peaceful and quiet! There were some cute ducks and geese running around. 🦆 We didn’t get lucky with the weather, but it must be a dream to be here when the sun’s out! 🌞 Going to the bathroom at night was a bit of an adventure, as it was not next to the cabin. Luckily I had my big bad wolf to accompany me again (remember my first blog about the cabin in the woods? 😄)!
Have you ever been to Normandy? 🇫🇷 How was your experience?