Normandy and Brittany are frequently accused by English speaking people of being more English and less French than almost all other French regions. With the English Channel dividing the two countries and many common associations like William the Conqueror, Joan of Arc, D-Day, Merlin and Druid menhirs and dolmens reminiscent of Stonehenge strewn throughout the Breton countryside, these comparisons are not without merit. Dramatic coastlines, tiny stone villages, medieval abbeys, and a renowned coastal cuisine are found in both Normandy and Brittany. You can explore World War II sites from the paratroopers at Ste. Mere Eglise to the D-Day landing beaches, cross tidal flats to iconic Mont St. Michel, hike along the River Blavet to the thatch-roofed village of Poul-Fétan, and take in the majesty of Carnac, one of the largest megalithic sites in the world. The pastoral countryside with half-timbered houses, ponies in the fields and lush green meadows of Normandy or the massive castles, medieval towns and St. Malo's corsairs of Brittany are places where history and regional folklore still live. Queen Mathilde embroidered the conquest of England in her monumental tapestry at Bayeux, Monet painted not only his garden at Giverny but also Rouen cathedral in differing light and times of day and Impressionist painters flocked to Honfleur to capture its quaint beauty. The well heeled went to elegant Deauville for the season of racing, gambling and sun. Brittany’s Pont-Aven was home to Paul Gauguin before he headed to the south seas.
As you explore these two fascinating regions full of history, culinary treats abound, sampling the rich butter of Brittany or creamy cheese of Normandy, hard apple cider and its stronger brother, Calvados, from the plentiful orchards, enjoying oysters fresh from the bay by Cancale or scallops from the Bay of St. Brieuc. What could be finer than sitting on a local sea wall slurping an oyster fresh out of the water accompanied by a glass of crisp white wine and slinging the shell back onto the piles of them below you. Or a lunch of pre sale lamb which had grazed around the salt marshes surrounding Mont Saint Michel delicately flavoring its meat, an experience unique to these regions.
Because of our decades of personal and professional partnerships with French providers, we are able to not only offer our clients premium value for these indelible Normandy and Brittany experiences but also the opportunity to savor them in a highly personalized luxury manner. Whether you are a budget minded traveler or one with Platinum travel tastes, let Endless Beginnings create a luxury custom journey to fulfill your dreams.
Normandy is one of France's most charming provinces with its rolling hills, half timbered houses, endless beaches, rocky cliffs and historic towns and villages. It is here that the the echoes of past whisper to you ~ the Norman Conquest at Bayeux, Joan of Arc in Rouen, Caen and the poignant D-Day landing beaches. Or follow in the the footsteps of artists at Giverny at Monet's farmhouse and gardens or the port of Honfleur immortalized in paintings from the 19th century. Explore the dramatic monastic ruins of Jumieges Abbey or travel the coast to see the picturesque seaports of Honfleur, Trouville or the chic resort town of Deauville. In the Pays d'Auge, follow the cheese route ~ Camembert, Livarot, Pont l'Eveque~ and taste apple-based cider, Calvados and Pommeau. The delicate shellfish and seafood, poultry, and delicious desserts like tarte tatin can all be sampled during a stay in Normandy. On the border with Brittany, marvel at Mont Saint Michel as it emerges from the sea, seemingly floating offshore. For an optimum time to visit, go to Normandy in spring months of April and May when the apple, pear, and cherry trees are in blossom. Make an excursion by boat, hot-air balloon or bicycle during the day or plan a day trip to the nearby British Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey where you’ll find medieval hamlets, castles and megalithic tombs.
With more than half of France's dairy production coming from Normandy, it's no small wonder that the cooking of the region is based on cream and the region's delicious cheeses including Camembert, Neufchâtel, Pont l’Evêque and Livarot. Sauce Normande, a velvety white cream sauce, blankets everything from eggs to vegetables but is particularly prevalent on chicken and the delicate seafood of the coast. Ducks are another specialty of the region ~ canard au sang or pressed duck ~ where the local fowl or col vert is cross between a domestic duck and a variety similar to our mallard. The third component of the Norman triumvirate is Calvados, the firewater of France! Distilled from cider and aged in wood, Calvados is drunk both during and after a meal. One of the finest is the Vieux Calvados from the house of Jean-Louis Favennec. Another of the regions’ famous specialities is fleur de sel, a fine or sometimes coarse salt that is harvested from the salt marches of the west coast. Rillettes – a type of coarse pâté, often served on a slice of rustic bread – are a must, especially when you are in Le Mans, while in Anjou you should try rillauds d’Anjou, pieces of pork belly often served with creamy, white beans known as mogettes de Vendée.
Look to Brittany for a summer holiday on France’s Atlantic coast akin to a stay in Maine or coastal Massachusetts. The fishing villages on the jagged northern Breton coast are famous for their seafood, oysters and small fishermen’s harbors. Further south, the shores are a favorite of artisans and painters. Gauguin painted at Pont Aven and the pottery wares of Quimper are always in demand. Continuing down the southern coast La Baule has a mild climate, a fine beach and is, along with Dinard, Brittany’s most fashionable beach resort.
In the town of Carnac, explore the largest collection of megalithic rocks in the world, more than 3,000 carved by pre-Celtic man 4,000 years ago. Search for traces of King Arthur and Merlin in the National Park of the Finistere. Peruse antique markets in Dinard or Rennes for French style furniture. If you’re a sailor or other boating enthusiast you’ll find opportunities abound in Brittany. Even surfers will find excellent conditions, best in France, for their sport.
Brittany’s picturesque towns are a photographer’s dream, places like Vannes with its half timbered houses, Quimper’s cobbled streets and twin spired cathedral, Locronan appears as a movie set with its charm. Rennes is elegant and Dinard is the highlight of the Emerald Coast with its broad beaches and stripped beach tents. Inland from Dinard, Dinan has ramparts, panoramic views and more half-timbering.
As the majority of this province is seacoast, these gifts from the sea rate highly in the region's cuisine, including the famous oysters from Cancale. One of the best ways to try it is with a plateau de fruits de mer accompanied by a local cider. But you'll also find delicious sweetened crepes & salted wafers accompanied by a glass of cider, perhaps Chouchen, a local aperitif which is also made from apples. There is also Andouille de Guéméné (sausages made from chitterlings), the Breton Far (prune flan) which goes well with a Muscadet wine from Nantes, & fans of sweet pastries will enjoy the delicious Kouign-Amann with a glass of Brandy from the Rhuys peninsula.
Cliff 'needle' In Etretat, Normandy
Clock in the Rue du Gros Horloge, Rouen, Haute-Normandy
The Apple Culture of Normandy
Honfleur, Vieux bassin, Normandy
Utah Beach Monuments, Normandy
Place Sainte-Anne, Brittany
The Port of Dinan, Brittany
langoustine and fresh oysters, lobster, Brittany
The Old Mill On Medieval Bridge In Vernon, Normandy
Coquille st Jacques, Normandy