Normandy is the land of the apple. In spring, when the apple trees blossom, it dons a petticoat of pink and white lace; in autumn, the intoxicating smell of fermenting apples permeates its lush countryside and half-timbered barns. The apples are transformed into cider, into cream-drenched tartes, or into the tipple of the gods, calvados. The drink even managed to give its name to one of the five départements into which Normandy is divided.
There are countless other goodies in the Norman basket too, from markets selling pungent cheeses and fresh oysters, to ruined abbeys shrouded in mists that rise off the Seine, towns whose streets are lined with the exquisitely carved facades of medieval houses, and towering milk-white sea cliffs that sent the Impressionists wild. There are sights that make your hair stand on end like the abbey of Mont St. Michel, gaunt and proud on its rock in the sea; the D-Day landing beaches where world history was changed for ever; and the Bayeux Tapestry, the oldest and longest comic strip in the world.
You won’t find wine – Normandy’s last attempts were strangled by the vine disease phylloxera – so it returned to what it does best: cider (but there are plenty of good merchants who sell excellent wines from elsewhere if you want to stock up). Yes, it rains – why do you think it’s so green and lush? Sadly, certain some towns show visible scars of their terrible World War Two carnage. And don't come here if you're on a diet: Norman food is rich, lavishly laden with creams, butters and cheeses.