Mention Normandy and a number of images spring to mind from fantastic food and drink through to the D-day landings whilst, for some, it’s merely a stepping stone on a longer journey from the ferry to the south coast. We went en famille to this much-loved part of France to find out what it has to offer in 2019.
Much as the French railway network knocks spots off our system, car is by far the best mode of transport in this locale; not least because then you can really get under the skin of this beautiful patchwork of fields, farms and villages. Take a wrong turn (which isn’t hard) and you will discover a hidden gem whether it’s a beautiful view or a farm house offering their local produce for sale.
Where to stay
Whilst there are many places to stay in Normandy, travelling with the family works especially well on campsites or holiday villages which can offer entertainment for all the family. What is it they say.. happy kids.. happy parents. Siblu is one such company which have a number of mobile home villages dotted around France. Siblu’s Normandy base is Domaine de Litteau which is on the edge of the Cerisy Forest. A mere 45 minutes from the ferry port of Caen, it is nestled in the Normandy countryside surrounded by fields and villages. Families are well-catered for with a covered pool complex, a permanent bouncy castle which proved very popular, play area and kids club. There are also two on-site lakes for any keen anglers. For the more energetic, bike hire is also available. Evening entertainment is family-focussed and there is hot food available throughout the day and evening.
Market stalls can be found on the campsite on certain days offering local produce such as honey, cheese and meats which is a convenient way to purchase a few nibbles to take home plus there is also a small shop which stocks all the essentials.
What to do
Want to venture out and explore? There is a huge amount to see and do. Nearby Balleroy is a great place to start. Located 15 minutes down the road, this small working town boasts the magnificent Chateau de Balleroy. Built in 1631, this beautiful chateau showcases 17th century architecture and provided the inspiration for other chateauxs notable Versailles. It has been refurbished by the current owners, the Forbes family, and guided tours are available which include the splendid gardens. Balleroy has a number of shops including a fantastic boulangerie, Aux Delices de Balleroy, which can be found just outside the chateau. The number of customers was testament to their homemade breads and pastries (their almond croissants were delicious).
Venture further afield and visit the magnificent Caves Hérout. Producing organic cider, apple juice, pommeau and calvados, this small family-run business is located at Auvers near Carentan about 45 minutes from Domaine de Litteau. The farm and orchards have been in the family for 3 generations and these days the affable Marie-Agnès Hérout runs the show. The shop sells their produce to visitors and Marie-Agnès offers tours around her farm and distillery with advance notice. Call +33 (0)2 33 71 07 89 or mail email@example.com to book an appointment.
What trip to Normandy would be complete without a visit to the Mont St Michel. As one of the most famous sights in France, this awe-inspiring holy abbey is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Normandy. Set on the bay that joins Normandy and Brittany, it now comes complete with restaurants, shops, houses and museums but beware the tourist prices.!
More recent history offers an alternative, and more sombre, exploration of Normandy. Only a short 74 years ago, the D-Day invasions took place on the Normandy beaches and the signs of WW2 are visible throughout the area. Visit Arromanches-les-Bains where the remains of the artificial Mulburry Harbour are still visible. The nearby Arromanches 360 cinema is also not to be missed. The 19 minutes of unseen footage “Normandy’s 100 days” captures perfectly the part this area played during this period. It is suitable for ages 6+. There are many tours available to learn more whilst the landing beaches are well-signposted for those that wish to visit under their own steam.
How to get there
Ferry is a dream. Brittany Ferries offer a multitude of crossings between England and the continent. The journey from Portsmouth to Caen is around 5 hours. Brittany Ferries provide children’s entertainment, a soft play area for younger children plus an entertainment area for older children. Pre-bookable cabins, are available plus a wide choice of food and drink.
We stayed at Siblu’s Domaine de Litteau holiday village in Normandy, where a seven-night holiday starting 25 May costs from £518 for up to six people sharing a two bedroom Excellence holiday home with terrace. For latest deals and to book visit www.siblu.co.uk or call 020 8610 0186.
For COVID advice visit https://www.siblu.co.uk/travel/covid19
Brittany Ferries operates the longer routes from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth direct to Brittany and Normandy saving miles of unnecessary and costly driving. Travel overnight by luxury cruise-ferry in the comfort of your own cabin with en-suite facilities or be whisked across the channel in as little as 3 hours. We travelled from Portsmouth to Caen and back, on this route, May fares start from £165 each way for a car and family of four. Book online at brittany-ferries.co.uk or call 0330 159 7000.
For any further info on what to do in the area , contact Normandy Tourism,