So many of us just drive through North West France on route to the south or west of the country, but why? Its very position has given it a rich history and culture being the thoroughfare for many invaders, not just British but from all of northern Europe. Many of the medieval and more recent battle sites have been very carefully and respectfully preserved and must be visited to fully understand the sacrifice of war.
Picardy boasts some of France’s finest cathedrals at Amiens, Beauvais and Laon plus the great medieval castle of Coucy-le-Chateau. You can visit the battle sites of medieval Anglo-French rivalry at Agincourt and Crecy. This is a historic region with attractive countryside, historic towns and cities, not forgetting the Asterix theme park near Chantilly, perhaps more famous for its cream. In cities like Lille you can enjoy food, culture and entertainment.
The Pas-de-Calais area is very diverse and only 20 miles from England. With 3 national parks, fabulous Flemish architecture, a variety of water-sports plus a great choice of restaurants serving regional dishes and freshly caught fish it should be on your list of places to go. It’s known for startling contrasts, from the charming valleys of the Course and Canche, the Opel Coast and the beauty of Cap Griz Nez. The cosmopolitan town of Le Touquet is very popular with Parisians for a short break to get some sea air.
Normandy is gentle with lush meadows and farmland, often compared to Devon as also renowned for its cheese and apples. The coastline is long sandy beaches with low lying dunes which made it very accessible in the Second World War and further back in time for the Normans. Their legacy is everywhere with cathedrals at Rouen and Coutances and the majestic abbey of Mont St-Michel plus of course the Bayeux Tapestry. There are lovely old ports with medieval treasures such as Honfleur and Barfleur lining the coast just waiting to be discovered.
Now Brittany is a more rugged affair more in tune with Cornwall, very independent with the Breton language still proudly spoken. The rugged beautiful coastline is the main reason people go, don’t miss Ploumanac’h on the northern ‘pink granite coast’, Camaret on the Crozon Peninisula in the west or Carnac in the south. There are many walled medieval cities and towns such as Dinan and Vitre, venture inland to find ancients forests and villages such as Huelgoat. This is also home to the perfect pancake so don’t go home without sampling both a sweet and savoury crepe.
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