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“Lower” Normandy is the Normandy known to most tourists, especially those interested in the history of the last year of World War II. It is here that the Allies came ashore and where the occupying army fought back. Historical monuments and museums exist throughout the two départements of Calvados and Manche — at the beaches and in the villages — retelling stories of the landings, battles and personal experiences of young soldiers.

Comprised of three départements — Calvados, Orne and Manche — Basse-Normandie is a very rich land. Free-grazing dairy cattle are the source of some of the best butter, cream and cheese in the world — Livarot in Calvados is the cheese capital of the region and there are cheese museums at Vimoutiers and Camembert in the Orne. Apple orchards are abundant as well, and their fruit perhaps most famous for use in cider and the French apple brandy known as Calvados, named after the département where it all began. Enjoy, too, delectable apple desserts such as Tarte Normande or Tarte Flambée au Calvados , an oyster dish simmered in a sauce made with apples cooked in Calvados brandy. And, with an immense coastline from the Baie du Mont St-Michel to the channel port of Le Havre , there is seafood of all manner to be found and excellent restaurants to prepare and serve it.

The Côte Fleurie is the stretch of coastline between Villerville and Cabourg and home to resorts such as Trouville and Deauville, the latter known for casinos, horseracing, marinas and the “stars” who frequent it. Trouville is renown for its 19th century connection to authors Gustave Flaubert and Alexander Dumas, for its ability to offer real life to those who visit, and for its superior location along the river. Deauville is a town on parade, filled with glitter and is a Johnny-come-lately having followed Trouville into existence — literally rising up from the marshes ~ created by a consortium in the mid-1800s.

You may hear mention of the Pays d'Auge , lush Normandy countryside filled with pear and apple orchards, lovely country manoirs and dairy farms. Its most important city is Lisieux attracting tens of thousands of pilgrims each year because of Sainte Thérèse of Lisieux who was canonized in 1925. Country drives through the Pays d'Auge are rewarded with samplings of cheese and cider and the wonderful small surprises of coming upon enchanting villages filled with half-timbered houses and friendly people.

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FRANCE On Your Own

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