The breathtaking Normandy

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If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Paris, Normandy is the perfect spot to go for a breath of fresh air. Most Parisians flock to the south of France where the beaches are warmer, so it’s less crowded everywhere else. We rented a manual car (at just €25/day) with the hope that I’d learn to drive stick shift on this trip. Reality: I “drove” about 20m from one parking spot to another and called it quits. Thanks Ty for driving the rest of the way, ha!

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As I’ve mentioned before, Claude Monet is my favorite artist. After visiting his gardens in Giverny, the next place on my bucket list was Étretat in Normandy. Just a 2-hour drive from Paris, Étretat is known for its natural arches and beautiful views. Many impressionists hiked up the cliffs to paint the sunsets (some of which are currently on display in Paris). We enjoyed a nice picnic on the beach with a tradition (the only type of baguette you should buy), juicy peaches, and Camembert (Normandy’s special cheese). The beach here was actually rock instead of sand, which made it less messy but more difficult to walk on. Non-flimsy shoes are recommended!

We also went for a dip in the chilly (yet refreshing) 19°C water. I loved it. Tyler had to buy a cute little swim suit when we moved here because French swimming pools actually don’t allow the baggy “trunks” commonly worn in America- for hygiene reasons I guess. You can wear them on the beach, but most French men sport the tiny speedos. Better for tan lines, right? 😉

Our trip’s meals consisted of lots and lots of seafood: blue lobster, oysters, moules-frites– the works. We ordered a seafood platter one day and it came with a ton of Normandy’s local… snails. Bulots. I took the tiniest nibble but couldn’t bear to eat an entire one despite how small it was. The fam did get some nice videos of Tyler sucking them out though.

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Along our roadtrip, we stopped to visit many of the charming seaside towns. Honfleur and Trouville-sur-Mer were my favorites. Unfortunately, it was too rainy and cold to get much of a tan. We did do a nice beach run one morning. It felt so refreshing to feel the mist of seawater on my face and listen to the waves crash next to me.

If you’re in the area, make sure you visit Mont Saint-Michel, one of France’s most recognized spots. This little island is situated just 600m from land. It was originally a monastery and even served as a prison for a short period. You can climb up to the abbey to see where the monks used to live.  If we go back, I want to stay for high tide and the sunset.

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I highly recommend Normandy if you have the time to visit. The benefit of living in Paris versus just visiting is having the luxury of seeing other parts of France. All of my French friends will say, “Paris is not France.” I’m finding that to be very true. I suppose it’s similar to saying New York City doesn’t represent the US as a whole, though that’s what some people imagine if they’ve never experienced America before.

Next post: Brittany, the other beautiful region we visited on our road trip.

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