For a short break with a difference, Normandy is hard to beat – it truly is one of the unspoilt corners of Europe. The region is lush and green, its countryside a patchwork of emerald-green fields, apple orchards, ivy-clad farmhouses, timber-framed buildings and pretty churches with distinctive Norman spires. Our tour is based in charming Lisieux, a town with a rich heritage from the Middle Ages through to modern times, when it was home to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, one of the most popular Catholic saints of the 20th century.
We visit fascinating Rouen, one of the most splendidly preserved medieval cities in Europe. It was here that Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake, just one of many momentous events that took place in this crucible of history, whose legacies can still be felt today. William of Normandy, of course, set sail from here in 1066 to conquer England – you’ll see the full panorama of his campaign in the world-famous Bayeux Tapestry. Almost 900 years later, it was the beaches of Normandy themselves that were the site of the biggest-ever invasion – D-Day – and the rusting remains of the Allies’ landing equipment movingly reminds us of the sacrifices made.
Spared the ravages of war, the charming port of Honfleur is a delight to explore, with its merchants’ houses along the waterfront – so beloved of artists, including Claude Monet. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy the bounty caught by the colourful trawlers in the waters off Normandy’s rugged coastline. If the freshest seafood weren’t enough, you’re also spoilt with some of the finest food and drink in the whole of France, from creamy cheeses to celebrated cider. So rich in history, captivatingly beautiful and replete with culinary delights, Normandy really does offer something for everyone.
We take the Eurostar service with our tour manager from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. On arrival we transfer by coach to Lisieux, a venerable medieval town in the heart of the Calvados region, which gave its name to the popular local brandy distilled from apple cider. We stay four nights, with breakfast, at the three-star Grand Hotel de l’Esperance, located in the heart of Lisieux’s old town close to many restaurants and boutiques. Settle in and enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel, where you can meet and get to know your fellow travellers.
This morning we visit Bayeux, home of the world-famous tapestry depicting the Norman invasion of England in 1066 in glorious detail. The 230-foot-long tapestry comprises nine panels of extremely delicate embroidery – gazing at its wonderful depictions of the battle and the period’s architecture, weapons and everyday life, you’ll appreciate why the Bayeux Tapestry is arguably the most perfect relic from the early Middle Ages.
After lunch we discover nearby Gold Beach, one of the five main landing sites on D-day, when Allied forces surged into Normandy to begin the liberation of occupied Europe. Casting your eyes across the sand, it’s sobering to consider that on 6 June 1944, around 25,000 British troops came ashore on this one beach, with 400 killed by the defenders. At the western end of the shoreline is Arromanches, where you may wish to visit an excellent museum dedicated to the ‘longest day’, and view the pontoons from one of the Mulberry harbours constructed for the landing craft.
Our return journey to our hotel takes us through the picturesque area of Pays d’Auge along Normandy’s ‘Cider route’, passing delightful apple orchards and quaint villages of half-timbered houses. Upon returning to Lisieux, you may wish to visit the basilica of Ste-Thérèse, one of the most popular 19th-century Catholic saints, whose short life and works are commemorated by pilgrims who flock from around the world to pay their respects.
Today we explore Rouen, the capital of Normandy, and enjoy a fascinating walking tour around the old centre. We visit its remarkable Notre-Dame Cathedral, which over the centuries has been destroyed and rebuilt to create the fantastic Gothic edifice we see today. Immortalised in several paintings by Monet, the cathedral is simply stunning – marvel at the epic scale of the four-storey nave and the famous cobalt-blue stained glass, and see the tombs of kings and dukes, as well as a recumbent statue of Richard the Lionheart containing his heart. You’ll also see the Gros-Horloge, a 14th-century astronomical clock, and the old marketplace where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake – it is today a popular pilgrimage site.
There’s free time after to explore more of this intriguing city. Perhaps have lunch in the local market or visit one of its superb museums, such as the excellent fine arts museum, which includes works by Monet and Boudin. Or simply browse Rouen’s charming shops dotted along some of the most atmospheric old streets you’ll find in France.
After breakfast we discover Honfleur, often regarded as the most picturesque spot on the northern French coast. Exquisitely preserved, its old harbour – complete with both fishing boats and luxurious pleasure craft – is surrounded by a pretty waterfront of tall pastel-coloured houses dating from the 16th to 18th centuries. Many of these have been converted into seafood restaurants or traditional shops selling all sorts of items. Take a seat at one of these quayside restaurants and observe talented artists capturing the superb views on canvas, perhaps inspired to follow in the footsteps of Eugène Boudin, a native of Honfleur and one of the forerunners of Impressionism. Away from the harbour, Honfleur’s intricate maze of streets is a delight to wander through and offers an authentic flavour of this wonderfully provincial old port.
This afternoon is devoted to Normandy’s most iconic food produce – cheese and cider. The gentle rolling hills and temperate climate of Normandy are ideal for apple cultivation and cattle rearing. In many places, the two types of agriculture have become almost symbiotic, with the grazing cows in apple orchards fertilising the soil in a virtuous cycle. We stop to visit an organic cider producer to learn about the cider-making process, as well as the various other apple-based drinks, such as pommeau and calvados. We then sit down for a tasting paired with a variety of classic Normandy cheeses, such as Camembert, Pont l’Évêque and Livarot, nicknamed ‘Le Colonel’ for its stripes.
Claude Monet’s paintings are some of the most exquisite and familiar works of art ever produced, and to witness first-hand the spectacular displays of colour at the artist’s house and garden at Giverny is an unforgettable experience. In the Japanese inspired water garden, shaded by a great willow tree and surrounded by bamboo, rhododendrons and azaleas, is the lily pond where he painted his famous Les Nympheas (Water Lilies) series. Little surprise he referred to the garden as ‘my most beautiful masterpiece’. The interior of the house, including the artist’s studio, is similarly outstanding.
Later we continue to Paris for our return Eurostar home.
The price of this holiday is per person based on one person in a double/twin room for sole occupancy. The price includes:
Entrance to the Arromanches museum is not included - €8.20pp (approximate cost and payable locally).
UK Citizens do not require a visa to enter France however must have a valid passport. For the most up-to-date passport and visa information visit
We are unable to accept responsibility if you are unable to travel because you have not complied with any passport/entry/immigration requirements.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Arrival train station||Hotel location||Transfer time|
|Paris Gare du Nord||Lisieux||3 hs 15 mins|
Roland & Ann Walker
Thank you Riviera for a fantastic trip to Victoria Falls, Botswana and Cape Town, we had a wonderful time and made new friends, this is our second trip with you and we have already booked another one, I think that tells everybody ...
Leslie & Angela Armstrong
This was our first holiday full stop, and what a great holiday we had, the hotel Aminta was lovely with great views ( wish we were back there) great food and very friendly helpful staff, the holiday gave us more than we expected, ...