For those who didn’t know or refuses to believe (like me) – Normandy is not particularly great place for beach holidays. Sea temperature never gets more than 17o, average summer highs doesn’t exceed 21o and average rainfall is higher than in British isles. We happen to be there in the two days it was rainy, foggy and cloudy all the time, which means we saw less of the beaches than we intended to.
But Normandy has so much more to offer, it’s full of history, lot’s of calvados (apple brandy), smelly cheeses and good restaurants, so even it rains, you can always go for a plan B. Even a smallest village will hold top class restaurant, giving a chance to enjoy finest tastes of French cuisine. But beaches first…
Straight from the ferry, there is a decent wide strip of sandy beach with endless rows of beach houses looking lonely into the sea… passing ferries look like the only entertainment here. The beach looks very clean and sand is really soft, so if you are visiting Calais or arriving early for a ferry on a hot summer day, give it a go. There is plenty of parking and it’s free.
Dieppe is 2 hours drive from Calais and is proudly called seaside resort. The place must be fully packed in the evening, as empty streets durig the day doesn’t explain why travelling circus in the length of the beach is blocking the view and access to the sea and parking is full with camper vans. It is indeed a beautiful pebbly beach (once you get on it), with a view to a white cliffs. I’m sure lying on the beach have additional therapeutic effect, as it’s almost painful to walk on it in shoes.
If it rains: Fantastic place for some fresh seafood is a petit restaurant Bistrot des Barrieres. An absolute NO NO is the La Louisiane, tourist death trap and just absolutely worse food we have tasted in years.
We wanted to visit at least one of the D-day beaches, and closest to the Caen, second biggest city in Normandy was Juno beach at the village of St Aubin sur Mer. This was one of the beaches, where allied forces invaded German occupied France in 1944 and with the success of the operation it was one of the reasons for the end of WWII in Europe.
Today besides couple of flags fluttering in the wind and a monument, nothing really resembles events that took place almost 70 years ago, but it definitely doesn’t look like a seaside resort as well. Walking through the narrow street of the village, for a moment you get a feeling that there will be a grand reveal of a super nice beach, but once you get closer it is a narrow dirty sand strip, that smells like fish and warning signs actually doesn’t recommend walking on the beach or swimming.
From the historic beaches to French luxury, we arrive in the place that truly deserves a seaside resort title – Deauville. Named as one of the most prestigious French beach destinations on the North it is just 2 hour train ride from Paris. Beautiful wide beach with iconic colorful parasols, offer more than just the sun and sea entertainment – horse races, Grand casino and film festivals is a great addition to fantastic dining experiences and shopping.
There is a nice walkway by the beach, where you can go for a lengthy walk, when in the day like today, laying on the beach wouldn’t be the best idea. There are plenty of restaurants by the beach, so one thing definitely – you won’t be hungry in Deauville.
Place to eat: we tried L’essentiel, a quite new restaurant with experimental taste, from seeing what others ordered, we should have gone for a meat, as it looked like a specialty there.
1. If you intend to discover Normandy while still beaching, best base would be Deauville or the neighboring city Trouville, which is said to be less posh. Both are reasonably close drive from Calais or short train trip from Paris. If you are happy to go further inland – Rouen and Caen are great alternatives, as both are very well connected with the local cities.
2. Calvados and cheese tasting is something to consider, if you would like to taste the real taste of Normandy, but if you choose to stay in the city, know that almost every restaurant in will serve large choice of local cheeses and calvados.