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Top ten reasons why Normandy is THE place to be in France
When you think of Normandy (Lower-Normandy Property Guide, Upper-Normandy Property Guide), think of lush green fields, of apple orchards bursting with rosy red apples and flagons of cold, strong cider standing by for the thirsty pickers' refreshment. This idyllic countryside scene is echoed by the equally idyllic seaside scenes, where the silver beaches and clean sea water invite you to relax and enjoy. The Normandy fishing harbours are straight from a picture book, with colourful boats galore and the catch of the day being dragged ashore to be bought by the eagerly awaiting restaurateurs and shopkeepers. If you still need to be convinced that Normandy is the place to own property in France, then you'll find our top ten reasons below.
Normandy is a part of France that lies very close to Britain, just across the channel, that is often overlooked by people who are passing through (French Connections), beginning their journeys east, west and south, deeper into France as they search for their perfect holiday home or perhaps, a whole new life (Life in France). Everyone who travels by ferry to France is familiar with the port of Calais (Calais Property Guide), and indeed it is through this port that most of us have passed at some point during our love affair with La Belle France and all things Française. The trouble is, most of us just do exactly that, and pass through, instead of pausing to discover property in the very lovely region that is almost on the doorstep of Britain.
Besides Calais, and perhaps the other popular ports of Boulogne (Boulogne-sur-Mer Property Guide), Dieppe (Dieppe Property Guide), Cherbourg (Cherbourg Property Guide) and Le Havre (Le Havre Property Guide, we have all heard of Dunkerque (Dunkerque Property Guide), the site of the heroic war time rescue of the Allied troops from the encroaching Nazi forces. But the associations are not necessarily happy ones, bombarded as we are by images of war, of cemeteries and sadness. Yes, Normandy suffered during the wars, and its tragedies should never be forgotten, but there is a whole new Normandy that has arisen, Phoenix like from the ashes, and it is this Normandy that I now invite you to discover. So here are ten reasons why Normandy is now a great choice for your French property purchase:
Normandy's beaches, once the site of fierce fighting, are now restored to their former natural glory in most cases, and are some of the most beautiful and family friendly in France. In fact, the department of the Manche (Manche Property Guide 50), has a very high number of Blue Flag approved beaches, meaning that the water and the beaches are extremely clean and safe, and pollution free. For superb bathing take a look at Brehal beach, near the beautiful town of Mont St Michel, or perhaps try elegant Étretat (Étretat Property Guide), with its famed alabaster (milky white) water... awarded the Blue Flag with a mark of good quality bathing cleanliness.
It is impossible to consider the beaches of Normandy without also considering the fantastic sporting opportunities afforded by the same inviting expanses of sea and sand. Normandy may not be the first place you think of when you are thinking of buying property and dreaming of making surfing your daily sport, but many of the beaches in the Manche, Calvados (Calvados Property Guide) and Seine-Maritime (Seine-Maritime Property Guide) departments offer superb surfing. Among the most popular are Baubigny, Trouville and Fécamp (Fécamp Property Guide). Apart from surfing, the beaches also offer opportunities for the exhilarating sport of sand yachting, as well as horse-riding and all manner of water sports such as sailing, windsurfing, skiing and jet skiing. (Sport in France.)
Normandy is a very beautiful region. The Norman countryside is gentle and pretty, with many rural areas appearing little changed for centuries. Apple orchards, silver beaches, colourful fishing boats and bustling harbours... who could want more? And atmosphere... Normandy has it in spades! Farmers markets and general markets are held in the towns and villages as in days gone by, and these are a source of delight to those ex-pats (and locals too!) who never tire of their charm and amazing fresh produce.
The villages and towns of Normandy are absolutely glorious. Whether or not you are considering buying property or holidaying in Normandy, you really shouldn't pass through the region without casting an eye over the amazing town of Mont St Michel, built on a tidal island and rising up out of the sea looking like a mythical kingdom of Neptune. Lovers of architecture and pretty villages will also love Èvreux (Évreux Property Guide), with its ramparts and fountains; Fécamp, with its blend of architectural styles including traditional, modern and art deco; or perhaps the beautiful and historic city of Rouen (Rouen Property Guide) could be right up your street. The port towns are fascinating architecturally too, with the influences of the past unfolding before your eyes in the varied architectural and period styles.
Normandy is great for families because of a number of attributes that add up to a family friendly region. The safe, clean bathing beaches, the gentle climate and way of life are all excellent for young families. The easy access from the UK prevents the parental nightmare of long journeys with infants on board ("Are we nearly there yet?") and ferry travel and train travel are also far more comfortable ways of getting to France with young children than battling to contain them in their seats on an aeroplane. Normandy welcomes families, its towns and villages are known for their excellent educational facilities and schools (French Education System - Schools in France). There are plenty of sporting activities too for the teens whose need to be kept occupied is legendary, so even at this "difficult" age a move to Normandy can be a positive thing.
And on the subject of families, there is another important point to consider. Many families who want to move to France are thwarted by the difficulty of leaving behind elderly relatives, who in their turn are upset at the prospect of not seeing their children and grandchildren regularly. Normandy is so close to the ferry ports and train stations of the UK that even this becomes much less of a problem, and all the attributes that commend Normandy to young families also make it admirably suited to the elderly, should they decide to make the move alongside you (Retirement in France).
The history of Normandy needs no introduction. We have all heard of William of Normandy, aka William the Conqueror whose Norman troops changed British history for ever that fateful day on Hastings hill back in 1066. More recent, yet just as well known, history brings us to the beaches and battles of the two world wars, where Normandy was the scene of bitter fighting, and of tragedies and triumphs. We all know of the heroism of Dunkerque and of the Normandy Landings, and even those of us who have no great passion for history should, perhaps, visit the scenes of these events to remember those who repelled the invading forces and made their ultimate sacrifices to allow our world to become the place it is today. For schoolchildren too, or students of modern history, visiting these sites can vividly bring history to life in a way that books and films never could.
Access to Normandy is simply unrivalled, as it is just a hop and a skip across the channel from England. The Dover to Calais run takes less than an hour on the ferry (Ferries to France), and there is also the option of taking the Euro tunnel or the Eurostar train service (French Connections - Travel to North-West France). All of this makes Normandy the perfect weekend retreat for Brits, who can finish their working week on Friday afternoon and be at their holiday home in France in time for dinner. It also makes it simplicity itself to take your car to France with you, and negates the need to hire a car or to keep an extra vehicle for your times in France. (Taking a car to France and registering it in France, Car Insurance in France.)
Normandy is truly a paradise for the foodie, with gourmet treats to be sampled all over the region and some of the best fresh fruits of the sea and of the land to be found in France. Must try foods include crêpes and galettes, fresh seafood and anything made with apples. Local speciality drinks include Normandy cider, of course, and the warming and wonderful Calvados, or apple brandy.
Why? Because Normandy is wonderfully French, yet close enough to Britain to leave you feeling that you haven't really left behind everything that is dear to you. Move to Normandy and you can experience all that is good about French culture, cuisine and living, yet with a climate that isn't too dissimilar to that found in the pleasant south of England (contrary to popular opinion, some don't like it hot). The Norman people are down to earth and warm, with a fierce pride in their heritage... and who can blame them. The British are, for the most part welcomed and find it relatively easy to integrate and build a new life within the French communities. There are enough Brits in Normandy already who have paved the way, and it isn't hard to find the ex-pat communities should you need a little help in your native language! (Brits in France.)
Normandy is a wonderful place to seek a property in France, whether you are hoping to make a permanent move, or whether you are looking for that perfect holiday home for those precious weekends and longer breaks. Recent government investment in the region has improved its appeal beyond measure and its cities, towns and countryside are all becoming more and more attractive thanks to this injection of cash. Normandy has played second fiddle to Brittany as a favourite destination for the Brits, but in recent times people are beginning to take a better look at what this beautiful region has to offer as Brittany has become more and more expensive.
In Normandy you can still find great properties to renovate (House Renovations in France) without spending a fortune. It is still a very realistic proposition to find a lovely old farmhouse which needs work, complete with outbuildings and land (Building or extending property in France). In much of France these days it is almost impossible to purchase this type of property unless you have a lot of money to spend. Normandy also has more than its fair share of those glorious half-timbered houses (Property in France - Types of houses in France) that epitomise French country style.
So there you have it. Ten simple reasons why Normandy is worth more than a second glance for property seekers. So next time you get off the ferry at Calais or Le Havre, book a hotel and stay a while... you won't regret it!
Additional articles which may be of interest:
Property grants available in France
Living in France
Brittany Property - Top 10
Languedoc Property - Top 10
Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.
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