I wonder if you, like me, automatically associate Normandy with World War II?

June 6th 1944

Was the day that Nazi-occupied France was invaded by British, American, Commonwealth and Canadian troops. The result of this enormous operation was the liberation of France.

Until our visit I was unaware of just how big a piece of land there is to cover and just how many monuments, museums and cemeteries there are to visit; so many it’s worth having a holiday just for this remembrance sightseeing tour.

However we managed to slot one beach into our Normandy holiday and we chose to visit Arromanches, the landing of the British troops.

I didn’t know quite what to expect and on our walk from the car park to the beach carrying buckets and spades, I worried that maybe we would be offending someone, after all so many people lost their lives at this very spot.

Fortunately as we turned the corner we were greeted with a beach full of families enjoying the glorious sunshine and lots of children digging holes and constructing palaces. What I hadn’t counted for was this sight waiting for me.

Arromanches normandy

The artificial Mulberry Harbour, a very stark reminder, testament to the ingenuity of Winston Churchill who realised that if the troops wanted to land they would have to bring their own harbour with them.

arromanches normandy

I left the girls and Paul to their busy building and strolled off across the beach to take some photos and see close up the massive hulks of iron strewn across the beach.

arromanches mulberry harbour

I noticed groups of divers jumping into boats, speeding out to see to inspect, who knows?

arromanches normandy

Operation Overlord

was the code name given to the Battle of Normandy. It began in 1943 and was led by General Eisenhower and Montgomery, D-Day was planned for the 5th June (1944) but was delayed for 24 hours due to bad weather, in fact the bad conditions and an attack further up the coast caught the Germans by surprise as at dawn break the Allied fleets landed accompanied by airborne forces from the east and west.

arromanches mulberry harbour

arromanches mulberry harbour

D-Day statistics

4000 ships in the fleet
5,800 bomber planes
4,900 fighter planes
153,000 troops
20,000 vehicles
11,000 casualties
2,500 dead
2,052,299 men came ashore following D-Day
3,098,259 tons of stores
640,000 Germans killed, wounded or taken prisoner in the Battle of Normandy

The town centre is a lively bustling place full of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops too, well worth a visit.

arromanches normandy town

 

Note on the horizon out to see the Mulberry Harbour can be seen

 

arromanches high street

 

American war postcards

american war postcards

 

and back on the beach another operation was also successfully coming to plan. Mission accomplished!

arromanches beach

How can you not go to Normandy be in the Pays d’Auge and not visit a chateau?

chateau st germain de livet

Impossible and with two princesses in training it wasn’t going to be hard to convince the little ones to leave the swimming pool either.

chateau st germain de livet

Normandy is brimming with castles and although others may have been richer in their offer we chose one that wasn’t too far away conscious of the travelling time involved and the need to get back to the pool.

chateau st germain de livet

Chateau St Germain de Livet is set off the main road and surrounded by a brick wall but as I entered the gate I was stunned by the beauty of this historic building. Luckily it wasn’t just me, the girls were equally captivated.

chateau st germain de livet

We found the peacocks a bit camera shy as they would move away from me whenever they saw my lens coming out which made the girls giggle.

chateau st germain de livet

We took a walk through the main gate to the courtyard whilst waiting for the chateau to open for it’s afternoon viewing at 2pm and from there we saw the path on the other side of the moat – it had to be explored of course.

chateau st germain de livet

Beauty and the Beast is a favourite story and Disney film in our house and we’ve talked about how the castle was in France,

chateau st germain de livet

 

this was also part of my convincing techniques when asking about visiting a chateau.

chateau st germain de livet

As we walked around the castle we looked at the bedrooms, dining room and grand piano, we talked about Chip and Mrs Teapot, we talked about how life would have been and where Belle would have slept.

chateau st germain de livet

The girls loved it, the chateau was a great hit with them and offered plenty of drawing incentive later on. Mummy is quite the dab hand at castles and princesses now ;)

chateau st germain de livet

We also had a ‘muck around’ in the courtyard afterwards playing peek a boo behind the pillars and counting the bird’s nests built high in the rafts.

chateau st germain de livet

I’m linking up with Coombe Mill #CountryKids which is all about getting the kids away from the screen and outdoors.
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

french bed sign

I love looking for souvenirs when I am on holiday and our trip to Honfleur was no exception. I loved these metal plaques stacked in twistable frames, there were a few that caught my eye and some, like this one, that made me smile.

This one epitomises, Ohh la la to me.

I didn’t buy it as I wouldn’t know where to hang it but it does go to show the difference between our countries and what is acceptable in both.

What do you think?

Claude Monet Giverny

One of the great things about summer holidays in new areas is visiting local sites of beauty or historic interest and Normandy certainly has an abundance of it, so much I had to pick and choose as 5 year olds don’t take too kindly to being dragged away from the swimming pool!

When I say local, I mean within a reasonable distance and Giverny is about a one and half hour drive from Honfleur but it was very well worth it.

In Giverny you will find the home of Claude Monet with the gardens he created including the water garden with the world famous water lilies.

Because of the enormous amount of interest the entire village of Giverny is now dedicated to tourists and there is a fabulous free car park at the beginning of the village with an underground passage under the busy road.

We were in a queue for at least half an hour but I did see others ‘jump’ it with their tickets bought online so do keep this in mind and check out the site before you go.

The tour starts in the shop and there is every souvenir imaginable to tempt your Euros out of your pocket.

Claude Monet Giverny

We started our tour with the gardens as after a gloomy, wet drive the sun came out and I didn’t know how long it was going to last.

Claude Monet Giverny

In front of the house in a central point is a wide avenue with arches where plants are scrambling up, I could imagine the joy Monet had walking down and maybe picking a few flowers for his desk. Rows and rows of flowers in parallel lines each row themed a different colour.

Claude Monet Giverny

Claude Monet Giverny

and an underground passage takes you over to the water garden which is stunning. Following the walkways we were delighted by many different views of the pond, the water lilies were in flower and there was a peace in the air and a serenity that was overwhelming.

Claude Monet Giverny

and the water lilies …

Claude Monet Giverny

me and the girls family portrait ;)

Claude Monet Giverny

and this last one from the other end

Claude Monet Giverny

Anyone remember his paintings with the boats on the lake? I saw the boats!

Claude Monet Giverny

With the gardens completed it was time to visit the house and no photography was allowed inside which is a shame as his study was filled with his artwork. His bedroom was home to gifts of paintings from his close friends, Cezanne, Renior, Manet, Pissarro and Rodin.

Claude Monet Giverny

His dining room was yellow, two shades of yellow – completely yellow which Bessie thought was the most beautiful room she had ever seen but she loves Belle and the Beast and yellow is her favourite colour.

Claude Monet Giverny

Alice was taken with the kitchen and so was I, tiled with pretty blue tiles and copper pans shining hung around the room with the most massive oven and cooking berth imaginable. The only photo I was permitted to take was the view from Claude’s bedroom window, what a sight to wake up to eh?

Claude Monet Giverny

This will go down as one of my Normandy highlights and if you get a chance do visit, we were charged £9.50 per adult and children under 7 go free. Just be warned, a small bottle of coke and a small bottle of apple juice bought from the bar heading back to the car park cost us €8 = £8

moules mariniere

When in France eat like the French and what meal comes more to mind on the northern coast of Normandy than Moules Mariniere?

On visiting the beautiful town of Honfleur all of the restaurants lining the Vieux Bassin offer Moules mariniere with pommes frites and un verre de vin blanc, now that is music to my ears.

Honfleur fish market

When shopping in the local hypermarket or the fish market on Honfleur harbour, the choice of fish and shellfish is out of this world, live crab and lobster, Cabillaud (cod) snails and tons of moules. We decided to buy some mussels and have a go at the French recipe.

market honfleur

The fishmonger advised half a kilo of moules per person and the first thing to do when you get back home is to clean them making sure all the seaweed is pulled from the shells. A good rinse under cold running water and you’re ready to go.

mafrket stall honfleur

Chop a small onion and a clove of garlic and sweat it in a large pan that will hold all of the mussels.

garlic market stall France

Add a glass of white wine and bring to the boil.

moules mariniere

Add the mussels to the liquid and cover for 3 – 4 minutes

moules mariniere

Throw on a generous handful of chopped parsley and stir

moules mariniere

Serve with fresh bread

moules mariniere

Bon appetit!

moules mariniere

Some of our holiday photos of Honfleur, Normandy France – more to come

honfleur france vieux bassin

The beautiful Vieux Bassin in Honfleur and a family portrait.

family portrait Honfleur