Most well-known to Americans for the D-Day invasion that occurred there during World War II, Normandy is a French region rich in culinary and cultural diversity. Its agricultural developments are the main source of economic strength in the region. Normandy's dairy products, cider and apple brandy are especially notable and award-winning, but its colorful history truly sets it apart from other European destinations.
The Normandy region consists of a 360-mile stretch of coastline that is bordered along the north by the English Channel. Granite cliffs frame the west while limestone cliffs can be found in the east, and the historic cities of Caen, Bayeux and Rouen are economic hubs surrounded by rich farmland. Only about 13 percent of the region is wooded, and oxbows of the Seine River uniquely shape the lush landscape.
Size and Population
The Normandy region, under French sovereignty, covers 19,000 square miles, which is approximately 5 percent of the territory of France. The population of Normandy is currently around 3.5 million, which is also approximately 5 percent of the French population.
From Prehistoric Times to D-Day
Archaeological studies have found that humans have existed in the Normandy region since prehistoric times. In Roman times, it was part of ancient Gaul. When Normandy was conquered by Julius Caesar in the first century, nine separate Gallic tribes existed in the area. The Romans eventually pulled out in the late third century after constant invasions from Germanic tribes, and the culture of the region shifted over the centuries. The Norman conquest of England was a major development, and wars eventually shaped the region into what it is today. The most famous historical moment for Normandy came on June 6, 1944, when nearly 3 million Allied troops crossed the English Channel into Nazi-occupied France. Otherwise known as D-Day, it remains the largest seaborne invasion in history.
Normandy is the second-most popular tourist destination in France (behind Paris), and the many attractions are as diverse as the visitors. Museums, monuments and memorials abound in honor of the Battle of Normandy, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame houses the 200-foot-long Bayeux Tapestry, which tells the story of the Norman invasion of England in 1066. The Caen Memorial is another remembrance of World World II, and the picturesque village of Giverny is mecca for any art lover.