Normandy’s coastline is a superb cruising ground in its own right, and its history goes back a lot further than 70 years.
Destined for all time to be linked with the historic events of June 6, 1944, France’s Normandy coast is often overlooked as a cruising destination. But if what you want from a cruise is pretty scenery, interesting ports of call, and good local cuisine, Normandy can deliver. If you like a smattering of local culture and a bite of history as well, Normandy has both in spades. Long before the German occupation in World War II—long before Germany had been created, in fact—Normandy was a powerful, independent state with great castles, bustling cities, and towering cathedrals. More recently it became an idyllic rural backwater of modern France, famed for its apples, cider, butter, and cheeses—a sort of French Vermont, but with more beaches and better food.
And then came D-Day, adding a new chapter to the pages of history laid out on the landscape—shattered concrete and rusting steel among the castles and cathedrals. While the beauty of the Norman coastline and the tranquility of its rural hinterland make it possible, at least momentarily, to forget the events of 60 years ago, there is no escaping them for long. Every town has its little museum, and the shoreline and landscape are dotted with monuments, memorials, and cemeteries. Such melancholy reminders can often obscure the fact that the French are reverent about D-Day—or J-Jour, as they call it—and remember the sacrifice made by the young Allied soldiers, particularly the Americans, with great humility and gratitude.