Boggy green countryside lightly populated by horses, cattle, apple orchards and of course the French. Renowned throughout France for its cider and calvados. The fact that it rains often in the winter and that it is barely above sea-level keeps the ageing population dour and terse. However, during the summer it is a paradise's own back garden and tourists gambol along the expansive coastline and enjoy the freshness of it all.

(French: Normandie)

The Duchy of Normandy, in NW France, was one of the many regions in Europe colonised by Nordic vikings.

Viking raids on the west coast of the Frankish Empire, beginning around 840, soon progressed to outright armed invasions, with demands of ransom and tribute. Later, actual land conquests began to occur - initially with little lasting result, but by 911, a colony (with a population largely composed of Danes, and some Norwegians) had come into being around the mouth of the river Seine. The threat posed by this armed intrusion into the Empire was finally resolved when the Frankish Emperor Charles the Simple coƶpted the viking settlers by creating their chief, Rollo (Hrolf) an imperial duke, and incorporating Normandy into the Empire as a duchy.

By the time of Duke William (William the Conqueror), over a century later, the Nordic population in Normandy had been integrated into the French people, and the Danish speech had become the language of the elderly. As a child, one anecdote recalls, William was taught a smidgeon of the old tongue in order to properly greet a visiting Danish nobleman.

Today, the Nordic heritage persists only in the form of Nordic name legacies in Normandy.

Normandy, France, is divided into two regions: Haute-Normandie and Basse-Normandie. Its main towns are Alencon, Bayeux, Caen, Cherbourg, Dieppe, Deauville, Fecamp, Lisieux, Le Havre, Evreux, and Rouen.

Bayeux is home to the famous Bayeux tapestry, depicting William the Conqueror's invasion of England in 1066 in intricate detail.

Monet's gardens and home in Giverny are spectacular - you feel as if you are walking around in one of his pictures, many of which were painted here.

Mont St Michel is an islet off the coast joined to the mainland by a causeway, and it houses a Benedictine monastery, founded in 708.

Maupassant's birthplace is also in the region, as is the house of Victor Hugo, author of The Three Musketeers, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Les Miserables, among others.

Rouen was where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake, and boasts a fine Cathedral and Horloge (clock tower).

The town of Yvetot is twinned with Lanark in Scotland and Hemmingen near Hanover in Germany. The natives are friendly, and trains run to Rouen, Le Havre, and Paris.

Other picturesque places worth a visit include Etretat with its amazing white cliffs, and Honfleur. Caudebec-en-Caux is a small town on the banks of the Seine, and the Pont de Normandie is a dramatic, brightly-painted suspension bridge over the river.

The Normandy beaches were also the site of the D-Day landings on 6 June, 1944, and many reminders of those times can be seen here, from Mulberry harbours, gun emplacements and Sherman tanks to graveyards to the fallen.

All in all, Normandy has much to offer the visitor
- Allez-y!

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