You possibly can’t go mistaken wherever you go in France, understandably probably the most visited nation on the earth. But in case you’re homing in on the northwest a part of this magical land, you might need a troublesome name to make.
Each with millennia of historical past, extraordinary tradition and a whole bunch of miles of shore, Brittany and Normandy tempt in equal measure. However which area ought to get the nod? After studying these two extraordinarily partisan takes, you determine.
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Brittany? Bien sûr
Daphné Leprince-Ringuet is a author and journalist primarily based in France. She grew up between Paris and Brittany and considers herself Bretonne at coronary heart – a lot to the despair of her actually born-and-raised Breton buddies.
Let’s be sincere: for most individuals planning a go to to France, Brittany is just not an apparent go-to. Even the French often want a little bit of convincing earlier than setting foot within the nation’s westernmost area, usually postpone by the flawed assumption that summer season days can be spent watching chilly rain fall from a perpetually grey sky. Principally seen as a bleaker model of Normandy – solely with out the excessive life and farther from Paris – Brittany has a nasty rep that stubbornly lives on.
However that is additionally probably what provides the area one among its best strengths. Overlook about Deauville’s and Trouville’s overcrowded seashores and extortionate deck-chair-rental charges. Think about a summer season that doesn’t require packing for fancy social events. On the danger of divulging a carefully saved secret, let me reveal that Brittany is without doubt one of the final areas in France the place you possibly can sit on a sandy seaside in the course of July, going through a plastic-free, Caribbean-like sea with no different soul in sight. And guess what? The climate can truly be fairly good, too.
In between dramatic cliffs, there isn’t any scarcity of interesting seashores in Brittany © Sameer Al-Doumy / AFP through Getty Photographs
A craggy, unspoiled coast
You received’t should work exhausting to search out your excellent spot, both; a fast seek for pictures of the “Brittany coast” will persuade you that there isn’t any scarcity of pure magnificence right here. From the Côtes d’Armor to the shores of Belle-Île en Mer by way of the Pointe du Raz, Crozon and the Quiberon peninsula, one can find your self frequently marveling on the quintessentially Breton distinction of quiet, inviting seashores instantly giving solution to weathered cliffs that dramatically tumble into the ocean. Even when the climate may be unreliable at occasions, it’s effectively value pulling out a raincoat when the sky turns stormy to observe the spectacle of towering waves crashing right into a coast, battered by livid, whistling winds.
Don’t fear: you additionally get to get pleasure from some less complicated pleasures in Brittany. A gastronome will discover solely pleasure in a area the place butter virtually holds its personal spot within the record of regional delicacies, and the place ordering a number of mains in a crêperie is nothing out of the atypical. You probably have a wholesome urge for food, a slice of kouign-amann – which primarily consists of plenty of butter, plenty of sugar and a splash of flour – must also hit the spot. And as a rule of thumb, by no means miss an opportunity for an additional dose of salted butter caramel.
The area doesn’t disappoint on the savory facet, both. Brittany stands on the intersection of land and sea, and you may anticipate to see this in your plate, with most menus that includes contemporary fish and seafood subsequent to regionally sourced cuts of meat. Adventurous eaters will get pleasure from Guéméné andouille, Molène sausages and even seaweed-based dishes.
Locals have fun conventional Breton tradition in medieval cities throughout Brittany © Andia / Common Photographs Group through Getty Photographs
Centuries of Celtic tradition
Refreshingly, Brittany does its personal factor and doesn’t strive too exhausting to please – but usually does all the identical. Delight in Breton identification is omnipresent, and there’s no higher setting to have fun this than the area’s numerous medieval cities, the place one can find year-round tributes to Celtic historical past, legend and folklore. Regardless of when or the place you go to, the possibilities are you’ll bump into a conventional Breton music live performance or a Fest Noz dancing pageant, reminding you that Brittany, also known as the “land of legends,” actually is a spot the place fable and actuality collide.
After all, you may merely leap on a high-speed prepare and attain Normandy’s seashores in a few hours. Chances are high you wouldn’t really feel too removed from residence – Parisians and overseas vacationers alike flock to the area the second sunshine makes an look within the climate forecast. However in case you are after a novel journey and a few exhilarating sights, danger the rain, settle in for the journey and make your solution to the place the place the land ends.
Normandy can have Mont St-Michel. Brittany has all the remaining.
Picturesque Norman cities like Honfleur have impressed artists for hundreds of years © Hippo1947 / Shutterstock
Normandy: larger, higher and with extra cheese
Cyrena Lee is a author primarily based in Chailly-en-Bière and escapes to Normandy wherever she will be able to for chilly plunges on the sprawling seashores, sips of unlawful calvados and the perfect crêpes on the earth.
Normandy’s reputation dates again millennia: the sprawling sandy shores and ample lush lands of northwestern France have been fought over for hundreds of years on finish. The Vikings invaded within the ninth century, battling the Bretons. William the Conqueror claimed Normandy – in Bayeux, you possibly can see the astonishing medieval tapestry that tells his epic story – earlier than the king of France reclaimed the province in 1204, with the Bretons’ help.
A journey by way of Normandy is an immersive historical past lesson. World Battle II buffs can go to numerous memorials in Caen, relive the nighttime D-Day landings of Operation Neptune on the Airborne Museum and ponder the human toll of all of it on the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. The area can be replete with cathedrals, fortresses and castles match for royalty. It’s additionally residence to the final royal property in France, Château d’Eu,
After which there’s the mythic, seemingly floating abbey of Mont-St-Michel, which symbolically sits between Normandy and Brittany and has been a rivalry level of rivalry virtually since its building. (Let’s be clear: it lies in Normandy.)
An inspiration for artists and artisans
Centuries-old squabbles apart, let’s flip to modern-day issues. Whereas Brittany could have saved the flames of its Celtic traditions alive, Normandy’s huge lands are full of latest trailblazers: artists, artisans and farmers who’re making a wealthy and trendy tradition.
The fruits of their labor are one-of-a-kind delights. Artists like Mathilde are making hand-crafted baggage upcycled from oyster nets. The artisanal savoir-faire is obvious within the handmade leather-based baggage by Maroquinerie du Cotentin. And the annual PALMA Competition lets road artists take over the partitions and musicians over the streets of Caen and Mondeville.
To call-drop only a bit, Normandy has been inspiring artists for hundreds of years. Picturesque port metropolis Honfleur was residence to painter Eugene Boudin. Impressionist Claude Monet created his personal fantasy backyard at Giverny, the place you possibly can gaze on the water lilies your self to at the present time. Even Vincent van Gogh painted in Normandy, making Auvers-sur-Oise the topic of one among his final works, Wheatfield with Crows. You possibly can go to Gustave Flaubert’s Rouen, short-story author Man de Maupassant’s home in Étretat and Proust’s resort in Cabourg (the place he scribbled pages of his masterpiece In Search of Misplaced Time). And guess the place Nobel Prize profitable writer Annie Ernaux comes from? Yep, Normandy. Hollywood stars additionally flock to glamorous seaside city Deauville yearly for the American Movie Competition.
Normandy produces 4 protected-origin cheeses, together with irresistible Camembert © Charly Triballeau / AFP through Getty Photographs
Dazzling landscapes, and a cornucopia of culinary delights
When you begin taking within the views right here, from the jaw-dropping cliffs at Étretat to the dunes of Cabrough, it comes as no shock that the landscapes of Normandy have impressed so many artists. For the athletically pushed, “Norman Switzerland” affords deep valleys and cliffside hikes, together with mountain climbing, grasp gliding and kayaking. Solely in Clécy are you able to enterprise by through ferrata over the Orne River to an adrenaline-pumping, breath-taking zip-line end.
Overlaying Normandy’s huge sq. mileage may be exhausting – so it’s fortunate there’s one thing scrumptious to refuel with in almost each nook. Positive, Brittany could have buckwheat crêpes and Europe’s richest pastry, the decadent kouign-amann, however Normandy affords a bigger number of culinary pleasures. A lighter and extra distinctive dessert is la teurgoule, a rice pudding sweetened with cinnamon that’s beloved by Norman households. And the basic French apple tart hails from the area.
As regards to ciders: there are a couple of distinctive ones from Brittany, sure – however Normandy affords a cider route over 25 miles lengthy. Then there’s calvados, a head-spinning, AOP-protected apple brandy that may solely be present in, effectively, Calvados. Normandy additionally produces pommeau, a pleasant aperitif that artfully blends cider juice and calvados to interesting perfection. Normandy holds its personal on the andouille entrance, too, with the native Vire sausage providing a refined smokiness that beats out the fatty Breton Guémené.
Because the French like to complete their meals with cheese, this debate between Normandy and Brittany will finish on the identical be aware. Brittany produces a couple of sorts of yummy cheese, sure – however precisely zero bear the coveted AOP label. In Normandy, there are 4 protected-origin cheeses: world-famous Camembert, in addition to the excellent Livarot, Neufchatel and Pont-l’Évêque varieties
It’s protected to say that in a contest with Brittany, Normandy comes out the proverbial large cheese.