Road Less Traveled: Normandy and Brittany, France

2nd Jul 2014

Landscape in Normandy

Photo of Normandy, France by Fabio Nodari

Landscapes in Normandy

Photo of Normandy, France by Fabio Nodari

Form the village of Etrat

Photo of L'Étrat, France by Fabio Nodari

Sandy beaches of Nez de Jobourg

Photo of Nez de Jobourg, Jobourg, France by Fabio Nodari

Wall of Saint Malo

Photo of Saint-Malo, France by Fabio Nodari

Mount Saint Michel

Photo of Mont Saint-Michel, France by Fabio Nodari

Mount Saint Michel

Photo of Mont Saint-Michel, France by Fabio Nodari

It was a few years ago that I had in mind to visit the north of France. For those who like landscape photography, or those who simply want to spend a few days of relaxation, is ideal. In particular, Normandy and Brittany offer breathtaking views. So as soon as I got the chance I did not think twice and I left.

Dwelling in northern Italy, I decided to go there by car. For those who live further away, the center or the south of Italy, the journey becomes longer, so you might perhaps get to France by plane and rent a car on the spot. In any case it is essential to have a means precisely. Each street can reveal wonderful scenery that can not be discovered by public transport.

In this journey of ten days, I traveled about 4100 km, including also part of Belgium ... But it was worth it. Unfortunately I was not able to visit the UK. It means that I will have to go back ..

General information

The first thing that comes to mind hearing the word is probably the Normandy D-Day beaches where thousands of soldiers lost their lives during the Second World War. But Normandy is much more. Together with Britain, from 'life to one of the most fascinating areas of Europe. Campaigns exterminated, mountain ranges, vast beaches and high cliffs are just some of the wonders of this corner of France. Whether you are history buffs, lovers of good food in search of solitude or one thing is certain: when you return home the nostalgia will last long.

The only real downside is that the climate is unknown. This region is famous for it rains and strong winds that lash the coast throughout the year. Of course, it all adds to the atmosphere but it is not pleasant to spend the vacation with an umbrella .. So one should, if possible, check the weather before leaving, which can give you an idea of what the weather in the days following. Keep in mind though that even a gloomy skies and rain clouds can last very little time. The weather changes with an impressive speed, so do not despair if you wake up with the rain .. One of the items that will impact more on shopping is definitely the fuel.Petrol and diesel have high prices everywhere. And even if they cost slightly less in France than in Italy, travel is still expensive.

In this area of France the food is a real lifestyle. In the kitchen of Normandy, rich and elaborate, and in that of Britain, simpler, seafood reign supreme.And in some places you can dine on oysters and mussels for less money than eating a pizza restaurant in Italy. Coming home to an empty belly is really impossible. Short, medieval towns, great food, warm and friendly people, fantastic landscapes: these and other things are of Normandy and Brittany two of the best places I have spent the holidays.

Places not to be missed

One of the most fascinating and well-known, the Normandy is the small village of Etretat. Devoid of a port remained virtually unknown until several painters and writers who immortalized the beauty of it. Looking at the white cliffs that glows warm colors at sunrise and sunset is easy to see why Monet sought inspiration in this corner of Normandy. Another place worth visiting is the north-west tip of Normandy. His landscapes have often been compared to those of Ireland. It is not difficult to understand why ... Walls, stone animals that graze, green meadows and strong winds characterize the Cap de la Hague. The reef around Nez de Jobourg, 128 meters high, is the highest of continental Europe and is also a reserve for seabirds. The road ends a few miles to the north, at the height of Goury, a small village where you have the feeling of being top of the world. Only 15 km is clearly seen on the British Island of Alderney (Aurigny).

I want to make a little digression: this place is so beautiful and isolated that the French Government has seen fit to devote a large area to the nuclear industry. And the scenario is rather bleak. Unspoiled landscapes on one side and miles of fences and electrified barbed wire on the other. Towers, ducts and plant Areva offices are the "frame" on two nuclear reactors at Flamanville little further. A show that only the greed and stupidity of man could conceive, of course, from my point of view.

Another of the characteristics of this region, a feature more natural this time, they are very powerful storms. The landscape changes often as the sea recedes and leaves uncovered boulders and rocks a few minutes before they were underwater. This is a factor to keep in mind if you want to go for walks along the cliffs. It happens often in fact that unwary tourists remain stranded on the rocks because of the rapidly rising tide.

Going down the road to Brittany, Mont Saint-Michel is encountered. Maybe it's the less glamorous place between that I have visited, and this because of the horde of tourists (three million per year) storming the fortress. In fact, I was a little 'disappointed seeing the way in which the fortress was exploited. Hotels, souvenir shops and various vendors take away much of the charm that this place has.

Among the other places that are worth a visit is definitely Cancale. The town is cute, like almost everyone on the coast, but the main reason to visit is the oyster beds. Cancale is in fact regarded as the French capital of these molluscs. A stop here (maybe for lunch), is a must. Immediately afterwards you can head to Saint-Malo, a fortified town that remembers the days when the British and French if they played a thrashing. Saint Malo was in fact a basis for both merchant vessels and for vessels of the pirates, who were recognized by the government and known by the nickname of pirates.

The main attraction of this city are the narrow streets of the old town and the walk on the walls.

Honestly, it's impossible to go home without good shots. The sights are so beautiful that sometimes you do not know what to photograph. Of course, the main attraction is the landscape and then a wide angle lens is a must. But sometimes a longer focal length of the lens can be useful for the details of landscapes, pictures of birds and a few photos of reportage. A good tripod will help you have clear pictures even in the windiest days (almost always). When taking pictures of sunsets and sunrises with the filters, a Reverse GND will be very helpful. In fact it is what I used most often, along with a 10-stop ND filter for long exposures.

As mentioned the weather is the main unknown. Once in place you just have to hope for a little 'luck (essential in the photograph). though the advice I give to everyone, photographers or not, is to turn off the camera every now and enjoy the spectacle of nature.


Brittany and Normandy have a lot to offer and in this trip I visited some of the most beautiful places. Whether you're interested in history, good food and the natural beauty, you will not be disappointed. If this is added the fact that the region is still strangely cheap, there are reasonable grounds to not go there at least once. persons are very sociable and places are extremely well kept and clean, an example that I hope will be followed by a day from Italy.

I'll be back home with the feeling that it will be a bye to the next opportunity.

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