Claude Monet (1840-1926) wasn’t born in Upper Normandy. He was born on the fifth floor of 45 Rue Laffitte, Paris. A year later, Claude’s mum went into labour in the lift, and his brother Zoot was born on the second, third and fourth floors. Claude’s dad was a greengrocer and his mum was a singer, who would lull the boys to sleep with “Oui, nous n’avons pas de bananes” and “J’ai un luverly bunch de noix de coco.” The Monets moved to Le Harvre, Upper Normandy in 1845.
When Claude was 16, he met the painter Eugène Boudin on the beach at Le Harvre. Boudin picked up his hat, returned Claude’s frisbee and explained that he was painting “en plein air” – outdoors! Apparently, before the invention of toothpaste-tube-style oil paint around this time, everyone painted indoors (painters had to mix their own paint with linseed oil and pigment powder, which would blow everywhere if you tried to mix it outdoors. So why didn’t they mix it indoors and then run outside with it and paint really quickly? I dunno, ask them). Boudin explained other techniques for outdoor painting to young Claude, such as wrapping up warm, taking a thermos and some sandwiches, and practising saying “Oh really, it’s nothing” for when people come and look.
Claude took to plein-air painting like an impressionist to lilies, and was soon to be seen out-and-about with his hi-tech French Easel (Easel, incidentally, comes fro the German ‘Esel’ (donkey) because it carries things, or possibly because it squeaks). In 1861, Claude was sent to Algeria for a seven-year tour with the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry. He found the landscape uninspiring and produced only three canvasses (all lost): “Sand dunes with distant sand”, “The same sand dunes later that day” and “Anyone know where I can find some lilies?” When Claude contracted typhoid, his auntie Marie-Jeanne Lecadre offered to get him out of the army, on condition he study art at university and learn to paint properly. Indoors.
Claude’s 1868 fall into the river Seine was interpreted at the time as a suicide attempt. In fact, it was an experiment in extreme plein-air painting. Claude survived, but the canvas of “The River Seine Coming Towards Me Really Quickly” was never recovered. Many years later, Claude was travelling by train, spotted the village of Giverny from the window and decided instantly to live there. Luckily for Claude, his train was the 8.16 (Saturdays only) from Vernon to Gasny, which travels through some of the prettiest countryside in Upper Normandy. Had he been travelling from Hinckley to Birmingham New Street, he might have ended up living in Nuneaton.
Claude spent the rest of his days at Giverny, and today you can visit the gardens he created there, brimming with lilies and completely free of sand. Claude’s paintings now fetch astronomical prices, and “Falaises près de Dieppe” (Cliffs near Dieppe) has been stolen twice. In 1998, it was stolen by the museum curator, who was caught leaving the museum with a suspicious 4’x6′ bulge under his jumper. It was stolen again in August 2007. It wasn’t the curator again because he’s still in prison.
© 2008 richardheacock @ mac.com
Upper Normandy Location
Upper Normandy is located on the North Coast of France. To the North of the region is the English Channel. It is surrounded by the regions of Picardy to the East and Lower Normandy on the west side. To the South are Ile-de-France and the Centre. There are 2 departments: Eure and Seine-Maritime.
Upper Normandy Landscape
The Northern coast is typically limestone (chalk) cliffs with long beaches. Inland the countryside is dominated by the meandering Seine. The estuary is just south of Le Havre. Inland there are huge tracts of agricultural land which are not inspiring. Several rivers punctuate the landscape and these areas are attractive. Typified by the Monet Gardens at Giverny on the banks of the Seine near Vernon.
Upper Normandy Attractions
One of the big selling points is the Gastronomy of the region – lovely open air markets to sample the wide range of foods: produce from local farms (selling cider, ostrich meat, snails, Calvados, foie gras, and much more).
Water is a distinctive element – from the beaches and cliffs in the North to the rivers that meander throughout the region: rivers, with vast meadows, offering a taste of paradise to all fly-fishermen. The towns of Pont-Audemer and Bernay are surrounded by water and the ever present Seine is a feature in the Regional Nature Park.
There are visits to the archaeological gardens at Vieil-Evreux, medieval fortresses in Château-Gaillard, Harcourt, and centuries-old abbeys (in Bec-Hellouin, and Fontaine-Guérard). In the forests of Normandy – Lyons-la-Forêt, Ferrière-sur-Risle – one can explore quaint towns and villages.
Fishing boats still land their catches at Fécamp, so that one can savour fresh seafood in the harbour-front restaurants. Further along the coast the large town of Dieppe is well worth a visit. There is plenty to see, with a good choice of shops and excellent restaurants along the quays.
Rouen, the capital of Normandy, is a delight. Its pedestrian centre allows easy access to Rouen’s history. There are walks through the historical centre, past half-timbered houses, discovering Gothic treasures like the Notre Dame Cathedral, St Ouen abbey, Saint Maclou church and the Palais de Justice or the Renaissance style monuments such as the Saint Maclou ossuary.
Last, but by no means least, are the beautiful Monet gardens at Giverny. The village alone is a delight to walk through but Monet’s Gardens are ablaze with colour during the summer and cannot be missed. Sample the bridge over the Lily pads. These are images that you will treasure.
Weather is similar to the South of England with distinct seasons. Perhaps slightly warmer and sunnier in the Summer! The countryside is green so it does rain.
From Calais ferry port / Eurostar driving times are about 2 to 3 hours. You can travel by Autoroute (tolls) all the way.
Upper Normandy is well served by the Ferry Ports of Dieppe and Le Havre so one can arrive in the heart of Upper Normandy from the UK. Other nearby ports include Caen, Cherboug ports to the West and Calais and Boulogne ports to the East.
Beauvais airport is short distance away in Picardy. One can also fly to Paris and get to Upper Normandy in less than 2 hours.
Upper Normandy Population
Just under 2 million inhabitants
Major port on the coast – lovely harbour with restaurant on the quays. Good selection of shops and monuments to visit.
Evreux is situated on the river Iton just a 100 km from Paris. XII century cathedral with impressive stained glass windows.
Popular harbour town on the coast – between Le Havre and Dieppe.
The capital of Normandy and full of history. Sited on a river, this city is well worth visiting for its architectural treasures.
Property prices are affected by the proximity to Paris. Many Parisians buy weekend retreats in this region and contribute to property inflation.
Apartments: 65,000 euros (Coast)
Farmhouses: 120,000 euros
Townhouses: 110,000 euros
Villa: 160,000 + euros
Land: from 10 euros per sq. m
Upper Normandy Property SelectionListed below are the departments in the region of Upper Normandy; the number of properties in each department are denoted in brackets - click on a department to see the properties available.
All the properties in Upper Normandy by department.
(Number in brackets = number of properties)
Eure Property (4)
Seine Maritime Property (2)