A major stop on any trip through Normandy is Lisieux, a commune in the Calvados area in northwestern France. I’d be hard pressed to find any traveler who doesn’t fall in love with Normandy after setting foot on her soil – it’s simply impossible. The serenity and beauty of the region is what pulls you in and the warmth of the people is what keeps you glued and this is all before you’ve spent time walking in the countryside or eating their delicious cheese.
It is the capital of the Pays d’Auge area, which is characterized by valleys and hedged farmland. As you’re driving north from Paris, the landscape suddenly changes and you’re greeted by stunning countryside. Apple trees are scattered alongside the road on both sides and depending on the time of day, mist meets your gaze and suddenly you have no choice but to stop the car…
We headed north on Route A14 to Evreux where we went through town before then getting onto the D613 which headed further north towards the Normandy coast. At first, it felt a bit like France’s Kansas, where flat grassy fields stretched for miles. I had corn and beets to my left and to my right, there were wind mills and haystacks, haystacks in the mist that is…
Earlier in the day, the windmills danced against a clear blue sky.
And yet, despite my affinity towards sunshine and blue skies, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by Normandy’s beauty when the mist took over.
Oh that beautiful Normandy mist. Despite the fact that we could barely see in front of us later in the day, the sky overhead on one side had bouncy white clouds with a perfect amount of gray in the middle.
I knew that after the sun declined just a tad more, it would make for a perfect post sunset shot although my Canon 7D was having none of that — it was only interested in what I was, and that was those magical haystacks in the mist against a cloud filled Normandy sky on a late fall afternoon.
Orange hues rose above the fields from the grains and tractors sat admidst the well manicured fields. Dozens of hay stacks surrounded them and there was not a soul in sight. This is the magic of Normandy and what made the experience surreal but also spiritual. The trip itself was focused on the Spiritual side of France and while I saw dozens of cathedrals, lit candles, learned more about catholic saints than I ever expected to know in my lifetime, a spiritual experience for me is often coupled with what nature can provide…naturally. The Normandy countryside has a way of doing that beautifully and I’d argue, delicately.
Apple and pear orchards were closeby and the trees are apparently were blossoming given its peak fall season. It was cider time for some of us and Calvados time for others. I imagined myself sipping cider with some hard, aged sheep cheese on dill weed crackers in the field, a blanket spread and nowhere in the world that I needed to be for hours. Hmmm, perhaps for days….With the visuals you have in front of you (below), where else could my mind possibly be? Lost in the magic of Normandy’s mist, a sort of spiritual magic that her mist held, was enough to take me out of reality for more than just a moment. This is the pure joy you hope to achieve from every trip but don’t always experience.
Later, after spending a couple of days in and around Mont Saint Michel, one of my most memorable experiences in France twenty years ago and again this trip (be sure to read my separate write up on the Mont), we passed through the village of Pontorson. There’s nothing unique or special about Pontorson per se, except that we were driving through the village between 6:30 and 7:00 am, and the breathtaking mist coated the fields to my left and right. As the mist bathed the Normandy trees, a fiery orange sun began to emerge.
Whoahh, it was too much for my eyes to bear for some reason. Albeit beautiful, I reflected on the previous days and how the subdued skies calmed my spirit somehow, not unlike the less fiery orange sky that I woke up to in Mont Saint Michel before we left for Auray. It was a soft and subdued yellow and orange sunrise with purple hues and once again, my spirit began to relax as Normandy seems to be so good at doing again and again.
Be sure to check out our Brittany/Normandy food & wine section (and posts), as well as our general section on Brittany/Normandy. And, of course for the passionate about all things France, we have quite a bit of content in our France section as well as Paris.
Note: My trip was hosted by the French Tourism Board, however all opinions expressed are entirely my own.