A Family Trip to Brittany and Normandy

The north coast of France has a storied past from the days of William the Conqueror and Joan d’Arc, to the historic D-Day landings of World War II. As a family of four travelling together, Randal, Lisa, Mira and Kieran were looking for many things to make their holiday perfect and the magical, pastoral coastline of this western corner of Europe didn’t disappoint with its many enchanting, entertaining and educational charms.

From Calgary the family took an easy nine hour direct flight to Paris last summer. (Prices for 2014 start at $1025 for June/$1245 for July with airtransat.com.) From Paris, they toured ancient forts dating back to the tenth century, picturesque seaside towns and beaches, somber reminders of the Allied Invasions, landscapes made famous by the impressionists of the 19th century and whimsical spots brought to life in the tales of Merlin and Asterix.

For this month’s relationship-themed Fernie Fix, I was keen to feature a family holiday. It was evident from the many pictures I saw of their trip that this family knows how to travel and make the most of their destination. At many historical sites they would split up and explore areas they each found interesting then regroup later to share their experiences; everyone had an opportunity to choose locations and places to visit. Driving the many winding country roads in their rental car was made easy with the use of a downloaded gps app on an iPad and each night was spent in unique lodgings pre-booked to save valuable travel time. As Randal says, “Family holidays are a great way to reconnect without the distractions of daily life. You get to know one another again.”

A photo tour showed me highlights of the family’s trip, including:
Monet’s House at Giverny; the Asian-inspired gardens and the arched bridge are one of the most iconic images of the impressionist period.
The beaches of Arromanche-les-bains and the military cemeteries; One of the most important locations in WWII history, the Canadian story can be found at the Juno Beach Centre Museum.

Rouen, capital city of Normandy; One of the most prosperous cities in medieval Europe and site of the execution of Joan d’Arc and many memorials in her honour.

Honfleur and other scenic coastal towns; known for having perfect lighting, Honfleur is a scenic artists’ paradise.

Mont Saint-Michel; A UNESCO world heritage site famed as one of France’s most recognizable views.

Puy du Fou; Interactive shows depict the area’s incredible history and quaint cottages offer a unique place to stay.

Poppies & Sunflowers; From Van Gogh’s paintings to the iconic poem In Flanders’ Fields by Canadian Lt Col John McCrae, the Northern French countryside is an attraction all of its own.

Paris; From the Eiffel Tower to croissants on the Champs-Élysées, there’s no end to the list of attractions in France’s capital city. The Louvre, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Rodin’s House, The Army Museum, The Catacombs, Pompidou Centre and Palace of Versailles were just a few of the spots the family toured and loved.

Randal’s Trip Highlights

• Historical locations – exploring cemeteries, villages and historical sites.
• The Bayeux tapestry.
• Finding unexpected treats; discovering local cider at a tiny farm complete with donkeys.
• Sharing the story of the Canadian contribution to the Allied D-Day efforts with the family.
• Seeing places through a child’s eyes.

Randal’s Travel Tips
• Don’t be too wound up expecting things to be as you planned.
• Experience new things, try the food, go to new places, and speak to the local people.
• Sometimes travel alone, sometimes travel with friends.