This post is in collaboration with Atout France, Normandy Tourism Board and France Tourism Board.
Sustainable tourism is probably one of the best newer "trends" in the travel world and I am here for it! I have tried to travel as sustainable and supportive of the local environments as I can for more than 10 years, so the fact that there's now finally a bigger focus on it is just amazing.
I had the pleasure of going on a trip through Normandy with Atout France (Danish website here), the Normandy Tourism Board, France Tourism Board, Rouen Tourism Board and other partners. I was part of a group of 7 influencers and travel writers, and we went on a 5 day trip from Paris to the coast in the beginning of October 2021. If you are craving some early fall vibes with nice weather, then it's the perfect time to go.
I will take you through our itinerary and route, so that you can hopefully get some inspiration on how you can travel sustainably through Normandy.
We flew into Paris, where we got picked up in rented electrical cars, that would drive us to Rouen, which is considered the capital of Normandy. The drive from the airport took approximately 2 hours and it was a nice way to see some beautiful landscapes on the way.
When we arrived in Rouen we checked in at Hotel de Dieppe 1880, which is a charming old hotel, located right across the street from the central train station - in other words the perfect central location. The hotel is nice and cozy, with newly renovated rooms and very welcoming staff. If you go to Rouen, this is definitely a good place to stay!
After we all checked in, it was time to go on our first adventure. A short 5 minute walk from our hotel was the Donjon de Rouen, which is the last standing tower of a 13th-century castle, where Joan of Arc was imprisoned. As if the tower wasn't cool enough in itself, they have made an escape room in it (and if you follow me on Instagram, you have probably seen that I'm OBSESSED with escape rooms)! We did the escape room and it was like nothing I've ever tried before, because it had Virtual Reality elements included! During the game we had to put on VR-goggles to solve the next steps - and shoot the enemy, trying to storm the castle. It was so fun, and a really good activity to do in Rouen if the weather is bad.
Again only a 5 minute walk from Donjon de Rouen was our restaurant, where we were having dinner - In Situ. It's a very cute and stylish place, just across the street from the Museum of Fine Arts.
Tour around Rouen
Some of us started early the next morning, because we had booked a running tour with Run & Visit Rouen, which was such an amazing activity! If you want to do something active and discover the city at the same time, this is definitely a must try! We got to run through the quiet city streets in the morning, just as the city was waking up. One of the things I love most when travelling is to get up early, and just watch the place come to life!
We ran through the old streets of Rouen (with a lot of stops for pictures of all the beautiful houses and churches), before reaching the foot of Sainte Catherine hill. We climbed (walked) up the hill and arrived at the top at an amazing viewpoint of the whole city. From here you get a good view of the Seine, as well as both sides of Rouen, where you can clearly see the aftermath of the bombings during World War II. This view point is famous for something else too, as Monet would come here to paint. He painted his "Vue générale de Rouen" ("General View of Rouen") at this hilltop.
On our way back to our hotel, we ran down the cutest little street - Rue Eau de Robec, which you can see on the picture below. It's definitely a street to explore during the night, where you can eat sitting around the little stream.
After a nice shower, it was time to meet up with the rest of the group for lunch at a restaurant called Hygge. The owners were not Danish (I asked), but one of their best friends lives in Denmark, and they really love our Hygge, so they named the restaurant after it. The vegetarian food was very asian inspired and it was so good! I got a carrot soup as a starter and a mushroom noodle soup for main.
After our lunch it was time for a walking tour around Rouen. You can find many options for tours through Rouen Tourism Board or websites like Airbnb or Tripadvisor. We walked down some of the same cute streets as we saw on our running tour, and it's pretty safe to say that every corner of Rouen just is so cute and beautiful. You can easily dream yourself away to a faraway fairytale land.
Some of the places you have to see in Rouen is St Joan of Arc's Church, and the square behind it, Place du Vieux Marché, which is also a great place to experience the nightlife of Rouen. Another thing you have to see in Rouen is Le Gros-Horloge, which is a huge clock not far from St Joan of Arc's Church.
A place I can recommend you to eat is Cancan, which is located in the end of Place du Vieux Marché. It was definitely a different dining experience, where each dish was presented in amazing ways. I had the Cod in a crust of smoked butter & petits paris,
Oyster mushrooms & Duclair Shitake, in a fir needle emulsion - and it was AMAZING! Every single bite was just so good, I never wanted it to stop. Some of the other girls got an Entrecote, that was smoked with hay AT OUR TABLE! It was a very funny touch. Some of the desserts were also melted and smoked at the table, so again it was just amazing presentations of the food. You can see videos of it all in my Instagram highlight of the trip.
Yoga at Manoir de Surville
The next morning we left Rouen and took our electrical cars to the countryside. Some of us drove to the charming boutique hotel Manoir de Surville, where we were going to have a yoga class.
We drove in through the gates of what can only be described as a countryside dream. Manoir de Surville is a historic farm dating back to the 16th century, with houses located in the heart of a two-hectare garden. A dream I'm telling you.
We were greeted at the parking lot by the sweet owner Camille, who - hold on to your seats - grew up on the farm! Her and her husband decided to renovate her childhood farm and transform it into a sustainable boutique hotel, where you can experience true peace and wellness, which it's safe to say that they succeeded with! Manoir de Surville is also a proud holder of Clef Verde (Green Key), which is an award, that marks the leading standard for excellence in the field of environmental responsibility and sustainable operation within the tourism industry. It's hard to get and it shows that Manoir de Surville truly cares about the environment and sustainable practices.
We got taken into the main room with a big fireplace, where we could help ourselves with drinks of any kind (if you're an overnight guest, then you write it on your room number). Not long after, we got shown to the neighbouring building, where we were going to have the yoga class. Here we got greeted by Daphné, who was our yoga teacher for the next hour. We each got a mat and a blanket, before starting an hour of a mix of Hatha and Flow yoga, where everyone could follow. After we finished, we were so calm and it was just a perfect peaceful environment when walking around the farm afterwards.
We got back to the main building and the fireplace, where we were served an assortment of nuts, fruit and juices, before we got a tour of the place by Camille. Each room at Manoir de Surville is different than the others and it's all decorated with the environment in mind and only sustainable materials. Outside you can also find a heated pool (May-September), an apple orchard, a fireplace and a terrace, where inside you can find a spa with a selection of treatments.
If you visit Normandy, you cannot miss out on staying at Manoir de Surville. It's only 100 km from Paris, so no matter what, it's worth the trip!
Michelin guide lunch at La Longère
On our way from Manoir de Surville we met up with the rest of the group in the small city Le Neubourg, where we were treated to an amazing lunch at La Longère, which is mentioned in the prestigious Michelin Guide 2021.
Here we also got our first taste of Normandy apple cider, which was very good! We tried both sweet and dry, but my tastebuts couldn't taste the biggest difference. We got some small amuse-bouche, that were amazing, before getting our mains, which for the vegetarians were half an eggplant and different root vegetables. I don't exactly know what it all was, but it was a delicious explosion of taste!
Following our lunch, we drove to the Marais-Vernier, which is a big wetland area on the left bank of the Seine. The wetlands were shaped by an old branch of the Seine, and is now home to countless of animals. We drove through the picturesque landscape and our eyes were met by cows, horses, and birds wherever we looked. The Marais-Vernier is a great place to go birdwatching, as many birds fly here in the winter and breed in the area. There is a great lookout in the forest, where you can see most of Marais-Vernier.
Fairytale hotel between Pennedepie and Honfleur
From Marais-Vernier we drove on to one of the most enchanting hotels I've ever stayed at - Les Jardins de Coppelia. When you drive through the gate and along the tree covered road towards the main building, it looks like you have entered a fairytale and have arrived at the castle (or maybe it helped that we arrived in the rain).
The 17th-century buildings were rebuilt to a boutique hotel with 27 unique rooms, and now offers a spa and outdoor pool, amongst other activities. It's located only a few minutes from the charming city Honfleur, but hidden away amongst lush nature and with a view of the Atlantic Ocean. Les Jardins de Coppelia is all-around a sustainable and one of their main focus points is the environment. Most of their food, drinks and amenities are locally sourced, and they partner with many of the farms in the area, including the once coherent ciderie (cider distillery), with whom they share a big apple orchard. You can therefore find a little path in the orchard, that leads you don't to the ciderie "Manoir d'Apreval, which I will tell you more about in a minute.
At Les Jardins de Coppelia you can be easily entertained and relax in the nature. When you're feeling hungry or thirsty, you can relax with a drink in their cozy lounge bar, before moving to their gourmet restaurant Le Capucine to eat. We had a drink at the bar, followed by a dinner in the restaurant, and the food and drinks were nothing short of delicious. Our food was a bit delayed, so most of our group chose to skip the dessert. It was however a very nice and intimate experience, as the chef took the time to walk around to the guests and mingle. Their breakfast buffet was insanely delicious as well, and we all agreed that their scrambled eggs are the BEST we've EVER tried - we of course had to ask for the secret, and it was that they add creme fraiche to their eggs!
The rooms are distributed over two buildings, where the more traditional rooms are in the main building, and the more modern rooms are in the newer additional building, where you can also find the spa. The rooms are all equipped with a tub and stylish decor.
In the summer (or just in nice and dry weather) you can wander around their 7 hectare park, relax on their two terraces or by the pond, and just immerse yourself in natural surroundings. This hotel has it all, and it's definitely a place I will always make sure to come back to when I visit Normandy.
Real Normandy apple cider at Manoir d'Apreval
Down the hill from Les Jardins de Coppelia you will find the charming cider distillery Manoir d'Apreval, where they make their own cider, Pommeau, Calvados and other apple products from scratch. You can take a tour of the grounds, as well as taste and buy their different products. Normandy is world famous for their apple cider, Pommeau and Calvados, and it is with good reason! I have never seen so many apple trees and orchards, or tasted so many delicious things with apples!
We were very fortunate to meet and tour the grounds with the owner Agathe, who is one of the only female cider makers in the world - talk about girl power! She is so passionate about the whole production and it shows, which is just amazing to witness. Everything is done with passion and as natural and traditional as possible, making it a through-and-through sustainable production. Manoir d'Apreval is keeping the traditional Normandy apple cider alive, and it's definitely a place you should visit when you go to Normandy.
What do to in Deauville
We arrived to beautiful Deauville a little after noon, and started with a delicious lunch at La Verrière. It's a charming two-story restaurant, that also offers outdoor seating. Half of the group had the moules-frites and it was deliciouuus! Definitely a good place to eat if you are in Deauville.
After lunch we met up with a tour guide and walked to the newest tourist attraction in Deauville - the two towers at the entrance of the yacht port. Opening in late 2021, it will be possible for the public to enter the right tower and climb the stairs to a great viewpoint of Deauville and Trouville.
Bike tour in Deauville and along the beach promenade
After the towers we walked to the other side of the little harbour, where we had rented electrical bikes with Jean Connaît Un Rayon. We all jumped on the electrical bikes and off we went! Deauville is a very bicycle-friendly city, as there is not too much traffic and the traffic there is, is fairly slow and calm.
We biked along the famous Deauville beach promenade, where you can see beach closets, that are dedicated to famous actors and moviemakers that have visited Deauville. Deauville hosts the American Film Festival every year and draws many tourists to the coastal town. Furthermore, Deauville is famous for being the birthplace of the brand Chanel, because Coco Chanel opened her first clothing store in Deauville. The whole city has an enchanting vibe of being posh and historic at the same time, and with casinos well distributed throughout the city, it's no surprise that the wealthy upper class likes to spend time here.
We biked through the city and stopped at Les Franciscaines, which is an old church, that has been renovated into a modern culture center. Here you can read and borrow books, as well as host events and enjoy a drink or some food at their modern cafe, that also offers an outdoor terrace. If you are thirsty, I can recommend you to try Normandy's own coke, the see-through Meuhcola, which was surprisingly good! It's a good place to visit with kids, but unless you're really into books and culture, it's not a must-see.
If you come to Deauville, then something you cannot miss is Villa Strassburger! You can only visit this beautiful villa by appointment, but I promise it's a great experience. The villa was built in 1907 and was the home of the family of Gustave Flaubert.
Both the garden and the inside is kept in the same extravagant style as back then, so it's like stepping back in time, and you cannot help but feel like a royal - or at least someone who is visiting the royals.
We got the honour to plant a Normandy Golden Apple tree in the garden, so if you visit please let me know how it goes with the tree ;-)
Where to stay in Deauville
When walking (or biking) around Deauville it's very clear that there's many beautiful hotels and other accommodations to choose from. We stayed at Hotel Barriere Le Royal, which was, as you can hear in the name, like staying as a royal. It felt like staying at a castle and it was nothing short of amazing. Le Royal is a 5-star hotel, and it features an outdoor pool, a fitness centre, a spa, yoga and a view of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Barriere Hotels has a number of high-end hotels across France, as well as Marrakech and Saint-Barth, and there's not a single of their properties I would not love to stay in! They have nothing less than 3 hotels in Deauville, so there will no doubt be one to suit your needs.
Sustainable tourism in Normandy is here to stay
This concluded our amazing sustainable trip around Normandy and it showed me that Normandy is a place I will keep coming back to. I can't wait to bring my family here one day and show them it all. There's so many hidden gems and enchanting places around Normandy, and this French region definitely blew my sock off.
We finished the trip by taking the train back to Paris, which only took 2 hours. I love taking the train when travelling, as you really get to experience a more local part of the country, as well as see some other areas. Even though I have been travelling with sustainability as a priority for years, I'm again and again amazed with how easy it is to travel around sustainably and find sustainable experiences and accommodations. I'm beyond happy with the turn that overall tourism seems to be taking and that more and more sustainable companies and experiences are emerging.
The key to understand the future is one word: sustainability. And I'm here for it. Thank you Normandy for an amazing experience! I will be back!