Cathedrals and Seaside Resorts.
Far up in the North of the Nord and Pas-de-Calais region, you can just see the white chalky cliffs of Dover in the hazy distance across the English Channel. This has always been a busy corner of France, and today the region is an important exchange hub for the counties of the European Union. This character is well represented by the capital Lille, but also the towns Dunkirk, Calais, Boulogne-sur-Mer and Le Havre on the coast of Haute Normandie. The flatland found throughout most of the region north of Paris is called Picardie, known for its relaxing and peaceful countryside with fields and forests as far as the eye can see. On the drive through this region, the cradle of Gothic art, the cathedrals at Amiens, Rouen and Laon are highlights that should not be missed. But once on the coast one would be hard-pressed to avoid the seaside resorts: Le Touquet-Paris Plage, where Parisians go, or one of the smaller ones such as Fécamp, Hardelot-Plage or Étretat. The best way to reach Haute Normandie is to head down the Seine. Rouen is one stage of the journey that deserves some extra time set aside. It feels like the winding lanes of the Old Town, around the cathedral, are set back in the Dark Ages. But it was a long time ago that Joan of Ark was executed on the market place; Rouen is a modern city that has managed to avoid the stress of big city life. This is a town where people have time to breathe, have a chat over the flower stall or sit back with an aperitif at one of the bistros.