Lille is the ideal road trip from the Netherlands, I experienced a successful trip to Lille with my sister several years ago, so decided to make it the first stop on the way to Normandy.
These are the spots that we visited during our small roadtrip:
Lille has an almost Belgian charm to it and is a nice city trip. It doesn’t have any must visit spots, but overall it is a charming city, with affordable lodging, lots of wine bars and good restaurants. If you want to visit Lille’s hotspot Bloempot, you must make a reservation several weeks in advance or drop by during lunchtime, exactly when the restaurant opens, as they usually save some spots for spontaneous visitors. If you visit with kids Lille Zoo is a nice spot. The Zoo is free for inhabitants of Lille and for other visitors it costs € 4. Lille is also perfect for shopping, as all the cool French brands have a flagship store in Lille, this makes Lille an interesting city trip during Les Soldes, when recent collections are sold at a discount. Close to Lille you will find Roubaix, a small town with a great art museum in an Art Deco swimming pool, you will find my blog post about this museum here.
The next stop on our road trip was Etretat. Etretat is especially known for its falaises d’Etretat, the dramatic coast line of Etretat. The coast line is perfect for an afternoon of walking through this special nature reserve. Unfortunately we kept making the wrong decisions in Etretat as we decided to have a bland dinner at the outdated Dormy House. I made a reservation with a view, but unfortunately we were put in a corner of the restaurant without a view. We also didn’t visit the Jardins of Etretat, which I will regret until we get back to this area. The gardens are located on the cliffs of Etretat and contain beautiful sculptures, while along the way you can also enjoy the view.
This was my favorite town in Normandy. Honfleur is a coastal town with an old harbor in the middle of the old city center. I loved sitting at the docks, watching the colorful boats and people passing by. As this is a seaside town as well, there are many restaurants which offer fresh fish. The cute alleyways of Honfleur contain many art and independent clothing stores, so make sure you get your souvenirs here. Honfleur also has a lot of remains and sights of World War II, we even visited an old bunker, which turned out more interesting than I expected.
Rouen is a beautiful town, which still has a lot of medieval elements. We initially visited as we discovered that there was a Raclette restaurant in Rouen 😉, but ended up loving our visit of the old town as well. We only visited Rouen shortly and did a walk from the Church of Jean d’Arc to the other side of the old town. I can imagine that doing a guided tour of Rouen is of added value, as it is a city with such an important history.
The last stop on our road trip was visiting Monet’s gardens in Giverny. As we visited in April the cherry blossoms and tulips were in full bloom. Each month different sorts of flower will be in bloom, you can check the flower calender here to see when your favorite flowers are in bloom (http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/calendar.htm). We bought skip the line tickets here, for € 10,50. (http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/ticket/). In the afternoon the gardens can get crowded, as buses often arrive in the afternoon, so if you can, make sure you do an early visit. I loved wandering through Monet’s old house (a real sanctuary) and finally seeing the iconic bridge with wisteria in real life. I did not bring a dress for twirling in the gardens, as it was really cold, but this would be an iconic spot for some twirling!