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Normandy Picturesque

Normandy Picturesque

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CHAPTER I. ON THE WING.

It is, perhaps, rather a subject for reproach to English people that the swallows and butterflies of our social system are too apt to forsake their native woods and glens in the summer months, and to fly to 'the Continent' for recreation and change of scene; whilst poets tell us, with eloquent truth, that there is a music in the branches of England's trees, and a soft beauty in her landscape more soothing and gracious in their influence than 'aught in the world beside.'

Whether it be wise or prudent, or even pleasant, to leave our island in the very height of its season, so to speak—at a time when it is most lovely, when the sweet fresh green of the meadows is changing to bloom of harvest and gold of autumn—for countries the features of which are harder, and the landscape, if bolder, certainly less beautiful, for a climate which, if more sunny, is certainly more bare and burnt up, and for skies which, if more blue, lack much of the poetry of cloud-land—we will not stay to enquire; but admitting the fact that, for various reasons, English people will go abroad in the autumn, and that there is a fashion, we might almost say a passion, for 'flying, flying south,' which seems irresistible—we will endeavour in the following pages to suggest a compromise, in the shape of a tour which shall include the undoubted delight and charm of foreign travel, with scenery more like England than any other in Europe, which shall be within an easy distance from our shores, and within the limits of a short purse; and which should have one special attraction for us, viz., that the country to be seen and the people to be visited bear about them a certain English charm—the men a manliness, and the women a beauty with which we may be proud to claim kindred.

We speak of the north-west corner of France, divided from us (and perhaps once not divided) by the British Channel—the district called Normandy (Neustria), and sometimes, 'nautical France,' which includes the Departments of Calvados, Eure, Orne, and part of La Manche. It comprises, as is well known, but a small part of France, and occupies an area of about one hundred and fifty miles by seventy-five, but in this small compass is comprehended so much that is interesting to English people that we shall find quite enough to see and to do within its limits alone.

If the reader will turn to the little map on our title-page, he will see at a glance the position of the principal towns in Normandy, which we may take in the following order, making England (or London) our starting point:—

Crossing the Channel from Southampton to Havre by night, or from Newhaven to Dieppe by day, we proceed at once to the town of Pont Audemer, situated about six miles from Quillebeuf and eight from Honfleur, both on the left bank of the Seine. From Havre, Pont Audemer may be reached in a few hours, by water, and from Dieppe, Rouen or Paris there is now railway communication. From Pont Audemer we go to Lisieux (by road or railway), from Lisieux to Caen, Bayeux and St....