Normandy Parks and Gardens, inspiring for a host of excursions

SEPTEMBER 10, 2014

Normandy is a horticultural heaven and boasts an extraordinary number of parks and gardens open to the public. A wide range of garden styles are displayed, from simple cottage gardens to grand, formal schemes via walled kitchen gardens, botanical collections, subtropical plantations and landscaped "English-style" gardens. A range which of course, owes its diversity to passionate owners, but also to the region itself, where endless summers, autumn glories, spring freshness and winter wonders showcase the seasons spectacularly.
There are gardens that house national collections, and beautifully landscaped parkland, home to exotic birds and animals. There are gardens where the focus is on regional plants and trees, and others where plants from overseas have been successfully replanted in Norman soil.
Let’s focus on some iconic parks and gardens which can be easily visited during a cruise call in one of the Norman Ports of Le Havre and Cherbourg…
Call at LE HAVRE
Le Havre is one of the greenest cities in France with over 700 hectares of green areas. 96 parks, gardens and squares including the French style town hall gardens, the water gardens of the beach promenade, the Japanese garden in the Port area, the 270 hectare Park of Montgeon and 150 hectare Parc of Rouelles.
The Hanging Gardens are located only 4km away from the Cruise Terminal. This incredible 17ha site overlooks the Baie de Seine and has fabulous views of the sea and port. The visit starts at the top exploring the four bastions each dedicated to the great botanist explorers and their discoveries. The greenhouses are brimming with treasures: scented and aromatic plants, plants from all over the world, orchids, begonias, succulents etc.
On the way to the medieval town of Montivilliers and its abbey (10 km from the Cruise Terminal), the Parc of Rouelles boasts 150ha of meadows, woods, gardens, lakes and marshes including 20km of walking trails. Several exhibitions are displayed at the 16th century Cauchois manor (silex and white stone) and its outhouses. At the top of the park there is an arboretum with over 200 species of deciduous tree.
On a full day or half-day tour from Le Havre:
The Rouen metropolis is extremely fortunate with a wealth of natural beauty sites and environmental interests; while Rouen itself offer a superb architectural, historical and natural heritage for its visitors.
The Botanical Gardens of Rouen - with its elegant seventeenth century orangery pavilion - stretches over an incredible 85 000 m2, and its various parks and gardens are much appreciated by the citizens and visitors to Rouen. May it be for leisure or just scientific interest, this urban oases offer something to all. The collections of medicinal plants, rose, iris gardens and rockery, tropical greenhouses, Victoria Amazonian grows, giant water lilies of the Amazon, will certainly give the visitor a moment of calm. Rouen itself is surrounded by an exceptional green belt of woodland and forest. There are over 9 500 hectares of forests open to the public around Rouen: La Forêt Verte, La Forêt de Roumare, La Forêt de La Londe-Rouvray, La Forêt du Madrillet or Le Bois du chêne à Leu, to name but a few. Several woodland discovery centers will help you to better understand the complicated ecosystems at work as well as introducing you to all the different flora and fauna of our region.
Additionally with the close proximity of Giverny - the house and Gardens of Claude Monet - , passengers can take full advantage by visiting the site on a full day tour.
Honfleur, is another option for a ½ day tour from Le Havre:
The journey starts by crossing the Normandy Bridge that links Le Havre to Honfleur overlooking the Seine River and its estuary, which shelters a natural reserve.

Surrounded by green Normandy countryside, Honfleur is a town where nature is everywhere. Along the Jetty the public garden “Jardin Retrouvé” was created in 1996 in a nice setting, not far from the historic centre, especially recommended with children thanks to its well-equipped play-ground. The “Garden of the Fame”, opened since 2004, is located along the river Seine, on a former mudflat. It has been dedicated to Honfleur celebrities: painters (Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet, Alexandre Dubourg, etc), artists (Erik Satie, Alphonse Allais, Charles Baudelaire, etc.), explorers (Samuel de Champlain, Jean Doublet, etc.) and historic figures (Charles the V, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Anne-Marie Louis d’Orléans, etc.). All were born, lived or worked in Honfleur.

Cherbourg and its surroundings are known for some hidden green jewels… Every single park, every single garden, owns its proper story… The west coast of Cherbourg, La Hague, has a surprisingly mild climate thanks to the Gulf Stream, and botanists enjoy growing exotic plants from the southern hemisphere, just like Guillaume Pellerin and his wife Cléophée de Turckheim are doing in the botanical garden of Vauville’s Castle : 4 Hectares containing more than 1200 species, creating a sub-tropical atmosphere. In the “Valley of the mills”, a beautiful small garden was created in homage to the famous French poet Jacques Prévert. Designed around the castle by an English landscape gardener in 1830, the park of Nacqueville Castle is a delightful romantic place, edged with lilies, a river tumbles its way through the gardens, famous for its rhododendrons and azaleas, ornamental trees, palms and giant gummeras. The French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville depicted this garden as “one of the most beautiful places in the world”.

The town of Cherbourg owns some botanic beauties such as the Emmanuel Liais 19th century botanical garden. Emmanuel Liais (1826-1900), was a former mayor of Cherbourg, an astronomer and a passionate botanist. He took advantage of his travels to return home with several South American and Asian plants. Between 1880 and 1893, he created a magnificent botanical garden, with greenhouses sheltering the most extraordinary collection of tropical plants, with the only Brazilian jubea spectabilis palm tree in France, as well as Japanese azaleas over a hundred years old!

Learn more about the Normandy Parks and Gardens