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Regions of France - Haute-Normandie

Drift down the Seine River from Paris and you will soon pass through the variety of landscapes that is Upper Normandy. Float by the peaceful little village of Giverny, where you'll find the house and treasured gardens of Impressionist painter Claude Monet, through the bustling regional capital of Rouen and out to the sea via the region's largest city, the industrial port of Le Havre.

The capital, Rouen, has many fine churches and buildings, including the tallest cathedral tower in France.

With its varied coastline and rich countryside, driving through Haute Normandie is a treat. On the coast, stunning chalk cliffs rise dramatically from the ocean, never more spectacular than at the small coastal village of Etretat. Inland, magnificent forests, tranquil streams flowing lazily through rich agricultural countryside and apple orchards are the hallmark of this fruit producing region.

Of course tourism is big news .. well .. this is France! Monet's house at Giverny is a popular destination for visitors who spend hours wandering in the iconic gardens. Tourists also love to visit the seaside towns, as well as the ruins of Jumièges Abbey, Saint-Wandrille-Rançon Abbey, and the abbey church with restored gardens and art exhibitions at Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville.

Other historic sites include the 12th-century ruin of Château Gaillard, built by Richard I, and the historic medieval town of Les Andelys, the site of a remarkable castle and churches. Clères, a small village with a zoological park, and an automobile museum is also worth a visit.

The region's economy also relies on agriculture and industry. Le Havre, Rouen, and other areas along the Seine River are highly industrialized. Petroleum refineries have established the region as a major petrochemical centre and region has recently become a nuclear power producer. Other big players in the region include the automobile industry, the pharmaceutical industry and various manufacturing activities.

So what to eat? In general, the gastronomy of Normandy revolves around seafood dishes, since it is fresh and abundant. However, they have some wonderful lamb, chicken and duck dishes that are quite delicious. And the butter is legendary! It's no surprise that cream and cheese are also high on the list of local specialties. And to wash it all down, the region is famous for Calvados, an excellent cider and some delightful liqueurs.