National Geographic : 1932 Jan
THE LAND OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR Where Northmen Came to Build Castles and Cathedrals BY INEZ BUFFINGTON RYAN «'V1T " T HEN it's apple-blossom time / in Normandy, I want to be in Normandy." I hummed the popular melody over to a world traveler. "True, every bit of it." he commented. "Go to Normandy in the spring and see for yourself. The old duchy is one huge orchard, its trees snowy with blossoms-a spectacle rivaling Winchester's or We natchee's. And cider, not wine, is Nor mandy's national drink. You can't eat a meal, you can't be born. get married, or die without cider. And they press the apples in their own backyards every autumn." A land of apple blossoms, then. But what else? We scanned the map of the region which stretches west of Paris down the lower Seine to the Channel, between Picardy and Brittany. In area it is smaller than Maryland's land and water total. But is there magic in names? Rouen! Deau ville, Cherbourg. Havre! Bayeux! Hon fleur, Dieppe, Falaise, Alencon ! Names to conjure with, right enough; names whose associations make the heart beat faster. Northmen swooping down, raiding, de stroying, but finally settling on the land and giving it a softened form of their name; stalwart son of duke and tanner's daughter crossing the Channel to make world his tory at Hastings: Norman dukes reigning in England; the King of the English reign ing in Normandy. Armored knights clank ing about, in London. Sicily, Naples, at the Tomb of Christ. The Maid burnt at the stake. Daring sons of Normandy roam ing the seas to fish, to explore and colonize unknown lands, from Newfoundland to the Antarctic, to the South Seas, around the world. Normans building lordly castles, chateaux, cathedrals, and abbeys of dis tinctive "Norman architecture," painting pictures, writing poetry, plays, and novels of enduring fame. Poussin and Millet, Pierre Corneille, Alain Chartier and Mal herbe, Flaubert, De Maupassant, and others-a Norman galaxy. A LAND OI TO-DAY AS WELL AS OF TIIE PAST But Normandy does more than sit around and dream of the long ago. Through IIavre, second seaport of France; through Cherbourg, it saw some of the legions pass to the Western Front. It has greeted kings and queens, admirals and generals, and heard the roar of cannon salutes, the hum of sky craft. Through these ports to-day pass travelers from the Western World, and processions of con suls, agents, buyers, salesmen, ambassa dors of commerce of every kind-hunters all, scenting the romance and adventure in foreign trade, in anything from anchovies to antiques. Dress designers, looking to Paris for the first and last word on fashions, send "scouts" to the golden beaches of Deauville and its less aristocratic vis-a-vis, Trouville. Here, where the beau monde disports itself in season beneath gaily striped tents, at the casinos, along the promenades, and at the races, the gods and goddesses of style dis play their latest creations on beautiful women. Back from white chalk cliffs and sandy beaches stretches a green and pleasant land of winding streams, fertile grainfields and pastures, hedgerows, orchards, well-kept farms, and villages of thatched cottages. There are hills and dales and glens, forests and waterfalls, and the typically Norman long, straight roads. A REGION OF FINE COWS AND FINE HORSES And cows! Innumerable herds spot the lush meadows everywhere, but especially in the Cotentin, the peninsula which points toward England. It has given its name to a Norman breed of cattle famous for beef, but more so for milk production. Paris drinks Normandy's milk and cream, and both London and Paris eat its fresh butter and cheese-Camembert, Neufchatel, Pont l'Eveque-with histories as distinguished as the duchy's own. In one field men in blue smocks are load ing hay into carts drawn by ponderous horses. "They're Percherons !" exclaims the horse lover from the Middle West. "My Indiana neighbor used to import car loads of them. Don't they remind you of Rosa Bonheur's 'Horse Fair'? As a mat ter of fact, most of her models for that picture were Percherons."