A couple of times we drove through Norman Switzerland (Suisse Normandie), intrigued by the dark green lumps on the road atlas a few miles west of Falaise. Fully expecting mountains, we saw only tree covered hills and the most exciting we did was buy some bananas from an unimpressed woman in a greengrocers. Actually, I discovered too late, the highest point is actually Mont Pincon, around 100 feet taller than Mount Snowdon and half as high as Croagh Patrick in Ireland. The general appeal of the area is that you strap yourself into a hang glider, get on a horse, paddle a kayak, or get your walking boots out of retirement. To this day I have no idea how we missed a whole mountain.

Normandy of course is historically that part of the world we Brits gazed at covetously over the Channel long before we built ships and began turning the globe pink and vice versa, Norman nobles gazing covetously at England. The centuries of dispute over the rights of succession, begun when Alfred the Greats father returned from a holiday in the Holy Land with Judith of Flanders as his bride, brought about the events of 1066 and a period when being Norman and English was pretty much the same thing. It was also the period that Norman influence saw the birth of that most English of Institutions the peerage, the class system and the legions of the downtrodden working class. And we can’t overlook that all those fairytale princessess on the look out for dashing knights to sweep them away to the kingdom of happy ever after began here too.