The region is today split into two administrative areas: Upper “Haute” Normandy and Lower ‘Basse’ Normandy. As a whole, it covers about 50,000 square kilometers (19,000 square miles), which his approximately five percent of the land in France. There are 3.5 million people, or five percent of the populace, living in Normandy.

If arriving by air in Paris, it’s best to hit Rouen first and then Caen for the D-Day beaches. But if coming by ferry from the UK, you can easily get to the beaches directly. The region is best explored by a combination of hire car, bicycle and on foot, although all towns are served by bus and many by train.

The major sights to see: Mont St-Michel, for its monastery; Rouen, the capital, for its museums, cathedral, and restaurants; the lively university town of Caen, for its D-Day landing sites; nearby Bayeux, for the tapestry of the same name and ancient buildings; picturesque Honfleur, for its harbor and cobbled streets; nearby, modern Le Havre; and the stunning La Manche area for cycling and hiking. Normandy beaches are best visited June through September.

The best weather is in July and August, though this is also the European school holiday period, so beaches, towns, and hotels are at their busiest at this time. June and September are two of the best months to visit for fewer crowds and nice weather. Expect off-season bargains from late fall to spring, but try and avoid visiting at Easter.

The euro, the currency of France, is widely available at North American banks at the same rate that it is available at throughout the EU. Credit cards are widely accepted and you can withdraw euros from most ATMs on most foreign debit cards. Banks, and some attractions (including museums), close on Mondays.

The electricity supply in France is 220 Volts/50 Hertz, so be sure not to plug in electrical appliances from the US without checking labels first. Many notebooks and Smartphones nowadays can run their power supply units on either system.

The French are a polite lot – taxi drivers and service workers are unusually well turned out, for instance. They don’t appreciate line jumping, finger pointing or, especially, loud voices (even in a heated debate), and you should avoid asking someone you’ve just met what they do for a living.