Normandy, has so much to offer the visitor, and especially with regards to history and the links to England.

I was thankful that I had four full days to explore some very interesting and beautiful sites. Clearly we had barely scratched the surface of this land soaked in history and the many attractive towns and villages we inevitably had to bypass.

2016 is an opportune time to visit with the background that it is the 950th anniversary of the Norman invasion of Saxon England.

Following a smooth crossing from Newhaven to Dieppe courtesy of DFDS, having rested in comfortable pullman seata, we drove to Jumièges Abbey, about 12 miles west as the oiseaux flies from Rouen.

It is located on one of the many twists and turns of the River Seine as it slowly widens and makes its way down to the Atlantic.

The abbey has origins going back to the year 654 and went through various vicissitudes and renaissances over the centuries including destruction by Vikings and an important Benedictine monastery.

It was occupied by the English during the 100 Years War of the 15th century and pillaged by Huguenots during the Religious Wars of the 16th century. There then followed the Maurist period (a return to strict Benedictine monasticism) when many additions and embellishments were added to the abbey.

With the French Revolution in 1790 and the suppression of the monasteries, a partial demolition of the abbey took place in the early 19th century. However much of the structure survived as ruins including the two impressive towers that dominate the surrounding landscape.

Today Jumièges is at peace in its ruin and is set amidst both formal gardens, wild flowers and nature.

Driving back towards Rouen for our first night we stopped after another turn of the meandering Seine at the Abbey of Saint Georges of Boscherville — this time a working parish church, with origins going back to the first century as the site of a pagan-Roman temple.

For a population of under 2,000 the size of the church is more fitting to a very large town or city — quite cathedral like — and, although the abbey followed much the same pattern of renaissance and decline like Jumièges it managed to survive intact when it became the parish church for Boscherville.

Set alongside the now restored monastic gardens of the Maurist period there is also a most wonderfully perfumed sensory garden.

The interior of the church was glorious with interesting and largely undamaged capitals and carvings that brought bible stories and allegories to life before a time of universal literacy.

Rouen, a large and bustling city with the centre betraying much of its medieval heyday, is a gift for the visitor whatever their interests and motivations are.

We were stunned by our first sight of the facade of the city’s cathedral, Notre Dame, which just has to be of the most ornate we have seen. When the cast iron lantern spire was installed to replace the fire damaged wooded one, for four years (1876-1880) it was the tallest building in the world at 495 feet!

After dinner, walking back to our hotel (the very conveniently located Mercure Cathedrale), this facade literally leapt to life as an amazing son et lumière.

With giant snakes, Vikings and waterfalls cascading down the facade, the presentation made it thematically more inspired by Indiana Jones, Games of Thrones and Rivendell in Middle-Earth than the Christian church! Fantastic, free entertainment though.

In Rouen one is spoiled for choice in the variety of restaurants on offer. We dined at the Brasserie Paul, the genuine article as regards an archetypical French brasserie, whose menu was buttressed by many Normandy specialities and were a treat to explore.

Service was excellent and the maitre d’hotel was highly informative about the cultural place that the brasserie holds with the painter and writer Marcel Duchamp and writer and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir being regular diners here when visiting the city.

The next day we walked the medieval city taking in the interior of the cathederal, the typical timbered medieval houses and artisan workshops.

At the Place de Vieux-Marché, where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake before the English authorities, there is today the Eglise Sainte-Jeanne D’Arc, completed in 1979 which replaced the old church destroyed in wartime bombing in 1944 and which stands alongside the site of her execution.

The church is of striking modern design, in complete contrast to its medieval surroundings and reminded me of a large dragon!

‘Rouen 1431’, which at 30 metres high and100 metres in circumference is a 360 degree panorama of the medieval city as conceived by artist Yadegar Asisi. It is rather akin to a camera obscura except what you see through the imaginative and clever use of technology and photography, is a medieval Rouen coming alive and populated by real people and animals.

There is an observation tower enclosed within the Panorama structure (which looks like a royal blue town gas holder from the outside). At different levels you can focus-in on both the daily life of a medieval city as well as the interrogation, trial and execution of Joan of Arc.

The panorama cycles constantly visually as well as sonically from night to day and back to night.

We finished off our stay in Rouen with an audio-guided tour of the ‘Joan of Arc Historial’ — a museum, which has videoed, excellent actors (in your selected language via an audio-guide) recreating the last few months of her life until her demise in 1431.

One walked from room to room with multi-screen presentations and usefully only in small groups to prevent overcrowding. It was an imaginative method of presentation and a lesson for many museums and galleries, in my view.

We were sorry to leave Rouen so soon as this city has much to offer the visitor, with many other historical sites to explore, a busy cultural and entertainment hub, and eating out to titillate even the most jaded of diners!

DFDS Newhaven to Dieppe:

DFDS offers three daily sailings between Newhaven and Dieppe until September 30, and two daily sailings at all other times. Passengers can travel in a car or on foot and the crossing takes four hours.

Onboard facilities include a dedicated children’s area, shop and restaurant serving hot food, and a number of cabins. The Newhaven-Dieppe DFDS service is the most direct car and ferry route between London and Parish.

Prices start from £83 for a car and four passengers

To book visit or call 0871 522 9955

To find out more about the 950th anniversary of theNorman invasion of England plus information for theNormandy visitor go to: normandy-tourism-109-2.html.