Not In Town | @notintownlive | 10 May 2017
While the country boasts of the gigantic Eiffel Tower in the city of love, Paris, tourist officials still believe that it has more to offer.
"Try Cotentin", says Guillaume Hamel, the director of Cherbourg Tourisme.
By his own admission, Tourism is France is a 'bit of a paradox'.
"Despite not having a tourism ministry, we are the most visited country in the world, with Spain coming in at a distant second,' Hamel says.
However, he adds that France needs to do a bit of work in terms of striking the right balance and enabling the country to remain at top of every traveller's bucket list.
"But we still need to build on this. At the moment France is simply a tourist destination, but we need to strike a balance and begin to pay a little more attention to revenue, if we want tourism to become a major contributor towards our economy," he adds.
Asked why one should choose Cotentin over the other destinations, the Cherbourg Tourisme Director says, "Cotentin is the untouched Normandy. It is completely different from the image the world currently has of Normandy. The Cotentin Peninsula is the North-West coast of France just across from the UK."
"Here we have some of the most untouched, almost savage, beaches in France – many of these are protected heritage sites so you won’t find ugly constructions or sea walls built along them. They’re natural and beautifully wild," he adds.
He also urges travellers to explore other options apart from the regular stuffs in Normandy.
"So far Normandy has mainly been promoted as a historical war destination focusing on D-Day Landing beaches, war-cemeteries and World-War Museums. But this is just one aspect of what we have to offer," he says.
"There is the immaculately preserved natural beauty of the peninsula with its protected heritage sites, middle-aged castles and unique food culture. It’s the little things; the unique things that most travellers are looking for," Hamel adds.
Commenting on food tourism, he says, "Food tourism is a massive business today and here we have the freshest seafood and vegetables available all year round. For example, we would like tourists to experience Cotentin’s famous Blue Lobster or oysters thanks to one of the longest coastlines in France; or Calvados – an apple brandy with apple sorbet that is to be had in the middle of one’s dinner. These are all experiences that you won’t get anywhere else in the world except here in Cotentin."
Once you are done with the food and heritage sites, you can still delve further into history and step inside an actual nuclear submarine at the Cite De La Mer – a maritime museum built to showcase Cherbourg’s nautical achievements.
Here's Hamel's list of top 10 places to visit in Cotentin:
Experiencing sunrise at Saint Vaast La Hougue and sunset at Carteret on the same day.
Getting lost in the wild Biville Dunes and then finding one of the most quiet beaches in France.
Feeling the spray of the rough sea during a winter storm in Cap de la Hague.
Hiking on the historical Smugglers Tracks along the cliffs and coastline off the Channel Islands.
Visiting Tatihou Island to party at the World Music Festival in August.
Climbing 365 stairs and 52 floors of the 18th century Gateville lighthouse – also third highest lighthouse in the world – for a stunning view of land and sea.
Kayaking with the seals in the Cotentin Marshes; a truly awe-inspiring experience.
Visiting Cité de la Mer and experiencing an adventure under the sea onboard a real nuclear submarine.
Enjoying the very French tradition of walking through the exquisite botanical parks and gardens of Vauville.
Feasting on oysters and fresh seafood at Barfleur, which has been awarded the title of ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France’.
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