An active weekend in Suisse Normande

As we love outdoor activities, my friends and I decided to venture to 'Suisse Normande' ('Swiss Normandy'). This picturesque and hilly area south of Caen is known for its excellent hiking, canoeing and via ferrata.

Hiking the hills

It's 10am when I join Nathan, Clément, Céline and Matthieu in the village of Vey for our first activity of the day: a nine-kilometre hike through the Suisse Normande, between the Pain de Sucre and the Rochers de Parcs, two of the region's must-sees. Equipped with our backpacks and hiking boots, we pass the church and cross a path that leads to the forest. After about two kilometres of climb, we reach the top of a cliff. In front of us is the picturesque village of Clécy, nestled in the meanders of the Orne below. We take a few photos of the magnificent view before continuing on to the Route des Crêtes, a popular paragliding site in Normandy.

A few kilometres later we've crossed the valley and are enjoying the fresh country air. With its hills and valleys stretching as far as the eye can see, it's easy to see where Suisse Normande gets its name. Behind us, several people are preparing to take off in a paraglider and we watch them for a few moments, before continuing our journey towards the Rochers des Parcs. The path is steep and the hike becomes more of an effort... but we finally reach the top and are rewarded with splendid views of the viaduct over the Orne.

Scaling the rocks

After a well-deserved lunch break in a popular guinguette on the banks of the Orne, we set off to meet Paul, our guide for the afternoon's activity: via ferrata. Helmets, harnesses and carabiners attached, we start our ascent with a 25-metre vertical climb, Mathieu and Nathan in the lead. I follow them slowly, getting used to using my legs and arms to propel myself higher, rung by rung. I gain confidence thanks to the encouragement of my friends. When I reach the ledge, I feel a great sense of satisfaction and the superb views of the Orne below are a real reward for my efforts.

It takes us about an hour to walk the climbing path, which is full of surprises with many beams, wooden and rope bridges to cross. Once we've all arrived, it's time to start on the zip line. Antoine, our second safety guide, prepares me for the big jump. As I gain momentum as I descend, I see the surrounding hills and foliage flash by in a matter of seconds before I end up at the bottom of the valley. What an experience!

A warm welcome home

After this adventurous day, we return to the Lovey Nature Gîte in Clécy for our overnight stay. Our hosts Sandy and Ludovic give us a friendly welcome and we immediately fall under the charm of our little white stone house with its rustic decor and furniture. The icing on the cake is the sauna and jacuzzi! The evening's plans are simply a barbecue and some well-deserved rest and relaxation; we couldn't have wished for anything better.

Canoeing on the Orne

The next morning we enjoy a delicious breakfast on the terrace before heading off for our third and final activity of the weekend: canoeing on the Orne at the Thury Plein Air kayak club. Once all kitted out and trained in the basics by our instructor Olivier, we paddle off and begin our ascent up the river. The Suisse Normande looks even bigger from a canoe and the weather is perfect for it. At one point we cross a section of the river marked by white buoys and take turns trying to manoeuvre our canoes around this narrow stretch of water. After several kilometres, we reach the end of the course and start a very amusing water fight from which we all emerge soaked! We change clothes, thank Olivier and agree that with all these activities, 'Swiss Normandy' really is the ideal destination for a weekend in the great outdoors.

Suisse Normande (External link) takes its name from its wooded lands, punctuated and formed by its rivers and winding hills that can climb to 300 metres. This lesser-known part of Normandy is a paradise for outdoor activities!