For many, the name ‘Calvados’ evokes one of the world’s finest spirits, an apple brandy that is enjoyed by people all over the globe but is brewed only in this region. The French department of Calvados, situated in Normandy’s Basse-Normandie region, in fact may take its name either from the Salvador, a ship in the fleet of the Spanish Armada that was sunk in 1558 near Arromaches-les-Bains, or from the calva dorsa (‘bare backs’) grouping of rocks on the coast of English Channel.

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The region has a long and rich background, and has played an important role in French history, making it a popular destination for those interested in the country’s past. Its most famous son, William the Conqueror, was born in Falaise, and parts of the town’s 12th-century cathedral remain, though it was heavily restored after damage during WWII. William built the two abbeys at Caen, Abbaye aux Hommes and Abbaye aux Dames, and parts of theses, as well as the magnificent medieval castle ramparts, still remain. The region still holds the original Bayeux tapestry, a beautiful embroidered tableau of almost 70 metres in length which depicts scenes of medieval life and evocative images of William’s victory in the Battle of Hastings. Honfleur, one of France’s most picturesque ports, is a sleepy town outside of the busy tourist season. Its colourful harbor, once the mooring site for smugglers’ boats, teems with yachts, and the town itself has rich cultural offerings in the shape of many galleries and museums. Further along the coast stands Deauville, the destination of choice for Parisian gentility escaping the city. Its miles of golden sandy beaches, classy cafes and restaurants, and luxurious casinos give it a unique feel. Off the beaten track is Trouville, a less wealthy town with perhaps greater charm because of its winding streets and family-owned restaurants. No visit would be complete without sampling the traditional local fare. As far back as the 8th century, Charlamagne refers to apple orchards and brewing in this region. Each litre of distilled calvados apple brandy is made from 10 litres of cider produced by the region’s endless miles of orchards. It is aged in French Oak barrels, growing smoother over time, then blended and bottled.