Page:The Normans in European History.djvu/22

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NORMANS IN EUROPEAN HISTORY

battle-ground of Norman history—Normandy's Alsace-Lorraine! Within these limits lie two distinct physiographic areas, one the lower portion of the Paris basin, the other a western region which belongs with Brittany and the west of France. These districts are commonly distinguished as Upper and Lower Normandy, terms consecrated by long use and representing two contrasted regions and types, but there is no general agreement as to their exact limits or the limits of the region of Middle Normandy which some have placed between them. Even the attempt to define these areas in terms of cheese—as the land respectively of the creamy Neufcâhtel, the resilient Pont-l'Évêque, and the flowing Camembert—is defective from the point of view of geographical accuracy!

The most distinctive parts of Upper Normandy are the valley of the Seine and the region to the north and east, the pays de Caux, fringed by the coast from Havre to the frontier of Picardy. Less monotonous than the bare plains farther east, the plateau of Caux is covered by a rich vegetation, broken by scattered farmsteads, where house and orchard and outbuildings are protected from the wind by those rectangular earthworks surmounted by trees which are the most characteristic feature of the region. It is the country of Madame Bovary and of Maupassant's peasants. Equally typical is the valley of the Seine, ample, majestic, slow, cutting its sinuous way through high banks which grow higher