Throughout the EU the countries of the Council of Europe hold annual European Heritage Days 21 – 22 September 2019
The weekend provides endless opportunities to discover and explore a wealth of France’s cultural and sometimes industrial treasures – history, archictecture, arts and crafts, museums and galleries – wherever you are that weekend look out for the local programme from the local tourist office. The themes for 2018 is “L’art du partage” – the Art of Sharing.
Amongst the visits on offer in previous years were:
Caen’s Memorial (15 Calvados, Normandie) – free audio tours of this musuem dedicated to the cause of world peace – Caen suffered immensely during the War and then was virtually obliterated by the D-Day invasion and its aftermath, but unlike other historical museums and exhibits in Normandy, Memorial tries to focus on the wider cause of peace and the impact on civilians rather than the military story.
Maison du Pain d’Alsace in Selestat (67 Bas-Rhin. GRand Est) – the Museum of Alsace Bread is offering free entry on Sunday 19 with a tasting of 3 new breads including ones made with tea and onion!
Visit the best preserved Medieval Castle (12th Century) in the Franche-Comté at Oricourt (70 Haute-Saone, BFC) north east of Besancon
Try a visit to a restored 19th Century windmill at Thoaurs – Moulin de Crevant – (79 Deux-Sevres,Nouvelle Aquitaine) south of Saumur.
See the medieval Aubusson Tapestries (23 Creuse, Nouvelle Aquitaine)
For more info see www.journeesdupatrimoine.culture.fr/ – and the local tourist office – and check locally for dates, times and prices.
Rouen (72 Seine Maritime, Normandie) brings together some of the work of Monet, Pisarro and Gauguin to celebrate the city’s place in Impressionist Art with “Une ville pour Impressionnisme: Monet, Pissarro, Gauguin à Rouen” (“A City for Impressionism”) – all part of a wider Normandy Impressionist festival held in the summer of 2016 – Impressionist Normandy Festival (Normandie Impressioniste) – the next edition will be 3 April – 6 September 2020
Impressionist Normandy Festival
Rouen and Impressionism – the central theme of the 2016 edition was the Impressionist portraits with several major exhibitions which shows how rich Normandie is in Fine Art Museums
- Rouen, Musée des Beaux Arts
- Caen, Musée des Beaux Arts
- Honfleur, Musée Eugène Boudin
- Le Havre, MuMa André Malraux Museum of Modern Art
- Giverny, Musée des Impressionnismes
For more information on the festival see www.normandie-impressionniste.fr – the next edition will be 3 April – 6 September 2020
A must-see for art lovers to the region has to be Monet’s Garden at Giverny: http://giverny.org
Just to the west of Rouen is the Abbaye de Jumièges, the ruins of a Benedictine monastery which has been voted as one of the top places to visit in France by the French! (France2 TV).
“One of the first major achievements of Romanesque Art in Normandy surrounded by centuries old trees : the facade, bare and striking is flanked by towers. The large porch with a loft is the remains of the pre-Romanesque traditions. Before the destructions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the monastery buildings were set around the cloister, of which only the outline remains while a few remnants of the monastery buildings can still be seen.”
For more on the Abbaye de Jumièges see www.abbayedejumieges.fr/
Near Giverny (just 3km from Monet’s garden) in the village of Sainte-Geneviève-lès-Gasny is a good B&B/Guest House La Roseraie with 3000 m² of landscaped gardens and pool.
Another supposedly British tradition has been hijacked by those Frenchmen! – This time it is the veritable Black Pudding, previously thought to be the highlight of Scottish and northern breakfasts – but in its guise as Boudin Noir (a well-establshed French delicacy, the French town of Mortagne-au-Perche (61 Orne, Normandie) is holding a
Black Pudding Festival 13 – 18 March 2020
Those who thought black pudding was a purely Scottish affair need think again, as the international contest to find the best black pudding takes place next March in the historic French village of Mortagne-au-Perche in the Orne area of Normandy.
The 46th annual black pudding festival will celebrate the culinary traditions of the region, with local cook-offs, celebrity chefs as well as a host of gastronomic stalls and exhibits open to the public.
The main part of the festival is the black pudding competition which sees over 650 competitors from across Europe but there are also two fiercely fought culinary competitions open to professional and amateur chefs who reside in the Orne. They are charged with creating and cooking the best dish – fish-based for the professionals, and a desert for the amateurs – using local produce such as apples, calvados, cider, pommeau, cream, butter and cheese to create their dish.
Specialist butchers and delicatessens will be demonstrating the art of making a black pudding, and visitors may sample and be their own judge of the best recipe.
For more info see www.normandy-ornetourism.com
The Christmas Market at Harfleur (76 Seine-Maritime, Normandy) on the outskirts of Le Havre takes place between 4 and 6 December 2009 in the middle of the old town (www.lehavretourisme.com) with the usual collection of music, carols, markets and processions including a distinctive Father Christmas (pere noel)
Caen (14 Calvados, Normandie) holds its Wonderful World of Christmas Market from 30 November – 31 December 2019 This includes a traditional Christmas market of wooden chalets in the centre of the town (Place de St Saveur).
Caen Christmas Market…over 50 stands selling with an outstanding array of Christmas goodies and artisan produce. This cosmopolitan market welcomes sellers from around the world with products such as nativity figurines, foie gras, Christmas desserts, pain d’épices (like gingerbread),hippocras wine (wine with sugar and species, often mulled), traditional waffles, baby clothes, plants, art, clothing, leather goods and jewellery. The charmingly festive atmosphere really makes this a Christmas event to be relished and it is not by chance that Father Christmas himself has chosen Caen as his home for the entire duration of the market!!
See more on Caen Christmas market at www.caenevent.fr
Brittany Ferries to Caen (Ouistreham)
By Train TGV to Caen with Rail Europe
Cabourg (14 Calvados, Normandy) is an elegant resort on the Normandy coast north of Caen – its heyday being the late 19th/early 20th Century when its Casino, sea air and proximity to Paris made it fashionable. It is on Normandy’s Cote Fleurie (Flower Coast) – From the picturesque fishing village of Honfleur, with its narrow streets lined with timber framed houses to romantic Cabourg and its Grand Hôtel, glamourous Deauville and its American Film Festival, Trouville and its buzzing harbour. This 25 mile-long coast of historical seaside resorts has golden sandy beaches and magnificent villas along the seafront as a reminder of high society life during the Second Empire.
The centrepiece has to be the Grand Hotel, which is indeed grand – and which has been refurbished and upgraded . Apart from its impressive facade, it also claims to have been a favourite for French novelist and critic Marcel Proust, whose most famous book is The Remembrance of Things Past (À la recherche du temps perdu)
This is a gentle coast which tends to be less crowded than those further south, such as le Touquet or Deaville, and hence retains both charm and style as the layout of the town around the Casino preserves its elegance. Great views over the English Channel!
“You will be captivated by the timeless charm of the Grand Hôtel Cabourg, immortalized by Marcel Proust who loved to stay there. Its spacious rooms have sea views or overlook the gardens & flowers. The restaurant faces the promenade & offers exquisite Normandy cuisine & memorable snacks. Come for a family vacation or a weekend away with your partner; the Grand Hôtel Cabourg offers you undivided attention for an unforgettable stay, whatever the time of year.”
For more info and to check availability at this Cabourg Hotel see Grand Hotel
The Saint Pierre des Marins Festival takes place on the first weekend of February 2 February 2020 in Fécamp and features a street parade and boat blessing! – see www.ville-fecamp.fr
Dieppe (76, Seine Maritime, Normandy) is a pleasant and less-crowded destination than Calais and provides a useful start point for western France – or for exploring Picardie and the Seine Valley. You can get a ferry to Dieppe from Newhaven on DFDS Ferries – the crossing takes about 4 hours, but Newhaven is not so well connected to the motorway network. There are now 2 crossings each way daily.
Dieppe is centred around its port which is approached through a cliff-lined inlet from the English Channel. There is a marina around which there are cafes and restaurants and the main shopping area and promenade. Just outside the centre is a long beach.
There is a daily fish market where freshly caught fish can be purchased – especially scallops ( a local specialty) and crabs – on Quai Trudaine.
Boat trips are on offer along the Alabaster Coast Côte d’Alabâtre (also the name of one of the crosss-Channel ferries), a cliff edged coast which stretches 130km and includes Le Tréport, Étretat and Fécamp, with some spectacular views.
16 – 17 November 2019 Dieppe Hering Festival
The largest herring festivals takes place in Dieppe on 16 and 17 of November. Today more than ever, people travel from all over France and even from surrounding countries to attend the event, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year! If the weather is good, over 100,000 visitors will flock to the Quai Henry IV and the picturesque streets of the Bout du Quai to tuck into delicious fresh fish, often served with a baked potato and a glass of white wine, make the most of the numerous outdoor activities (flea market, funfair, concerts…) and to savour the strong, seductive smells. While the herring is of course king of the festivities, scallops are also on the menu, reminding visitors that Dieppe remains the French capital of the Coquille Saint-Jacques. – see normandyfoodie.wordpress.com
DFDS Ferry Newhaven – Dieppe
Fécamp (76, Seine Maritime, Normandy) lies on the Channel coast between Dieppe and Le Havre.
1 – 5 July 2020 Maritime Festival (La Grande Éscale) at Fécamp :
This is an international festival with hunderds of boats, large and small, traidtional and classic from all over northern Europe – a great spectacle for all the family to enjoy! see https://www.fecampgrandescale.com/
There is a webcam overlooking Dieppe harbour and a motorhome parking area at www.dieppe.fr/webcams
Medcins du Monde UK (World Doctors) runs an annual London to Paris Bike ride to raise funds (10-13 July 2009).
Day 1Cycling from London to Dover.Board the ferry at Dover, arrive in Dieppe in the evening.Day 2Set off 10.00 am through the lovely French countryside.Finish cycling early evening and stay overnight in a French country inn.Day 3Leave the hotel at 9.00 am.
Let’s go!Finish cycling mid-late afternoon in Paris.Day 4Free morning with suggested options.Transfer from hotel to Gare du Nord for Eurostar, arrive in St Pancras
Although it may be too late to register to take part in this 300km ride, you can watch and support them as they cycle through the English and French countryside – and it is easier to get to watch this than the Tour de France,
For more info see: www.medecinsdumonde.org.uk
Brittany Jazz – Every year the town of Coutances (50 Manche, Normandie) on the western side of the Cherbourg peninsula holds a Jazz festival enticingly entitled Jazz sous les Pommiers (Jazz under the Apple Trees).
215 – 23 May 2020 Jazz sous les Pommiers
The biggest Jazz Festival in Western France with over a hundred concerts featuring international artists. In addition to daily concerts there is also a daily online concert featuring on an earlier festival a personal favourite – saxophonist Andy Sheppard and his quintet.
Every day there are numerous concerts on Friday and Saturday running throughout the afternoon and into the night – with more than one opportunity to see each artiste or band. Some concerts are in the openair and the late night “Jazz Club” does not require advanced booking. Music will fill the streets, the cafes and churches of the town throughout the week.
For more info see Jazz sous les Pommiers
For more info on the region see www.paysdecoutances.fr
Hire a car and get best rates from Caen through Rentalcars Connect
A charming medieval town Coutances has been awarded both the Ville d’Art et d’Histoire and the Ville Fleurie labels. Occupied by the English for over 30 years during the Hundred Years War, the town developed its craft industry in the 15th and 16th centuries leading to the building of several impressive townhouses in the Old Town that can still be seen today. A network of medieval courtyards and narrow streets, the Old Town retains much of its original charm despite the destruction of 60% of the town during WW2 and at its heart sits the Gothic Coutances cathedral. Built at the start of the 13th century, the cathedral is one of Normandy’s most famous architectural monuments and is a remarkable work of Gothic architecture. Guided tours in English are available, highlighting the history and construction of the cathedral, where you can visit the lantern tower and admire the Gothic stained glass windows. The Eglise St Pierre is also a very pretty church worth taking a look around to discover a wonderful juxtaposition of Gothic and Renaissance architecture topped with a beautiful lantern tower, and the late Gothic Eglise St Nicholas offers a light and airy chancel that is perfect for contemplation. (Brittany Ferries)
Unless you are lucky enough to live within an hour or so of the English Channel ports, the annual trip to and from France can be a bit of an ordeal. Dover crossings may be short, but tend to leave you with longer to drive on both sides of the Channel. The western Channel crossings are longer, but can be expensive, especially if you reserve a cabin for an overnight crossing.
And, whilst parts of northern France don’t always tempt you to pause, the routes through Brittany and Normandy offer a host of places which would be worth a linger!
Michael has recommended what looks to be an ideal stop-over to break the journey – just 90 minutes or so (135km) south of the Caen ferry terminal) at Ouistreham.
Le Basse Cour is run by Phil and Jude Graham at Ancinnes (72 Sarthe, Pays de Loire) near Alencon (61 Orne, Normandie), just 10 minutes from the new A28 autoroute, and right on the border between Normandy and the Loire Valley (Sarthe).
“Choose from three comfortable en-suite guest rooms with a three star Gites de France rating. The house is in a peaceful, quiet setting surrounded by wooded and planted gardens on the fringes of the magnificent Forest of Perseigne. You’re welcome to make yourself at home on the terrace with a glass of wine (or try the local Normandy cider) or enjoy a game of boules on the lawn.”
As Michael said ” it was so good that we stopped over for two more days on the way back to the port at Caen. Genial hosts, wonderful setting, super rooms.”
Updated website with lots of useful information.
Ferry from Portsmouth to Caen. Cherbourg with Brittany Ferries
For more details use the enquiry form below
[gravityform id=”18″ name=”Le Basse Cour – enquiry(2)”]
Every year the Association Tour de Normandie des Vehicules Historiques (Classic Tour of Normandie Association) organises a rally of vintage cars through the back roads of Normandie.
The Tour de Normandie takes place 20 – 23 June 2019 and comprises a leisurely amble through the Normandy countryside (le Bocage) and along the coast. for 2019 the Tour starts in Vernon (27 Eure) and finishes in Bayeux (14 Calvados).
As with so many such events, you don’t have to be fanatical about classic cars to enjoy it – you’ll discover the French countryside and a carnival atmosphere which will be enjoyable on many levels. Somehow, summer skies, iconic french cars, music, Normandy cheese, butter, apples, cider, calvados topped with the sandy beaches of the Normandy coast sounds pretty good.
Étretat, on the Alabaster Coast (Côte d’Albâtre) is best known for its cliffs, including three natural arches and the pointed “needle”. These cliffs and the associated resort beach attracted artists in the late 19th/early 20th century. Étretat is about 30km north of Le Havre and 80km west of Dieppe.
For more info see www.tourdenormandie.com
Hire a car and get best rates from Caen through Rentalcars Connect
FLY flybe to Caen from London or Dublin, with
It should come as little surprise really, but Normandy is a great destination for gardeners – with a milder climate than further south, the classic image is of lush green landscapes and a surprising collection of interesting and varied gardening schemes from classic very formal French to something more akin to the elusive English cottage garden. Within easy reach of Dieppe, Calais, Boulogne and Le Havre are numerous interesting “jardins” to visit, which will also get you into corners of France that you might otherwise have speeded past.
Le Jardin Plume (pictured above, is relatively new modern garden with some dramatic vistas and a wealth of interesting planting – enhanced by the fact that they also run an on-site nursery open to the public (from March to November).
Les Jardins du Bois des Moutiers is just down the coast from Dieppe in Varengeville and features a house built by Lutyens and gardens influenced by the distinguished English gardener, Gertrude Jekyll.
Le Clos du Coudray at Etaimpuis north of Rouen is both a formal garden with a rose garden surrounded by a less formal series of plantings and water features at Etaimpuis north of Rouen.
Les Jardins Agapanthe between Rouen and Dieppe at Grigneuseville (just a few kilometres from the Clos du Coudray (above)), it is the creation of a landscape architect and offers something quite different from the pure geometric lines of classic French gardens, “Agapanthe is set an unusual space, in which the luxuriance of the vegetation appeals to all the senses.”
Les Jardins de Bellevue at nearby Beaumont-le-Hareng
covers 15 acres on the edge of the Forêt d’Eawy. Beds, trees and shrubs are full of interest throughout the whole year. The gardens are particularly noted for two national collections of hellebores and meconopsis.
The Potager at Chateau de Bosmelet is a favourite kitchen garden in the grounds of a fine 17th century chateau at Auffay south of Dieppe.
Les Jardins de Vasterival are owned and designed by a Romanian Princess Sturdza who may be on hand to give you a guided tour of this woodland garden near the coast at Ste Marguerite-sur-Mer.
Chateau de Miromesnil is another fine chateau with a kitchen garden at Tourville-sur-Arques just south of Dieppe “Separated by alleys made of grass, the squares are ordered with vegetables and flowers that contrastswith the profusion of annual flowers on the sides: a fantastic harmony of delicate colours that vary according to the season.”
See our map of the Normandy Gardens
For more info on French Gardens try the Official French Gardens site at Le Comité des Parcs et Jardins de France
Le weekend in …..Alencon, Orne, Normandie
Where to stay, where to eat, what to do, how to get there…….
Where to stay?
A B&B in an 18th Century Normandy chateau on the outskirts of Alencon
|Where to eat – recommended||Le Taverne Karlsbräu/Relais d’Alsace
36, rue Maréchal Delattre de Tassigny, Alençon
Large brasserie in the town centre and open 7 days a week. Wide menu, seafood a speciality. Friendly service.
|Where to eat – gourmet||L Escargot Doré 183, av du Général Leclerc, Alençon – (Tel: 02 33 28 67 67) – opposite the Leclerc shopping centre, just off the main road heading south to Le Mans – truly gourmet experience. Not cheap, but worth it for a special treat. Closed Sunday and Monday.|
|Where to eat – value for money||L’Auberge de la Boule d’Or, 72610 Ancinnes
Step back in time – 4 course menu with choice of 4 starters, 4 main courses, cheese and dessert, carafe of wine and coffee for 11 euos inclusive.
Food is excellent – just don’t pay any attention to the décor! Closed Sunday and Monday.
|Local food specialities||Seafood, pork in cider and cream sauce, apples poached in calvados|
|Local wine/drink||Cider, calvados (apple brandy), pommeau (blend of apple juice and calvados), poiré (perry)|
|Market||Town centre near the church of Notre Dame Thursday and Saturday mornings|
|Must see||Eglise Notre Dame
Chateau de Carrouges
Forest of Perseigne
Forest of Ecouves
Village of St Ceneri-le-Gerei – classed one of the prettiest in France
Gardens of the Mansonière – award-winning gardens
Aventure dans les Arbres – treetop walks at St Léonard des Bois
|A bit of culture?||Theatre, cinema, museum of Beaux Arts with Alençon lace exhibition|
|Shopping||Partly pedestrianised town centre shopping area in Alençon; shopping centres on main roads heading west (Carrefour Centre) and south (Leclerc centre).|
|Somewhere for a stroll||Discovery route of the old town; park des Promenades; surrounding forests of Perseigne and Ecouves|
|Something for the kids||Treetop walks at St Léonard des Bois; animal park of Ecouves; canoeing on the Sarthe|
|Getting there||Autoroute A28 Caen/Le Havre to le Mans TGV from Paris Montparnasse to Le Mans and then local service to Alencon|
|Getting around||Many cycle paths. Buses from town centre to immediate suburbs. Trains to Rouen and Le Mans.|
|When to come
||The Le Mans 24 hour motor race takes place in June every year|
|For a longer stay…..||Numerous gardens, chateaux, pretty villages, Roman remains to visit in the area; activities like horseriding and canoeing are possible.
The Normandy coast, D-Day beaches, Mont St Michel, Giverny, Chateaux of the Loire are all possible as day trips using Alençon as a base.
Recommendations kindly offered by Phil & Jude Graham at la Basse Cour B&B
The former basilica which now serves as a market hall – see www.visitalencon.com
Le Havre (76 Seine-Maritime, Normandie) offers a variety of diversions over the Christmas season, the highlight of which is probably the Christmas Market in the square in front of Notre Dame Cathedral from 1 December 2019 – 5 January 2020. But there is also a Christmas Exhibition, decorations and parades. see www.lehavre.fr
Brittany Ferries runs a budget ferry service from Portsmouth to Le Havre (76 Seine-Maritime, Normandy) and also sails to Caen 60 miles/100km to the west
See www.lehavretourisme.com for more info on Le Havre
By Train TGV with Rail Europe
After serious destruction during the WW2 bombings, Le Havre has risen from the ashes to become a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site for its post-war architecture.
With just 2% of the city left standing and the port completely destroyed, Le Havre underwent a huge renovation process designed by architect August Perret, known as the ‘concrete poet’. Perret’s unusual designs, using concrete to rebuild the city quickly, have made the city centre a World Heritage site recognised by UNESCO.
The most striking example of Perret’s architecture is the concrete Eglise St Joseph, shaped like a lighthouse, with 12,768 pieces of coloured glass inside the 107m high octagonal lantern tower where the colours reflected differ throughout the day due to the placement of the sun. Built to commemorate the victims of the Allied bombings in 1944, it is an architectural masterpiece of the 20th century and is well worth visiting. The 16th century cathedral is one of the few buildings left of that era that survived the bombing although it did suffer damage. At the Appartement Témoin, a show apartment from the 1950s, you can discover what life was like in the 50s at the birth of consumerism and mass-production.
Le Havre also has some great museums with a Natural History Museum and the arts museum, MuMa, the Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux, which contains some of the greatest French Impressionist paintings by artists such as Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Degas and many more. Why not enjoy the beauty that inspired the Impressionists by visiting the 2km beach of sand and pebbles where you can do lots of water sports from the beach including surfing, windsurfing, sea-fishing and swimming? Volleyball courts, a skatepark and other amenities are all near the beach. English language guides are also available from the Tourist Office so you can take your own sightseeing tour of the city.
Caen (14, Calvados, Normandy) is a major French port and a cross-channel ferry port – but, of course, the Ferry docks at Ouistreham which is on the coast, whilst the city of Caen is 10 miles inland – but is nevertheless a major port in its own right, by virtue of the Caen canal which links the city to the sea. Large ocean-going ships use the canal, which also has another claim to fame, i.e. Pegasus Bridge at Benouville – a bascule bridge which enables ships to pass, but is also the site of the first encounter between the Allies and the Germans on D-Day in 1944, and the beginning of the Normandy landings.
So, just to clarify – the Brittany Ferries route from Portsmouth to Caen actually terminates at Ouistreham on the coast, whilst Caen, which is 10 miles inland still serves as a major shipping port.
So to celebrate its maritime heritage, the city of Caen holds its Fete du Port (Harbour Festival) in September every other year with visits onboard boats and ships, a maritime parade, boat trips, stands selling marine and other items, music and dancing, a collection of historic boats and a canoe-kayak water polo competition!
For more info see www.ville-caen.fr
Anthony Peregrine in the Times (27 July 2008) embarks on a cheesey tour of France and this would be a great way to have a themed trip – maybe getting you into corners of France which might otherwise be missed. Furthermore there is increasing pressure both from EU bureaucrats, big commercial dairies and undiscerning consumers, which threatens the future of traditional artisan cheese-making.
….It’s good to visit them, too, to get to grips with the subject properly. They need all the allies they can get in the battle against industrial dairy plastic. They’re also to be found in some of the remotest, greenest and loveliest bits of France. Here are five of our favourites. All have an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), which, as with wine, means that the item has to come from where it has always come from and be made as it has always been made. All will be glad to see you (and your money). Naturally, they might still drive you crackers with purple prose. You’ll just have to live with that. We’re travelling north to south.
So his tour encompasses Camembert (61 Orne, Normandy), Munster (68 Haut Rhin, Alsace), Epoisses (21 Cote d’Or, Burgundy), Comté (39 Jura, Franche-Comté) and the Auvergne which includes Saint Nectaire (63 Puy de Dome, Auvergne) – all of which are in beautiful parts of France and well worth a visit.
In the Auvergne there is a signposted Cheese route (Route des Fromages) – you can download a map and details at www.fromages-aoc-auvergne.com
In the Jura there is a Cheese Trail – details of creameries and farms open to visitors can be seen at www.lesroutesducomte.com
If you cannot get out to the farm, then these are French Cheese shops we can recommend:-
Fromagerie Marie-Anne Cantin, 12 rue du Champ de Mars PARIS – just off rue Cler in the 7th arrondisement – an overwhelming selection of delicious cheeses – very professional but also very helpful – also run tasting sessions.
To guide you in this wide field of cheese gastronomy Marie Anne Cantin and her husband Antoine Dias offer you tasting sessions.
According to the seasons , they will have you discover the different families of cheeses, their history, their making process , their character and particular flavour. You will learn how to choose your cheeses, eat, present and keep them.
Cremerie Marty Patrick, 160 rue Nationale CAHORS (46 Lot, Midi-Pyrenees) – excellent choice, also includes butter, cream and fresh pasta (see video)
France has big rivers and great bridges – the spectacular Viaduc de Millau on the A75 autoroute(12 Aveyron, Midi-Pyrenees) and the Pont de Normandie on the A29 autoroute between Le Havre and the Normandie coast (14 Calvados, Normandie) being great recent examples.
Almost simultaneously the birth of 2 other spectacular bridges is being celebrated – the medieval Pont Valentre in Cahors (46 Lot, Midi-Pyrenees) celebrates 700 years, whilst the latest Pont Gustave Flaubert (see picture) is due be opened in time for the Rouen Armada in 2008
Rouen’s latest crossing of the River Seine is in the heart of the city and will take the A154 autoroute from the nothwest (Dieppe) through the city to connect with the A13 Autoroute from Normandie to Paris.
Because is is a city centre site, and the Seine carries ocean-going ships (and was a Transatlantic Cruise ship terminal) there is not enough space to build a traditional high span bridge, so this will be the largest vertical lift bridge in the world. When high masted ships need to pass, both dual carriageways will be lifted by cable to allow the ship underneath. For such a massive task the structure seems remarkably elegant – each roadway is 18m wide and 120m long and weighs 1300 tonnes.
When opened in the next few weeks (early July 2008) the notorious congestion in the city centre will be eased considerably.
Meanwhile in Cahors the South West, the fortified medieval Pont Valentre celebrates its 700th anniversary – and this was open to road traffic until only a few years ago, But now the city will pay homage to its most distinctive landmark In July 2008 there will be a banquet on the bridge itself prepared by some of the best chefs in the region – with music and dancing. and the bridge will be lit up every night from 10.30pm for 2 hours with a sound and light show which promised to be spectacular.
There is a website about the bridge’s 700th anniversary which has been inviting photographers from around the world to show their images of the bridge in all its moods
Over the past thirteen centuries, the Mont Saint Michel (50 Manche, Normandie) has become a world renowned monument, celebrated both for its spiritual and religious significance as well as its historical and architectural interest. And yet it is still a venue for various activities today:
- Jazz on the Bay
- Abbey Illuminations
- Stay on the Mount
In 2009, the abbey and its surroundings celebrated the 13th centenary of the Abbey’s foundation,including exhibitions, concerts, pilgrimages and special seminaries. These anniversary celebrations provided a forum in which to shed light on the history of this incredible UNESCO World heritage site, as well as its future.
According to legend, in 708 the bishop Aubert of Avranches was said to have seen three apparitions of the Archangel Michael in his dreams. The Archangel told Aubert to build an abbey on top of the mount Tombe, going so far as to touch his finger to the bishop’s head, leaving a permanent hole in his skull. The bishop began work on the church and the abbey was consecrated in 709.
A new project is in the works to re-shape the land and tides surrounding the monument to ensure that the Mont Saint Michel will once again permanently be an island.
In 2021 the medieval monastery sitting on top of the tidal island of Mont-Saint-Michel, is getting a makeover with a three-year restoration project
Located in a bay in north-western France joiningNormandy and Brittany, Mont-Saint-Michel was one of Europe’s major pilgrimage destinations. It has been protected as a French monument historique since 1862, and is now a museum and tourist hotspot that attracts millions of visitors every year.
Jazz on the Bay
Jazz en Baie is a jazz festival along 14 miles of the Mont-Saint-Michel Bay 24 July -4 August 2019 – see www.jazzenbaie.com for more on Mont St Michel Jazz
Also in summer the Mont is illuminated at night inside the Abbey 7 July – 1 September 2018:
Chronicles of the Holy Mount – back to its beginnings – Created by Bruno Seillier, Amaclio Productions
The Mont Saint-Michel’s silhouette is so familiar it’s easy to take the place for granted. However, this holy mount topped by its famed abbey hasn’t revealed all its secrets yet! To discover more, open your senses to the fascinating Chroniques du Mont.
Come nightfall, they will be revealed to you in the heart of the abbey; as the centuries evaporate before your eyes, Nature, Man and the Eternal will create a wonderful symphony of visions, dazzling effects and sound mirages around you…
For more info on the Mont St Michel see www.ot-montsaintmichel.com
The Hotel Les Terrasses Poulard is on the Grand Rue on the island with great views over the Mont and the sea . There is also an adjacent Restaurant.
Bayeux (14 Calvados, Normandie) is famous for its norman tapestry – and more recently its proximity to the Normandy landing beaches of 1944.
The tapestry is now housed in a museum (Musée de Guillaume le Conquerant) in the Medieval heart of the town. It is open daily throughout the year. The tapestry is now recognised as a UNESCO “Memory of the World” and is 70 metres long, made in the 11th century. It celebrates the conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy after the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
“Legendary animals, ships, Vikings, Norman and Saxon cavalries illustrate the exploits of William and his opponent Harold, another pretender to the throne of England.”
For more about the Tapestry see www.tapisserie-bayeux.fr
There are a number of events which make it even more worthwhile to visit :-
Every year Bayeux holds a D-Day Festival, from 25 May – 16 June 2019 . On the night of the 5/6 June there is a celebration of the arrival of the invasion with music and fireworks at nearby Longues-sur-Mer. On 7th June there is a whole series of parades of military and other vehicles from the time, plus a picnic in the park with music. The festival celebrates the fact that Bayeux was the first French city to be liberated! see http://bayeux-bessin-tourisme.com
Then in July Bayeux hosts its impressive Medieval Festival with lots of colourful activities. Knights and damsels in medieval costume will be there with a medieval market, street performers, music, dancing concerts, and parades 5 – 7 July 2019 – see http://bayeux-bessin-tourisme.com
In November 10-11 November 2018 the place celebrates the Festival “Le Gout du Large” . This is a festival to celebrate scallops (Coquilles St Jacques) – see Gout du Large
Between Bayeux and Arromanches you can stay in a B&B in an 18th-century chateau with a botanical garden, Château de la Ferrière
Velomagg in Montepellier (34 Herault, Languedoc-Roussillon) is another of the growing number of city bike hire schemes which have blossomed throughout France – and which potentially offer a different way of visiting many of France’s cities. It has also given employment to those creative people who dream up catchy logos and names for such schemes!
It all started in Paris with the Velib’ Scheme – an amalgam of Velo (cycle) and Liberte (free), which has been a tremendous success.
Vélib’ is a Self Service “bike hire” system available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Multi pick up and drop off location allows you to pick up your bike from one service point and drop off to another.
You need to subscribe, but for visitors there are 1-day and 7-day subscriptions and after the first 30 minutes you pay by the half-hour – e.g. a 90-minute hire will cost just €3 and you can pick up and drop off your bike at any of the hundreds of self-service stations across the city.
The Velib’ scheme has been based on a similar scheme VeloV in Lyon (69 Rhone, Rhone-Alpes) France’s second city. The combination of these eco-friendly and fitness focussed schemes is now spreading throughout France:-
VeloCite in Mulhouse (68 Haut-Rhin, Alsace) and Besancon (25 Doubs, Franche-Comté)
Vhello in Aix-en-Provence (13 Bouches-du-Rhone, Provence)
Le Velo in Marseille (13 Bouches-du-Rhone, Provence)
Velo in Toulouse (34 Haut Garonne, Midi-Pyrenees)
Nantes (44 Loire-Atlantique, Val de Loire)
Rouen (76 Seine Maritime, Normandy)
Bordeaux (33 Gironde, Aquitaine)
Velostan in Nancy (54 Meurthe et Moselle, Lorraine)
Velo+ in Orleans (45 Loiret, Centre)
Velomagg in Montpellier (34 Herault, Languedoc-Roussillon)
This is clearly a popular scheme, mainly aimed at local residents but may also offer a different way of seeing some of France’s major cities from a different perspective. However, I would recommend choosing a city with good cycle lanes and paths – you do get the impression that traffic in many of France’s cities is not very forgiving with errant cyclists – so do not try cycling around the rond-point of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris!!
Inevitably there are some urban myths developing – such as the fact that there are always plenty of bikes at the bottom of the Butte de Montmartre, but none at the top – for obvious reasons. And you can get caught out in busy locations if you cannot find an empty slot in which to return your bike!