Lower Normandy Attractions Basse-Normandie
Lower Normandy consists of the Cotentin peninsula, part of a massif of ancient rocks, with a much indented coastline, particularly in the northwest, but elsewhere flat and sandy.
Lisieux (pop. 24,080), chief town of the Pays d'Auge and once the see of a bishop, lies some 30km/20mi south of the Seine estuary at the junction of the rivers Orbiquet and Touques. Most of the town was destroyed in 1944. The Cathedral of St- Pierre was begun about 1170 and completed in the 13th C., apart from the south tower, which dates from 1579. The most notable feature of the interior is the 15th C. Lady Chapel in the apse. The former Bishop's Palace now houses the local court and a collection of pictures.Lisieux is also the town of Ste Thérèse. Born in Alençon in 1873, Thérèse Martin grew up in Lisieux and in 1888 became a nun in the Carmelite convent in the south of the town. She died in 1897 and was canonized in 1925. There are great pilgrimages to the Basilica of Ste-Thérèse (1954) and the chapel in the convent where her remains lie, and there are many places associated with the saint in the town.
The name of Suisse Normande ("Norman Switzerland") is given to the beautiful stretch of country in the Orne valley extending between Thury-Harcourt (south of Caen) in the north, Flers-de-l'Orne in the south and Falaise in the east. The windings of the river, the rocky bluffs along its banks and the isolated hills standing farther back combine with the intricate pattern of hedges to give the landscape a particular charm. The most striking features are the Rocher d'Oëtre, in the hilliest part of the area, above the gorges of the Rouvre (fine views), the Vère and Noireau valleys and the 27km/17mi long stretch of the Orne between Thury-Harcourt and Pont-d'Ouilly.
Located in western Normandy, the Cotentin Peninsula is home to the resort town of Carteret, with ferry service to Jersey and Guernsey.
Deauville, like Trouville, is one of the largest and most popular resorts in Normandy, with a population of 4,520 which becomes many times greater during the winter season. Its seafront promenade, boating marina, regattas, and races attract visitors from many countries. From here the 30km/20mi long Côte Fleurie ("Coast of Flowers") extends southwest to Cabourg and the Corniche Normande runs northeast to Honfleur.
Alençon (pop. 30,380), situated in southern Normandy at the entrance to the Normandie-Maine Regional Nature Park, has been noted since the 17th C for its lace (points d'Alençon), and it still has a lace-making school with exhibition and sale rooms. Other features of interest are the Town Hall (1783) and the Maison d'Ozé (15th C), now occupied by the tourist information office.
In the Grande Rue is the church of Notre-Dame (1444), in Flamboyant style, with an 18th C tower and choir, an elegant porch and fine stained glass.
Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle
The Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle has interesting collections of pictures and of lace.
Address: Cour Carrée de la Dentelle, F-61000 Alençon, France
Opening hours: Jul 1 to Aug 31: 7am-7pm
Sep 1 to Jun 30: 10am-12pm, 2pm-6pm; Closed: Mon
Sep 1 to Jun 30: 10am-12pm, 2pm-6pm; Closed: Mon
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €2.80, Group of 10 or more €2.30, Students €2.30, Child 14 & under FREE
Useful tips: Free admission for journalists.
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
14km/9mi west of Alençon, on the fringe of the Alpes Mancelles, is the village of St-Cénérie-le- Gérei, which has a Romanesque church (frescoes).
Château de Fontaine Henry
Fontaine Henry in the Mue valley (pop. 350) is noted for its château. Built in the 15th and 16th centuries on the foundations of an 11th C castle, this is a notable example of secular Renaissance architecture. It contains fine furniture and a collection of pictures, including works by Mignard, Rigaud and Robert. Also of interest is the 13th C chapel (altered in 16th C).
Immediately northeast of Deauville, beyond the river Touques (bridge) is the popular resort of Trouville (pop. 5,555), with a beautiful beach and a boating harbor. One excursion from Trouville which should not be omitted is a drive along the Corniche Normande, which skirts the coast, high above the sea, to Honfleur, with extensive views.
Museum of Trouville
The Museum of Trouville is an art and history museum featuring paintings and a history of sea-bathing and sea-side resorts.
Avranches (pop. 8,509) is prettily situated above the river Sée. At a council held here in 1172 Henry II of England, having done penance, received absolution for the murder of Thomas Becket. A tablet in the gardens of the Sous-Préfecture, in Place Daniel-Huet, marks the spot where Henry begged for forgiveness. The cathedral of Avranches was destroyed during the French Revolution. Avranches was in the thick of the fighting in 1944, and was the starting point of General Patton's advance in July of that year. From the Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Garden) there are magnificent views of the estuary of the Sée and the Baie du Mont St-Michel. The town hall possesses important manuscripts of the eighth-15th centuries concerning the Mont St-Michel.
Chateau de Brecy
Chateau de Brécy is laid out behind the rear façade of a provincial farmhouse which has been given the ambiance of a château, this is one of the very few remaining examples of a garden of the first half of the 17th C. Each terrace is a separate garden and a work of art on its own, and the garden ascends over five different levels.
The Municipal Museum introduces the life in the Cotentin over the past centuries. Exhibits include Archeology, Decorative Arts, Fine Arts, and Ethnology.
Arromanches les Bains, France
The little seaside resort of Arromanches les Bains (pop. 552) lies northeast of Bayeux. The Musée du Débarquement (Museum of the Landings) commemorates its role in World War II, when a huge artificial harbor, Mulberry B, was constructed to facilitate the British landings.This is an ideal starting point for a trip to the Normandy beaches because the museum displays allow you to orient yourself and understand the battle.
Domfront (pop. 3,995) is picturesquely situated on a narrow ridge of rock. An 11th century watch tower (views), in a beautiful public park, is all that remains of the town's medieval castle. The old part of the town, with 16th century houses, is well preserved. Outside the town is the Romanesque church of Notre-Dame-sur-l'Eau (late 11th century, but much altered in later centuries), with 12th century frescoes, tombstones and statues.
Granville (pop. 13,486), beautifully situated on a peninsula with a sheltered harbor, became a fashionable seaside resort in the 19th C. In the old walled town, on higher ground, are the beautiful Gothic church of Notre-Dame (15th-16th C) and the Museum of Old Granville, housed in the Grande Porte. On the Pointe du Roc is a lighthouse from which there are fine views, and near this is an aquarium.From Granville there are boat trips to the offshore Iles Chausey and to Jersey and Guernsey.
Omaha Beach, northwest of Bayeux, was one of the landing points of the Allied forces on June 6 1944. There are a memorial to the landings and an American military cemetery.This landing was the most difficult site in the invasion of Normandy, due mainly to its high cliffs that overlook the beaches. Casualties at this beach were greater than those of all other landing beaches combined.
Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc is a clifftop location in Normandy. Through the use of rocket-propelled grappling hooks, U.S. Rangers scaled the cliffs here as part of the D-Day invasion. Their objective was to destroy a battery of heavy guns that were thought to be based on the point. Although the raid was successful, it was discovered that the guns had been moved from the position prior to the attack.
Bagnoles de l'Orne, France
Bagnoles de l'Orne (pop. 895) ranks with Tessé-la-Madeleine as the best known spa in western France. Beautifully situated on a little lake in a gorge, it is a good base from which to visit some of the Châteaux in the surrounding area and to explore the "Suisse Normande" ("Norman Switzerland").
Falaise (pop. 8,800), birthplace of William the Conqueror, is dominated by the magnificent ruins of the castle in which he was born in 1027. The main surviving remains are the keep and a massive 13th C. round tower 35 m/115ft high. In the town are the churches of Ste-Trinité (13th-16th C.) and St-Gervais (11th-16th C.).
Chateau de Carrouges, Carrouges
Château de Carrouges was built in the middle ages and passed between three well known families. The Keep was rebuilt during the Hundred Years War, the chateau was a residence during the 17th century and now serves as the headquarters of the regional nature reserve of Normandy and Maine regions.
Château Guillaume le Conquérant
Château Guillaume le Conquérant is a medieval chateau (12th to 13th C) noted for being the birthplace of William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, who invaded England in 1066. Two of the three towers are in the style used by the Normans in England, while the third Round Tower was constructed in the 13th C.
August 1944 Battle of the Falaise Gap museum
The Musée Aout 1944 explains the Battle of the Falaise Gap. Established in 1987, the museum houses a collection of heavy equipment.
Faliase - Automates Avenue
Argentan (pop. 17,448), once an important lace-making town, was badly damaged in 1944. The church of St-Germain (15th-17th C.) was rebuilt after the war. There are remains of a 14th C. castle and the old town walls.
Cabourg (pop. 3,523) is one of the most popular of Normandy's seaside resorts, which originally became fashionable during the Second Empire. Marcel Proust (1871- 1922) often stayed here.
In the valley of the Sienne are the ruins of Hambye Abbey, founded in 1145. The surviving remains include parts of the church (12th-13th C.) and some of the conventual buildings.
Lessay (pop. 1,763), between Carteret and Cherbourg, grew up round an abbey founded in the 11th C. The Romanesque church, destroyed in 1944, was lovingly rebuilt after the war.