Normandy places to visit | attractions
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Bagnoles

A surprising spa town at the start of the Orne. In itself a holiday resort, with attractive thoroughfares leading to the central lake, it is a good starting point for a tour of the Suisse Normande.

Balleroy

Surrounded by forests, the small village of Balleroy (some 20 minutes away) is dominated by the magnificent chateau, owned by the Forbes family. The chateau is open to visitors at certain times (consult Tourist information). Balleroy was the birthplace of the hot air balloon and there is a balloon museum.

Bayeux

What does one say? World famous for the tapestry, but well worth a visit in its own right. In recent years the ancient buildings have been beautifully restored and presiding over all is the magnificent cathedral (visible from any direction as it rises above the town). Good for shopping, browsing and ‘museuming’ – a true pleasure.

Caen

The capital of Basse-Normandie some 45 minutes from Le Moulin. Much damaged in the war, but the old castle has survived to a miraculous extent. The best shopping in the region, with a good supply of restaurants, plus cinemas and a theatre.

A visit to the Memorial (a museum of the Battle of Normandy and much more) is a MUST. A dramatic, accurate and unbiased representation of the battle of Normandy, but also showing the pre and post history. Quite superb and suitable for all ages. Modestly priced and good eating inside. To get there take the A84 and when you reach the Caen périphérique go north and follow the signs.

There is also a traditional museum and gallery within the battlements of the castle, with perhaps the finest collection of paintings in France outside Paris.

Cabourg

On the Cote de Fleurie, about 20 minutes from Caen, a most attractive, small but stylish resort with a good beach.  

Cancale

A favourite place for us; a small and delightful resort at the western end of the bay of Mont. St. Michel, with an array of excellent seafood restaurants at prices for all pockets. Featured in the T.V. series ‘The Darling Buds of May’ but thankfully not spoiled. About one hour 15 minutes away via Avranches and Pontorson (bypassed) but well worth the journey.

Carteret

There are excellent beaches at Carteret, one of which is known to be one of the top 10 in France, and has some very good restaurants. The restaurant in the Marine Hotel is absolutely outstanding, it has a Michelin star and is excellent value. Other good restaurants include: The Marine Jardin, Le Cap and the Kalikiki which is said to do the best moules frites in the Manche.

Chartres

Further afield (approximately 3 hours’ drive) but in our view worth a 2 day trip with a brief stop at Alencon (superb chocolatier – Pedro – near the church in the town centre).

The cathedral is regarded as one of the world’s finest and it is easy to see why – with perhaps the best mediaeval stained glass in the world. Le Vieux Quartier (route supplied by the Tourist Information Office) is beautifully preserved and a meal at Le Moulin de Ponceau alone makes the trip worthwhile. Market day is Saturday and offers the most wonderful variety of produce, superbly presented.

Cherbourg

Worth making time for on a return journey. The old town centre has survived and whilst difficult to penetrate, it can be done – just take a small lane and follow your nose!

Deauville

A ‘tres chic’ resort, without parallel in the U.K. today. For those looking for high fashion shopping without going to Paris, a stroll around the vicinity of the Casino could prove expensive.

Lively cafes, excellent restaurants and hotels and the famous promenade. The Hotel Normandie is a vast but splendid edifice offering jazz brunches on Sunday. New architecture in the columbage style. About 80 minutes journey time.

Dinan

In our view unmissable. The road in across the viaduct high above the Rance and winding up the ancient battlements is a worthy taste of what is to come. The town centre is wonderfully preserved, the ancient buildings crowding in on each other. It is particularly important to visit the Jardins des Anglais by the church and to look down to the river far below and also to find the old road down to the port. This very steep mediaeval lane has wonderful buildings on either side and ends at the small port where several colourful restaurants are to be found. Journey time, depending on traffic, is some 90 minutes, but well worth it.

Suggestion: a quick visit to Mont St. Michel and on to Dinan for the day.

Fougeres

A delightful small mediaeval town, possessing a magnificent castle. The view of the castle from the ‘jardins publiques’ next to the church of St. Leonard near the town centre is worth the trip on its own – as is the church itself (fine modern stained glass and much loved). The journey goes through beautiful countryside (from Villedieu take the scenic road through Brecy and St. Hilaire – notable for the remarkable number of ancient barns and farmhouses) and takes a little over one hour. An early start on Saturday morning is recommended to allow a visit to the small but colourful market.

Les Gorges du Vire

If you have a couple of hours spare, a drive along the Gorges du Vire is well worthwhile. The countryside is beautiful and unspoiled, with many lovely views. Go from Tessy to Pont Farcy and when you reach the main road in the village centre go straight across. After a short distance turn left, signposted Gorges du Vire and thereafter just follow the signs. When you arrive at Campeaux you can either turn left up the hill and head for home or continue on through more lovely countryside following your map and the signs.

Granville

This important seaside town and port grows on you. It is very popular with the French and provides good and varied shopping and many restaurants. Our own favourite is the Daiquiri on the Port de Plaisance and is invariably full of French visitors. Go for the seafood which is always fresh and delicious.

The old town which looks down upon the port, shops and casino is well worth a visit.

Many visitors go to the Christian Dior museum and garden, which has a spectacular position overlooking the sea.  

Honfleur

As with Dinan, not to be missed and to us, a source of constant pleasure. Head straight for Le Vieux Bassin, enjoy the scenery and ambience – a place for artists, antiques, fishing boats and fine restaurants – with the emphasis on superb seafood. About the same journey time as Deauville (80 minutes) and very easy to combine the two in one day.

Monet’s house at Giverny

For those who are enthusiastic about Impressionist paintings, a visit to Monet’s house at Giverny is a must. The house has been restored by the expert who restored Versailles and is now as it was when Monet lived there, whilst the garden has walked out of the painting. The journey takes about 2 hours using the Caen, Rouen, Paris motorway (which you leave south of Rouen, signposted Giverny) and from Giverny the route is well marked).

Why not make a day of it and visit Rouen, which also has much to offer.

Mont St. Michel

Described by the French as ‘the wonder of the Western World’ and a classified ‘World Heritage Site’.

Magnificent, but suffers badly from an excess of tourists. Go if you haven’t seen it – but go early. Also, food is on the pricey side, but you can buy a magnificent omelette at a magnificent (stratospheric) price. Journey time – about one hour.

Paris

Nothing to say about Paris – it’s all been said. About 3 hours by car or train (the station is at Lison on the Isigny road just north of St. Lo).

 Porte en Bessin

Only 10 kilometres from Bayeux, this is a traditional fishing port full of working boats. Very picturesque, with a fish market on Sundays.

Portbail

This is a small, lovely and ancient village on the Atlantic coast of the Cotentin, just south of Carteret. The beach is very attractive and the ancient church in the centre of the town is well worth a visit. There are several places to eat.  

Rennes

Since the completion of the A84 to Rennes, this beautiful town is now within reasonable striking distance (approximately 1 hour – 1 ¼ ). The town centre is full of elegant architecture with the added attraction of an old quarter.

The shopping is undoubtedly the best in Western Normandy and Brittany and you should go suitably prepared. As always, there are lots of restaurants and cafes available to restore your spirits if not your bank balance.

Les Roches de Ham

Follow the signs across the bridge from Chappelle sur Vire to this vantage point high above the river. It is only a short drive through very rural country and the views are superb.

In the summer there is a small café serving excellent pancakes.

St. Lo

The administrative centre of the Manche and almost destroyed in the Second World War. Despite this, it is an attractive town in many ways and we use it as our main shopping centre.

Intermarche, Carrefour, Le Clerc are all represented. We like Intermarche (see note on restaurants) but each to his own taste. All provide excellent fresh fish, magnificent dairy products, good selections of wines and a very wide range of meats, groceries and household goods.

The social centre of St. Lo is the ‘Salon de Thé’ “Le Grand Balcon” (known locally as G.B.)

The Tourist Information Office is located in a glass fronted building in the middle of the Grand Place about 200yds from G.B. We suggest an early visit to the Tourist Information Office to find out about seasonal events and attractions in the region.

A visit to St. Lo on Saturday morning is outstanding value as this is market day. You can buy your frites and saucisses from the market which also offers excellent fresh produce.

The French national stud is at St. Lo (on the main road from Caen) and is open to visitors.

St. Malo

This ancient port with its massive battlements is full of interest. The picturesque route is via the coast from Mont St. Michel past Cancale and on arrival in the old town (intra mures) you will find many excellent shops and restaurants.

We are told that the set lunch in l’Ancrap on the inner wall is outstanding value.

The beaches are also very good.

Tessy sur Vire

‘Our town’ and meets all everyday needs. There are three boulangerie/patisseries and the one we like most is the smallest which is to be found going out of Tessy up the hill towards Hambye.

Since the beginning of 2011 there is an excellent small Carrefour supermarket from which just about anything you need can be obtained. It is about 300m along the road to Pontfarcy and the A84 (bear left at Credit Agricole) on the left hand side.

We also like to support the other local shops. The ‘creamery’ supplies good vegetables, flowers and excellent dairy products. The delicatessen opposite the Pont Farcy road is also very good and the meat is excellent. There are several other specialist shops, together with a medical practice, notaire, pharmacy etc.

The ‘Bar Routiers’ in the square is typical of its kind and useful for coffee, breakfast, lunch etc. as is the bar/cafe on the Pont Farcy road.

Villedieu-les-Poeles

The copper town of France, Villedieu is extremely picturesque and less than 30 minutes away. Very well worth a visit. It provides a unique opportunity to view and buy wonderful copper kitchenware at unbeatable (in the U.K.) prices. There is a small museum of Norman furniture in the old cinema which we much enjoyed and the bell foundry is famous.

There are several restaurants bars and a salon de thé/patisserie. The Villedieu market on Tuesdays is a very good one, well supported by locals.

Vire

Another major town in the vicinity with part of its mediaeval battlements still preserved and the largest town in the ‘bocage’..

OTHER TOWNS:

These are not necessarily less worthy, but less visited by us:

Avranches

Dominating the sea plain, Avranches has a most attractive town centre with castle.

Domfront

A castle above the ancient town.

Falaise

The birthplace of William the Conqueror.

To request a booking or check availability call 01728 621121

Le Moulin de Fervaches, Fervaches, Tessy Bocage, Manche, Normandy, France