5th of August, 2022
A visit to Bayeux and Caen is planned for today. It is our intention to leave early, as the Tapestry Museum will be busy later on. The famous embroidery of the museum is 70 meters long and tells the legendary tale of the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy; a highlight for most tourists in Bayeux!
Unfortunately, our breakfast is again too tasty and the company extremely pleasant and we finally arrive around 10.30 a.m. in the old centre. By now, many tourists are already lined up in front of the museum. We decide to explore the other corners of the city and come back during lunch. One of the most impressive monuments is the 900 years old Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux. It was built under Romanesque and Norman architecture, but there are even parts in Gothic style, like the 95-meter high spire.
Beside the cathedral stands the magnificent Liberty Tree, symbol of the French Revolution and planted in the 18th-century.
Bayeux is a small medieval town with many interesting buildings and cute little stores. It was liberated rapidly in 1944 and therefor preserved from the bombings.
Around lunchtime we return to the museum, but the line got even longer. We decide to leave the Tapistry for another time and drive to Caen instead.
Caen has suffered tremendously during WW2. Most of the houses and monuments in the city got ruined or severely damaged. The Caen Castle, one of the largest walled fortifications in Europe, was also partly destroyed by the bombings of 1944, but has since been restored. The Saint-Etienne Abbey survived the attacks. It was a shelter for thousands of inhabitants during the Normandy landings. The abbey church of Saint-Etienne is part of the Abbaye-aux-Hommes and founded in 1063 by William the Conqueror. It is one of the largest Romanesque churches in France. The abbey and cloisters are definitely worth a visit! In the 13th century gothic elements had been adjusted and the monastery was rebuilt in the 18th century. In the monastic buildings now houses the Town Hall.
William’s wife Mathilde was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames and William in the abbey church. Though, on several occasions his tomb was opened and all the bones were scattered and lost. It is said that there is only one bone left in the impressive tomb!
Opposite the abbey are the ruins of the church of Saint-Etienne-le-Vieux still visible. During the Hundred Years’ War it was severely damaged, reconstructed again, but poorly maintained. In 1840 it became a Monument Historique, but the church was hit by a shell in 1944 (aimed at a column of German tanks!).
It is time to leave Caen and find a place for our evening meal. We drive towards the sea and arrive in Courseulles Sur-Mer, close to Juno Beach.
The town has a fair going on and is overcrowded with people. In the near future, we do hope to get another house sit in Normandy. In Spring or Autumn, when all is quiet and we can visit the many other important monuments and museums.
We quickly leave Courseulles again and drive back to our favourite Port-en-Bessin-Huppain. Somewhere in the back streets, a small terrace is inviting us for a tasty supper. A group of young guys are playing chansons and some Cuban music. Although one of the guitarist sings terrible out of tune, we fully enjoy the atmosphere on this warm summer evening!