Commemorating Armistice Day in Normandy

Commemorating Armistice Day

Commemorating Armistice Day

Granville will be commemorating Armistice Day this weekend in Normandy. A World War 2 site will be used to mark the event over the three days. Monday 11th November is a public holiday in France and marks the end of World War 1 in 1918.

  The battery in Granville

The batterie du Roc was built in 1942 in Granville’s high town and is close to the lighthouse. The German battery was built to stop access to Granville’s port and forms part of the altantic Wall. There are 4 casemates, 2 concrete gun bases and a blockhouse. This weekend there will be an exhibition of uniforms, helmets and war objects. Also on display will be photgraphs of Granville and a re-creation of how life was for the people of Granville during the war. The exhibition commemorating Armistice Day is open from 2 – 6pm on Saturday, 10 – 12noon and 2 – 6pm on both Sunday and Monday.

Elizabeth Castle in Jersey

Elizabeth castle
Elizabeth castle

 

The Elizabeth Castle in Jersey is on a small island about half a mile from the St Helier coast. It is connected to the mainland at low tide by a causeway. If there’s a tide high or you don’t want to walk, you can take the ferry. The ferry is an amphibious craft which means you can access the island during opening hours.

 

outer ward of Elizabeth Castle

 

There are five main parts to the island.

 

The Outer Ward

 

The entrance to the island is through the main gate near to the Guard House. This leads you into the outer ward which includes Fort Charles, the hospital and workshops. A second gate built in the 1690s is next to the West Bastion where cannons were fired from. The third gate was built in 1632 and marks the entrance to the Lower Ward.

 

Third Gate Elizabeth Castle
The Third Gate

 

The Lower Ward

 

The second part of the island is the Lower Ward. It was first built between 1626 and 1636 and subsequently altered in the 18th century. The Parade Ground was at the centre of castle life in the 18th century. The buildings around the parade ground were where the officers and soldiers lived and trained. These grand buildings now house various exhibitions, the cafe and public restrooms. There’s also a bunker built in 1943 during the German occupation in World War 2.

 

Elizabeth castle
The view from the Parade Ground

 

The Breakwater and Hermitage Rock

 

The Hermitage Rock was said to be inhabited by a hermit called Helier in the 6th century. The chapel dates from the 12th century and became a place of pilgrimage. Access to the rock is via the breakwater which was built in 1872.

 

The Upper Ward

 

Finally, the Upper Ward is the oldest part of the castle. Fortifications began here in 1550. The castle was named after Queen Elizabeth I by the Governor of the island. The Governor was Sir Walter Raleigh who governed from 1600 and 1603 and lived briefly in the rather grand Governor’s House. The Captain’s House and 16th century Upper Keep are also in this section. King Charles II sought refuge here with his brother, the Duke of York, during the English Civil War in 1649.

 

Elizabeth Castle in Jersey
The view from the Upper Ward

 

Practical Information

 

There’s a lot to do so do leave enough time to explore.There’s a midday parade and cannon firing which takes place on the Parade Ground. Visitors take part in this re-enactment so don’t be surprised if you are part of the entertainment. The castle is open from March through to November but do check the website for opening dates and times. 2019 prices were £15.65 for an adult ticket for the castle and return ferry journey. A ticket for the castle only was £12.70. Family tickets are available and there’s also a Heritage Pass you can buy for discounted rates. The kiosk to buy your tickets and board the ferry are just off the Esplanade in St Helier near Les Jardins de la Mer.

 

Elizabeth castle ferry
The ferry kiosk

 

 

Information about travelling to Jersey from Normandy is here.

Vauville Botanical Garden

Vauville botanical garden
Vauville botanical garden

Vauville Botanical Garden is tucked away on the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy. It looks out onto the Channel Islands and the headland known at Le Nez de Jobourg. Visiting the garden is very much like entering a Tardis as 11 acres unfold in front of you.

The site benefits from a microclimate where the evergreen trees, shrubs and plants can flourish. Palm, Cypress and Eucalyptus trees provide shade. Bamboo, ferns and aquatic plants contrast with the more colour amaryllis, hydrangea and callistemon. There are over 1,000 species of plants to enjoy.

Practical Information

Vauville is on the coast to the west of Cherbourg. The garden is open each afternoon from April through to September. In October it’s only open at the weekends. April and May are the best months to visit according to the owner. The garden was created in 1948 by Eric Pellerin and it’s now his grandson who owns it. Alongside the botanical garden is a farm which you can also visit.

tea room and shop Vauville

The tour of the garden costs 9 euros. You can take a map of the garden or an audio guide and they’re both available in English. There are 22 points to explore as well as a tea room and shop.

Vauville chateau

The Castle

Vauville Chateau sits within the grounds of the botanical garden. This impressive building dates from the 12th century. The main tower, circular wall, moat and dungeons are from the 12th century. The two wings were re-built in the 17th century. The north wing (on the right hand side) was extended in the 19th century. Originally the building ended at the second chimney pot. As part of the extension project a third chimney was added together with the tower and weather vane. The chateau is lived in by the owners so cannot be visited. However, you get a great view of it from the castle courtyard gate. You can also catch glimpses of the rear of the castle as you explore the garden.

So for more information on the Vauville Botanical Garden head over to their website. Alternatively, take a look at an interview with owner in the video below.

The Best Place For Pancakes in Normandy

Pancakes in Coutances

Where’s the best place for pancakes in Normandy? This is the question news organisation, Côté Manche, asked their Facebook fans earlier this month. Here’s their pick of the best places in and around Coutances.

If you want a relatively quick and informal meal then finding a crêperie is a safe bet. Both savoury and sweet pancakes will be available and they may have a wider menu as well. Savoury pancakes are known as galettes and sweet pancakes are called crêpes.

Pancakes in Coutances

The Crêperies

Le Râtelier is on rue Georges-Clémenceau in Coutances. They’re open Tuesday to Thursday from 12 – 2pm and 7 – 9.15pm. On Friday and Saturday they’re open slightly later until 9.30pm. They are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Phone 02 33 45 56 52. This crêperie got plenty of mentions in the survey.

La Morinière is near the entrance for the town’s public garden. They’re at 1 rue Quesnel-Morinière. The crêperie closes on Wednesdays and Thursdays but is open for lunch and in the evening all year round. Phone 02 33 07 52 20. I have eaten here although there has been a change of owner since then. I had a set menu of savoury pancake for main course and a sweet caramel and chantilly cream crêpe to follow.

confiture de lait

Le Conquérant des Saveurs is a tea room. It’s on La Belle Hôtesse just outside of Coutances and right next door to the brocante La Clé des Temps. Their phone number is 09 84 07 37 15. Opening times are 10am – 7pm Wednesday to Saturday. They are also open on Sunday afternoon.

La crêperie de Sophie at 74 boulevard Alsace-Lorraine in Coutances was favoured by some fans. However, they do more than pancakes as I’ve eaten here with a group for a set menu. They can be contacted on 02 33 45 54 45. They open on Tuesdays through to Saturday inclusive. their hours are 12 – 3pm and 7 – 9.30pm. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

The website for Côté Manche is here.

What To Do During October in Normandy

October In Normandy

Looking for ideas for what to do during October in Normandy? The weekend of the 18th to 20th October is La Foire Saint-Luc. It’s held just outside Gavray and is a typical Normandy country fair.decorated pumpkins

More than 600 exhibitors and 100,000 visitors are expected over the three days. The fair is one of the oldest in La Manche and dates from the late 12th century. Cattle, horses, dogs and poultry will all be on display together. Other entertainment will include country dancing.

And don’t miss the tent displaying the pumpkins. There’s an annual pumpkin decorating competition with categories for different ages and also adults. This was one of the stalls on the market in Gavray last weekend and they’ll have sold out very quickly.

October In Normandy

For foodies, there will be food tents galore and cookery demonstrations. You can find out more information on the Gavray website. For other events happening in October in Normandy, the Tourist Board website has more details.

 

 

Discover Historic Bayeux

Medieval Bayeux

Discover historic Bayeux in the video below that showcases this wonderful medieval town in Normandy. The cathedral, water mill and tapestry are shown.

historic Bayeux

 

historic Bayeux

 

However, there are more sites to see and you can walk in the footsteps of William the Conqueror as you stroll the streets. For an in-depth guide to historic Bayeux, this article includes videos, photos and information about the key sites.

Medieval Bayeux

The video is part of a series of 30 short videos focussing on medieval Normandy. You can read more information on the Normandy Tourism website and also watch other videos. Castles, abbeys and cathedrals dotted throughout Normandy feature highly in these new videos.

 

We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.

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Travelling To Jersey From Normandy

Liberation Square in St Helier, Jersey

Travelling to Jersey from Normandy is a really easy trip to make. I travelled there recently courtesy of Manche Isles Express so I could experience what it’s like.

Liberation Square in St Helier, Jersey
Liberation Square in St Helier, Jersey

You can make your reservation and pay either by internet, or the phone or at one of ticket offices. Their website is here.  Prices start from 34 euros for an adult return ticket.

Select your departure town from Normandy; ferries leave from Granville, Carteret and Dielette. Depending on your departure point, you’ll arrive in either St Helier or Gorey. The Granville to Jersey route runs from April through to December whereas the other two routes finish in October.

I booked to visit Jersey on a Sunday in September and opted to go there and back in a day. It is quite a long day but you can decide how much or how little you do once you’re on the island. I travelled from Granville to St Helier.

Practical Information For Your Outward Journey

  • There’s free parking at Granville. The departure point is accessed via rue des Iles and head towards the Gare Maritime.
  • There are toilets inside the Gare Maritime – both in the ticket hall area and also in the waiting room.
  • You need to check in an hour before departure time.
  • Departure time will be noted on your email confirmation and travel times are local time.
  • Jersey is on UK time (that means one hour behind French time) so you need to remember this for the return trip.
  • Hand in your email confirmation at the ticket office. They speak French and English and will issue you with your ticket.
  • Go through ticket control where your hand luggage may be checked.
  • Proceed to passport control and here they may also scan large items of luggage. Check you have the necessary documents to travel when you book. What this usually means a passport but could also be a national identity card.
  • Wait in the waiting room until you’re allowed to board the ferry.

 

On Board

  • There are two ferries that sail to Jersey from Normandy; The Granville and The Victor Hugo.
  • There’s no allocated seating other than by prior arrangement for passengers with reduced mobility.
  • The upper deck is out of bounds at the start and end of the crossing.
  • The duty free kiosk will open during the crossing and you can also buy snacks and coffee.
  • Maps of Jersey are available on board. If you pick one up you can then plan what you want to do.
  • There are toilets on board.

I left Normandy on a misty morning to the sound of French voices everywhere. I arrived in Jersey in brilliant sunshine to the smell of bacon and the chatter of English voices. It really is quite strange how everything is so different.

The ferry docks in Albert Pier and it’s just a few minutes walk to the shops and attractions that will take you past a couple of kiosks selling the obligatory bacon butty.

travelling to Jersey from Normandy

So, what’s Jersey like? The short answer is that it feels very British and it’s very much like being in the UK. It does have a certain charm though and on Sundays not all the shops are open. However, there are certainly more open than in Normandy. English is spoken widely, sterling is used (although they do have paper £1 notes which are no longer legal tender in the UK. Road signs are in English, the cars are right hand drive and they drive on the left. You’ll find typically British shops such as Marks & Spencer, Boots the Chemist and Tesco. And all this is less than 90 minutes from Normandy.

St Helier viewed from Elizabeth Castle

Travelling to Jersey from Normandy is like stepping into a time machine. Everything is so completely different to France yet you’re there in such a short space of time. You can find out more information about Jersey on the Tourist Office website www.jersey.com

My thanks to Manche Iles Express for giving me the opportunity to explore Jersey.

The Best Place For A Coffee in Granville

coffee in Granville

This is definitely coffee with a view! Yesterday I visited a local heritage site and came back via the town of Granville. It’s one of my favourite towns with a harbour, plenty of seafood restaurants and a quintessentially old town full of history. A friend and I wanted a coffee in Granville so we headed to the bar of the Ibis hotel.

coffee in Granville

It overlooks the Port de Plaisance and you can access it via La Rue des Isles. There’s parking to the rear but when you walk round to the front, this is the view you get. The bar has a wrap-round deck that is pretty sheltered and has awnings if you prefer a shady spot. There are also tables in the sun. If the weather’s not so great then the indoor bar has huge walls of glass to give you a great view.

From here you can watch the comings and goings of the boats in the harbour. There’s also a walkway that leads round to the harbour wall. That means it’s a great place for people watching too.

You can also take a walk along the harbour wall walkway and enjoy this view.

the harbour in Granville

If you’re looking for a coffee in Granville then this is a great place to try out. Just choose a place to sit and someone will come over to take your order. The drinks are brought out to you together with the bill and you go up to the bar to pay when you’re ready to leave.

 

Normandy Heritage Weekend

St Sauveur Le Victomte

A visit to Mont-Saint-Michel

This weekend you can enjoy a jam-packed Normandy Heritage Weekend. It takes place on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd September. The event is called Les Journées du Patrimoine and happens every year. Normandy Heritage Weekend

It’s a fantastic opportunity for you to enjoy the history and heritage Normandy has to offer. What’s more, many of the events are free or offer reduced tariffs. The events are varied as there’s so much going on. Castles, abbeys, churches, manor houses, chapels and other historic buildings will open their doors to the public. The Cotentin tourist train will be running and you can view manuscripts from Mont-Saint-Michel at the Scriptorial in Avranches. abbeys and castles in Normandy

Last year I visited both the castle and abbey at Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte as well as Hambye abbey and the chateau at Gratot. You can read about these sites here. You’ll also be able to visit them as part of the Normandy Heritage Weekend. The full programme of events is here. With so much going on it’s going to be a busy weekend! However, it’s very well organised and a gives you the opportunity to visit for free.

A Walk in Villedieu Through The Centuries

Church in Villedieu

A walk in Villedieu is one of the best ways to discover this historic town which was established in around 1130. There are 14 orange and brown information boards with text in both French and English to help you on your walk through centuries of history.

Practical Information

Villedieu is relatively compact although this walk could take you around an hour and a half. Much will depend on how much you linger at each information board. The town is built on a slope so not all of it may be suitable for everyone. However, there is a reasonable amount that is flat. There are also cobbled streets and courtyards to explore.

Start your walk in Villedieu at the Tourist Office which is on La Place des Costils. There’s parking right outside although on a Tuesday morning the large weekly market takes up some of the parking spaces. There’s also a smaller weekly market on a Friday morning.

Villedieu-les-Poêles Mairie

Go inside the Tourist Office and pick up a copy of a brown A5 leaflet called Villedieu-les-Poêles – a trip through history. They have versions in both English and French. There’s a map at the back of the leaflet and additional points of interest to explore. Not all of the 14 historic boards are marked on the map. However, the location of all the boards is shown on the first information board you’ll visit.

Walk in Villedieu

This, together with the information below will help you to find all 14 boards and learn about Villedieu-les-Poêles. Alternatively, you can buy a pathways booklet for 1,50€ which details the 14 stops. It’s available in French, English, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and German.

The information boards look like this. The first one can be found right outside the Tourist Office.

Villedieu walk

1. Villa Dei – Villedieu

The first information board explains about the history of the town and how it was named. With your back to the Tourist Office walk across the car park in La Place des Halles and make your way to the bridge which is marked as no. 2 in the information leaflet. You’ll walk past the old covered market/corn exchange on your left.

2. Le Pont de Pierre – The Stone Bridge

This is a very picturesque spot and one of the original entrances to the town. You’ll be able to find out where the keystone to the gate of the original stone bridge is now located by reading the board.

Now walk up rue Gambetta towards the church and look for Cour Deuzet on your left. Head towards the Commandery park which is no. 4 on the leaflet.

3. Les Tanneries du Bord de Sienne – The Tanners on the Banks of the River Sienne

Here you can learn about the leather trade that existed in the town. You can also see the back of the Commandery buildings. Retrace your steps and turn left up the rue Taillemarche. At the end of the street turn left until you reach the Commandery.

4. La Commanderie – the Commanderie

The Commander’s residence stood on the site of the mansion and the Saint Blaise chapel. The Commander held both religious and secular powers and dispensed justice. You can read more about the Order in the leaflet.

Carry on along the Rue du Pont Chignon until you reach the next information board on your left.

5. La Fonderie des Cloches – the Bell Foundry

Bells have been made in Villedieu since the end of the Middle Ages. The bell foundry building was built in 1865. You can take a paid visit to the foundry and tours can be arranged in English.

The website for the bell foundry is here. http://cornille-havard.com

Now retrace your steps and go back to the church.

Villedieu

6. l’Eglise Notre-Dame (interieur)- Notre-Dame church (interior)

Make your way to the north side of the church where you’ll find the information board near the doorway. There’s more information about the church in the brown leaflet. There are also information sheets in French in the church. The church was built in the 12th century and has architecture dating from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. In the north transept is a stained glass window representing some of the saints for the artisan crafts. Saint Hubert is the principal figure and he is the patron saint of the pot making and copperware brotherhood.

When you leave the church make your way over to the town hall. Before you cross the road, you’ll find another information board describing this location.Villedieu stained glass window

7. L’Hôtel de Ville- Town Hall

This is also known at Le Mairie. The town hall was originally built in the 16th and 17th centuries. The wealthy people of the town met here to organise the town’s affairs and taxes were collected here. The town flourished between 1846 and 1880 and in 1869 the new town hall was opened. It’s a wonderfully grand building.

Walk across to the the town hall and once you’ve explored the steps look for the next information board. As you face the town hall it’s on the right hand corner of the building on Place de la Presbyere. This board explains about the outside of the church so turn round to see the church and the features described.

Villedieu Mairie

8. L’Eglise Notre-Dame (exterieur) – Notre-Dame Church (exterior)

The gargolyes and sculptures are some some of the architectural details you can see.

From here, walk up the main street towards the top of town. You will now start to walk up a slight slope. The next information board is just off La Place de la Republique on the wall of a small alleyway named Cour de l’Abbé Gauthier.

9. La Place de la Republique

From the square you can see the statue erected in 1889 for the centenary of the French Revolution.

Continue walking up rue Carnot and onto rue Général Huard. As you walk up the righthand side of the road you’ll find board no. 10 at the entrance to the Cour aux Lilas. This is also marked as no. 10 in the information leaflet.

Normandy market days

10. Le Travail du Cuivre – The Copper Trade

Here you can learn more about the copper industry at one of Villidieu’s oldest workshops. Their website is here.

Cross the road and walk downhill on rue Général Huard. You’ll see the entrance to a courtyard and the next information board.

Before you go into the courtyard, take a look down rue du Docteur Havard towards the church. This is one of my favourite views in Villedieu.

Villedieu view

11. La Cour du Foyer – The Furnace Courtyard

Walk in VilledieuThis courtyard is one of 35 that you can visit during your walk in Villedieu. It’s also one of the prettiest. There’s lots more information in the brown leaflet and this is no. 11 on the map. The pan maker’s museum and the lace-making house are here.

Walk through the courtyard and eventually you’ll come out on rue des Quais. Turn left and follow the river. At the bridge cross over to the small park area. The next board is at the end.

Jardin des Lavoirs

12. Les Lavoirs du Bord de Sienne – The Wash houses on the Banks of the River Sienne

A number of public and private wash houses were built on the rivers banks during the 19th century. You can learn about how long the washing would take.

Go back across the bridge and continue along rue des Quais. The lane turns to the left and becomes rue des Mouliniers. Before you turn right down the hill onto rue du Docteur Havard you’ll find the penultimate information board.

13. La Dentelle de Villedieu – Villedieu Lace

Lace making was another big artisan trade in Villedieu predominantly between 1760 and 1880. Rue du Docteur Havard was one of the most industrious with over 500 workers making lace during the town’s heyday.

Continue walking down the street until you get to Cour de la Luzerne on the right hand side. It’s marked as number 19 in the brown leaflet.

Villedieu walk

14. La Cour de la Luzerne – Luzerne Courtyard

Villedieu Cour de la LuzerneThe final information board describes the houses in the courtyards dotted around the town. As an artisan town, the ground floor of the houses was the workshop and the living accommodation was above. The living quarters were accessed by external stone staircases in case of a fire in the workshop. There are still many examples of these outside staircases in the courtyards. The courtyards had large wooden gates which were closed at night during curfews.

So, that’s the end of your walk in Villedieu. Many of the houses in the courtyards are still lived in today so please be respectful when you go into them. There are plans to restore another 4 courtyards. You can read more about the courtyards here.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed discovering the artisan history of the town. The Tourist Office website is here.  You can also arrange a guided tour for a minimum of 5 people. Tours can be given in English and are arranged with the Tourist Office. As well as the history and the market twice a week there are also a couple of copper shops, restaurants, bars, cafes and independent shops.

 

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