The tourist Office in Coutances has just produced a leaflet if you’d like to take a self guided walk around Coutances. It’s available in French and has also been translated into English and German.
Start at the tourist office and follow the map and commentary. Look above the shops and you’ll find interesting façades and architectural details.
The guide takes you past the cathedral but do take the time to go in as entry is free. Originally built in the 11th century the cathedral was Romanesque in style. The current Gothic structure replaced it during the 13th century.
You’ll also walk past the Saint-Pierre church. This was built in the 15th and 16th centuries and combines Gothic and Renaissance styles.
Near to the botanical gardens is the Quesnel-Mornière museum. The gardens are also free to wander around and have wonderful themed displays every year.
Wander past the town hall (Le Mairie) a former townhouse dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The walk should take an hour or so. You can pick up the leaflet for the self guided walk around Coutances from the tourist office. They’re based at 6 rue Milon, 50200 Coutances. Or check out their website.
What’s on in Normandy this week? Although the season is changing there are still holiday makers ready to discover the area. The rain at the weekend gave way to some late afternoon sunshine on Sunday and the week looks set to be dry and warmer by the end of the week.
The Coutances tourist office website includes a searchable database of forthcoming events. This week there are exhibitions and walks taking place. It’s also the last week for the dahlia exhibition as it finishes on Sunday.
There are plenty of things to do that aren’t limited to a certain period or date. The cathedral in Coutances and the chateau at Gratot are open for visits, for example.
In nearby Granville the tourist office schedule of events includes a biscuit making workshop for children (in French), a perfume making course at the Christian Dior museum, a guided tour of a local cider farm and various walks and exhibitions. Thousand of visitors will be enjoying the annual seafood event (Toute la Mer sur un Plateau) in Granville this coming weekend (29 – 30 September).
Coutances’ Dahlia Festival starts on Saturday 1st September and is on for the whole month. This is the 23rd time that the Normandy festival has been celebrated. It takes place in the agricultural college (the lycée agricole) where students wanting an agricultural or horticultural profession study. Throughout the year the college also runs a garden centre with students responsible for growing and tending to the plants that are for sale.
Preparation and planting would have taken place earlier in the year and a huge space is opened up for the festival. From the gardens you get a great view of Coutances.
As well as the 320 varieties of dahlias, there will be six smaller gardens that have been landscaped by the students. The dahlias produce a riot of colour with some very blousy specimens
And some neater and smaller varieties
It’s difficult to choose a favourite. On my visit last year I kept thinking I’d found one but was then spoilt for choice. However, this pale pink flower with dark pink candy stripes particularly caught my eye.
The Festival takes place at:
Serres du lycée agricole
Rue de Regneville sur mer
TEL : 02 33 45 13 44
It’s open 7 days a week from 2pm through to 6pm. It costs 5€ per person. Those under 10 go free.
I’ll certainly be going back again this year. It’s a fabulous place to visit.
Across the square in Coutances from the cathedral are the fabulous Coutances gardens. They are known as Le Jardin des Plantes and are open all year round albeit with shorter hours in the winter.They’re one of Normandy’s oldest public gardens and have a mix of English and French styles.
Every year a theme is chosen and the planting reflects the theme. The theme for the summer garden in 2018 is education and learning. The centrepiece is a ‘blackboard’ which says ‘You tire of everything except learning’.
Over the years, I’ve seen Disney characters, a 2 CV car, a 3 tier cake, bicycles (for the Tour de France), a bee, a frog, Musical notes (for the jazz festival and a pack of cards. The detail is delightful and I particularly like the way they build 3 D structures and plant ‘pictures’ using succulents.
There’s also a children’s playground and a small maze that’s built on a hill. Despite the fact that shops, bars and restaurants are just a minute or two away, Coutances gardens are an oasis of calm.
La Manche region of Normandy’s characterised by its extensive coastline which surrounds a terrain of hedgerows, woodland and pastures (known as bocage). The video below highlights some of the key sights to see.
The miles and miles of coast are also home to pretty seaside villages and towns. Some of the aerial shots show Granville with its rocky headland, old town and marina together with Barfleur with a beautiful port and quaint cobbled streets. Also on the coast are Regnéville, home to a ruined chateau, the island of Tatihou with its fort and the lighthouse at Gatteville. Many of these locations offer magnificent views. From the high town at Granville you can see the beaches stretching to both the north and south and also overlook the modern town and marina. If you can climb the 365 steps at Gatteville, the view is wonderful. It is hard on the lungs going up and hard on the legs coming down. The stone circular staircase has convenient stopping points thanks to the deep windowsills of the lighthouse’s 52 windows.
Hommage is paid to the D-Day landings in various sites throughout La Manche region. Featured in the video is the Batterie at Azeville, Saint-Mère-Eglise which was the first town to be liberated and Utah beach – the American troops landed here in 1944. There are many more D-Day sites in La Manche region and most villages have a memorial with names inscribed of those who were lost in combat.
Throughout the region are chateaux, abbeys, cathedrals, manor houses and churches. The video shows Coutances cathedral which was rebuilt in the 13th century. It is Gothic in style and was built over the top of a smaller, Romanesque structure. I love this building and almost always call in when I’m in Coutances. The strong lines andarchitectural detail on the exterior contrast with a relatively simple interior. There are not many statues but the stained glass windows, The Chapel of Saint Laud painted in strong colours and the lantern tower which allows light to flood in to the cathedral are beautiful. You can do tours of the upper walkways by arrangement or buy an audioguide from the local tourist office.
Last but not least is Mont St Michel – the jewel in Normandy’s crown. It’s a small island commune with its crowning glory of an abbey dating from the 8th century. This is another of my favourite places.
The guided tours of the upper galleries of Coutances Cathedral will start again on Sunday 8th July after a month’s absence. The tours will run until August 27th.
Tours can be taken every Monday at 1.30 pm in English. French tours are available every day at 11am and 3pm. The tours last around an hour and are delivered by experienced guides from Le pays d’art et d’histoire who are based in Coutances.
I’ve done this tour in English and it really is worth doing. You meet at the side entrance of the cathedral and head over to a small door and make your way up the stone circular staircase. Discover the history of Coutances Cathedral and the hidden passageways created when a second building was built over the original.
The upper galleries give you a wonderful view of the stained glass windows, the lantern tower and the cathedral below.
To reserve a place, call 02 72 88 14 25. For security reasons, the visit is limited to 14 people.
Adult price: 8 €. Reduced price: 4 € (under 25 years old, unemployed, journalist, guide) on presentation of proof
Although this video concentrates on the ground floor of the cathedral, you can see the upper galleries, the lantern tower and the stained glass windows.
The beautiful town of Coutances in Normandy is perfect for a day of exploring. The Tourist Office have recently published this guide to the town. Although, it’s in French, there’s a map of the towns showing the highlights.
I visited Coutances late yesterday afternoon and took these photos in the Normandy sunshine. The public garden is delightful – beautifully maintained and with a theme each year reflected in the planting. This year the theme is school and education.
The cathedral dominates the skyline and merits a blog post of its own. It is simply stunning.
There is one main street of shops; the majority of which are independent retailers.
The Mairie (Town Hall) is a very impressive building and dates from 1907.
There is plenty more to explore including the Hospital Quarter where you’ll find 3 old chapels. In the centre of town there are two churches – one either side of the cathedral. All three buildings escaped the bombs during the Second World War although much of what surrounded them was completely destroyed. A recommended day out.
If you’re a hiker or walker, I’ve just found the perfect guide for you. Coutances Tourism have just produced a fantastic range of information leaflets for walkers and hikers that will really help you to discover the Normandy countryside. It really is the ultimate hiking guide in and around Coutances. There are 22 A4 tri-fold leaflets each highlighting a particular route in the Coutances area: from Saint-Sauveur-Lendelin in the north to just south of Gavray. On one side of the leaflet is a map of the route and overleaf, there’s interesting facts, highlights of the walk and practical information such as water points and public toilets. Some walks do have shorter routes available as this series of hikes is not for the feint-hearted. The shortest route will take two and a half hours and the longest is around five and a half hours.
I popped down to the Tourist Office in Gavray this morning to pick up a selection of leaflets for my gite guests. I also thought it would be interesting to subsequently feature some of the walks in more detail. The leaflets can also be downloaded from the Coutances Tourist Office website or picked up in one of the local tourist offices in Coutances, Agon-Coutainville, Blainville-sur-Mer, Gouville-sur-Mer, Hauteville-sur-Mer or Gavray. Although the leaflets are in French, the map is excellent and the highlights are clearly marked. There are also plenty of other shorter walks available. It’s a great area for getting out and about, getting some exercise and enjoying some great views too.
I’m really impressed with this resource. There are also plans for a second set of leaflets which will cover the coastline area. I can’t wait for those as it’s a beautiful landscape set against the backdrop of the beaches and dunes.
One of the walks starts in the centre of Gavray going past the church and town hall before heading into the countryside. The main picture is taken overlooking Gavray and shows some of the countryside this route covers.
The church in Gavray
Le Mairie in Gavray – the equivalent of the town hall
If you’re coming to La Manche region of Normandy, I can highly recommend Coutances for a day out. It’s only 20 minutes away from the gite so it’s somewhere I go fairly often but it doesn’t fail to disappoint. The imposing cathedral dominates the skyline as you drive in to the town. And close up, it’s even more spectacular with its fancy Gothic architecture. There are guided visits available to the upper parts of the cathedral. They get booked up very quickly – and with good reason. You visit unseen corridors, stand inside the lantern tower, get up close and personal with the stained glass windows and have a bird’s eye view of the cathedral below. Even if the tours are full you can still visit the cathedral; either wander round freely or purchase an audio guide from the tourist office.
Nearby is the public garden which is a delightful mix of French and English style landscaping. A cider and tea bar has recently opened at the entrance to the gardens. Les Pipelettes is quirky in terms of decor and offers a friendly welcome as well as a wide range of teas.
The main street is lined with small independent shops. A particular favourite is Le Temps des Sucres. This épicerie sells a selection of high quality savoury and sweet treats. For the perfect present you can buy a gift box filled with your choice of products. Prepare to be tempted by olive oils, flavoured vinegars, chocolates, jams and biscuits. For the best Paris Brest (a choux pastry filled with praline cream) head to the pâtisserie Au Chant du Pain. It’s a little off the main shopping area but worth it.
Coutances is also a collector’s dream. If you love browsing round antique shops, then La Clé des Temps will really appeal. Authentically French, it sells mainly furniture and household items but also records and paintings. It’s open every day although on Sundays only in the afternoon.
So, a cathedral, cider, cakes, collectibles and much more can be found in Coutances. What a great day out. Come and visit!
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