Tomorrow (12 January) at 7pm you can follow in the footsteps of William the Conqueror with a night-time visit to L'Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen, Normandy. The Men's Abbey is a former Benedictine monastery founded by William in 1063. After his death in 1087 in Rouen, the body of King William was sent to Caen to be buried there according to his wishes. William's tomb has been disturbed several times since then. In 1562, the grave was opened and the original tombstone of black marble was destroyed. William's bones were scattered and lost, except for one thigh bone which was reburied in 1642. This tomb was again destroyed during the French Revolution, but was eventually replaced with the current early 19th century marker in white marble. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. For more information on the tour and to reserve your place call 02 31 30 42 81.
Wrap up warm, the Caen Christmas market in Normandy will be open from 28 November to 27 December. Father Christmas will make his first appearance on Saturday 5 December and each Saturday and Sunday. 50 wooden chalet style huts will house the 50 exhibitors selling Christmas themed products including food, decorations and presents. As evening falls, the town hall lights up and the ferris wheel twinkles brightly in the darkness. Make sure you wear your hat, scarf and gloves if you fancy a twirl on the ice skating rink. More details at www.caen.fr
11 November is the date France commemorates Armistice Day. It marks the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne in France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I. It took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The picture shows Winston Churchill and General Charles de Gaulle walk down the Avenue des Champs-Elysee duirng the French Armistice Day parade in Paris on 11 November 1944. Many towns and villages throughout France commemorate Armistice Day with a morning ceremony and it is a public holiday with shops, schools and offices closed.
The last 2 weeks in October are an opportunity to visit the botanical gardens, the garden centre and what remains of the dahlia show. The fair is held at the agricultural college where students learn their various trades. Yesterday was a beautifully sunny day, although some sections of the garden were beginning to see the effects of autumn arriving. The dahlias were still stunning – there are hundreds of varieties to admire – and I spent a happy couple of hours wandering around.
November 1st is 'la Toussaint' – (All Saints Days) in France and is a contraction of the phrase ’ Tous les Saints’. It’s the day when people mourn their dead, go to special church services, visit cemeteries and and put fresh flowers on their loved ones' graves. Chrysanthemums are usually chosen and they are everywhere at this time of year. The photo shows the decorations in the main square in Coutances in Normandy.
Visiting Normandy during the October holidays? From 19 – 30 October you can take a guided tour to discover the old town or the cathedral. The cathedral tour will allow you access to the treasure room and chapter house which are usually closed to the public. The tour around Old Bayeux will explore the area around the cathedral and the historic centre with its timber-framed houses and manors. Details of timings and charges from www.bayeux-bessin-tourisme.com. Under 10s go free.
Here are just some of the exhibits in the pumpkin decorating competition at this year's Foire Saint-Luc in Gavray, Normandy. There was a separate competition for children (with minions being a common theme). The fair is vast and has such a wide variety of products for sale. There are plenty of stalls to eat and drink, a small charge for parking but entry to the fair is free. The fair runs until Sunday.
It’s the season for foodie events in Normandy this weekend. They include the Foire de la Pomme (Apple Fair) from 16 – 18 October in Vimoutiers in Orne. The Fête du Cidre in Forges-les-Eaux in Seine-Maritime takes place on 18 October. There’s tastings, demonstrations and an apple tart competition to entertain you. The Fête du Ventre et de la Gastronomie Normande (Gourmet Fair) will be in Rouen from 17 – 18 October. Restaurants and producers will be promoting the tastes of autumn and celebrating Normandy food and drink. There’ll be tastings and demonstrations as well as the chance to buy a wide range of locally produced products.
The Foire Saint-Luc takes place from 16 – 18 October in Gavray, Normandy. 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 with a vide grenier (garage/attic sale), jazz music, a pumpkin decorating competition and food tents galore. More information at www.gavray.fr