Normandy’s Arromanches D Day Garden

D-Day sculpture

The recently installed Arromanches D Day garden pays tribute to the veterans of the Battle of Normandy. The garden is known as D-Day 75 Garden and was first exhibited at the RHS Chelsea Garden Show in May 2019.

D Day 75th anniversary

It was officially opened at its new permanent site in Arromanches on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It now overlooks Mulberry Harbour and Gold Beach, which is one of the five D-Day landing beaches.

Arromanches D Day garden

 

Bill Pendell was chosen to represent the veterans although sadly he passed away aged 97 in December 2018. In 1944 Bill landed on Gold Beach aged 22. With his family’s blessing, two sculptures of him have been included in the garden.

Arromanches D Day garden

At the entrance to the garden, Bill sits on a stone plinth wearing his medals and beret. He looks across at another sculpture of his younger self about to land on D-Day. Four further sculptures of soldiers show them wading through the waves as they navigate the obstacles on Gold Beach.

Arromanches

D-Day sculpture

 

The sculpture of 97 year old Bill is carved from a single block of Millstone Grit. And the young soldiers opposite are constructed from thousands of individually welded metal washers.

Arromanches D Day 75 garden

75 years separates these two scenes. Visitors are invited to consider how it must have felt for veterans to reflect on the intense experiences they endured on D-Day and the days that followed.

D Day 75 garden

The photos probably don’t do it justice. It is hauntingly beautiful. There’s a fluidity to the sculptures of the young soldiers as if they’re there but not there. I found it incredibly emotive.

D Day

The Arromanches D Day garden was designed by John Everiss and in the video below you can learn more about how the sculptures were made. Also there’s more information about the project on the D-Day Revisited website.

Where To Find The Garden

It’s right next to the 360 Circular Museum in Arromanches. You can access it via rue Calvaire. There is paid parking next to the museum or you can park in the town and walk up the hill to the cliff top.

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.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE

A Garden In Coutances With A Difference

Garden in Coutances

The public garden in Coutances is just that little bit different. It’s one of Normandy’s oldest public gardens having been created in 1855. It’s also a mix of French and English styles. What really sets it apart from other gardens is the mosaiculture style used in the planting. This horticultural art creates topiary-like structures using bedding plants on wire frames.

Coutances garden

 

The theme changes a few times each year and new works of art are created. The current theme is French expressions.

Coutances garden

There are two panels showing the French expressions represented in the garden in Coutances.

Garden in Coutances

There are a couple of expressions relating to fruit. The middle one in the photo above shows a pear being cut in half. The French expression is ‘couper la poire en deux’. The English translation is to split the difference.

 

‘Avoir la banane’ means to be smiling.

Coutances garden

 

The centrepiece is a peacock. This represent the phrase as proud as a peacock.

Garden in Coutances

 

My personal favourite is the expression ‘while the cat’s away, the mice will play’. Although in French they dance.

Garden in Coutances

So, for some great fun improving your French do pay a visit to the garden in Coutances. During July and August it’s open until 11pm at night and is lit up so you can enjoy the floral displays.

Jardin des plantes Coutances Jardin des plantes Coutances

The garden is right in the centre of town not far from the cathedral. This is the view from the main gate.

Coutances

Longues sur Mer Abbey in Normandy

Longues sur Mer abbey

Introduction

In the quiet village of Longues sur Mer is a beautiful Benedictine abbey dating from the 12th century. The Abbaye de Longues or Abbaye Saint-Marie is nestled on the road leading to Bayeux. Although it’s not far from the Omaha and Gold D-Day landing beaches it wasn’t bombed during the Battle of Normandy. It had however already fallen into decline some centuries before. Nevertheless, there is a great deal to explore and you can see how the abbey would have looked in its heyday.

abbey church at Longues sur Mer

The Abbey’s History

The abbey was founded in 1168 in the Calvados department of Normandy. The first monks came from Hambye Abbey located some 70 kilometers away in La Manche department. Many of the the buildings date from the 13th and 14th centuries. The western facade of the Abbot’s House was re-done during the 18th century.

abbot's house at Longues sur Mer

The abbey comprised the following building/structures:- a gatehouse, coach house, barn, abbey church, cloister, chapter room, refectory, kitchen, scriptorium or library, infimary, lay quarters, abbot’s house, dovecot, farm buildings and various gardens. The cloister was in the centre with the other buildings accessible from it.

In line with many other Normandy abbeys, Longues sur Mer abbey fell into decline starting in 1526. Successive abbots didn’t invest in the abbey and by 1640 the nave of the church had fallen into ruin. As a result, the abbey eventually closed in 1782. Some of the stones were quarried and further decline continued until 1915 when it was designated as an historical monument.

Restoration

An American, Charles Dewey, bought the abbey in 1932 and started the restoration process. In 1964 the abbey was sold to the French d’Angeljan family. The family have continued to restore the Longues sur Mer abbey and so in January 2006 it was classified as an historical monument.

Visiting Longues sur Mer Abbey

Thanks to the efforts of the current and previous owners, you can visit the abbey today. During visiting times the wooden doors of the ornate stone gatehouse are open. The gatehouse dates from the 14th century. The owners often greet visitors and they speak English. I was fortunate to be met by Hannah, an American who was undertaking a summer internship at the abbey. We chatted as we walked over to the coach house which is immediately to the left of the gate house. I picked up a leaflet and Hannah gave me a laminated sheet about the abbey. English and French versions are available.

You can then walk round the abbey at your own pace following the numbered arrows. However, take some time to look at the information boards and photos in the coach house. They give more information about how the abbey used to look and the history of the buildings you’re about to discover.

The Visit

If you stand in the main courtyard with your back to the gate house this is what you’ll see.

Longues sur Mer abbey

The abbey church is on the left. The abbot’s house is in the centre and to the far right is the refectory. The abbot’s house is now lived in by the French owners so it’s not possible to visit. However, you may be lucky enough to be invited into the La Salle de la Source and see the spring water running underneath the building. The western facade of the abbot’s house is particularly stunning. It was re-done in the 18th century to create a good impression because this side of the building is what guests would have seen.

There’s a central path down to the remains of the abbey church and this is the first stop on your visit.

The Abbey Church

As you walk towards the church’s ruins you’ll be walking where the nave used to be. The nave was attached to the abbot’s house and created the south side of the cloister. What remains of the abbey church is the choir or chancel and part of the northern transept. As you reach the choir, remember there would have been a lantern tower here. You can visit the transept but not the choir. You can, happily, see into the choir but it’s not safe to go inside. Pause to look at the architectural details here.

Longues sur Mer

The Cloister and the Chapter House

Follow the route past what remains of the southern transept. You’re now walking along what would have been the galleried cloister. To your left are two windows which are the remains of the chapter house.

chapter house Longues sur Mer

Before you continue, take a look at the rear of the abbot’s house. The eastern side of the building is very simple and in stark contrast to the western facade.

The Gardens

The gap in the hedge leads to the first of three gardens. The first garden is a formal garden of box hedges and flowers. It’s on the site of the former cemetery and affords a wonderful view of the southern side of the abbey church. Continue through to the vegetable garden and finally into the medicinal herb garden.

benedictine abbey church

The Monks’ Refectory

This huge barn was constructed in the 14th century. The refectory would have completed the south side of the cloister.

It originally had 3 floors; the ground floor was the refectory, the first floor was the dormitory and the top floor was a small chapel. There’s some fascinating architectural detail in the refectory. The displays of glazed floor tiles and three tombstones of the abbey’s benefactors are wonderful. These were discovered in the ruins of the abbey in 1932 by Charles Dewey. There are also interesting decorations high up on the walls. Leave through the main door, exit through the garden and you’re back in the abbey’s courtyard. If you walk along the south side of the refectory you’ll see the remains of a staircase on the far corner of the building.

Practical Information

Longues sur Mer abbey is located at 17 rue de l’abbaye, 14400 Longues-sur-Mer. There’s a car park that is clearly marked from the main road. Park here and then walk back to the main road through the gate you’ve driven through. The buildings adjacent to the car park are private although they belong to the abbey. The entrance is via the gatehouse.

Longues sur Mer abbey

The abbey is open from May through to July from Tuesday to Saturday inclusive. Opening hours are 2 – 6pm. There’s more information on this website or you can follow the abbey on Facebook @AbbayedeLongues. It costs 5€ to visit and under 18s go free.

The abbey has been selected to participate in the 2019 heritage lottery for some much-needed restoration funds. You can watch the video below to see an aerial view of the abbey. But do go and visit in person to experience the calm and serene surroundings as you’re transported back through the centuries.

If this has whetted your appetite, then here are 10 more Normandy abbeys and castles to visit.

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.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE

Coutances – A Normandy Garden

Coutances - A Normandy Garden

I made the most of the sunshine earlier in the week while I was in Coutances. I took these quick pics on my phone in the Jardin des Plantes. It’s one of Normandy’s oldest gardens and is a mix of French and English influences.

Coutances - A Normandy Garden

The team of gardeners work hard to keep it looking immaculate. I always look forward to the themed planting. There is always a focal point. In previous years I’ve seen a 2CV car, a bee, an art easel, Disney characters a three tier cake and a bicycle for the Tour de France. They certainly are creative. The photos below are from previous years.

Coutances

Currently the planting is colourful rather than themed. Beds of purples and pinks contrast with yellows and oranges.

Coutances - A Normandy Garden Coutances - A Normandy Garden Coutances - A Normandy Garden Coutances - A Normandy Garden Coutances - A Normandy Garden

The garden is spread over several levels. Children can amuse themselves in the playground area and also have fun racing up the raised maze.

The remainder of the week was changeable weather-wise. However, the sun is out again. I’ve cut the lawn and also sat outside in the sun for a while. I do hope my guests are enjoying the good weather and will get the chance to visit the gardens which is just across the square from the cathedral. This is the view from the garden entrance looking towards Coutances cathedral.

Coutances - A Normandy Garden

Top 10 Tips For Visiting Mont-Saint-Michel

Top 10 Tips Mont Saint Michel

Top 10 Tips Mont Saint Michel

Here are my top 10 tips for visiting Mont-Saint-Michel.

  1. Factor in time to get from the car park to the island. It could take half an hour depending on where you park. Try and park as near to the shuttle buses as possible. Check out the Tourist Information Centre leaflet which has a map of the car park.
  2. The shuttle buses run very frequently so although there may be a queue you shouldn’t have too long to wait. The shuttle buses are free. There are 4 drop off/pick up points – the car park, the shops, the dam and the island.
  3. Some ticket machines for the car park only take cash and others only take credit card. Take your car parking ticket with you and pay for it before you return to your vehicle. Parking ticket machines are near the Tourist Information Centre and the main walkways to the car parks.
  4. Dogs aren’t allowed on the shuttle bus or in the abbey. They are permitted to go on the island and possibly in bars and restaurants depending on their policy.
  5. Check the tide times and opening times of the abbey. During the summer the abbey is open late. As Saturday is often a day when people start or end their holidays, it can be a good day to visit. The island is always open so if you arrive early before the abbey or shops open, you can still wander round enjoying the views.
  6. There are a lot of steps on the island and in the abbey. Taking a pushchair isn’t recommended due to the steps and cobbled streets.
  7. Restrooms are located near the Tourist Information Office, (inside the main entrance to the island) at the top of La Grande Rue and at the top of the first staircase in the abbey.
  8. Refreshments can be purchased before you get to the island in the shops near the car park or in the bars and restaurants on the island. Food and drink shouldn’t be consumed in the abbey.
  9. If you are going to go to the abbey, plan your route up to it. During peak season, the island is very busy. The main entrance leads to a narrow cobbled street (La Grande Rue) with bars and restaurants that leads up to the abbey. Most people take this route. There is a staircase immediately after the post office (La Poste) which is on the left near the main entrance. Although it’s a lot of steps to climb it can be preferable to the narrow main street. A better option is to avoid the main entrance completely. Instead, as you approach the island, look over to the left where there is a turreted structure and an archway. It’s not always accessible during the high tides. This is a gentler and quieter route.
  10. Take your time in the abbey as doubling back isn’t easy. Pick up a leaflet in the ticket hall that gives a map of the abbey’s layout as this will help you to get your bearings.

For more information, check out this in-depth guide with  more tips for visiting Mont Saint Michel. You’ll also be able to browse photos, videos and practical information.

Mont-Saint-Michel ramparts

Salle des Chevaliers at Mont-Saint-Michel
Salle des Chevaliers at Mont-Saint-Michel

 

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.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE

Top 3 Omaha Beach Places To Visit

Normandy American Cemetery

If I had to choose my top 3 Omaha Beach places to visit I’d opt for La Pointe du Hoc, the Normandy American Cemetery and Les Braves. In just over 7 weeks time Normandy will be hosting events for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

I visited these 3 Omaha Beach spots in February 2018 on a chilly but sunny day. I wanted blue sky for the photos I was going to take and I wasn’t disappointed. Rather than visit a museum, I chose 2 places where there were visitor centres. This gave me a real feel for the challenges that the American troops faced at Omaha Beach.

Normandy American Cemetery

It took me around an hour to drive to Omaha Beach. I started my day at La Pointe du Hoc. It’s between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. You can read about my visit here. I genuinely felt as if history came to life as I walked around this battle site.

D-Day

 

Next on my list was Les Braves. This beautiful steel sculpture is on the beach just beyond the memorial. Again, the clock seemed to roll back as I thought about the men who lost their lives on this beach. My review is here and includes a video of the beach.

D-Day

My final stop was the Normandy American Cemetery. The visitor centre is very informative and the cemetery itself is unforgettable. It is beautifully maintained and a fitting tribute to those for whom Normandy is their final resting place. The drone footage in my review article shows the extent of the site.

Normandy American Cemetery Normandy American Cemetery

 

It is still one of the most memorable days I’ve had in Normandy. I can still recall the emotion I felt as I visited each of these 3 amazing sites. Time now stands still for these heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.

For more information about Omaha Beach visit this page.

English Canons At Mont-Saint-Michel

Canons at Mont-Saint-Michel

I saw some fabulous old photos of English canons at Mont-Saint-Michel today. They were on the Facebook page of Archives départmentales de la Manche. I hope the link below works but if not do find their post from 8th April and take a look at the additional photos.

The canons are English and were used during the Hundred Year’s War to try and take over the island of Mont-Saint-Michel. In 1434 the English troops settled on the nearby island of Tombelaine. They were unsuccessful in their attempts to break the Mont’s defences. Today it remains the only part of Normandy not to be conquered by the English soldiers. Following their failure to capture the island, these canons were abandoned. They have since been installed just inside the main entrance. They are called Les Michelettes and each one weighs 2.5 tonnes. I have to confess I’ve never seen them. Possibly because I often take a quieter route up to the abbey that doesn’t involve going through the main entrance. I must pay attention the next time I visit!

Canons at Mont-Saint-Michel

Photo credit: Jean Bazard

Alternative link to Archives departementales de la Manche

 

British Memorial On Sword Beach

British memorial on Sword Beach

There are a number of memorials on Sword Beach stretching from Ouistreham in the East to Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer in the West.

British memorial on Sword Beach

This British memorial on Sword Beach is dedicated to the following commando units of the 1st Special Service Brigade:

No. 3 Commando – Lieutenant Colonel Peter Young
No. 4 Commando – Lieutenant Colonel Robert Dawson
177 French Marine Commandos from No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando, commanded by Commandant Philippe Kieffer
No. 6 Commando – Lieutenant Colonel Derek Mills-Roberts
No. 45 (Royal Marine) Commando – Lieutenant Colonel Charles Ries

British memorial on Sword Beach

The 1st Special Service Brigade was a commando brigade of the British Army. It was formed during the Second World War and consisted of elements of the British Army (including British Commandos) and the Royal Marines. On 6 December 1944, the Brigade was redesignated 1st Commando Brigade.

British memorial on Sword Beach

The commando units landed here on D-Day, 6th June 1944. You can find the memorial at 15 Boulevard Maritime in Colleville-Montgomery. It’s at the intersection of rue Vauban and looks out onto Sword Beach.

For more information about Sword Beach visit this page.

An Historic Look at Blainville-sur-Mer

Blainville-sur-Mer

The Normandy village of Blainville-sur-Mer enjoys an enviable position on the Cotentin coast. It is fortunate to have a natural harbour giving fantastic views.

Coutances Tourist Office has produced a map of a walking circuit you can do to explore the village. You can download a copy here.

The walk is around 17km although you can reduce it as there is an alternative route. Highlights of the walk include the 15th century sailors chapel, the natural harbour, the 12th century church and some very grand dwellings.

Blainville-sur-Mer Blainville-sur-Mer

The five grand properties are dotted along Rue de Bas. It was originally called Rue des Libraries or Booksellers Street.

Blainville-sur-Mer Blainville-sur-MerSeveral local young men decided to try and make their fortune in Paris rather than work in the maritime industry locally. They became booksellers and printers and were successful. When they returned to Blainville-sur-Mer they built very grand residences and so the street was named after their former profession.

Blainville-sur-Mer Blainville-sur-Mer

 

Mont-Saint-Michel From a Drone

Mont-Saint-Michel From a Drone

Mont-Saint-Michel at high tide is an incredible sight. The island becomes cuts off from the mainland giving you plenty of time to explore while waiting for the tide to recede.

Mont Saint Michel from a drone

The video below was filmed from a drone and shows the island’s setting. It really does seem to rise majestically from the bay. It’s also very impressive when you catch your first glimpse of it in the distance. It can be seen from the D175/176 that runs from Avranches in Normandy to Dol-de-Bretagne in Brittany. There is also a good view from the Jardin des Plantes in Avranches, Pointe du Grouin du Sud (a viewing point around 5km across the bay) and from the German cemetery at Huisnes-sur-Mer.

Mont Saint Michel from a drone

For an in-depth look at Mont-Saint-Michel this guide has photos, videos, drone footage and information about the whole island.