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Bayeux

Bayeux boasts a well-preserved, creamy stone historic centre as well as its world-famous, UNESCO-listed tapestry depicting the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The city had the good fortune to be swiftly liberated by the Allies in June 1944 and escaped relatively intact.

Rick Steves recommends this town for D-Day touring, and I think I agree – it has many restaurants, unlike the rest of the area, and several charming places to stay. If you needed less of a ‘city’, guest houses in the country abound. On the downside, the town is sleepy and there’s not a ton to do. We did the walking tour (map available at the TI), the **Museum of Art and History Baron Gerard (fine), Cathedral (pretty) and visited the ***Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux, which is absolutely worth a stop. It’s a wonderful art piece (1000 years old!), with a lot of humor built in.

Food and Lodging:

  • *Le Pommier clearly caters to the tourists. It’s a nice setting, indifferent service, wedding-quality food reheated upon order.
  • **La Rapiere was really good – the owner is adorable, very friendly, and the food was regional and tasty.
  • **Le Clos de Bellefontaine: a gorgeous B&B to stay at – I have serious house envy. It’s quiet and grand, the owner is very helpful and friendly, awesome breakfast.
  • More restaurant ideas: http://www.bessin-normandie.com/uk/tourisme/restaurants/traditional-restaurants

D-Day Sites

This is pretty country (similar in appearance to Carmel and the beaches of Northern California) and there’s far too much to see – focus on 4 or 5 sites to fill a day. It’s very moving. Note this is not a ‘budget’ day – you’ll spend 10+ Euros at every stop (per person). 

From East to West along the coastline, we saw:

  • In Ver-sur-Mere, **L’Armoire Gourmande: A cute little shop with a good calvados and local product selection.
  • In Arromanches-les-Bains, the **Musée du Débarquement is interesting for its focus on the literal mechanics of offloading. It’s a charming, 1960s style museum, not very large. It will be replaced with a new structure in 2022-2023.
  • **Longues-sur-Mer Battery is worth a stop – open air, with the german artillery still in place.
  • In Colleville-sur-Mer ***The Normandy American Cemetery is not to be missed. It’s huge, very groomed, sobering. 
  • Nearby, the Overlord Museum is monumental. We ran out of time, but it is reportedly very good.

**Les flots bleus in Grandcamp-Maisy was perfectly adequate for lunch. I wouldn’t seek it out, but flagging as dining options are quite limited in this region, especially out of season. Grandcamp has a wide open beach and more working-class feel to it.

***The Airborne Museum is great – the gliders and parachutists who led the advance charge for D-Day. There’s a surviving glider (one of only 12), lots of detail about the movements and people involved, and moving content about the town itself (Sainte-Mère-Église).


Caen

Caen is a compact, elegant city, bookended with two Abbeys around the staggeringly large **Caen Castle, built by William the conqueror almost 1,000 years ago. The town was largely asleep during our visit, but we enjoyed walking from end to end, and a surprisingly good French-Mexican restaurant (**Mazorca). I wouldn’t make a major point of staying in Caen, but as a lunch stop it’s a good destination.

To the east, **Abbaye aux Dames de Caen is now out in the suburbs, but within easy walking distance of town. It lacks the grandeur, and of course the tomb, of William the conquerer himself, which you find about a mile away at **L’Abbaye-aux-Hommes. You’ll also find the good restaurants on the Hommes side.

In the middle of town, the castle grounds are impressive to circle. The museums themselves were closed during our visit. Across the way the **St Peter’s Catholic Church is most interesting for the photos inside of the aftermath of WWII on the surrounding area.

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