Bayeux and Caen, Two Local Gems
Fabulously rich in history, I just love taking visitors around these two towns (each is ideally suited to a two-hour discovery walk or a half day.)
Somewhat miraculously unscathed by the war, Bayeux is a smaller town and totally charming, with its riverside walk, medieval streets and houses...
It is of course home to the extarordinary Bayeux Tapestry, classed as world heritage by Unesco and a must-see if at all possible. The Tapestry was commissioned by William the Conqueror's half brother, Odon, Bishop of Bayeux. who also built the original Romanesque cathedral. Which is quite spectacular and well worth a visit.
The largest British and Commonwealth Cemetery in Normandy is also here, as Bayeux was the first big town to be liberated in 1944.
Bayeux offers an array of excellent hotels, restaurants and shops and is an ideal base for exploring the beaches and, indeed, the whole Lower Normandy region.
As a young Duke of Normandy needing to consolidate his power, William the Conqueror founded the town of Caen, first building his castle there, and then two abbeys : the Men's Abbey, where he himself is buried, and the Ladies' Abbey where his wife Mathilda was laid to rest.
The town grew through the centuries into what it is today: a busy regional capital and university town. And although the dreadful six-week Battle of Caen in 1944 entailed appalling destruction, the medieval monuments pulled through. The two abbey chuches are absolute masterpieces of Romanesque architecture and the castle is truly imposing and great fun to visit.
Just ten miles from the sea, Caen is the biggest town in the area and a gateway to the Landing Beaches. It is also home to the very impressive Mémorial museum (which you can visit on your own : set aside a morning or afternoon).