Here lies William the Conqueror
The Normandy road trip continues, and we are off to Caen in the heart of the Calvados region.
This was the second base for our trip, from here Gary and I will discover more about the historical events of WWII and the landing beaches, explore the city of Caen and embark on a day trip to Mont Saint-Michel.
From the UK one of the easiest ways to get to Caen is by ferry from Portsmouth with Brittany Ferries, which run daily sailings.
Alternatively, you could be on a road trip like us and come via Le Shuttle to Calais.
Or if you are flying into France pick up a car in Paris and head west and it is only 148 miles (238km).
A useful guide
We love visiting France and each region so different from one another. I find the DK Eyewitness Guides really helpful in planning a trip and so often find interesting little snippets of info.
Take a peek at this revised Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide and see what you can discover.
Day of discovery
Although we used Caen as a springboard to other places in Normandy, we wanted to explore the city itself.
If it’s good enough for William the Conqueror, it’s good enough for us.
Château de Caen is an ideal place to start your Journey.
Stroll across the bridge that straddles the original moat, and you are free to wander around the grounds of the castle and along the ramparts.
Originally built around 1060 by the Duke of Normandy (William the Conqueror), walk around the edge of the fortification and you’ll have far stretching views across the city.
His & Hers
One of the unique things about Caen is that it has two abbeys within the city, Abbaye aux Hommes (the Men’s Abbey) & Abbaye aux Dames (the Women’s Abbey). William the Conqueror had both of the abbeys built to appease the pope, as William had married his own cousin Mathilda of Flanders.
Abbaye aux Hommes was originally home to Benedictine monks, and now the convent buildings houses Caen’s, City Hall. The Abbey truly is a prominent part of the Romanesque and Gothic architecture and looks wonderful day & night.
It’s all about the ladies
Abbaye aux Dames on the other side of the city is another piece of fantastic Norman architecture, it was founded around the end of the 11th century and became the home to a Benedictine monastery of nuns. Mathilda of Flanders is buried here.
Due to Caen’s proximity to the sea, it has a lovely marina & quay and makes quite a focal point for the town.
Strolling along the marina on a Sunday (market day) it was bustling with locals perusing the 400 stalls.
We wandered back later in the evening, and it was like a different place, all the crowds had gone, and you could hear the yachts masts jangling in the evening breeze.
Walking the streets
As we continue to discover the town, the history through time and the amazing architecture surrounds you.
The area around Saint-Sauveur added another element to Caen, with its impressive elegant 18th-century square.
At the far end of the square is the Palais de Justice.
You certainly won’t be short of restaurants in Caen, and there were a couple of standout memories for me. I tried my first ever oeuf cocotte at a little bistro La Casiniere, Gary has been enjoying this dish for years, now I know why.
And I had my best ever profiterole experience at Casserole et Bouchons, and believe me I have had my fair share of profiteroles over the years.
They may not look that impressive, but they tasted delicious!!!
We also ate in Café Mango in Saint-Sauveur Square, the quality of the food was very impressive, I went for a little entree of prawns (this was a starter!!!)…
… and Gary indulged in steak tartare (you can probably tell, he’s not a vegetarian).
Our accommodation for the four nights in Caen was at the Best Western Le Dauphin Hotel, an extremely good location in the centre of town. However, we won’t be recommending it. You can find our review on Booking.com
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Inspired to visit Caen?
A city with so much history, explore by day, and enjoy great food at night.
Like us you can use it to explore the Normandy beaches.
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