The making of a Saint, Alençon, France

In Europe, Far, France, Our Journeys, Road Trips, Trip-Types by Janis0 Comments

Not so well trodden

The next stop on our Normandy road trip after Caen was the town of Alençon, before planning this trip I had never actually heard of Alençon, but we often like to throw in a less obvious town, to make the adventure a little bit more unique.

Maison D'Oze and Cathedral, Alençon, Normandy, France

This was originally going to be our final stop in Normandy, but as it has been ten years since Gary & I was last in this region, I couldn’t resist adding a cheeky night in Honfleur on our return journey. Not that Gary took much persuading.

Suisse Normande Trail

However, as usual, we never like to take the direct route, so we headed south from Caen and picked up the 65k (40-mile) Suisse Normande tourist trail, that runs along the River Orne.

Auberge de la Suisse Normande, Thury-Harcourt Normandy, France
La Suisse Normande, Normandy, France
Flowers on the route Suisse-Normande, Normandy, France

The route takes you through some very rural locations, passing by lovely small towns & villages and over the fantastic landscape, from which you can see for miles.

A view over the route Suisse-Normande, Normandy, France

Back en-route we then head onto Alençon, where we have a full day of discovery ahead of us.

À pied

Our first impressions of the town were very positive, it had a real local feel about it and as a tourist felt very welcoming (which is always a good thing).

So, after our petit dejeuner in a local café, we took to the streets.

La Halle au Blé, Alençon, Normandy, France

All within a short stroll of each other are some wonderful landmarks, firstly La Halle au Blé, an entirely circular building that was originally used for wheat trading, in 1865 a large glass dome was added.

Even the Gestapo

Then there is le Chateau des Ducs, although what remains is now a shadow of its former self, it has been witness to some rich history, including an invasion from William the Conqueror.

Le Château des Ducs, Alençon, Normandy, France

The Gestapo used it during WWII for horrific crimes, and it is only in recent times (2010) that it closed its doors to prisoners.

Looking back to Le Château des Ducs, Alençon, Normandy, France
Palais de Justice, Alençon, Normandy, France

Close by is the neoclassical Palais de Justice built between 1818 – 1824 and also the prominent 18th-century L’Hôtel de Ville, with its curved façade.

L'Hôtel de Ville and the flag of Normandy, Alençon, Normandy, France

Scattered around the L’Hôtel de Ville are some interesting sculptures and an adjoining garden, which was a really peaceful spot to rest in.

The Town Hall, Alençon, Normandy, France

On a road trip?

Try and pick a town you wouldn’t normally be drawn too. You’ll never know what you’ll find

Is it a church?

From the outside, the 17th-century Baroque church is quite impressive, but it’s not until you wander inside that you discover what’s behind its walls.

L'Eglise des Jésuites, Alençon, Normandy, France

A fantastic 18th-century wood panelled library, full of medieval manuscripts, you feel like you have entered Harry Potter’s world.

All quiet in the library, Alençon, Normandy, France
Inside the Library, Alençon, Normandy, France

What a find!

We continue to stroll around the town, and there are so many pieces of interesting architecture, half-timbered homes and fascinating buildings.

One of which is the 15th-Century Maison à l’Étal, below its curved slated roof remains the original stone slab, which was used to sell and display the merchandiser’s wares.

Léon de La Sicotière, Alençon, Normandy, France
Maison à l'Étal, Alençon, Normandy, France
Half-Timbered, Alençon, Normandy, France
Hotel Dieu, Alençon, Normandy, France
The Historic Foundations, Alençon, Normandy, France
Rue du Jeudi, Alençon, Normandy, France
A Half Timbered home, Alençon, Normandy, France
Préfecture de l'Orne, Alençon, Normandy, France

The story continues…

For a fairly small town, Alençon has quite a bit of history, its most famous daughter being Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.

Maison Natale de Sainte Thérèse, Alençon, Normandy, France

A large basilica was built and dedicated to her in the city of Lisieux, where she lived and died. However, there is an incredible little chapel in Alençon which was built in 1925 next to her family home.

Notre-Dame

The Cathedral, Alençon, Normandy, France

In the Basilica of Notre-Dame in the centre of town, a chapel is dedicated to Saint Thérèse. The basilica itself is of mixed styles due to the forces of nature, and damage and looting during the French Revolution.

Entrance to the Cathedral, Alençon, Normandy, France

Go take a look inside it has an unusual mixture of old & new stained glass windows.

Traditional stained glass windows, Alençon, Normandy, France
Modern stained glass windows, Alençon, Normandy, France

Across the Place de la Magdeleine is la Maison d’Oze, once a 15th-century stately home has since been refurbished and is now home to the tourist office.

Maison D Ozé, Alençon, Normandy, France

Liberation

Although Alençon was affected by war damage, it wasn’t as sustained as some Norman towns. Alençon was the first town to be liberated by the French Army under General Leclerc.

Leclerc Memorial, Alençon, Normandy, France

Point d’Alençon

During the 16th-century lace making became a prominent local industry & Alençon lace was worn by the French Royalty. Although lace making continued on a small scale by Carmelite nuns, to ensure the technique survived a workshop has been set up in the town.

All things traditional, Alençon, Normandy, France
Where the roads meet, Alençon, Normandy, France

Food glorious food

On our adventures around Normandy, we’ve had some fantastic food; I’d actually go as far as to say some of the best we have had in France.

A meat feast at Chez Fano, Alençon, Normandy, France

On our adventures around Normandy, we’ve had some fantastic food; I’d actually go as far as to say some of the best we have had in France. But while in Alençon we found a couple of little Bistros that we true gems Chez Fano & Le Bistrot.

Meat at Le Bistrot, Alençon, Normandy, France

Great value fixed price menus and some little treats off the a la carte.

Apples of course, at Le Bistrot, Alençon, Normandy, France

Where we stayed

Our accommodation for the two nights in Alençon was at the Hotel Ibis, it been a while since we stayed in an Ibis, but not for any particular reason. As you may expect the facilities were fairly basic, but the staff and the location were fantastic.

They didn’t have onsite parking, but there were spaces at the front of the hotel. It was payable but only between 9am-12 & 2pm-5pm & was pretty reasonable.

Inspired to visit Alençon?

Okay, so the weather didn’t look great, but that’s not an overriding memory of Alençon. It was great food, a warm welcome, and historic streets. A nice place to discover the real Normandy.

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The making of a Saint, Alençon, Normandy, France

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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The making of a Saint, Alençon, France was last modified: September 5th, 2017 by Janis