A shot of Maison D'Oze, from the small garden behind, with the Alençon's Cathedral in the background.

The making of a Saint, Alençon, France

In En-Route, Europe, France, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel by Janis2 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.

A shot of Maison D'Oze, from the small garden behind, with the Alençon's Cathedral in the background.

Maison D'Oze and Cathedral

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.

Quick Links

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.
A gable end shot of a pale green fronted bistro on the roue Suisse-Normande.

Auberge de la Suisse Normande

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 road sign on the D166 through Normandy indicating you are following the route 'La Suisse Normande'

La Suisse Normande

A bridge, lined with flowers in windowboxes, on the  route 'La Suisse Normande' through Normandy.

Flowers on the route Suisse-Normande

A view from a vantage point of the landscape that makes up the route 'La Suisse Normande' through Normandy.

A view over the route Suisse-Normande

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

Tempted to?

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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.

The round 'La Halle au Blé', a former wheat trading centre, with its glass dome, on an overcast day in Alençon.

La Halle au Blé

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.

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.


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.
The two round stone tower of 'Le Château des Ducs' in Alençon.

Le Château des Ducs

The Gestapo used it during WWII for horrific crimes, and it is only in recent times (2010) that it closed its doors to prisoners.
The street view looking towords impressive stone towers of the entrance to 'Le Château des Ducs' in Alençon.

Looking back to Le Château des Ducs

Image

Palais de Justice

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.
A partially desaturated image of the town hall, or L'Hôtel de Ville, of Alençon.  The only colour in the shot is the red & yellow of the Normandy flag and the blue and yellow of the E.U. flag.

L'Hôtel de Ville and the flag of Normandy

Scattered around the L’Hôtel de Ville are some interesting sculptures and an adjoining garden, which was a really peaceful spot to rest in.
A close-up shot of the town hall, or L'Hôtel de Ville, in Alençon.

The Town Hall

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.
The exterior of a 17th-century Baroque church now repurposed to create a public library in Alençon.

L'Eglise des Jésuites

A fantastic 18th-century wood panelled library, full of medieval manuscripts, you feel like you have entered Harry Potter’s world.
The reading room in Alençon public library. Ornately, Art Deco styled wooden bookcases line each side, with a more modern beach table with individual desk lights in the centre.  Stunning red chair and reading mat complete the view.

All quiet in the library

Art deco-styled wooden bookcases line each side of the reading room in Alençon public library.

Inside the Library

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.

A stone bust of Léon de La Sicotière in a garden in the centre of Alençon, Normandy

Léon de La Sicotière

Maison à l Étal; a 16th-century building that would have served as both a come and shop in Alençon, Normandy

Maison à l'Étal

A four storey, half-timbered, building in the centre of Alençon, Normandy

Half-Timbered

A large wooden door in a stone arch to the Hotel Dieu, which would have been a hospital for the poor & need of Alençon, France.

Hotel Dieu

The ramparts and stone wall that would have once marked the edge of old Alençon, Normandy.

The Historic Foundations

A building whose facade is covered with wooden tiles in the centre of  Alençon

Rue du Jeudi

A half-timbered building that is now a private home in the centre of Alençon, Normandy.

A half-timbered home

The 18th-century building that now is home to the Préfecture de l Orne in the centre of Alençon, Normandy.

Préfecture de l'Orne

The story continues…

For a fairly small town, Alençon has quite a bit of history, its most famous daughter being Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
A tiny little chapel built next to the home of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux in the centre of Alençon, Normandy

Maison Natale de Sainte Thérèse

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.

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Or alternatively jump on Le Shuttle and tour through France under your own steam.

Notre-Dame

The Cathedral, Alençon, Normandy, France

The Cathedral

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.

The entrance to the Gothic Basilica of Notre-Dame in Alençon, Normandy.

Entrance to the Cathedral

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

A stained glass window, next to the font, in the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Alençon, Normandy.

Traditional stained glass windows

A modern art stained glass window under the vaulted ceiling of a chapel within the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Alençon, Normandy.

Modern stained glass windows

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.
The Alençon tourist office in Maison D Ozé building.

Maison D'Ozé, Alençon

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.

The memorial to General Leclerc in Alençon.  The brass statue of Leclerc stands in front of two large tables that list his campaigns, with a Cross of Lorraine extruded from join in them.

Leclerc Memorial

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.

A half-timbered shop in the centre of Alençon selling all manner of local produce & gifts for tourists.

All things traditional

On the pedestianised corner of Grand Rue in Alençon.

Where the roads meet

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 plate of 3 different types of meat, served with potato roti, and colourful sauces.

A meat feast at Chez Fano

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.
A meat feast served with a salad and chunky fries.

Meat at Le Bistro

Great value fixed price menus and some little treats off the a la carte.
Poached apples with a calvados sauce and a pastry twist

Apples of course, at Le Bistro

Have You?

Discovered any French towns that you are keeping to yourselves, we’d love to know?

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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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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Comments

  1. Wow! I almost felt like walking in the midst of these old buildings, streets and squares. It’s so gorgeous!

    1. Author

      Yes, it was a lovely town, full of so much history and charm. It had some great little restaurants too.

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