Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A-Z Blogging Challenge - Normandy

This will be a whistle-stop tour of some of the places I’ve visited in Normandy, in the north of France, during my several visits to the area.

Caen, now capital of the Basse-Normandie region, was William the Conqueror’s city, and the castle he built there has been restored following the damage it suffered during World War II. It now contains the Museum of Normandy and the Museum of Fine Arts. The Abbaye des Hommes was the final resting place of William the Conqueror but his grave was destroyed by the Calvinists in the 16th century.

Not far from Caen is the town of Bayeux. Its main claim to fame (and the reason for most tourist visits) is the Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the events leading up to the Norman Conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy in 1066. Tapestry is the wrong word, as it is actually an embroidered cloth, 22feet long (68m) and 1.6 wide (0.5m). French legend says that Odo, bishop of Bayeux (and Duke William’s half-brother), commissioned the tapestry and that it was created by William’s wife, Mathilde, and her maid-servants. However, various other theories exist, and many historians now think it was designed and created by Anglo-Saxon embroiderers in England.

Moving forward in history brings us to Rouen, the capital of Haute-Normandie, at one time the capital of Anglo-Norman dynasty. Edward IV, king of England in the 15th century, was born in Rouen in 1442. Eleven years earlier, Joan of Arc had been burned at the stake in the city.

Rouen’s Cathedral is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture, and several famous people are buried here, including Rollo, the Viking founder of the principality that became known as Normandy. There is also a tomb that contains the heart of Richard the Lionheart (the rest of him is buried at Fontevraud Abbey near Chinon).
In the 20th century, the Normandy landings in June 1944, led to the liberation of Normandy from the Germans, and two months later, to the liberation of France, and within a year, the defeat of Germany.There are still many reminders of the battles which took place in the summer of 1944. At Arromanches, you can still see the remains of the ‘Mulberry’ (artificial) harbours,built by the Allies to facilitate the unloading of cargo during the invasion of Normandy. Prefabricated in Britain, they were towed across the English Channel. Arromanches also has a museum dedicated to the invasion.
Remains of Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches

Further west the coast was the area designated as ‘Omaha Beach’, one of the five sectors of the invasion, where American troops attacked to secure a beachhead linking two of the other sectors (Gold and Utah). The defences were unexpectedly strong and the American forces sustained heavy losses during the landing and the fighting that followed. The Normandy American Cemetery was created on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, and contains the remains of nearly 10,000 American service personnel, most of whom were killed during the Normandy invasion. The names of a further 1,500 of the missing are shown on the walls surrounding the garden near the main memorial. The cemetery was shown at the beginning of Spielberg’s movie, Saving Private Ryan.



  1. On my list along Provence for a road trip

    1. Come back on Friday for a trip to Provence, Claudia :-)

  2. My favorite thing about Europe is the age of everything. Here in the states, if something is 100 years old it's OLD and if it's older than that, it's ANCIENT. But over by you, things really are ancient. One hundred years is just a drop in the bucket.

  3. That's true, Debra. Here 100 years ago is relatively modern! Old is medieval or Roman, and ancient is prehistoric! My Canadian friends were so excited to see prehistoric remains when I took them to Ireland,