Basse-Normandie Things to Do Tips by Mikebond
Basse-Normandie Things to Do: 150 reviews and 252 photos
the castle with the gardens
The small village of Balleroy is just mentioned in the guide my parents and I used to visit Normandie, still it really deserves a visit for several reason: it is one of the first examples of town planning and it has a nice castle hosting the Musée des Ballons.
The château de Balleroy, finished in 1631, was one of the first works by François Mansart, who gave the name to the mansard. The garden was designed by the famous architect André le Nôtre, who operated a lot in the Parisian region. However, the characteristic of Balleroy is that the streets were built starting from the castle.
American politician Malcolm Forbes fell in love with the castle and acquired it in 1970. The world's first balloon museum opened in 1975. Many documents about the history ballooning, as well as Forbes' balloon are exhibited there. Every year, an international ballooning meeting takes place in the gardens of the castle. Many different posters commemorating these events can be bought in the shop.
These are the reasons why I highly recommend visiting Balleroy, although many guides don't mention it.
Address: between Bayeux and Saint-Lô
Directions: D572 road
Caen, the capital city of Calvados, is a city with a long history and many monuments and museums, so it really deserves a visit.
Worth seeing are the Cathédrale de Saint-Étienne, built under William the Conqueror, the Abbaye aux Femmes, erected by his wife, as well as the château; in the are of the castle you should visit the great Musée des Beaux Arts ("Museum of Fine Arts") and, if you have time, the Musée de Normandie, about traditional life in the region. Another must is the Mémorial de Caen, the most important museum in Normandie about the D-Day. However, my parents and I didn't visit it because we had already visited many war museums.
For more information, you can visit my Caen page.
Omaha Beach in Port-en-Bessin
The so-called landing beaches or D-Day beaches cover most of the coast of Calvados as far as the beginning of the paeninsula of Cotentin.
They are, from East to West, Sword Beach, Juno Beach, Gold Beach, Omaha Beach and Utah Beach. They bear the names of the coded names that the allies used to prepare the liberation of Europe from nazism.
D-Day occurred in the morning of 6th June 1944, when the American paratroops landed on the Norman beaches between 6 and 6.30. That day marked the start of operation Overlord.
The number of museums, memorials or other monuments about the D-Day is considerable. I can mention:
- the Musée du Débarquement in Arromanches-les-Bains (photos to come);
- German defensive posts in Port-en-Bessin;
- the already mentioned American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer;
- the Musée des Troupes aéroportées in Sainte-Mère-Église, the village where the film The longest day was took. The museum has the shape of a parachute (photos to come).
The cimetière américain de Normandie is the largest war cemetery in the region and, maybe, in France. It lies along Omaha Beach between Colleville-sur-Mer and Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer. There you will see a row of 9386 tombs of American soldiers who rest in their homeland. No, I am not wrong, because the area of the cemetery is an American enclave in France: this is the reason why the American flag waves over the tombs.
The American cemetery is a must for a historical tour of Normandie, but also normal tourists should visit it.
Address: along Omaha Beach
Directions: near Bayeux
Cathédrale de Notre-Dame
Bayeux is a small town of the Calvados and it has become famous for two events: the battle of Hastings (1066) whose story is narrated in the tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde and the landing on the Norman beaches (6th June 1944), not far from the town itself. It is almost a miracle that the centre of Bayeux wasn't bombed by the allied troops during their militar operation to set Europe free. So, tourists can still admire the beautiful Cathédrale de Notre-Dame, the above mentioned "tapestry" and two museums: Musée Baron-Gérard with historic and art collections, and the Musée Mémorial de la Bataille de Normandie. I don't remember if my parents and I visited these museums.
Directions: N13 road to the West of Caen
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