a weekend in Normandy
Friday 9th to Sunday 11th, September 2011
The ferry left Portsmouth at 7am, and we weren't sure how long boarding
and so forth would take, so we got up at 4am in the morning, after maybe
three and a half hours sleep. Urggh. Camilla is even less of a morning
person than me, so she napped while I drove to Portsmouth, which took
maybe an hour and a half in light rain, sitting at 75mph on the A34,
passing an unending line of lorries. In the end we had plenty of time.
The Channel was quiet and we had an easy trip over; this was the fast
ferry, taking about four hours, so we got to Ouistreham around noon
We had to wait for the bus
from there to Caen. There was a a big group of cyclists setting off -
one of them told us they were cycling 22 miles before lunch and had
1000m of climbing to do that day!
old houses in central Caen
Abbaye aux Hommes
In Caen we had to carry our luggage around, since there was nowhere to
leave it, but I'd realised this would be a problem so we had everything in
single backpacks. We started with a look at the Church of Saint-Pierre,
because the bus dropped us of there. Then we wandered down the main
pedestrianised area and had lunch, before going up to the castle area and
the Museum of Normandy. After tea we walked to the Abbaye aux Hommes,
where William the Conqueror was buried (though his remains and tombstone
have been lost).
We took the train to Bayeux, found the little B&B Aggarthi, hidden
away in in a courtyard barely a block from the Tapestry, and the friendly
hostess soon had us settled in and we were off to find dinner.
Bayeux is a lovely little town. The Bayeux Tapestry was the main
attraction for us, but the cathedral is also lovely, the weekly market
was on, and the town centre is fun to just walk around. A ten minute
walk or so from the centre we visited the Memorial Museum of the Battle
of Normandy, the British war cemetery, and a memorial to journalists
who have died in war.
That was more than enough to keep us busy for the day, and we fitted in
some good food as well.
Bayeux war cemetery
Bayeux war journalists memorial
On the Sunday morning we had a twenty minute wait on Bayeux's very sleepy
little station for the train to Cherbourg-Octeville.
The trip was also quiet, with views out the window of the bocage (a term I
was only familiar with from D-Day histories read as a teenager).
We walked up from the station to the city centre, but it being a Sunday
all the shops were shut and we had trouble finding somewhere to eat.
We looked at one church, but the main attraction was the Cité de la
Mer, an old harbour railway station which is now an aquarium —
and also hosts a decommissioned nuclear submarine the Redoubtable
which we visited. (The entire section that held the reactor has been
cut out and replaced with a replica.)
After that we had what seemed like a long walk around to the ferry
terminal — we had had to carry full packs all around Cherbourg.
Cité de la Mer
Redoutable nuclear submarine
one of the control rooms
The return ferry trip was restful and after an easy drive home we were
back in Oxford before midnight.
We didn't visit the Caen Memorial, or any of the D-Day beaches and
associated sights. If we'd had an extra day that would have made
a good excursion, either with our own car, on a guided tour, or possibly
braving the bus system.