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Normandy, the cradle of the English Kings – Part 1

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Normandy is very renowned for its beaches where soldiers landed on D-day as well as its “bocage” landscape, however it is also the cradle of the English Kings and particularly William the Conqueror.

Used Cars of Bristol invites you to join a beautiful road trip along the path of history, modern and less so. Drive to Poole and board the ferry to Cherbourg, the crossing should take about 4.5 hours.


Known in French culture by the musical film “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), this port-city was founded by a local Celtic tribe, however the development happened with the arrival of the Vikings during the 9th century. During the Middle-Ages it became a stronghold of the Anglo-Norman crown and remained so until 1450 when it was seized after the battle of Formigny, therefore ending the English grasp over Normandy. Between the 17th and the 19th century the city became one of the major military ports of France under the impulsion of King Louis XIV, Vauban (Marshal of France and General Commissioner of the Fortifications) suggested fortifying the roadstead of the city to protect the harbour from English attacks, however it was the fear of these attacks that pushed the King to stop the works. It was under Napoleon Bonaparte that the works restarted and would continue until 1853. In the 20th century, the harbour became a port of sail towards the United States and the Americas in general; the RMS Titanic made its first stop there en route to New York.

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When in Cherbourg we advise you take the time to visit places like:

The Cité de la Mer à One of France’s largest oceanographic museums
The Harbour
The Basilique de la Sainte Trinité
If you are hungry we suggest that you have some mussels with chips at the café du port located on the Quai de Caligny. If you have taken the ferry in the afternoon we recommend that you book at a room at the Hotel-Restaurant La Régence, it is located a stone’s throw away from the Casino.

When you are done we suggest you head towards Bayeux, however for those who are fond of WW2 history we recommend you take the N13 to cross Sainte-Mère Eglise, when you reach Osmanville take the D514 and enjoy Omaha Beach which extends between Saint-Pierre-du-Mont and Sainte-Honorine des Pertes. Once you reach Cabourg take the D6 towards Bayeux. It should roughly take you 1.5 hours.


Known for its tapestry dating from the 11th century often called the tapestry of Queen Mathilda, Bayeux was founded during the 1st century AD by the Romans as Augustodurum, however following the fall of the Roman Empire the city saw many people such as the Saxons or the Vikings and later the English. The city has long been a religious seal with the presence of the Bishop’s seal, during the religion wars of the 16thcentury the city was often a victim of the tensions between the Protestants and the Catholics. During the 18th century the city developed a strong manufacturing industry with a focus on the production of lace and porcelain.

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Here are the must dos of the city, you can find specific information here:

Centre Guillaume le Conquérant
Cathedral Notre-Dame
Museum Baron Gérard
Museum of the Battle of Normandy
British War Cemetery

If you are hungry the Restaurant Le Pommier should appease your stomach, we recommend the “Gourmet Menu Norman”. If you feel like resting and need a place to crash the Hotel Villa Lara is a great place to stay. For those who feel it’s not too late drive to Caen, if there is no traffic it should take ½ an hour via the N13.


The capital of William the Conqueror sometimes named “The city of the hundred bell towers” inherited a large history issued from the multiplicity of people that lived there. Inhabited since prehistoric times, the city rose between the 1st and 3rd century AD along the road leading from Augustodurum (Bayeux) to Noviomagus (Lisieux). During the 7th century, missionaries coming from Bayeux build oratories along the ancient Roman road at the centre of isolated villages; however, the Norman Invasions interrupted this process. During the 10th century the Dukes of Normandy reinitiated the urban development with a satellite pattern (a city and several small parishes around). This urbanisation continues and is supported by William the Conqueror’s policies. The city was granted its charters by John Lackland and is therefore authorised to build a belfry with a bell, a city hall and obtains its own seal. The city became English for roughly a hundred years and developed substantially thanks to its Lord Governor John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford who had founded the University of Caen. In the late 15th century, King Louis XI granted the right by letters patent to establish a fair in Caen. The 16th century was marked by the dominance of the Huguenots and their hatred for everything Catholic that led them to profane King William’s and Queen Mathilda’s tombs. The 17th century was a troubled period for the city, as well as major urbanism changes in order to open the city and make it healthier. During WW2 about 68% of the city was razed to the ground.

Here are some must-dos of the city

Visit the Museum of Normandy
Visit the Castle of the Dukes of Normandy
The Abbaye aux Hommes and the Abbaye aux Dames
The Caen War Memorial

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If you are hungry and feel brave enough you can try the Tripes à la Mode de Caen (Stewed tripe) at La Taverne Normande 45 avenue du 6 juin. If you need a place to stay get a room at the 2-star Hôtel du Havre. Whenever you are ready to leave take the A84 and take the exit 42 and switch to the D577 to Vire allow an hour for the journey.


Vire is a recent city that grew around the dungeon built by Henry I of England, becoming a stronghold whose role was to ensure the safety of the domain against the troops of the Counts of Anjou or the Lords of Britanny. During the 13th century, Louis XI of France completed the ramparts with a second wall. By the end of the Middle-Ages the city prospered thanks to its tannery industry, then by a strong textile industry. The English occupation during the Hundred-Years-War was particularly brutal. Under King Louis XIII many medieval defences were dismantled to avoid them being used by the Huguenots. Following the French and Indian War and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the textile industry (the economic powerhouse of the city) lost one of its most important export destinations. The 19th century was the turning point as the industrialisation did not pick up in the area and led to an important recession. World War 2 almost wiped out the city; 95% of its buildings being razed to the ground by the bombings.

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We decided to take you here more as a culinary stop rather than cultural so you can try the famous Andouille de Vire; a smoked pork sausage typical of the city, one of the best places is the caterer Paul Danjou located 5 rue André Halbout in Vire.

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You can still visit the following landmarks:

The Dungeon of the Castle
The Clock-gate
The Museum of Vire
If you want to rest go to the Hôtel-Restaurant Révotel and relax before part 2 of our road trip in Normandy.

We leave you here for the moment but stay tuned and we will continue our road trip in the 2nd Part of our series about Normandy.

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