AFTER leaving the fascinating and historical city of Rouen and visits to two outstanding abbeys with strong Benedictine connections, we made our way to Bayeux staying in the centre of the town at the comfortable Hotel Reine Mathilde.

After a busy day in Rouen touring the principal sights we looked forward to our reservation for dinner at one of Bayeux’s most highly regarded restaurants — L’angle Saint Laurent — and we were not disappointed.

Imaginatively presented and locally sourced supplies of raw materials were employed by the chef/patron Sébastien Remy with clearly very sound cooking skills and an awareness of good flavour combinations.

We explored Bayeux including their cathedral. Again, the dominance of the church in Normandy during the medieval era was reinforced by this imposing structure.

We learned from our guide how the town was saved from Allied bombing when a local priest managed to reach Allied lines to inform the commanders that the Germans had retreated to Caen.

Therefore the town, although virtually emptied of it population who had fled, survived intact, including its cathedral.

Bayeux’s most famous artefact, the Tapestry, was formerly hung up in the cathedral once a year on a feast day and then rolled-up and stored in a wooden chest.

Twice the tapestry was nearly consumed by flames when fires broke out in medieval times and was nearly cut up into pieces to cover army wagons during the French Revolution, but saved by a forward-thinking army captain.

After being kept safe at Le Mans during WW2 the tapestry was returned to Bayeux and since 1983 it has been on display at a 17th century former seminary in the town.

The tapestry is must-see for anyone visiting Normandy. It is very well presented being entirely rolled out and placed at eye-height vertically and carefully illuminated so as not to damage this UNESCO registered cultural and historical asset.

The audio-guides ensure that you get to hear and understand the features of each ‘frame’ of the tapestry without being hurried or crowded.

The tapestry, on first viewing seems simple at first. But when the audio-guide points out features you realise the value of this amazing artefact with its historical testament coupled with humour and an insight into Norman and Saxon politics. This was very much a highlight of our tour.

On to nearby Caen, a city which suffered much during the liberation of France in 1944, where a significant German garrison was stationed.

This largely showed in the 50s/60s style utilitarian architecture of the town but there were some very rewarding medieval sites that survived.

I walked across town between the two Abbayes — aux Dames and aux Hommes — founded by that major player and star of the Bayeux Tapestry, William the Conqueror, and funded and built, possibly as an act of seeking forgiveness from the Papacy, as a result of marriage to his cousin Matilda of Flanders, which breached the then strict consanguinity rules.

The Holy Trinity Abbey church attached to the Abbaye aux Dames is a masterpiece of Romanesque Norman art and was the most beautiful of all the churches I entered on the trip.

The Abbey Church of Saint-Étienne attached to the Abbaye aux Hommes is the burial place of William although the tomb and his remains over the centuries has been vandalised.

His consort Matilda is buried at the Holy Trinity Abbey church. Matilda gave birth to 10 children fathered by William including two future kings, William II and Henry I A brief visit to the Chateau of Caen, with its Norman origins, dominates the town and affords excellent views of the town and buildings we had visited and passed.

For dinner we ventured into a small medieval area that survived 1944 called the Vaugueux and dined at one of the quirkiest buildings in a restaurant called the Clou de Girofle. The cuisine and service were a delight led and conducted by a young enthusiastic team. My wife enjoyed the Normandy Chicken Pays d’Auge, which was her favourite dish of the trip.

For our final day in Normandy, making our way back to Dieppe, we stopped at Fécamp to visit the Benedictine Palais, where I had my encounter with not one, not two, but four different Benedictine liqueurs.

Although there are monastic origins to the famous Benedictine Liqueur, it’s international success as a brand was down to the vision of an amazing 19th century businessman and character with the unforgettable name of Alexandre Le Grand.

Even if you don’t drink alcohol or don’t like liqueurs the Palais is an absolute must-see in terms of its flamboyant style — combining various architectural and decorative styles — and a testimony to Alexandre’s self-promotion, marketing skills and his varied and eclectic taste in art and collectibles.

Before we embarked for our DFDS ferry home, we had a short tour of Dieppe. The town is a delight and in itself makes a lovely seaside holiday location with many hotels with views across to the beach and sea. The town also faces inland to a bustling fishing and yacht harbour with an array of bars, restaurants and cafes.

For a weekday in June the town was buzzing. The town has medieval origins and was an important port and stage from England of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella, and this is confirmed in the use of scallop shell designs in the St Jacques Church which has medieval roots, being first built during the reign of Henry II (Plantagenet).

Inside there are carvings to seafarers and of ‘exotic peoples’ discovered by them. Dieppe was also an important entry point into Europe for the ivory trade and there was a significant industry of carving once in the town.

In summary, Normandy has something for everyone. History, culture, beautiful beaches, breathtaking landscapes, all kinds of leisure activities and wonderful dining.


For further information visit: DFDS offers three daily sailings between Newhaven and Dieppe in both directions from May to September and two daily sailings at all other times. Passengers can travel in a car or on foot and the crossing takes four hours.

On-board facilities include a dedicated children’s area, shop and restaurant serving hot food, and a number of cabins. The Newhaven-Dieppe DFDS service is the most direct car and ferry route between London and Paris.

A crossing for a car and 2 people costs from £49 each way. For 2 adults and 2 children with a car, you’ll pay from £57 each way. Sailings available to book up until 6 November 2017. To book visit