Two for Normandy, Avranches and Les Andelys!

I am on the mood for Normandy, a treasure trove of goodies all over and now back to be call one whole Normandy again. We come here often even this year when we went to seek help near Mont Saint Michel. On our rounds we passed many times by Avranches and went around the curve to seek the hilly curvy Les Andelys. I like to do a first post on these two jewels that need to be visited more by visitors to France. The season is right just 17C today and off clouds and sun.

Avranches is located in the département 50 Manche in the region of Normandy. I get there by car and a good start to the Mont Saint Michel side trip to anyone. The town I passed by every month on the road A84 between Caen and Rennes and can reach Paris by the A13 autoroute de Normandie. ON trains you can come to the gare d’Avranches from Caen and Rennes, the local bus network is Manéo.

The town is very old, but came to be during the Roman occupation with the name of Legedia ; this was destroyed by the end of 280AD by Saxon pirates even if the city developed slowly thereafter. By the end of the 5C it became a seat of a bishop ; it was one bishop Aubert that was the initiator of the first sanctuary and the origins of Mont Saint Michel after receiving the orders from the archangel to come and visit. The Vikings came later by 933AD and even taken by the Bretons thereafter. The Norman period began by 990AD with the bishop Norgod named by Duke of Normandy Richard 1er. Robert was the first Count name by the Duke for these lands and thanks to this Avranches developed Norman thereafter.

By 1154 Henri II Plantagenêt count of Anjou, Duke of Normandy, and Aquitaine becomes king of England. By 1162, to restored the monarchy Henri II name of one his trusted men Thomas Becket chancellor of England and Archbishop of Canterbury ; later Thomas abandoned this functions and chose the exile. Thomas finally came back to England ,but tensions were high and Henri II ordered the elimination of Thomas done in 1170 at the cathedral of Canterbury. This cause a great problem and Pope Alexander III excommunicated Henri, later to repent and came back Henri is force to submit to several public penitence’s one of them took place at Avranches in 1172 where he ask forgiveness to the Pope. Wars and alliances continue to make Avranches part of the Royal domaine eventually. By the end of the 12C there is a desire to unite the Normandy with the Brittany as in 1188 the Viscount of Avranches Ranulf becomes also Duke of Brittany by his marriage to Constance of Brittany., this union lasted short as Brittany gained its independence. The king of France Philippe Auguste, takes advantage to take away the Normandy from the Plantagenêt. To make the story short and to the point, eventually this is done by buying from the Viscount of Avranches the region, and the king eventually came to visit his new lands twice in 1256 and 1269.

Avranches refuse Henri II and stays Catholic, in the war of religions that eventually saw Avranches devastated by the Huguenots in 1562.  Later ,the problems of the salt a local product causes new uprisings known as the barefoot against the laws of Richelieu in 1639.  During the French revolution and thereafter the city is taken  by the  Vendéens without a fight in 1793 but later abandoned due to the failure of the siege of Granville. The revolutionary republicans entered the town and massacred about 800 wounded and sick for the most part in the field of Lansoudiére on the plains of Changeons. The WWII was very much in vogue here just after the Normandy invasion. The bombings gives to destruction of the train station, rue Louis Millet, rue d’Orléans , the old town section ,the rue des Fontaines Couvertes and many others. From April 1946,the city starts to rebuilt and on 1954 it opened the monument to Gen Patton at the square or Place Patton; in 2006 the Scriptorial museum opened showing the manuscripts of the Mont Saint Michel ,more on this here:

Things to see here are the Donjon castle of the 11C by Count Robert  Today this is cross by a road rue de la Belle-Andrine and most of the donjon has crumbled, there is a wall between the roman donjon lost and the tower of Promenoir as the only remains of it The Grand-Doyenné built in the 12C, 15C and 18C housing the doyens of the church in Avranches; the roman style Cathedral of  Saint André, first showing in texts from 1025 it was consecrated in 1121 by the French revolution in 1798 it was lowered to simple Church. The old Church Notre-Dame des Champs end 17C it has been renovated and lastly opened in 1962. The Church of Saint-Saturnin built end of the 19C, The old Church of Saint-Gervais built in middle of the 17C and now a basilica neo classic dating from 1823-1899; important as has the relics of Saint Aubert.  Other than the Scriptoral mentioned above other museum worth seeing in my opinion is the Mémorial de Patton and the 3rd US Army.

Some information to help you plan your trip to Avranches is here:

The city of Avranches has more info no tourism in French here:

The department 50 Manche tourist office in English on Avranches:

Normandy region on Avranches:

Avranches Avranches


Les Andelys  is in the departément 27 Eure of the region of Normandy at about 100 km from Paris. This is a hilly town and counts many hamlets on different local D roads ,most on the plains such as in the north Feuquerolles, le Mesnil-Bellanguet, Longuemare, and Noyers  by the D316; in the valley such as Radeval, Paix, and le Val-Saint-Martin, by the D125; and on the south the Cléry, la Baguelande, Mantelle, and Villers, by the D1.  However to get right by the town you are better off on the D135  from the A13 ,the only bridge is a suspended type rebuilt after WWII in 1947 that crosses the Seine river towards Tosny and the righg bank. It is the only bridge between Courcelles sur Seine and Saint Pierre du Vauvray.

The town has many traces of Vikings inhabitation and it is very old town as you can imagine in France. The town belongs to the archbishops of Rouen but it was ceded in 1197 to the Duke of Normandy Richard the Lion Heated ,upon his death he passes to his brother John without lands (sp?) or Jean sans Terre by which finally taking into France by the king Philippe Auguste in 1204.  This taken by France came as a result of the taking of the Château-Gaillard and created psychological conditions for the taking of Rouen and all of Normandy by the king of France. However, it is said on the strategic plan it had no impact as the Seine river was free as well as the route to Rouen much before the taking of the castle.  The results is the duchy of Normandy passing to the kingdom of France after 293 years of independence (since 911 –1204) .

As to the castle of Gaillard, in the following years it was restored later served as a prison ,and finally taken by the English during the War of Hundred years in the 15C. The castle was given up as needed to pull buckets from a well to get water; and with the advances of the artillery it was left in abandon becoming the refuge of homeless etc the King Henri IV ordered the dismantling of its stones that later served to built the Chartreuse of  Aubevoye in Gaillon.  Some anecdotes as here in 1762 the town passes from the duchy of Gisors to Louis Charles de Bourbon-Maine, duke of Aumale; upon his death in 1775 it passes to his cousin the duke of Pentiévre, and by 1793 it passes to Louise Marie de Bourbon-Penthiévre, Duchess of Chartres and Orléans, later in 1821 it entered on the heritage of Duke Louis Philippe III d’Orléans future Louis Philippe Ier king of the French. Early on in WWII in 1940 after bombings and fire on the town it falls to the nazis of the 6th infantry division ,after liberation a plan of rebuilding is approved in 1943.

Things to see here are many manoirs or mansion homes of rich architecture and these my favorites: The Gallo Roman Grand Théatre of the 1C with 120 meters of diameter inside . The before mentioned Chateau Gaillard, Church Collegiale Notre Dame des Andelys built in the 13C 14C 16C and 17C with renovations,; the Church Saint Sauveur du Petit Andely built in the 13C , the hospice Saint Jacques from the 14C and 17C founded by Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon, Duke of Penthiévre and rebuilt in the 18C , as well as the ramparts of the Grand Andely and the clock tower or Tour de l’Horloge from the 17C

Some further information to help you plan your trip to this wonderful corner of Normandy.

From the city tourist info in French see “Decouvrir” have on Chateau Gaillard:

Tourist office in English here:

Tourist office region of Normandy on castle Gaillard in English:

The dept Eure tourist office on les Andelys:

Les Andelys

There you have it one two punch in Normandy. You can come here by train from gare Saint Lazare in Paris to Les Andelys or by car take the A13 autoroute exit/sortie no. 17 Gaillon . Avranches you can come by slow TER train from Paris Gare Saint Lazare to Avranches or TGV to Rennes and then TER to Avranches. By car take the A13 direction Rouen from Paris and continue past Caen take the A84 free road direction Rennes and get off at  Avranches exit. Enjoy it

Remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers !! Enjoy week!!!

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16 Comments to “Two for Normandy, Avranches and Les Andelys!”

  1. Nice post. My favourite town in this area was Dinan. What a gem!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We have spent several holidays in Les Andelys in the Campsite right opposite Château Gaillard, which we visited, of course, and one year in late May they held a Medieval festival along the river bank. It has a very sad history too, with people left outside the castle walls to starve during seige! What horror!

    Liked by 1 person

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