Caen, a lot more than the memorial!

And here I am updating this wonderful post me think… Always nice to visit Caen even if I admit nowdays is rare if none from Bretagne than when lived in Versailles! There is a wonderful monument museum to Peace here but Caen is a lot more than a memorial! I have included older pictures going back before 2011! Let me tell you a bit on it and hope you enjoy as I.

So why not tell you about Caen, It is nice for the Memorial indeed and the old men and women buildings, and a lot more nice things in town. Caen is the political capital of Normandie and home of the regional council ,while Rouen is the administrative capital; a way to please both in the new administrative realignment of France down to 13 regions from 22 previously.

I did not know this but it is the third oldest University in France founded in 1432 (behind only Paris and Montpellier); it has the most independant libraries of any French city and the best ratio of cultural structures per inhabitant! ; it is probably why it is considered the Cultural Capital of Normandy. And there you go only about 2 hrs from Paris by the A13 autoroute de Normandie and link to England by ferry boat line Caen-Ouistreham-Portsmouth. It has the network Twisto with over 40 lines of buses and 4 lianes high level bus service on platforms unique ; also two lines of tramways A and B . The city is good for bicycling with over 50 kms of bike trails in free service ; they had the network V’eol, however; it closed out in 2017 and now part of the Twisto network. It has tramways, never use any of these always here by car.

The metro area has three expressways very good ones, try them all, the famous A13, then the A84 (linking with Bretagne) and A88 (between Caen and Falaise) and eventually linking up with Bretagne. There are many others such as the N158 around Caen towards Alençon, Le Mans, and Tours and the D562 to Flers Angers ,and Laval. The D613 towards Lisieux and Paris and Cherbourg on the west. D675 to Rouen and the D513 to Cabourg, Deauville, and Honfleur.

There is a train station gare de Caen-Saint-Martin with TER and Intercités train service to Lisieux, Évreux, Paris-Saint-Lazare, Cherbourg, Saint-Lô, Rennes, Rouen, Alençon, Le Mans, Tours , and Saint-Pierre-des-Corps, etc. The station opened officially in 1858. There is also the port of Ouistreham as before mentioned takes you to Portsmouth, England putting London at only 120 km . The port of Caen-Ouistreham is also a commercial and pleasure boating enclave. The pleasure port is at the basin of Saint-Pierre,in city center, and it is they said the second port in France. There is an airport as well the Caen – Carpiquet to the east actually in Carpiquet and the most important airport in Normandy per passengers.

Another peculiarity of Caen is the blonde stone in the quarries today closed but extended to the city itself and very much desired by the Norman nobles as well as the great buildings of England and later those sky risers of New York. In the 19C the medieval quarries were an underground network of 200 to 300 hectares and while the landings of Normandy the townsfolks hide there in 1944. To watch over these undergrounds Caen is one of the rare cities in France to have a quarry service like Paris.

The parks are nice ,and we enjoyed them very much in our visits. There is the hill of birds or the Colline aux Oiseaux, a vast garden in the district of Chemin-Vert very close to the peace memorial ; and if you know this was a garbage dump you realise the enormous beautiful work done here. The small garden by the museum of the rose moon or the Petit jardin-musée dit de luna rossa, at rue Damozanne, The museum or Musée d’initiation à la nature et l’esplanade Jean-Marie-Louvel , and at the abbey of men ,the garden valley or La Vallée des Jardins, the parc Michel-d’Ornano (the garden in the abbey of women) The Jardin des plantes,or sort of botanical garden , as well as the castle moats. Nice all.

Now let me give you some of its history as Iike it.

From the 1C to the 3C a village developped here by the current abbey of men or Abbaye aux Hommes near the Roman road linking Augustodurum (Bayeux) with Noviomagus (Lisieux). It had no administrative function as this was done by Aregenua, capital of the Viducasses located about 15 km south of Caen and the territory under the influence of Augustodurum. In the 7C missionaries from Bayeux, especially Saint Regnobert, founded oratories, surrounded by their cemetary along the old Roman way in the center of isolated villages in the Valley of the Orne and Odon.

In the 10C the great Norman Dukedom comes about. This is evidence especially from the 11C with the politics of William the Conqueror and Mathilde de Flandre. In 1047 after the victory of the battle of Val-ès-Dunes, the duke of Normandy organized the council of Tréve or Trier on the right back of the Orne river ,and had built a Chapel of Sainte-Paix in 1061 to house the relics of Saints. In the second part of the 11C it had ordered a vast fortress on the rocky hills dominating the Valley of the Orne; the Duke and his court regularly resided in the Castle of Caen. The Ducal couple equally founded two great abbeys on the east and west of the city (Hommes et Dames).They were buried in 1083 at the abbey of women or Abbaye aux Dames by Mathilde de Flandre, and in 1087 in the abbey of men or Abbaye aux Hommes for Duke William the Conqueror. The Duchy was incorporated to the kingdom of France by king Philippe II Auguste by 1204 before that of Rouen.

During the French revolution, the opposition was massacred by the crowds, and by 1793 the Jacobins of Caen breaks from those of Paris ; many deputies of assemblies or Girondins look for refuge in Caen and the city becomes a center of insurrection ; however due to lack of men, and in desesparation incite Charlotte Corday to leave Caen for Paris to killed Marat. The Army of the Convention (revolutionaries) entered Caen in August 1793 and ends the insurrection. Later Caen lost most of the buildings durind WWII as it was in the line of the landings of Normandy June 1944. The city was liberated by the Canadians army that fought for a month the troops of the SS Nazi in town.

Things to see in Caen : The theater opened in 1838 ,destroyed in 1944 and rebuilt again on the same spot after the war. There are great collections in the fine arts museum or Musée des beaux-arts right in the heart of the Castle of Caen and also there the museum of Normandy or Musée de Normandie. There are paintings from the 16C to the 20C by such artists as Le Pérugin, van der Weyden, Véronèse, Le Tintoret, Champaigne, Rubens, Le Guerchin, Tiepolo, Courbet, Corot, Monet, Boudin, Dufy, Soulages, and Rebeyrolle. The Castle of William the Conqueror and especially the salon of the chessboard or salle de l’Échiquier,the old fortifications especially the tower or Tour Leroy, the maison des Quatrans, a traditional house from the 15C. Other mansions such as those at 52 and 54 rue Saint-Pierre,the old post office museum from the 16C ,buildings at the place Saint-Pierre, and from the 17C around the place de la République (like the mansions Daumesnil and Banville); and from the 18C around the place Saint-Sauveur, place Fontette ,and the palais de justice de Caen (courthouse of Caen), and the mansions hôtel Brun de Fontenay , and hôtel de Blangy.

caen-castle-dukes-of-normandy-and-the-gang

caen-castle-museum-of-fine-arts-and-kids-2011

You have the Saint-Jean Church, tilted as it was built on an old swamp, The Church of Saint-Étienne-le-Vieux. The Church Saint-Sauveur is in the city center ,before 1802,this Church was called Notre-Dame-de-Froide-Rue. After 1802,it was changed to Saint Sauveur ( of Jésus-Christ). The Church of Vieux Saint-Sauveur in the Place Saint-Sauveur was before the French revolution simply called Church Saint-Sauveur and before that called by several names such as Saint-Pierre de Darnetal, Saint-Pierre-sous-Caen, Saint-Pierre-du-Châtel, Saint-Pierre-en-Rive, and most visitors think is the Cathedral as it is big….It is on the Church that king Henri IV renounce the Protestant religion ending the wars of Religion ,and it was at the Church of Saint-Pierre that it was sang the Te Deum in presence of all civil and religious leaders of the city. The Church was closed during the French revolution and served as a temple of reason later of the Supreme being from 1793 to 1795 before coming back to the Catholic rite in June 1795. The shot from the castle below.

caen-ch-st-pierre-and-belltower

caen-ch-st-pierre-street-level

You have some wonderful architecture in the hôtel de Than (around 1520-1530), hôtel d’Escoville (around 1540), and hôtel de Mondrainville (around 1550). The current buildings of the abbey of men and women or Abbaye aux Hommes (now housing the municipla services of Caen), and the Abbaye aux Dames (now the seat of the regional council of Normandy), and the magnificent peace memorial or Mémorial pour la Paix; which are a must to visit. As I love food/wine, the best to get here are the tripes à la mode de Caen (intestins or tripes Caen fashion way sort of). Since 1850,the cookie company or Biscuiterie Jeannette,the oldest in Normandy makes madeleines so goood. Or have you try the drink the Embuscade?(ambush) ,a cocktail with calvados (fermented apples liquor of Normandy),cream or syrup of cassis, white wine, and beer!

The anecdote here is that our first visit was to see the Memorial de la paix or peace monument and took a night at a Kyriad hotel Herouville Saint Clair. However, something happened cannot yet explained it. The pictures for the memorial are all gone!!! and all we have is the above and this shot coming out of the hotel!! oh well!! The Kyriad hotel webpage: https://caen-nord-herouville-saint-clair.kyriad.com/fr-fr/

caen kyriad hotel boys and MF 2011

The Caen tourist office: https://www.caenlamer-tourisme.fr/?lang=en

The city of Caen on its heritage/things to see: https://caen.fr/patrimoine

The Calvados dept 14 tourist office on Caen heritage: https://www.calvados-tourisme.co.uk/museums-sites-and-monuments/

The Normandy tourist board on Caen: https://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/unmissable-sites/caen/

Hope you have enjoyed the trip, short one ::) of nice Caen, as I said, just for the Peace Memorial ,the castle and museums in it is worth the detour from Paris! or anywhere in France.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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