Basse-Normandie

General Info

Regional Map
Conseil Régional
Tourism: Comité Régional de Tourisme
Capital: Caen
Departments: Calvados, Manche, and Orne
Arrondissements- 11, Cantons- 141, Communes- 1,812
Populations: 1,456,155 (2008 est.)
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France Basse-Normandie map

Overview

Bayeux Tapestry
Normandie, with a history reaching back to the 10th-century, was divided in 1957 into two regions - Basse-Normandie and Haute-Normandie which may possibly be re-combined in the next few years. Normandie has its own regional language, the Norman language which is still in use today in Basse-Normandie, with the Cotentin dialects having more prominence than others. Among Normandie's historical and cultural highlights are the celebrated Bayeux Tapestry and Mont Saint Michel, as well as sophisticated resorts at Deauville, Honfleur and Granville.
The region is also referred to as Camembert Country since between 10,000 and 15,000 tons of the soft, creamy cheese are produced by the 2,500 acre commune of Camembert annually and controlled by the AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) which also regulates the wine industry. As dramatic reminders of the past, there are the World War II invasion beaches and the poignant museums of the D-Day Landings help recall when 45,000 allied troops landed on the beaches near Bayeux.

Basse-Normandie Departmental Information

Conseil Général
Calvados (14)
Manche (50)
Orne (61)
Prefécture
Calvados
Manche
Orne
Tourisme
Calvados
Manche
Orne
Capital
Caen
Saint-Lô
Alençon
Tourisme
Caen
Saint-Lô
Alençon
Additional resources below

Notable Towns and Sights in the Basse-Normandie Region

Alençon (Orne) is in the south of the region on the edge of the Normandie-Maine nature reserve. It was formerly a lace-making center and in the 17th-century was a Norman tax-collecting center which still yields an air of wealth. Notable sights include the crowned turret of the Château des Ducs which was used as a prison by the Nazis during WWII (photo). The Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle has a collection of Dutch, Flemish, and French artwork from the 17th-19th centuries as well as a history of lace-making. The Église Notre Dame boasts a spectacular Flamboyant-Gothic portal from the 16th-century and exquisite stained-glass in the Chapel where Sainte Theresa was baptised. The Musée Leclerc has the history of Alençon during WWII with photos and celebrates being the first French city to be liberated from the German army by General Leclerc in 1944 after minor bomb damage. France Basse-Normandie Alençon
Argentan (Orne) is on the Orne river and is perched on a limestone spur. It is known for the French Point D'Argentan lace made here in the 17th-century when Louis XIV's minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert founded the lace industry to compete with Alençon. In the 18th-century, Argentan had four Royal Lace Workshops and half-a-dozen ordinary workshops, but was mainly a town for the aristocracy and administrators. Characteristics of this famous lace include a net background consisting of a large hexagonal mesh, the six sides of which are worked over with buttonhole stitching. Flower patterns are similar to those of Alençon, 25 miles (40 km) away, but are more solid-looking. Sights here include Saint-Martin and the 15th-17th century Saint-Germain churches as well as the Maison des Dentelles lace museum. France Basse-Normandie Argentan Lace
Avranches (Manche) has a museum which houses the collection of manuscripts from Mont-Saint Michel which were deposited in the municipal archives during the French Revolution. Notre Dame-des-Champs, in Gothic Revival style, was constructed in the 19th-century to restore the religious life of the town after the destruction of the former cathedral. A smaller church, Saint Gervais houses a treasury and is best known for the purported skull of Saint Aubert with a hole where the archangel Michael's finger pierced it. The botanical gardens, Jardins des Plantes, were founded on the grounds of the former Franciscan convent in the late 18th-century. The expansion and introduction of exotic species in the 19th century and the location of the gardens overlooking the bay made the gardens an important sight in the town. Office de Tourisme France Basse-Normandie Avranches Botanical Gardens
Bayeux-Bessin (Calvados) Bayeux was undamaged during World War II and is probably best known for the 230 ft. (70m) Bayeux tapestry made to commemorate the Norman conquest of England in 1066 A.D. The tapestry, which is actually embroidered rather than woven (photo), is displayed in the Musée de la Tapisserie in the town centre. The large Norman-Romanesque Cathédrale Notre Dame de Bayeux (photo), consecrated in 1077, was the original home of the tapestry. Mairie-Bayeux France Basse-Normandie Bayeux Tapestry
Caen (Calvados) is the regional capital and is known for its historical buildings built during the reign of William the Conqueror, whom was buried here, and for the Battle for Caen in 1944. William ordered two abbeys to be built with the Pope's encouragement. The Eglise-de-Sainte Etienne (photo), formerly the Abbaye aux Hommes (Men's Abbey), was completed in 1063 and is dedicated to Saint Etienne . The current Hôtel de Ville (town hall) is built onto the South Transept of the building. The second is the Église-de-la-Sainte Trinité, formerly the Abbaye aux Dames Women's Abbey). It was completed in 1060 and is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Other Landmarks include Saint Pierre Church and the Mémorial pour la Paix built in 1988, charting the events leading up to and after D-Day. Heavy fighting took place in and around Caen during the Battle of Normandy in 1944, destroying much of the town. Also here is the Parc Festyland, an amusement park West of Caen in the nearby town of Carpiquet- the park receives 110,000 visitors every year. France Basse-Normandie Caen Hôtel de Ville
France Basse-Normandie Caen Abbaye aux Hommes
Cherbourg-Octeville (Manche) is a monumental port city and naval base at the tip of the Cotentin Peninsula on the English Channel and has ferry services to the UK and Ireland. It was renamed when the city of Cherbourg absorbed Octeville in 2000. The new Cité de la mer is the largest aquarium in Europe and is north of the city centre. Also here is the Musée de la Libération which recounts the D-Day invasion. Ville Cherbourg France Basse-Normandie Cherbourg-Octeville
Cotentin Peninsula (Manche) also known as the Cherbourg Peninsula is on the northwest corner of France and juts out into the English Channel. It has three major areas: the headlands around Cap-de-la-Hague, the Cotentin Pass, and the scenic Val-de-Saire (Saire River). The western coast of the peninsula, known as la Côte des Îles or Coast of the Islands, faces the Channel Islands and ferry links serve Barneville-Carteret, Granville and the islands. Also here is Utah beach where the Allied American forces landed on June 6, 1944. Inland, Sainte-Mère d'Eglise has several museums commemorating these events (photo). France Basse-Normandie Cherbourg-Octeville
Côte de Nacre (Calvados) or Mother of Pearl coast is a stretch of coastline between the mouths of the Orne and Vire Rivers. It is now known as the site of the D-Day Landings when the Allied troops came ashore at the start of Operation Overlord. The coastline is popular for summer vacations with its long beaches and resorts in Courseulles-sur-Mer and Luc-sur-Mer. Fleurysien France Basse-Normandie Côte de Nacre
Côte Fleurie (Calvados) or Flowery Coast, between Villerville and Cabourg, has many chic resorts such as Trouville and Deauville. The smaller resorts such as Cabourg, Villers-sur-Mer, and Houlgate are more quaint.
Coutances (Manche) is on the Soulle River near the English Channel. As Cosedia, it was one of the nation's chief pre-Roman towns, inhabited by the Unelli, an ancient Celtic tribe. The gothic Cathedral stands 295 ft (90m) and dominates the town and can even be seen from great distances Office de Tourisme France Basse-Normandie Coutances Cathedrale

Deauville (Calvados) is a resort town southwest of Honfleur and has been a playground for the wealthy since 1861. It has been nicknamed the "21st arrondissement" for its large number of weekend Parisian visitors. It has a casino, designer boutiques, a racetrack, a sailing harbor, and annual world polo championship, but is best known for its annual American Film Festival in the first week of September. The town also has a long equestrian tradition and its horse-racing season runs from early-July to mid-October on two different local tracks. France Basse-Normandie Deauville
Granville (Manche) has a long seafaring tradition and is on the coast overlooking the bay of the monumental Mont-Saint Michel. The walled upper town has ramparts built in 1439 by the British when they attacked Mont-Saint Michel. Overlooking the town is the Romanesque Eglise de Notre-Dame du Cap Lihou built from 1441-1796 and was built out of granite during the Hundred Years' War. The lower town is a seaside resort with entertainment in the form of casinos, public gardens, promenades, an aquarium, and a waxworks. Granville is also the home of the Musée Christian Dior, which is located in the fashion designer's childhood home, Villa Les Rhumbs. France Basse-Normandie Cherbourg-Octeville
Honfleur (Calvados) is located on the southern bank of the estuary of the Seine. It is famous for its old, beautifully picturesque port, characterized by houses with slate-covered fronts, painted many times by artists, including in particular Gustave Courbet, Claude Monet and Johan Jongkind, forming the École de Honfleur which contributed to the Impressionist movement. Sainte Catherine church (photo), which has a bell-tower separate from the principal building, is the largest church made out of wood in France. France Basse-Normandie Honfleur
Lisieux (Calvados) lies at the bottom of the valley of the Touques River on the road from Paris to Caen. It is a pilgrimage site and has the Basilique Sainte Thérèse and Carmelite convent, Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, and the Museum of Old Lisieux. This area, the Pays d'Auge, is quintessential Normandy countryside with its wooded valleys, cider orchards, dairy farms, manor houses, and châteaux and there are marked tourist routes specifically for cider and cheese. Ville Lisieux France Basse-Normandie Saint Thérèse Basilique
Mont-Saint Michel (Manche) is a UNESCO World Heritage listed island located just off the coast of Basse-Normandie on the border with the neighbouring region of Bretagne (Brittany). The island is best known as the site of the spectacular and well-preserved medieval Benedictine Abbey of Saint Michel at the peak of the rocky island surrounded by winding streets and the varied architecture of the town. Today, a small monastic community still lives in the Abbey. The island is linked to the mainland by a causeway. William de Volpiano, an Italian architect, was chosen as building contractor for the Abbey by Richard II of Normandy in the 11th-century. (photo). The tides around the island shift quickly and were described by Victor Hugo as "à la vitesse d'un cheval au galop" (as swiftly as a galloping horse). The tide may come in at 3-1/4 feet (1m) per second and can vary as much as 46 feet (14m) between the high and low water marks. In June 2006, the Prime Minister of France, Dominique de Villepin, announced a €150 million project to build a hydraulic dam that will help remove the accumulated silt and make Mont Saint-Michel an island again. It is expected to be completed by 2012.   Projet Mont-Saint Michel France Basse-Normandie Mont-Saint Michel
Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei (Orne) was first established in 1044 and is one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. The inspirational beauty of the location has attracted many artists since the 19th century. The village has its own festival which celebrates the painters who came to, or lived in Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei. As one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, it now attracts many tourists. France Basse-Normandie St Ceneri-le-Gerei
Trouville-sur-Mer (Calvados) is a resort town with wide sandy beaches on the eastern bank of the Touques river across from less-affordable Deauville. In the 19th-century it attracted painters and writers such as Alexandre Dumas (Count of Monte Cristo), Gustave Flaubert, Mozin and Flaubert. France Basse-Normandie Trouville-sur-Mer
Vire (Calvados) is located on the Vire River. Vire Tourisme France Basse-Normandie Vire

Les Plus Beaux Villages in the Basse-Normandie Region

Natural Parks in the Basse-Normandie Region

Additional Resources for the Basse-Normandie Region

Average Monthly Temperatures in the Basse-Normandie Region

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