Welcome to the department of Manche
From salt meadows to vast sandy stretches of the Mont-Saint-Michel bay, from the cliffs to the moors of Cotentin marshes, the Channel Islands, and even the Normandy bocages, this is all the diversity of scenery that La Manche has to offer you during your stay in Normandy. But La Manche is also part of the D-Day landing, an exceptional craft industry, world-famous sights, deep-rooted traditional villages and traditional folklore events.
Find out more about the 8 territories making La Manche an attractive region
La Manche is a peninsula divided into 8 territories, in full harmony with an omnipresent sea. It is the sea that gives its name to the department, that rules the climate, that sets the pace of life for its inhabitants. Enjoy a quality of life like no other, between the land and the sea, and discover the Channel and its historic, architectural and cultural heritage through its different districts. All along the 650 km of its coastline, La Manche is an invigorating and authentic destination, where it is good to live.
Saint Lô, in the heart of the Norman bocage
Saint Lô is not only the capital of the region, it is also the prefecture of the Manche department. Its urban area includes some sixty communes, spread out across the Norman bocage and the valley of the Vire River. With no access to the littoral, the area is ideal for hiking and river activities, or for the exploration of the religious and built heritage. Several itineraries are available to explore landscapes dotted with castles, manors and other structures, while revealing beautiful viewpoints. A wide range of activities are proposed, in addition to the regular sports events, the outdoor walks, the equestrian events, the various cultural festivals, the numerous museums or exhibitions, all of which will keep you busy on your vacations in the region.
The Cotentin Bay, between the land and the sea
From the Utah Beach D-Day landing beaches, to the Cotentin and Bessin marshes park, via the Baie des Veys and the port of Carentan, the territory is a preserved region that oscillates between land and sea. It is a green setting, close to the sea, which reconnects you to nature. The enhancement of these areas and the creation of greenways is highly valued by hikers, as are the major cycling routes that have been set up. Between marshes, bocage and coastline, you will certainly fall under the charm of the Cotentin Bay area and enjoy its quality of life. Memorial place of the D-Day event, cities such as Carentan and Sainte-Mère-Eglise, are home to several museums and memorials that bear witness to the D-Day history.
The Cotentin, a wild peninsula
A land where sea and bocage come together, where landscapes from the Val de Saire to the steep coasts of La Hague, look like the edge of the world, the life of Cotentin is punctuated by the sea, which abounds in multiple treasures to discover. On the other hand, it remains a singular territory, committed to local traditions and know-how of yesteryear, nothing prevents it, however, from being turned towards modernity and innovation. The Cotentin is a unique wild and natural place with large protected areas, beaches swept by the wind and tides, hiking trails with sometimes steep paths and the coastline conducive to water sports activities related to the wind. The Vauban fortifications of Tatihou Island and Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue enrich the heritage as does Cherbourg and its harbor. Whatever your walk, it will be invigorating, in the Cotentin, reconnecting with nature takes on its full meaning.
Western Coast Central Manche
On a human scale, the West Coast Central Channel region is divided between the southern seafront, the Normandy bocage, small sheltered natural harbors also called havens and a marshland area. In the heart of this privileged natural environment, you will enjoy a peaceful, quiet and restful life. The quality of local products from Normandy has been proven, thanks to the maintenance of a production in the respect of traditions. Globally, the West Coast Centre Manche offers a very pleasant environment, which combines the agricultural know-how and the balneal tourism expertise very well. Mostly covered by the Regional Natural Park of the Cotentin and Bessin marshes, the area is highly appreciated by people looking for an authentic nature, and on the coast, the "sentier des douaniers" (customs officers' path) along the coast offers the opportunity to discover different landscapes and panoramas that change in rhythm with the tides.
Coutance Mer et Bocages
This area combines the joy of being by the sea with that of being immersed in a rural setting. It's a destination that is shared between a peaceful countryside, attractive towns and a dynamic shoreline. Thanks to its preserved coasts, suitable for both tourism and open sea oyster farming, the territory has a rather varied economy. The Coutances Mer et Bocage region is also known for its rich cultural heritage, with cathedrals, castles and large-scale events. All along the coast, there are pleasant villages with specific attractions, like the dunes of Gouville-sur-Mer or the colorful cabins. The oyster industry is particularly well known, as the quality of sea water and the power of the tides have created a product of excellence.
It is the second region in the department without access to the Normandy littoral, but that does not prevent it from being a very interesting territory. Located in the center of Manche, on an axis between Caen and Rennes, the city of Villedieu-les-Poêles was able to combine ancestral know-how with that of contemporary artists-creators. A multi-faceted territory, among its hedged farmland and small valleys, you are welcome to enjoy bucolic walks, hiking and other nature activities. The reputation of the region in the field of brassware was forged by the work of copper craftsmen, as well as the Cornille-Havard bell foundry, whose products resound in cities and villages around the world. The lovers of open-air activities can have fun using the marked out loops and bike routes and go to see the panoramas and reliefs of Villedieu Intercom.
Granville Terre et Mer
Like a breath of fresh air, this territory is privileged thanks to the great bay of Mont Saint-Michel, of which it has the usufruct. The community of Granville Terre et Mer is an attractive and dynamic pole. Daily life is punctuated by the tides, firstly with the seafood products from fishing is a sector of excellence, with the whelk as the local star and secondly by the maritime station which ensures the crossings to the Anglo Normandy islands of Chausey, a little treasure of Granville and towards, Jersey and Guernsey. As a capital in its district, Granville is an ancient corsair town with an incredible charm. Because of its art of living, its ramparts and harbors, the city becomes more dynamic and offers something like a vacation all year long. Granville is known for its Plat Gousset beach dotted with cabins, but there are also smaller resorts of equal importance, such as Saint-Père-sur-Mer for example.
Mont Saint Michel - Normandy
From the bay of Mont Saint-Michel to Mortainais, the destination is revealed between land and sea landscapes and salt meadows. Located on the boundary between the regions of Normandy and Brittany, its property is frequently controversial. Thousands of tourists visit the region every year, a world-famous curiosity saved from silting up. Mont Saint Michel, with its abbey and its medieval village, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, where tourists come and go at the rhythm of the tides, while to the east, the Mortain area reveals a green bocage with rivers attracting many hikers and nature lovers, who enjoy family leisure activities. Inland, the cultural assets and the authenticity of the region prevail, with towns on a human scale and picturesque villages where singular landscapes guarantee great experiences.
Some ideas for visiting La Manche in Spring
Spring is coming and sometimes we feel like getting a change of scenery after the winter, as the days are getting longer and the sun is shyly warming up nature. It is also the time for vegetation to awake and put on beautiful colors under the happy chirping of birds, therefore come and discover the department of La Manche is full of spring activities that you should not miss.
The spectacle of the high tides
The first flood tides of the year are often observed in spring. The high tide coefficients leach the Channel coastline and change its aspect. Beware, it is customary to state that the sea comes up like a galloping horse, so why not come and watch the unique spectacle! At the highest coefficient, you will be amazed by the magic moment. With sceneries changing every 6 hours, you will live a unique experience, especially on famous spots, the bay of Mont Saint Michel, naturally, but also in the archipelago of the Chausey islands the show, when the sea unveils all the islets and lets appear a landscape of white sand. In Granville, the spectacle is quite impressive along the Plat Gousset, when the swell comes to violently hit the dike. The coast of the harbors is quite original, revealing the top of the panels on the submersible road of La Vanlée, or at the stone bridge of Portbail.
A walk to the waterfalls of Mortain
The Mortain waterfalls are one of the must-see places in the Manche, 2 small rivers cross the Mont Saint-Michel mountains. The Cance and the Cançon rivers generate two beautiful waterfalls, a small and a big one, which can be visited in spring, when winter rainfalls are over and the nature regains its verdant color. Mortain is also known for its legend, so, just let your imagination run free and go back to the time of King Arthur, the fairies, the goblins and the forest genies, keep you eyes and ears wide open. The White Abbey of the 12th century, stands at the top of the big cascade, 25 m high, while walking, pay attention, you may hear goblins whispering, according to legend, they are hiding in waterfalls. The Mortainais is one of the oldest mountain massifs in France. Here you can get lost in this natural setting and find out the wildest stories of this charming and bucolic place.
Strolling around the parks and gardens
Many gardens are accessible to the public all year round but spring is the ideal time to enjoy the ambiance, colors and scents that nature's awakening symbolizes. In the botanical garden of Vauville, you will be surprised to discover some exotic plants, and in the educational farm, you will have the chance to have a nice time with the family. The beauty of the gardens on the island of Tatihou where several plants take root in the shelter of Lazaret you will find out a garden on 3 themes. The Coutances plant garden will offer you a real breath of fresh air, right in the center of town, a European tour with 3 different kinds of gardens, the French, English and Italian style. In homage to Jacques Prévert, the garden of Port Racine is an idylique romantic setting, for a magical trip, you should go to the park of the castle of Nacqueville in La Hague, or the garden of Elle in Saint-Lois and these are just some examples.
Escape to the archipelago of Chausey islands
It's one of the small pearls in the English Channel, just 1 hour from Granville, Chausey is an authentic archipelago, go out and escape to an island looking like paradise. You'll be surprised to discover an exceptional setting, with crystal-clear water and white sand beaches, which you should explore on foot to learn all the secrets of the island. You can easily reach the deserted islets by kayak. Spring is the best time to enjoy the archipelago and its scenery as the vegetation comes back to life. There are some places where time does not take over, Chausey is one of them, on this small paradise, no car, just low houses, and landscapes subject to the tide and the Gulf-Stream. The archipelago is the largest in Europe, with 365 islets at low tide and 52 at high tide. Authentic and wild, Chausey welcomes the visitors coming from the continent and guarantees them an interlude out of everyday life and out of modern times.
Some ideas for visiting La Manche in Summer
If you are looking for a vacation in La Manche area for the high season, you will certainly get out your swimsuits, but not only that, there is a lot of things to do and do not miss if you want to use the summer for exploring the region. Away from the crowd and heat wave, you can try a nautical activity, cross the bay of Mont Saint-Michel at night, bubble on the beach, sip a drink facing the sunset. Have fun, relax, take advantage, disconnect, and welcome to La Manche this summer! Here are our tips for enjoy it.
Enjoy the great beaches of La Manche
A breath of fresh air, a pleasant and relaxing break on the beautiful and long sandy beaches, for a weekend or for your vacations, come and relax by the sea. From north to south, you will find many wild beaches, as in no other region, with heavenly creeks and sand dunes, the Manche department has a beach that matches your dreams. Whether you are looking for a family atmosphere, relaxing, studying, exotic or sporty, make your choice, or set out to explore them, they are as varied as their shades of blue. The Dragey-Ronthon beach has a permanent sight of the Mont-Saint-Michel, the Carolles beach is overhung by the Champeaux cliffs, while the Vauville cove, a fine sand beach, extends over 11 km. At Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, you will be able to learn more about the history of the D-Day landing and enjoy a bath on the historic Utah Beach. When it comes to water sports, you will find a wide range of activities, usually respecting the environment, for both children and adults. Generally, the summer is synonymous with time on a terrace and even if we are not at the Chtis, a nice frite-moule overlooking the sea or a sunset, it definitely gives you an air of vacations, with products that are 100% local.
To discover the night markets and summer fairs
Regional and traditional products, know-how, and seasonal flavors, in the city or on the farm, day or night in summer, all markets will make you discover local specialties. Many markets take place all week long, in the communes of the department. Each of them has its ambiance, its setting, at the heart of the city hall, close to churches, just a few steps away from the beach or in the covered market halls. On the stalls, you will find many local and artisanal products, as well as food stands with local dishes ready to take away. During the summer season, most of the markets host events, demonstrations or exhibitions. Certain municipalities organize them specifically for summer markets, such as the castle of Regnéville, which transforms into a gourmet and festive market for a few hours, the "virées du territoire" in Saint Lô, or even at the nocturnes of Barneville-Carteret. There are also specific markets for organic products in Granville, Coutances and Quibou. Outside the summer, thousand year old fairs take place, local heritage which, for centuries, has enlivened the department, with regional produce, local breed animals, shows and competitions, over several days.
The festivals and happenings in La Manche
Every year, a series of festivals take place with various themes, including street arts, jazz, brass bands, music, and activities around cultural heritage. At the end of june, in Cherbourg, the Art'Zimutés festival hosts regional artists, musicians, sculptors, and circus artists. In Hambye, the Dox'Art Festival is an event for electro and techno music. At the beginning of July, each year at the Cara-Meuh farm in Vains, the Green River Valley eco-citizen festival offers a varied musical program; in Granville, the "sorties de bain", a cultural event, dance, theater, comedy, storytelling, songs; in Villedieu-les-Poêles, "Les Pluies de Juillet" is a cultural festival dedicated to the ecological transition. In mid-July, every summer, on the beach of Montmartin-sur-Mer, the festival Chauffer dans la Noirceur focuses on musical discoveries. During the last week of July, the Grandes Marées festival takes place in Jullouville for 9 days, for a festival of modern music. In August, the original Traversées Tatihou festival is certainly one of the most distinctive of the region where sea, nature and music become one and the same. The season concludes with MusikenSaire, the Cotentin festival celebrating the end of the summer.
Personal trails or sporting events
If your goal is to surpass yourself this summer, you can simply ride a personal tour on a mountain bike over 5 days, a tour of 285 km, combining sport and sightseeing, with the itinerary "Tatihou - Le Mont-Saint-Michel". If you are looking for other tours of the same style, there are 2 other large itineraries, from 230 to 450 km, at your disposal. Now a little less sporty, with more reasonable distances from 25 to 100 km, several dozen routes proposed for your walks, hikes, bike, mountain bike or horse riding. Whether you are an accomplished sportsman, in search of new challenges or an amateur runner, you can take up the challenge at sporting events organized in La Manche. Prior to the April season, the Diabolik de Ragnar, in Herqueville, is a 6 hours trail. The barjo and the Raid de l'Archange, in La Hague, the craziest trail in Normandy, a sporting challenge, on steep trails in the Cotentin, with 5 courses from 15 to 300 km. The season starts with the Défis Sentiers Océan event, the Tatihougue, a combination of 2 types of courses, with swimming and running events in solo or duo. In the summer, in Agon-Goutinville, the Enduro des sables, a 3-day event with 7 different courses, they also organize the Trialthon, in June.
Some ideas for visiting La Manche in Autumn
The autumn season is always the occasion to discover a region in a very different way, the colors of autumn in the Manche are warmer than in the sun of summer. Scenery lovers, contrast lovers, this is for sure the right season to come and enjoy the flamboyant scenery under the sun of autumn or between the threatening big clouds. For those who love nature, exploring the coastline is an experience you will never tire of. For the hikers, it is also the right period, neither too hot nor too cold, you can swallow the miles of marked paths. The cultural aspect is not left out, many local events, fairs, concerts, festivals, the autumn period will be very animated.
Pushing your limits in the fresh air
Do you want to go beyond your limits in the fresh air? Walking around the Manche on the GR223 hiking trail will allow you to recharge your batteries and live an unusual personal adventure as you benefit from nature and the autumnal landscapes of the department. The 446 km can be completed in 10 to 15 days depending on your personal endurance and despite the mileage that could scare some, the circuit does not present any major difficulty. You can easily complete daily stages of 20 to 35 km, although you must be used to walking on varied terrain, have good footwear and equipment to face the vagaries of the weather. This circuit follows the customs path, which is full of history and guarantees a total change of scenery all along the Normandy coast.
Discover 8 havens on the west coast
The havens are small natural ports, providing maritime shelters in case of heavy weather, by taking a part of the GR223 trail, from the Cape of Granville to the Cape of Carteret, there are 8 havens along the coast. Even though they remain wild and preserved, you can discover them, and admire the estuaries, a very interesting set of ecosystems, which are home to a particular flora and fauna in this environment. When fall comes and the high tides return, these havens are revealed in their entirety, offering unexpected views. A few examples: the haven of La Vanlée, with its submersible road and its immense sandy tongue, shapes a peninsula, that of Régnéville, at the confluence of the Sienne and Soulles rivers, is the most extensive haven in La Manche, at Saint-Germain-sur-Ay, surrounded by two massive dunes, this natural haven is part of the Parc des Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin.
Dabble in some water sports
The weather conditions in autumn are ideal for various water sports. The strong wind and the mild temperature give you the opportunity to try out exciting activities. At low tide, you can take advantage of the wide open spaces on the beaches of La Manche to try sand yachting, sure to give you a good breath of fresh air and strong sensations. For those who are not afraid to get into the sea, surf or windsurf are ideal for challenging nature's elements. For the beginners, some centers offer sessions or training courses during the school vacations. You can choose the marine activity you like, from kayaking to sand yachting, surfing, skimboarding and if you want to start with sailing, there are also courses on optimists available for lovers of open sea.
Live events that go back thousands of years
After the summer heat, autumn brings the big fairs in Normandy and especially in the department of Manche. The famous fair of Sainte Croix in Lessay, on the second weekend of September, marks the opening of the fair season. In early October, the small town of Brix, in the northern Cotentin region, hosts one of the oldest horse fairs in Normandy. In mid October, the Saint-Luc fair invites you to discover the agricultural heritage of Manche. As to the Saint-Martin fair, it takes place every first weekend of November, on the program are the traditional competitions, local breeds and local products. For centuries, these events have been the expression of the real local heritage. Thus, each year, the big fairs animate the 4 corners of La Manche, the farming tradition and the local products are in the spotlight for several days.
Fill up on culture in the fall
Looking to let go and have fun the time of an evening or a weekend, every year in autumn, the festival "Les Rendez-Vous Soniques", in Saint Lô, is an important event that gathers for almost a week, famous names of music and regional artists. For the classical music fans, they can take part in the "Festival Via Aeterna", in an almost mystic ambiance, where artists perform music and patrimony in emblematic sites. For movie lovers, the festival "Les Égaluantes" in Carentan-les-Marais, proposes new screenings worth watching, documentaries, films, and series enhancing the Channel. You can also go to the fishing port in Granville to enjoy shellfish and seafood with music during the "Toute la mer sur un plateau" festival, a must-see event for the launch of the scallop fishing season.
What are the culinary specialties of the Manche ?
La Manche is a sea country and therefore the marine products contribute to the home produce, as well as the livestock products that are fed in contact with this environment by the sea. However, the agriculture and the processed products are also used in the preparation of various culinary dishes.
The lamb from salt meadows of Mont Saint-Michel
Like those of Somme Bay, the lambs of Mont-Saint-Michel Bay are protected by a controlled appellation, and have the good reputation of a fine flesh and exceptional taste. The flocks that graze in the coastal pastures are specific by the fact they are regularly covered by tides. This lamb is only available for sale in approved artisan butcher shops and mainly at the Easter period. The breeding has existed in the bay since the 11th century and each year, in August, it is celebrated at the Pont de Genet during the salt meadows festival.
Saint-Jacques scallops from Normandy
Emblematic of fishing in Normandy, many fishermen, about half, leave for the sea in late autumn. The quality of scallops is protected by a PDO, they come from the Pecten maximus variety which particularly likes the Channel and Calvados waters, where they find the ideal temperature and marine environment to grow. There are many "coquille Saint-Jacques" festivals in Normandy, where you can taste fresh scallops with a good chilled white wine and enjoy different events in Normandy ports.
The Bouchot mussel of the Mont-Saint-Michel bay
A mussel that can be recognized by its small size, black shell, and abundant orange-yellow flesh. The Bouchot mussel of Normandy is one of the gastronomic jewels of the region. In 1954, under the impetus of the elected officials of Vivier-sur-Mer, the culture of mussel beds was established. They represent today about 270 km of mussel lines, protected by its PDO and AOC, they represent, at least a quarter of the French mussel production. For the last few years, an annual festival is organized in August by the commune of Vivier-sur-Mer, a great occasion to taste these delicious mussels, in a festive ambiance, which brings cheer to the heart in the middle of summer.
The oyster farming, a know-how from Manche
Each oyster has its own particularity due to the unique nature of its territory. You can visit an oyster farm when the tide is out and the oyster beds are exposed. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about how to raise and cultivate shellfish. Normandy is the first region producing oysters, with 15,200 tons of them harvested each year in the oyster beds of the Manche. Several walking tours in the oyster beds are available, in order to discover the oyster farmer's job and the cycle of an oyster, from its birth to its harvesting.
Cider, calvados and pommeau from Normandy
The apple and its by-products are one of the emblems of Normandy, used in various productions of famous products, like cider, calvados and pommeau, which are sold all over France. In the Manche region too, this type of production is an ancestral one and the producers reinvent their own methods to perpetuate the tradition and make the public aware of their know-how. The apple harvest takes place in autumn with the production of cider following the rhythm of the season. Some farms regularly welcome tourists to join in the harvest and to follow a part of the production cycle.
Normandy dairy produce from La Manche
As dairy products are legendary in Normandy, the Manche department has its own know-how in the field. While cream, butter and milk are the most popular of all, there are other products like caramels and cream desserts that are also part of this rich heritage. Some cooperatives collect million liters of milk from Norman cows and transform it into Camembert de Normandie PDO, fresh cream, churned butter and fresh cheese, according to an ancestral know-how. La Manche has for decades been well known for its farming and dairy by-products.
What are the 14 towns and villages to visit in the Manche ?
La Manche and its coastline is a destination that offers a change of scenery, enough for you to get back in touch with nature, but have you thought about visiting and discovering its towns and villages? This department also has a beautiful local heritage through the different cities.
In the late Middle Ages, Agon was a village linked by the royal road to Coutances. Coutainville was then only a hamlet, defended by the castles of Agon and Régneville. This pretty seaside resort does not have a rich built heritage apart from the ruins of the castle of Régneville, the manor of Coutainville, which is a fortified residence, and the Saint Évroult church with a white bell tower. The local heritage interest is more intrinsically linked to the sea, with its natural site classified in 1989, the Pointe d'Agon hides unexpected wealth in terms of fauna and flora. Its famous lighthouse, built in rubble and local stone in place of a fort, has served to guide sailors since 1856. On the way there, you can admire a boat-shaped monument, erected in memory of an academic historian, a fervent defender of the Norman language. The seaside resort has developed thanks to the rise of the sea baths, late 19th century, and today a promenade of 3 km allows to admire the villas of the sea front.
This village is situated in the western part of Avranchin, on the north shore of the Mont Saint-Michel bay. You will find here the best views of the famous Mont Saint Michel and its bay. Bordered by the sea and the salt meadows, it's a typical village of the area, with its houses of granite, with slate roofs. The built heritage and the memories that still resonate there, is the chapel of Saint Anne, the last witness of the seven chapels of Genêts, the last stage on the pilgrimage route to Mont-Saint-Michel, Genêts was full of holy places and symbols. The village is a starting point for the crossing of the bay, to reach Tombelaine, the Mont-Saint-Michel or the abbey, as well as for horseback riding. On the commune, the water mill of Genêt has been restored and is an interesting detour, as much for its setting as for the installations. When it comes to nature, every year in November, you can observe the goose, a small wild goose, which makes its comeback on the grassy areas of the bay, and sometimes, you can even see some pink flamingos there.
Within a seaside scenery, enhanced by cliffs, forest and marsh, it is a beautiful summer village that welcomes tourists and hikers. A charming place to stroll in the countryside, but also to discover historic sites, houses, wash houses, wells, fountains, etc. The pleasant seaside resort of Saint Jean le Thomas, on the coast facing the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, is home to a multitude of mimosa trees, which bloom early in the winter, giving it the air of a little "Nice". In 2003, excavations have allowed to discover 3 big groups, dating from the Neolithic and the Middle Ages, some tours are proposed at the Tourist Office. Walking along the coastline of the cliffs enables you to visit a fishing village from the Middle Ages and the Vauban huts, which are observation posts for the bay. As for the fauna, since the 1980's, about forty seals have returned to bask on the sandbanks of the bay.
Vestiges from the past, innovating exhibits, multiple activities, a great heritage, a town rich in resources just a few minutes away from Mont-Saint-Michel. As a first step, you can go visit the Scriptorial, the monks' manuscript museum, open in 2006 and installed in Avranches. Then stop at the sumptuous garden of plants, from there, you will have a breathtaking view on the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel. Set out to discover the treasures of Avranches, during your wanderings, it will reveal to you its remarkable heritage, and you will be delighted by its beautiful stores and the numerous restaurants. In the surroundings, nature is stunning, close to the sea, the rivers Couesnon, Sée and Sélune, the scenery changes according to the seasons and the tides. Founded nearly 180 years ago, the museum of art and history is one of the oldest museums in western France. In the former episcopal enclosure, it preserves and presents archeological collections and paintings by local artists.
Nicknamed the Monaco of the North, this seaside resort is famous for hosting the Christian Dior villa, the childhood home of the famous fashion designer. The upper town promises a sumptuous detour back into the past, in this corsair city. In the 19th century, it had already become one of the first seaside resorts in Normandy and the century after, it rapidly developed, at the same time, in shellfish fishing, so as to become, today, the first shellfish port in France. The renowned whelks of Granville, the prairies, the scallops, are the first things you will be served on a plate, in many taverns of the seaside. Le plat Gousset is the name of the large promenade along the Granville seafront passing in front of the casino. At the far end of the promenade, a staircase leads up to the Villa des Rhumbs, Christian Dior's childhood home, which today houses a beautiful museum dedicated to the designer along with some very nice gardens.
The medieval fortress of Geoffroy d'Harcourt remains the most emblematic building of the One Hundred Years War and the British presence in Normandy. This is also the birthplace of the writer Jules Barbey d'Aurévilly. Located in the regional natural park of the Cotentin and Bessin marshes. The place is a very good starting point to practice different nature activities and to discover the rich past of the region. Do not miss to visit the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Sauveur, dating from the 11th century, with a remarkable structural clarity, it reflects the influence that the abbey of Lessay had on it. The Scandinavian invasions of the 9th century led to the ruin of the monasteries and to the regression of the ecclesiastical heritage. The Douve river, which irrigates the city, was an important source of energy in the early 20th century. From 1920 on, it was used to turn the Férey mill, which sold flour, wheat and buckwheat, providing the people of the region with flour at a reasonable price.
One of the most beautiful villages in France, even though it is the smallest village in La Manche. Located in the north-east of the Cotentin, it is reputed to produce excellent mussels and to have a typical fishing port in activity since the middle ages. Not far from there, you can take a short walk to the lighthouse of Gatteville, which is a detour for the courageous, with as many steps as there are days in a year, if you want to reach the top of the second largest lighthouse in Europe, after the one on the Virgin Island. It is true that on a grey day, it may seem rather austere, but that's not counting on its heavy English past. In terms of animation, Barfleur does well, with 3 major events taking place every year: "L'Été Musical de Barfleur", a classical music festival in the St Nicolas church, the "Village des Antiquaires", a big meeting gathering many professionals and amateurs, which is one of the biggest fairs of the Cotentin, and "MusiKenSaire", a festival regrouping artists of the Norman scene. In biennial, the festival "Le Village Fait Galerie", an exhibition of artists all over the village.
Punctuated by the back and forth of the sea, during the high tides of equinox, it goes under the remarkable bridge, to fill the harbor, until reaching the border of the church of 15th century. All day long, the scenery is constantly changing, with the salt meadows coming and going according to the tide, enabling families to go out fishing or sportsmen to practice sand yachting. In the center of the village, you can still find small streets and two churches from the 11 th and 12 th centuries, as well as a bridge with 13 arches that will lead you down to the beach. Within the territory of the commune, you will find several castles, manors, a hexagonal baptistery from the 6 th century, the only one that has been found north of the Loire River to date. Much older traces of the occupation of the region have also been found, some of them dating from the middle ages, but others from the antiquity period. A recent excavation, under the patronage of the National Institute for Research in Public Areas (INRAP), has revealed the thermal baths of a Gallo-Roman city dating from the 1st and 3rd centuries.
Saint-Vaast La Hougue
This pretty village full of charm, on the north-east coast of La Manche, in the Val de Saire, is a commune in a natural setting that shelters a sumptuous yachting marina. It is an atypical village, ideally located to discover the Tatihou Island, with just a 15 minutes crossing. Its exceptional architectural heritage make it an ideal destination for history lovers. The Fort de la Hougue is a Vauban construction, listed as a world heritage site. The commune also offers some exceptional buildings, such as the Chapel of the Sailors, which is a historic monument, a church and majestic landscapes to be explored in the surroundings, with 10 km of trails for hiking. The protected marine areas are also a popular place for nature enthusiasts. You will be able to visit a shipyard and a factory of masts and fittings.
The first thing that comes to mind is the rain and the gray weather, hey yes! It's certainly the fault of the movie "Les parapluies de Cherbourg" and dancing in the rain, the preconceived ideas are really tenacious, but the reality is often quite different. Even if the statistics show 195 rainy days per year, it doesn't mean all day long, just a few showers. Cherbourg is the city of the sea, the largest harbor in Europe with 6 km of dikes and 7 forts that overlook the sea. It is also the deepest aquarium of the continent, where you can slip into the abyssal depths of the sea. On the quays of the transatlantic port, you will undoubtedly remain in admiration in front of the superb ships and schooners that anchor there. More curious still, the museum about Titanic, will teach you even more about this giant of the seas with such a short life. Anyway, do not be put off, try your luck to have your own sensations on this marine capital.
Nowadays, it is a little fisherman's village, but also a place of inspiration for artists of all sorts, including photographers, painters, draughtsmen, as well as a true peaceful place for the tourists. The ruins of the medieval castle are gradually being restored and the place is becoming active again, mainly in the summer with temporary exhibitions and, since 2009, with the summer market. The 4 lime kilns of Rey, leaning against the old limestone vein, are a testimony of the region's history, and of the surrounding quarries' activity. The site, open to the public, with the museum which evokes the maritime past and the coastal port, through several exhibitions and animations. You will also discover the different techniques used for the production of lime and its use in agriculture and other fields, with beautiful displays. A short stroll around the harbor of Regnéville, well known for his beauty and his port of stranding, is a must.
The Cornille Havard bell foundry, located in the Norman bocage, is home to one of the five bell foundries in France. This is where the monumental bells of the greatest churches and cathedrals in France, and throughout the world, are made. In particular, this foundry has made a bell for the church of Notre-Dame de Paris. The city of Villedieu is known for its craftsmanship, it has many exceptional sites such as the copper workshop. This is a great opportunity to discover the art and history in Normandy patrimony. In 2001, a lace school was opened to perpetuate a local know-how that dates back to the 18th century. Among the museums to visit, the lacemaking museum and just next door, the Poeslerie museum, a workshop from the 17th century that plunges you in the universe of the pansmiths and coppersmiths and also the Normandy furniture museum, founded in 1976, from the cupboard to the clock, let's see how fine the sculptures are. Every 4 years the "Ceremony of the Grand Sacre" takes place, a procession that has existed since 1955.
The Episcopal city reserves you some very nice surprises for you to find out, at first, we will mention a jewel of the gothic art, with the Notre-Dame de Coutances Cathedral, built on a hill and which is visible from very far. It will certainly fascinate you by the richness of its decorations and architecture. Another very interesting attraction not to be missed in Coutances is the garden of plants and the Quesnel Morinière museum, which you will reach by strolling along the narrow streets with white stones buildings. In Gratot, just a few minutes from Coutances, you will see an exceptional castle, built from the 13th to the 18th century, modified several times, then totally abandoned. It has become today a must-see during a visit to Coutances with many activities. The Gavray castle is one of the oldest castles in the area. Dating back to the 11th century, it overlooks the valley and the bocage, although it is only a vestige, its location offers an unobstructed view over the Normandy countryside and the village of Gavray-sur-Sienne.
In the north of the department, in the marshes of the Cotentin, has remained famous, not just for being the first liberated town in France, but for the parachutist, John Steels, who hung from the top of the church tower. The town of Sainte-Mère-Église is also well known for the breeding of horses, the dairy cows that produce high quality milk, which is used to make Norman butter and camembert, as well as the apple orchards for cider. If you are curious to know more about the history of the area, you must visit the hamlet of La Fière, only a few kilometers away from the village, where you will find an orientation table and a memorial to the Iron Mike paratroopers. This will guide you to the starting point. At Sainte-Mère-Église, 2 different museums are open to the public, one that allows you to relive the historical moments of liberation, the Airborne museum, in memory of the American paratroopers, and the second one, the farm-museum of Cotentin, that transmits the rich history of the farming past and of its traditions.