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Alençon is a handsomely restored old market town, north of Le Mans, known for its traditional lacemaking industry.

Alencon (Orne) mini guide

Alençon was the first French town to be liberated by French forces at the end of the war. Although bombed in the action, several grand buildings stand out. The very cultured sister of King François I, Marguerite d’Angouleme, married Duke Rene of Alençon in the late 15th century, and patronized the splendid Flamboyant finishings of Notre-Dame. Inside, small Gothic dogs and dragons adorn ribs of the elaborate vaults. There are some very refined stained glass windows from the early 16th century.

Alencon Lace

Alencon has long had a reputation for excellence and back in the 17th century, the town owed its fame to the unique "Point d'Alencon" lace needlepoint, one of the most delicate of all artistic pursuits. This expertise bestowed upon the town a reputation for excellence, quality and innovation.

The Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle is housed in a former Jesuit school and has all the best trappings of a modern museum. There is a highly informative history of lacemaking upstairs, with examples of numerous different techniques. It also contains an unexpected collection of gruesome Cambodian artefacts like spears and lances, tiger skulls and elephants' feet, gathered by a "militant socialist" French governor at the turn of the century. The paintings in the adjoining Beaux-Arts section have amongst their collection a few works by Courbet and Géricault.

By the river Sarthe, the small Musée de la Dentelle et du General Leclerc also focuses on the story of local craft. At one time 8,000 people in the area made lace for the aristocracy and clergy. In fact, before the Revolution no one else was allowed to wear it. There is a lace-making school in town now. Lace is very expensive to buy but once the time taken to make it is understood, it becomes clear why.

Other sights

The Château des Ducs, the old town castle close by the Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle, looks impressive but it is now a prison, and people in Alençon have nightmarish memories of its use by the by Nazi troops in WWII.

Wandering around the town might also take you to the birthplace of Saint Therese. Therese Martin was born at 50, rue Saint Blaise on January 2nd, 1873. This home, dedicated to her memory, is filled with artefacts and even the family furniture which belonging to her parents.

Eglise Notre Dame on rue St-Blaise, where St Theresa was baptised, has an intricate Gothic portal and noteworthy stained-glass.

Musee Leclerc on rue du Pont Neuf depicts Alencon's role during the second world war with some fascinating photos.

Nearby countryside

As the gateway to the Normandy-Maine regional park, Alençon is an ideal base from which to explore the diverse surrounding countryside, including the Ecouves forest, and, in the heart of the Alpes Mancelles hills, Saint Ceneri-le-Gerei, named as one of "the most beautiful villages in France".

Guide point Details
Department: North West France > Normandy > Orne >
Location: Alençon is located in the Orne department in the Normandy region in the northwest of France
Public Transport:

Getting to Alençon by Ferry from the UK is easy, the nearest ferry port is Caen although Cherbourg, Le Havre or St. Malo are also possible. There are no major airports nearby, Paris is the nearest.

Alençon, is served by frequent trains from Caen and Le Mans. Le Mans is served by both high-speed and regular trains from Paris Montparnasse.

Travelling by road, Alençon is accessed from the A11 autoroute from Paris to Le Mans.

Tourist information website:
Tourist information switch board number: + 33 (0)2 33 80 66 33
Tourist information address: Maison d'Oze, Place de la Magdeleine, Alençon, France
Quick links to accommodation: Accommodation near Alencon (Orne) - Hotels in Alencon (Orne)

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