The department of Calvados in Normandy is blessed with historic towns, beautiful villages, wonderful countryside and a stunning coastline. Among the many jewels of Calvados are picturesque Honfleur, stylish Deauville and historic Caen. We take a look at some of the best places to visit and things to do in Calvados…
Calvados the department gives its name to Calvados, a sort of apple brandy. This strong drink is created by distilling cider twice, maturing it in wooden barrels and blending it. Enjoyed with a coffee in the evening, it packs a powerful punch.
Discover more about Calvados at the Calvados Experience, a cross between a museum and an innovative show utilising the most up to date multimedia themes. You’ll enjoy a tasting at the end of your visit and there’s a great shop selling Calvados, cider and local products, plus there’s a picnic area and café.
Details: calvados-experience.com/en – you can take the tour in eight languages.
Famous for its racecourse, casino, golf course and long sandy beach lined with beach huts named after American movie stars (in honour of the annual American Film Festival held in Deauville), called the Promenade des Planches. Here you’ll find the rich and beautiful promenading; wealthy, tanned old ladies lying under the colourful beach parasols and smartly dressed visitors enjoying the unique ambience of elegant Deauville.
Wandering around the harbour and up and down the wiggly cobble stone streets of Honfleur is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s one of the finest places in France for simply sitting and watching the world go by from a terrace café with a steaming bowl of moules mariniere and a glass of chilled wine. It’s a buzzing, vibrant, colourful and truly enchanting little place that is quaintly charming and full of character despite the high number of tourists.
The port town of Caen is the capital of Calvados as well as William the conqueror’s last hometown. The old part of the town, Vaugeux district, is small but has some pretty half-timbered houses, lots of cafés, bars and restaurants where whiling away an hour or several isn’t hard. Don’t miss a visit to the monumental Abbeys in the town – the Men’s Abbey was built by William the Conqueror and the Women’s’ Abbey by his wife Matilda. There’s also a museum and Fine Arts Museum in the former Caen Castle. Around six miles from the city centre is the famous Pegasus Bridge, a major landmark and historic site of World War II which played a significant role in the D-Day Landings.
Bayeux is famous primarily for being the home of the Bayeux tapestry which depicts the Norman conquest of England. Almost 1000 years old, a real life Game of Thrones tale, captured in thread – it really is an extraordinary piece of work. The area around the historic cathedral is great for a wander and the old town is very pretty. Next door to the Cathedral, the Museum Baron Gérard is located in the former episcopal palace and houses an excellent collection which dates from prehistory to the 20th century. Visit the superb Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy to explore the history of the D-Day landings through to victory.
French Connections has loads of great holiday homes in Calvados including gites, apartments, cottages, villas and even chateaux and a watermill.
The sunny city of Bordeaux nestles in a land of vineyards dotted with famous wine towns like Saint-Emilion and Medoc. It’s the famous wine of the area that has largely influenced how Bordeaux has evolved for the last two millennia.
The architecture of the city is mellow: neoclassical masterpieces built by rich wine merchants and traders. And, Bordeaux is home to the most wonderful wine bars which definitely adds to the happy and relaxed vibe in the city.
The Romans were the first to start making wine in Bordeaux. When they arrived they imported wine from Italy and Spain but in 1AD they planted the first vines, the ancestor of Cabernet Franc. There are ruins of an amphitheatre known locally as 'Le Palais Gallien' and a few towers but you can’t walk more than a few steps in the city without reminders of that monumental decision the Romans took. There are wine bars everywhere. The locals recommend Maison Gobineau, smart and elegant with tapestries and stained glass windows alongside contemporary style wine racks and an extensive wine list which starts at just €2 a glass.
In the 18th century, rich city merchants began commissioning fabulous buildings in the neoclassical style. Today they contribute to Bordeaux’s status as a UNESCO world heritage centre. The Opera National de Bordeaux is a veritable landmark in a city of landmarks.
Miroir d’Eau, a water sculpture in front of the impressive Place de la Bourse, draws people day and night to marvel at and enjoy. On a hot day, kids splash love to splash in the water and cool down in the misty spray.
The great door or the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was modelled on the doors of the 11th century Cathedral of Bordeaux where Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII in 1137. In the 14th century, Bordeaux's Archbishop became Pope Clement V and moved the seat of Papal rule from Rome to Avignon.
UNESCO listed churches on the Camino de Santiago. You’ll see little brass floor plates as you walk through the city indicating that you’re on the Way of St James (Camino de Santiago). There are 3 UNESCO listed churches on the route.
Don't miss the magnificent Cité du Vin a superb win museum with innovative displays, high tech marvels, a most fabulous wine tasting area with panoramic views over the city. The superb wine store and gift shop are also worth a visit.
When your legs are weary from walking the streets of this wonderful city, just hop on a boat and take a tour to admire Bordeaux from its river, said to be one of the cleanest in Europe.
With more than 3000 restaurants it’s not easy to know which are the best but these names crop up from locals’ recommendations:
Le Petit Commerce, traditional, friendly, great menu and full of locals. 22 Rue Parlement Saint-Pierre
Braderie Bordelaise “a taste of Bordeaux” is how the locals described it. If you’re a steak frites fan, you’ll love this one.
Seven at Cité du Vin. The 7th floor restaurant at the wine museum has a fabulous menu, brilliant wine list and absolutely stunning view over the city. It’s open for lunch, dinner, afternoon tea and any time for a glass of wine!
Useful website: www.bordeaux-tourisme.com
We have loads of lovely holiday rentals in and around Bordeaux – making your holiday dreams come true…
If you’re wondering where to enjoy your holiday in France and not sure where to go, we’ve got thousands of wonderful holiday homes all over the country. Whether it’s coast, city or a tiny village in the middle of glorious countryside, be inspired by our brilliant listings.
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We’ve got plenty of discounts, reduced rate weeks and even free extra nights (e.g. 9 nights for the price of 7), throughout the year in all your favourite French destinations. Whether you’re looking for a romantic break for two, or a family holiday for 10 or even a get-away for a large group of friends, there’s plenty to suit. Country houses, chateaux, pretty cottages, comfy gites and gorgeous villas.
Some home owners even greet you with free wine or a welcome meal on arrival.
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Burgundy, in east-central France, is a region that’s renowned thanks to its vineyards, with wine producing villages like Chablis and Nuits-St-Georges known throughout the world.
Burgundy is a land of picturesque villages, rolling vineyards, medieval abbeys, the Burgundy Canal and historic cities. There’s so much to see that it’s hard to know where to start but Dijon, the capital city, should definitely be on your list.
Dijon is probably best known for its mustard, However there’s far more to this ancient town than this piquant sauce.
It was once home to the fabulously wealthy Dukes of Burgundy who were more powerful than the King until their empire became part of France in the 15th Century. In their wake they left an architectural and cultural legacy that’s just mind-boggling. Dijon is amazingly well preserved and boasts over 100 hectares of magnificent monuments, medieval buildings and 100 hotel particuliers (grand mansion houses). The Palais des Ducs is stunning, built on the site of the Gallo-Roman castrum (a fortified building), the Roman influence is evident in its architecture. It was rebuilt in 1366 and then again in the 17th Century by architects Jules Hardouin-Mansart (Versailles) and Ange-Jacques Gabriel (Fontainebleau). The Palais has been home to the Musée des Beaux Arts since 1799, one of the oldest and most beautiful museums in France.
Climb the 15th century Tour Philippe le Bon for views over jewel-coloured tiled rooftops, crooked medieval streets, and, further afield, vineyards, forests and villages. The hundreds of stairs are worth the effort.
Visit the free Museum of Burgundy Life which has a quirky and eclectic and mix of objects as well as superb recreations of shops from the 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Finally, don’t forget to rub the owl! It’s a legend in Dijon that it will bring you luck to run the small stone owl on the wall of the 13th century church of Notre Dame. On top of the church is a 14th Century mechanical clock known as “Jacquemart” whose four figurines chime every quarter of an hour as they gaze over rue de Musette and the second hand book sellers on a Saturday morning.
There are hundreds of cafés and restaurants in the town. For views and a great ambiance, head to the Place des Ducs, or Place Francois Rude with its little carousel where mamans and papas sip coffee while their enfants play.
Les Halles, Dijon's main covered market, was designed by the famous son of Dijon - Gustave Eiffel. It’s excellent for food shopping and has a great café, perfect for people watching. (Market days are Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday mornings).
You can’t really go to Dijon and not visit Boutique Maille. The famous mustard shop has hundreds of different mustards and a tasting bar.
At the end of the day, join the locals and relax with a kir. This typical Burgundian aperitif is made from local speciality, creme de cassis, (blackcurrant syrup) - and aligote (a Burgundian white wine).
We have a great selection of holiday homes in Burgundy, just head over to our listings pages and find one that’s just perfect for your holiday…
La Manche is a department in Normandy. It’s blessed with a long coast line and picturesque countryside. There are many museums and sites and it is one of the key areas for the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944.
We share some of our favourite things to do and see in La Manche:
The no. 1 must-see in Normandy, in fact it’s a top site in France, is the Benedictine Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel. It is one of the most incredible medieval feats of architecture in the world. From the 8th to the 18th century it was one of Christianity's most important pilgrimage sites. Now it’s one of the most important tourist sites. The Abbey consists of several stunning clerical buildings including a church, cloisters, refectory, monks' ambulatory and the gardens of what is known as the Merveille (marvel). It’s a steep walk to the top but worth it for the amazing views and buildings. Lower down is a charming helter skelter of wiggly winding streets lined with cafés, restaurants and shops.
The Airborne Museum is based in the square of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, just a few miles from the D-Day landing beaches. Through spectacular museography, the Airborne Museum takes you through D-Day alongside American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.
Barfleur with its pretty and colourful port is officially one of the prettiest villages in France.
Situated two kilometres to the North of Barfleur, the lighthouse of Gatteville – 75 metres high – is the 2nd tallest in France and Europe. Walk up the 365 steps and enjoy a magnificent panorama.
The Jardin des plantes de Coutances is the oldest public plant garden in Normandy and the plant theme changes annually. Recent displays have been of food and sea life. It’s a great park for relaxing and a picnic.
Take a cruise on a passenger boat, yacht or old sailing ship. You can go island hopping to the Chausey Islands, the Channel Islands or Tatihou Island and other smaller, lesser known islands off the coast of La Manche.
The great gothic cathedral of Coutances was constructed from 1210 to 1274. Standing 80 metres tall, it dominates the town and can be seen from miles around.
Utah Beach stretches from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont as far as Quinéville, about 5 km. It was the first of two zones selected for the American landings. Visit the Utah Beach Museum to discover more about the history of the D-Day landings.
Close by you can visit the German battery at Azeville which marked the beginning of the presence of the Germans on this stretch of the coast.
Cherbourg is at the tip of the Cotentin Peninsula, the last stop before the high seas. There’s plenty to do and see here, from museums to fabulous sea food restaurants. Don’t miss La Cité de la Mer, a scientific theme park located in the old transatlantic harbour station of Cherbourg where you can see the submarine “le Redoutable”, take a virtual tour to the bottom of the ocean and discover sea life in the aquarium.
Granville, known as the "Monaco of the North", became a popular seaside resort at the end of the 19th Century. It’s an elegant city, great for a stroll, seafood restaurants and lovely beaches. Don’t miss the Christian Dior Museum. The couturier Christian Dior spent his childhood here and each year his former family home, now a museum, hosts an exhibition dedicated to the stylist.
Saint-Lô is home to the State Stud Farm, constructed under Napoleon. Visit to find out more about the horsey history of this area. The Musée des Beaux Arts is well worth a visit with paintings by some of the greats, including Boudin. Don’t miss the Norman Bocage Museum at a 17th century farm with a huge collection of traditional artefacts which depicts farm life in Normandy over the centuries.
Discover lots more to see and do in La Manche on the tourist office website: www.manche-tourism.com
French Connections has loads of fabulous holiday rentals in La Manche – take a look and make your holiday dreams come true