Lower Normandy Tourism – Visit the Lower Normandy region of France

Few places contain as much history in such a small geographical space as Lower Normandy. Conquered by Franks in the 5th century, Lower Normandy was devastated by the 9th century Norman Conquest. Duke William I of Normandy conquered England in 1066 and is buried at Caen in Lower Normandy. Becoming the property of England, France, then England, then France again over the next few centuries, the region was finally controlled by France for good by 1453.

Much of Operation Overlord of World War II took place here, with the Calvados beaches the site of D-Day landings on June 6, 1944. The region suffered terribly during the war, with many villages destroyed or severely damaged during the Battle of Normandy. Today the area is largely agricultural, with fruit, dairy, cheese, and cider production featured. It is also where more horses are bred than any other French region. Direct ferry links to England are available from Cherbourg and Caen Ouistreham. Three of the most visited towns in Lower Normandy are Alençon, Caen, and Saint-Lo.

Alençon has a population of around 52,000, and is the home of the famous point d’Alençon lace. The parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux were from Alençon, and Thérèse spent her early childhood there. In the 20th century, the city was occupied by the Germans from 1940-1944, when it was the first French city liberated by the French Army under General Leclerc. After the war, Alençon attracted new industries, particular plastics, which remain important to this day.

Caen is well-known for its buildings constructed during the reign of William the Conqueror. Heavy fighting in and around the city during World War II’s Battle of Normandy in 1944 destroyed much of the town. The resort of Deauville is located here, in an urban area with a population of around 420,000. The Chateau de Caen, built by William the Conqueror is one of the biggest medieval fortresses in Europe. It was the site of many engagements during the Hundred Years’ War and was also used as barracks during World War II. Today it is a museum that is well worth seeing. The Memorial pour la Paix, constructed in 1988, is devoted to the events of D-Day and includes an exhibit on winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Abbeys of Eglise St.-Etienne and Eglise de la Ste.-Trinite are also located in Caen.

Saint-Lo, built on ramparts, began as a Gaul fortified settlement and is named after Saint Laud, bishop of Coutances, who lived there from 525-565. Given new walls by Charlemagne in the early 800s, the town was sacked by Vikings in 890. However, under the bishop Geffroy de Montbray, the town flourished, with mills being built here. By the 13th century it was a thriving town of craftsmen, including a tailors’ guild. Notre-Dame church, built from the 13th through15th centuries, is one of the few buildings still standing after the bombings of 1944. It did require some restoration after the war, however. Home to some of the largest stud farms in France, Saint-Lo is also home to a hospital memorial established by Americans after the war in partial reparation for the destruction suffered by the city during the Second World War.

Ancient and recent history are hugely important in the Lower Normandy region, and its relative proximity to Britain and Paris make it an easy and very worthwhile journey for anyone interested in important events of France’s history.

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