Postcard from Normandy

Postcard from Normandy

Today’s postcard comes from Avranches, right next to Mont Saint-Michel in the Manche department of lower Normandy. Avranches is a small town completely steeped in history and only a stone’s throw from the stunning and extremely interesting Mont Saint-Michel. Situated at the southern end of the Cotentin Peninsula, this town is perfect for our stay because it’s on the E40 and also boasts great rail links. And just off the coast at the mouth of the Couesnon River, of course there’s Mont Saint-Michel.

For our accommodation, we’ve found ourselves a charming little chambre d’hôte on the outskirts of the town that’s run by a couple who moved here from England about 20 years ago. They are a husband and wife team. Madame is French and Mister is English and they run an absolutely superb business here. They tell me that most of their guests come for at least three nights, making their venture much more relaxing and cost effective for them than some of the B&Bs that only get one-night guests. Anyway, they made us feel incredibly welcome and fed us like Kings and Queens when we weren’t out and about in town and the surrounding area.

Avranches itself is quite an unassuming little town with a population of only about 10,000, but it has a really nice feel to it. Even off-season there’s a bit of local hustle and bustle and the locals certainly made us feel at home. One of the main attractions in the town is the site of the ancient cathedral, the Cathedral of Avranches which has an interesting and checkered history.

Originally dating back to the 10th century, it was completely destroyed during the French Revolution. Unlike some cathedrals that had a similar fate, the Cathedral of Avranches wasn’t reconstructed after its demise. Legend has it that even several visits by Archangel Michael to the bishop of Avranches failed to make him take notice and instruct a re-build. In fact, apparently on his last visit, the Archangel Michael touched the bishop on the head and had such an impact that his finger made a hole in his skull. Whether you believe the legend or not, you, like us can see his skull, complete with hole in the Saint-Gervais church in Avranches itself. After the cathedral was destroyed, the religious presence in the town was restored by the church of Notre Dame des Champs, a gothic revival style building which was erected in the 19th century.

Avranches shares a troubled journey with the English, with King Henry II reported as having been made to walk the streets barefoot and bareheaded after he murdered Thomas Becket in 1192. Apparently this walk of shame was to rid him of his guilt.

While in residence, we took a couple of trips out of the town to the surrounding area to meet up with friends in Vire, Villedieu-les-Poêles and Sourdeval. All of these communes have smallish populations, with the exception of Vire, which has about 12,000 inhabitants. That said, what really struck us on our travels was the warmth of welcome we felt, an experience that we haven’t necessarily found in our recent travels to bigger towns and cities.

Yes, we’re often drawn to the bright lights, but sometimes it’s in the darkest corners where the brightest lights shine. Here we are, only a few miles away from England, in a part of the France that is rich in historic significance, most recently the Normandy landings. It’s easy to get to and is rich with delicious food and drinks. No matter whether your love is cider, Calvados, Coquilles St Jacques or Camembert, you can be absolutely certain that you’ll have a gourmet’s welcome irrespective of where you go.

If you fancy taking a bit more than a short trip to Normandy and would like to find out more about living there full-time, or investing in a holiday property there, why not get in touch?