Historical street: Rue du Vaugueux
This short, quiet, but very pretty street is pedestrian only. It is located between the Cean Castle and the port. It is one of the few remaining, very old and historical parts of Caen. Historical records mention the street for the first time in 1210. The street also gave its name to the suburb which was built at the foot of the collegiate church of the Holy Sepulchre. The area had previously a very seedy reputation, which remained so up to the 1980s. However, it is actually a very pleasant part of Caen nowadays. Apparently, the paternal grandparents of Edith Piaf had a tavern along the Rue Porte-au-Berger (nearby this street) at the beginning of the 20th century, and street was known for its numerous prostitutes. Despite its seedy reputation, Edit Piaf visited her grandparents here many times as a child.
Interestingly, the tourist information had no idea about the street when I tried to ask them about this. I read about it online in French and couldn't remember the name of the street. We only came across it by accident when we walking to the Caen Castle (Château de Caen) and actually had to use another entrance at the back of the fortifications as they were renovating the main entrance on the city centre side.
The houses along the Rue du Vaugueux are rather small and either made of stone or timber. The street is worth visiting after a visit to the Castle as it is full of small restaurants offering local specialities. It also is worth seeing even if you were just walking around as there is no traffic on the street.
Almost all of the restaurants have a sunny terrace in the front and the locals sit outside even if it wasn't particularly warm! Beware of the opening hours of many restaurants on this street. They may only serve food from 12 noon to 2pm and then again in the evening from about 6 or 7pm to 10pm. Because many of these restaurants are very small, booking may be recommended. Most of them are also closed on Sundays and Mondays.
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Find the Ruins of St.-Gilles
This is located near the Abbaye aux Dames (the Porte St.Gilles was close by). We took our picture 20 years ago and thought erroneously that it was part of a cloister of the Abbey. Thanks to Vter Pavlik_NL we can insert this note to compare with what has recently been restored. See his pictures. (We do not know the genesis of the destruction).
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Hotel de Ville, Cityhall and tourist office
Just next to the Abbaye des Hommes, another monumental large mansion requests your attention. This is the Mairie or Hotel de Ville (cityhall) of Caen. In it - for us tourists - a very important place: the tourist office. Here they can tell you everything about Caen and what events there might be of your interest. The building belonged to the Abbey and functioned as the appartment complex for the monchs.
The ancient church of Saint-Gillis
Near the Abbay des Dames and it's Sainte-Trinity church, a ruin is situated in between the housing blocks of Caen. Gracefully old bows are still standing straight in their battle against the time. Centuries have passed, as this remains from the one of the oldest churches of Caen already was mentioned in the early 11th century. Saint-Gillis church even as a ruin is still a special place. Especially because it's green surroundings in a living neighbourhood of the town.
In memory to all those fallen, without a name
Within the castle of Caen one monument did make me stand still for a while (these monuments always do that to me). It was the eternal flame on the grave of the unknown fallen soldier, that let's us never forget that some have the misfortune to fight and fall for a cause, without leaving a place of memory, but still baring a name.
Look at the old Church of St.-Nicolas
There are many old churches and ruins of churches in Caen, besides the famous ones in the two Abbeys. St.-Nicolas is one of these and is worth wandering by. It was built in 1083 by the monks of the Abbaye aux Hommes nearby. It has never been rebuilt. The tower was erected in the 15C. It has a triple arched porch and an old portal. The conical stone roofs on the transept chapels are original. It is bordered by an ancient cemetery. It is located two short blocks north of the Abbey
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Saint-Pierre, in front of the castle gates
Across the square in front of the castle of the Normandian dukes, a large speer shaped tower rises up gihgh towards the heavens. This is the Saint-Pierre that dominates this part of Caen city centre. The building is a gothic structure with inside a beautiful wide spacious ship is filled with light that shines in through a 1001 windows.
Say hello to the Saint-Sauveur
In the middle of the busy shoppingstreets of Caen, one suddenly stands eye to eye with the little but pretty Saint-Sauveur (Saint-Savior's) church. This was the parish church of the common Caen people and still it stands in the middle of the center of town. The surprise of this church is greater then with Saint-Etienne or Saint-Pierre, as this one is hidden in the streets and buildings of the old city centre.
Maison de Quatrans, miraculously spared
In 1944 Caen was bombed several times in advance to the Battle of Normandie, which eventually brought even more damage to the town. Many monumental buildings were detroyed or damaged, but miraculously saved was the magnificent "vakwerk" (woodwork) "Maison de Quatrans". Therefore it now is one of the best examples of 14th century architecture in Caen as well as Normandie. Some even say it is the largest here in it's kind.
Some famous people from and in Caen
Statues always make me curious. In Caen two caught my eye and here something about them:
Bertrand de Guesclin, a bastard son of a French nobleman, started a sort of guerilla war against the English oppressors in French territories during the wars between those two nations. His strategic insight soon is recognised and he becomes a knight. Though he gets captured twice, the extraordinary high ransom is both times paid. He manages eventually to push the English forces out of France (even out of Normandy, so a statue in Caen is justified) and is therefore seen as a hero in this country. There are several stories about his death, but most remarkable is that he actually is burried in four different places in France.
The other statue I met in Caen was that of Louis the XIV, the sun king. This wonders me how modern people can erect a statue to such an @%$*. A men that pressed the last penny out of his own people to finance an almost constant war to the surrounding countries, someone who sincerely believed that he was the sun and the earth was revolving around him. Well, let us hope that the same modern people never give power to such a person ever again.
The small church of Saint-Laurent
Can't tell much about this little church that I saw dedicated to Saint-Laurent in the centre of Caen. I liked it's baroque facade and it's pastel colours, as I saw it from the park in which we played with Ilja.
Visit the area around Caen, beautiful!
There are many things to do in the area of Caen. You can base yourself in Caen, Bayeux or one of the charming small villages nearby. We once spent a month in Cauvicourt and had plenty to do the entire time.
Caen is in the region of Calvados in Basse Normandie. We have spent time in both Basse Normandie and in Haute Normandie, two very different versions of Normandy. Basse (Low) Normandie is famous for the D-Day beaches and Haute (High) Normandy is known best for Giverny and Monet's Gardens. There is much more in each.
Consider looking for Plus Beaux Villes of France, always a delight although warmer months have more flowers and activities. Plus Beaux Villages of France
Some of the things we've visited are:
D-Day Beaches Web Site
Villedieu-les-Poëlles for copper
Museums of Villedieu-les-Poelles Scroll down for English
Giverny for Monet's Gardens
Museum of American Impressionists
Le Mont Saint Michel
Rouen for the Joan of Arc sites and the city
Official Rouen Tourist Office
Vascoeuil for the chateau and sculpture garden
Chateau Vascoeuil Official Web Site
Honfleur for the harbor and Old Town
Official Web Site for Honfleur
Falaise for the birthplace of William the Conqueror
Official Web Site for the Chateau of William the Conqueror
Livarot for it's Old Town and the cheese factory
Web Site for Graindorge Cheese Factory Tours
There are many more things to visit so check the town tourist information web sites.
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The palace of justice, the district court
Caen, as being the administrative capitol of Bass-Normandie (Lower Normandy) also has the seat of hihger court. This Palace of Justice is situated in a monumental neoclassic temple shaped building near the Abbaye des Hommes, the Hotel de Ville and Saint-Etienne-le-Vieux.
Stop at the Ruins of St.Sauveur-le-Vieux
20 years ago while returnng from La-Trinite to St.-Etienne, while on rue St.-Pierre, we were halted by the appearance of a church ruin. We stopped to look at obviously neglected Gothic and Renaissance remains and its old tower. Only later did we learn of its name. It showed some feeble evidence of repairs but was quite photogenic, as you can see.
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See the Church of St.-Pierre
The West Facade of St.-Pierre is readily seen from the ramparts of the castle and its belfry is a landmark of Caen, so it is not really off the beaten path, but it is easily neglected. We did not go in due to lack of time. It has a flamboyant Gothic facade with a prominent Rose window and a porch clearly studied from the castle. However one must go around the church to see the east end (early 16C) which is in richly decorated Renaissance style.
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