Valognes Things to Do
What wine is to France, Cidre (Cider wine) is for Normandie. Cider wine is made of apples and Normandie still has enormous apple orchards that form the basis of this delicate sparkling refreshing wine. Many traditions are connected with the making and drinking of Cider wine and to be honest, during our wonderful holiday in Normandie, I daily drank a whole bottle of this delicious drink. Cider comes in two main forms: Brut (heavier, somewhat more strong) and Doux (light, around 2-3% alcohol). In Valognes the Musee de Cidre, Museum of Cider wine, explains everything you ever wanted to know of this national drink of the Normans. It shows the processes how it is made (the old fashioned way, but also how it is done today) as well as the traditions that have arisen in Normandie around this national drink.
This combination of two museums is situated right next to the museum of Cider wine and spends all attention to 1. Calvados is a strong apple liquor or brandy and is the true Viking drink of the Normans and 2. old (agricultural) tools, equipment, crafts and machinery. In the museum everything about the production and traditions of Calvados is shown. In another section one finds an enormous collection of tools etc. that are dating back from between the 12th to the 18th century.
Right in the centre of Valognes rises the beautiful gothic church of Saint-Malo. This church was built between the 14th and 15th century, but had to be restaurated after it was completely destroyed during bombardment in the struggle for Normandy in 1944. The rebuilding was done partly by the use of many rich ornaments and the original stones of the destructed church. During this work one also discovered the fundaments of the Chapel of Sainte-Marie, which stood here before this church was built, until the 11th century. Especially the details in sculptures and ornaments of the exterior request your attention, while walking around the church.
Valognes Off The Beaten Path
This privately owned castle is a very off the beaten path tip, as I believe that I was trespassing at the time that I accidently ended up on the entrancegates of this castle. Just outside Valognes in a forest on the estate called "La Brique", a beautiful castle is hidden. On my scenic route between Bricquebec and Valognes (D62) I suddenly decided to make a walk in the forest that I passed and turned from the road onto a small bad road leading into the forest. Soon the road started to change to a path and I passed entrancegates onto the premisses of a mansion/castle. Amazed by the view of this place, I swiftly took some pictures and then retreated.
In France still many castles and mansions are private possessions. As this beautiful place was not named on the signs and very hard to reach, I guess this must have been one of them. I am very happy to accidently found it and allowed to see it that way.
Direction: Take D62 from Valognes to Bricquebec and turn North after passing "La Brique" inside the small forest onto a forest road.
The surroundings lands of Valognes are of exquisit beauty. The hills with acres and fields look harmonious and are well worth roaming around in for a couple of hours. Especially typical for Normandie are the "Chemins", the narrow streets that on both side are half covered with stone walls that are grown over by bushes, trees and plants. These tunnels are very typical for Normandie and make driving through the landscape to a very special event. In between one can gaze over acres and fields and sometimes also witness where the Cidre comes from (apple orchards). Many people in Normandy have lots of flowers around the house and take very good care of their gardens. Especially the Hortensia bushes are magnificent in summertime.
Quite a few kilometres from Valgones, archeologic digs have recovered Romain fundaments of the ancient town Alauna. This town was the capital of the Unelli, that roamed the Cotentin around present Valognes and through which territory the Romain road towards the Channel coast went. This road was for example quite important for the tin that the Romains brought from Cornwall. Escavations started out only in the late 80-ies of the 20st century and lead to surprising archeological findings of various buildings, among which a Thermae (Romain bathing house). Including parts of the aquaduct that brought water to the Thermae and the furnaces that heated the water.
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