Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Things to Do in Bayeux France

Bayeux is a medium sized town located in Normandy and very close to the D Day landing beaches.  What is remarkable about Bayeux, is that unlike many of the towns of Northern France, which were reduced to rubble as the Allies moved inland, on their way to Berlin, Bayeux was not bombed at all during WW2.  The reason for this was that the Mayor was a integral part of the French resistance.
 As the events of the 6 of June 1944 began to unfold, he was able to communicate with the powers that be, to convey the happy news.  All the Germans had left the town and there was no need to bomb it.  The best bit about that, apart from the obvious, is that the medieval aspects of the town have been left intact, which is rare.  This is also the case with perhaps one of the seven wonders of the artistic world, The Bayeux Tapestry was left undamaged.  Phew!!!  The wonderful Cathedral, which has strong ties to William the conqueror, was also left in peace.

The meat market had its origins in medieval times

Whist photography of the Bayeux Tapestry or Tapisserie de la Reine Matilde, as it is known in French is strictly forbidden, viewing it, was perhaps one of the highlights of my trip to France.  The reasons for that are varied, but perhaps the main one, is that as the tapestry was basically a forerunner to the comic strip and made for the masses. It makes it very easy to understand the Norman Conquests and the politics behind, William the Conquerors invasion of England in 1066.

I am a lover of history and have never understood the story better, than when I viewed the tapestry in person.  The handheld commentary included in the entry fee, is enlightening and so very interesting.  In an attempt to push the tourists through, the commentary moves quickly.  So try to visit in September, when the high season has passed.  I loved it so much, that I returned to the beginning and went through the story again.  Happily there was no queue.  My 11 year old boy was equally enthralled.

What is also interesting, is that the tapestry is thought to have been commissioned by William the Conqueror's half brother Odo, to hang in the Bayeux Cathedral.  Odo was made the Bishop of Bayeux, by Duke William prior to the conquest of England.  Odo had the cathedral built completely at his own expense.  Clearly they were a remarkable family.

For the record, after viewing the tapestry, I think William was completely justified in taking the throne of England by force.  He was the rightful heir and you can hardly blame him.

The medieval quarter with the cathedral in the background

There is some conjecture as to where and when The Bayeux Tapestry was made.  Would you believe some Brits say England?  The main evidence for it being commissioned by Odo and made in France, is that the 90 metre artwork fits perfectly around the walls of the alter of the cathedral.  That is that curved part of the church Mr Beach House is looking at, here in this shot.  Although the tapestry is 90 metres long, I was quite shocked that the tapestry has a drop of only 1m.  I thought it was a floor to ceiling affair, but not for the first time, I was wrong.

As always, the kids loved the museum shop attached to the tapestry.

Bayeux is well set up for the tourist,  I did not find the fact there are lots of tourists painful at all, as I often do in some of the more famous parts of France.  The season was drawing to an end in mid September, so it wasn't busy at all.  There is a great little train, known as Le p'tit train de Bayeux, which stops at four or five destinations, other than the tourist office in the centre of town. It is a hop on and off arrangement, with commentary in English. For a modest fee, it's definitely worth the trip and lets you cover the main points of interest efficiently.

On the little tourist train

 The  little train stops at The Bayeux tapestry, the Bayeux Cathedral,  The Battle of Normandy Museum (upon request), the British Military Cemetery and The Place Charles de Gaulle, which is a beautiful park, where he first addressed his countrymen and women after the D Day landings.  He led them in a very moving rendition of the Marseillaise and thereafter, the deep spirituality and sense of patriotism, which was conveyed by de Gaulle on that day, meant the Allies knew they had no chance of having any part in a post war French Government, as they had hoped.

Place Charles de Gaulle

Although I took no photos of the Battle of Normandy Museum, it was terrific and very comprehensive.

Main Street of Bayeux Rue St Martin.  The little train runs down this street.

Crosses of remembrance placed in the Cathedral

A medieval building, which survived the Allied bombings of Northern France.

The British War Cemetery Bayeux

I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour of Bayeux.

I can highly recommend Bayeux as a great town from which to launch your visit to the D Day landing beaches.  Particularly if you don't have private transport.  There are lots of tours and public buses which run from here, via the Office de Tourisme.

Disclaimer:  Any entry fees in Bayeux, were paid by myself.

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  1. So much history. Beautiful buildings. You have a handsome family.

  2. What a gorgeous little town and I had to google that tapestry to see what it was all about. I love being able to discover something like that and totally immerse yourself in experiencing it.
    You might want to link this up with my #wednesdaywanderlust link party tomorrow!

  3. What beautiful photos. I can understand you wanting to take your time walking through the tapestry. I'm quite intrigued about the history now.

  4. You take such beautiful pictures. Thank you for the walk through Bayeux. Many years ago now we went to Ypres in Belgium and saw many war cemetries and museums. It's absolutely fascinating and sobering all at once. I can't wait to see where your next adventure will take us :) #teamIBOT

  5. I loved this!When I went to the UK I read and learnt about the Tapestry. AriadnefromGreece!

  6. Such a pretty town! Amazing history too....

  7. What a beautiful town! I regret not visiting the 'real' France, only Paris, Cannes and Marseille which were full of tourists.

  8. It all looks interesting. I find visiting places the best way to learn about history - fantastic for your kids.

  9. What a pretty little town! We're going to be in France in the spring so I'll bookmark this for my planning.

  10. Breathtaking photos, Carolyn. So much light and colour. I can just imagine soaking in all that history and culture.

  11. Can you believe I never visited Bayeux? It's definitely on my list of places to go to and now that I've read your post, it might even have become a priority on that list. Thanks for the tour!

  12. We were in Normandy in 2013 but were on a tour off of the Viking Esprit and as such had no control where we traveled. How beautiful this village is, just lovely. We hope to go back to France in the next couple of years and have a car and control of our own destiny so I am putting Bayeux on the list thanks to you. Merci pour le partage!

  13. I love travel posts like these! Yesterday I posted some of my favorite things to do in NYC! Serisblog.com


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