Caen, France Hotels, Resorts & Hotel Accommodations

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CAEN
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Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the préfecture of the Calvados département and the capital of the Basse-Normandie (Lower-Normandy) region. It is located 15 km (6 mi) inland from the English Channel. Caen is known for its historical buildings built during the reign of William the Conqueror, who was buried here, and for the Battle for Caen heavy fighting that took place in and around Caen during the Battle of Normandy in 1944, destroying much of the town. read full wikipedia reference about Caen, France

CAEN , capital and largest city of Basse Normandie, is not a place where you'll want to spend much time: in the months of fighting in 1944, it was devastated. Nonetheless, the city that nine hundred years ago was the favoured residence of William the Conqueror remains - in parts - impressive.

Its central feature is a ring of ramparts that no longer have a castle to protect, and, though there are the scattered spires and buttresses of two abbeys and eight old churches, roads and roundabouts fill the wide spaces where prewar houses stood. Approaches are along thunderous dual carriageways through industrial suburbs now prospering once more following an influx of high-tech newcomers.

A virtue has been made of the necessity of clearing away the rubble of Caen's medieval houses, which formerly pressed up against its ancient château ramparts . The resulting open green space means that those walls are now fully visible for the first time in centuries. In turn, walking the circuit of the ramparts gives a good overview of the city, with a particularly fine prospect of the reconstructed fourteenth-century facade of the nearby church of St-Pierre . Some magnificent Renaissance stonework has survived intact at the church's east end.

Within the castle walls, it's possible to visit the former Exchequer - which dates from shortly after the Norman conquest of England, and was the scene of a banquet thrown by Richard the Lionheart en route to the Crusades - and inspect a garden that has been replanted with the herbs and medicinal plants that were cultivated here during the Middle Ages. Also inside the precinct, though not in original structures, are two museums. Most visitors will probably prefer the Musée des Beaux-Arts (daily except Tues 9.30am-6pm), which traces a potted history of European art from Renaissance Italy through such Dutch masters as Brueghel the Younger up to grand portraits from eighteenth-century France in the upstairs galleries. Downstairs brings things up to date with some powerful twentieth-century art, though there are few big-name works. The other museum, the Musée de Normandie (daily except Tues 9.30am-12.30pm & 2-6pm, free on Wed), provides a cursory overview of Norman history, ranging from archeological finds like stone tools from the region's megalithic period and glass jewellery from Gallo-Roman Rouen up to the impact of the Industrial Revolution.

The Abbaye aux Hommes , at the west end of rue St-Pierre, was founded by William the Conqueror and designed to hold his tomb within the huge, austere Romanesque church of St-Étienne (daily 8.15am-noon & 2-7.30pm, free; 1hr 15min guided tours leave adjacent Hôtel de Ville daily 9.30am, 11am, 2.30pm & 4pm). However, his burial here, in 1087, was hopelessly undignified. The funeral procession first caught fire and was then held to ransom, as various factions squabbled over his rotting corpse for any spoils they could grab. A further interruption came when a man halted the service to object that the grave had been constructed without compensation on the site of his family house, and the assembled nobles had to pay him off before William could be laid to rest. During the Revolution the tomb was again ransacked, and it now holds a solitary thigh-bone rescued from the river. Still, the building itself is a wonderful Romanesque monument. Adjoining the church are the abbey buildings, designed during the eighteenth century and now housing the Hôtel de Ville.

At the other end of the town centre, at the end of rue des Chanoines, is the Abbaye aux Dames, commissioned by William's wife Matilda in the hope of saving her soul after committing the godless sin of marrying her cousin. Her monument - the church of La Trinité - is even more starkly impressive than her husband's, with a gloomy pillared crypt, wonderful stained glass behind the altar and odd sculptural details like the fish curled up in the holy-water stoup. The convent buildings today house the regional council but are open to the public for free guided tours (daily 2.30pm & 4pm).

Most of the centre of Caen is taken up with busy new shopping developments and pedestrian precincts, where the cafés are distinguished by names such as Fast Food Glamour Vault. Outlets of the big Parisian stores - and of the aristocrats' grocers, Hédiard, in the cours des Halles - are here, along with good local rivals. The main city market takes place on Friday, spreading along both sides of Fosse St-Julien, and there's also a Sunday market in place Courtonne. The pleasure port , at the end of the canal which links Caen to the sea, is where most life goes on, at least in summer.

Just north of Caen, at the end of avenue Marshal-Montgomery in the Folie Couvrechef area, the Caen Memorial - "a museum for peace" - stands on a plateau named after General Eisenhower (daily: mid-Jan to mid-Feb & Nov-Dec daily 9am-6pm, last entry 4.45pm; mid-Feb to June, Sept & Oct 9am-7pm, last entry 5.45pm; July & Aug 9am-8pm, last entry 6.45pm; tel 02.31.06.06.44,), on a clifftop beneath which the Germans had their HQ in June and July 1944. Funds and material for it came from the US, Britain, Canada, Germany, Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, the Russia and France. The museum is a typically French high-tech, novel-architecture conception, with excellent displays divided into three sections; it's worth allowing at least two hours for a visit. The first section deals with the rise of fascism in Germany, another with resistance and collaboration in France. A third charts all the major battles of World War II, and visits culminate with three separate film documentaries. In addition, the former German bunkers below have been refurbished as the Nobel Peace Prize Winners' Gallery. Portraits and short essays commemorate each recipient in turn, placing their achievements in context. There's also a good-value self-service restaurant upstairs.

The memorial is on bus routes #17 (Mon-Sat) and #S (Sun) from the "Tour le Roi" stop in the centre of town .

  

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