Historical Monuments in the center of Normandy

History and heritage

See Le Mans, reputed for the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race and other races, from an artistic and historical angle. Drive up to Deauville through countryside bursting with heritage, such as Lude where the largest Loire château is located. Plus the abbeys built by William the Conqueror in Caen (Saint Etienne abbey - Abbaye aux Hommes and the Holy Trinity - Abbaye aux Dames).

We look forward to revealing history and traditions from the Loire Valley up to the Normandy coast.

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  • 4 days
    4 nights
  • Stages: 
    565 km
  • From
  • Spring Summer Autumn Winter

Step by step

  • D1

    From the Mans to the Domaine de la Groirie

    Km to Km

    Start the tour at Le Mans. Long before the city became famous for the endurance race, it was considered a site of artistic inspiration during the Renaissance. We suggest beginning in the Cité Plantagenêt old town where the typical architecture, such as paved lanes and wooden houses, takes visitors back to the Middle Ages. On to the historicial Le Mans cathedral (Cathédrale St-Julien du Mans) to contemplate the stunning architecture, built between the 11th and 15th centuries. 13 gothic style chapels surround the interior of the monument and the walls are decorated with paintings and stained glass windows which become brighter and brighter further in. End the afternoon at l’Abbaye Royale de l’Epau, originally designed to accommodate Cistercian monks founded by the English queen Berengaria of Navarre in 1229, who was buried there. It became a listed historical monument in 1973.

    1st night at the Domaine de La Groirie, a typical country estate.

  • D2

    Castles around the Domaine de la Groirie

    Km to Km

    Off to Lude Château to start the day outdoors. This is one of the last currently inhabited châteaux (for the last 250 years). The building is quite unique and embodies four different lifestyles, each inspired by the various eras of occupation. Explore the beautiful lush, green grounds surrounding the lake and splendid Italian gardens. Then spend the rest of the afternoon at the Château de Bazouges which became a charming residence fit for a king, boasting 17th century furniture and Louis XVI style rooms.    

    2nd night at the Domaine de La Groirie, a typical country estate.

  • D3

    From Domaine de la Groirie to la Villa d'Eaux

    Km to Km

    We suggest heading for Alençon to visit Saint Theresa's birth place. A statue of the Virgin Mary named du sourire can be seen in the bedroom on the 1st floor of the house. The name comes from fact that Saint Theresa claims she saw the Virgin smile and it gave her strength and courage. Then go onto Notre Dame d’Alençon cathedral. See the Roman and Gothic style building which was ravaged by a fire in the 18th century destroying the wooden bell tower and then later pillaged and abandonned. The facade is delicately decorated like lace and is only a preview to the stunning stained glass windows recounting biblical passages (e.g. the history of Salvation and Moses crossing the Red Sea) inside. The church is also a major stop-off on the Saint Theresa pilgrimage.                            

    Continue onto Caen, heavily hit during the Battle of Normandy. First stop at the war memorial, commissioned by Chirac in 1986 and unveiled by Mitterrand in 1988. Retrace the history of the soliders and see their living conditions during WWII at the memorial and the museum. Next onto the Saint Etienne abbey - Abbaye aux Hommes where William the Conqueror is buried. The impressive abbey is surrounded by beautiful French gardens and decorated with woodwork and paintings by the Benedictine Monks who lived here. The Holy Trinity – Abbaye aux Dames is nearby and is also reputed for music concerts. It was commissioned by Mathilde de Flandre, William's wife (and cousin), in fact both abbeys were designed as a form of apology to the Pope as the cousins married without his benediction. Mathilde's tomb is in the centre of the abbey. Take a tour of the gardens and explore the remains of the religious building where artists and travellers used to meet. We suggest stopping at the musical carrousel or near the abbey orchestra to listen to young violinists practicing. Then see Caen's Fine Arts museum at William the Conqueror's castle before enjoying some relaxation in the grounds to contemplate modern and contemporary sculptures such as the Great Warrior by Bourdelle.

    3rd night at La Villa d’Eaux, an unusual hotel located inside upcycled 20th century public baths.

  • D4

    From la Villa d'Eaux to Deauville

    Km to Km

    Spend the last day by the sea, touring the coastline and visiting Le Havre. Saint Joseph du Havre church with its 350 ft bell tower is an excellent start. The modern architecture and interior decor is quite unexpected and the stained glass windows covering the bell tower let light flood into the heart of the church. The town's Japanese Gardens are only a 20-minute walk from here. They were designed in the 20th century to celebrate the twinning of Le Havre and Osaka. Guided tours plunge visitors into the land of the rising sun. Next take the time to wander around the modern town before driving onto Deauville, the high-end seaside resort on the Normandy coast, reputed for its beaches, casinos, palatial hotels and the annual American Film Festival. Baron Henri de Rothschild lived here at Villa Strasburger, a picturesque villa open to visitors from June to September. Don't miss the basements where the family and staff would take shelter during the bombings. There are many other delightful neighbouring towns to to explore, such as Touques and the remains of its fortress which protected the fishing port. Go back to Deauville beach to watch the sun set from the Promenade des Planches boardwalk by the striking beach cabins often still bearing name of American film stars who stay here annually for the festival.