Jan 9th, 2012 | By James E Becker | Category: Senior Travel

Normandy Invites Senior Travelers

I enjoy writing about places where I have been.  I don’t recall which tour I led that took the group to Normandy and Bayeux, but I remember well the city, its hospitality and its proximity to the Beaches of Normandy. Bayeux is located roughly 166 miles northwest of Paris making it an easy drive for seniors if you have a rental car.

The Musée de la Reine Mathilde displays the famous Bayeux Tapestry.  The tapestry is actually embroidery on a band of linen measuring 231 feet long, and 20 inches wide. Some 58 scenes are depicted.  This large embroidery tells the story of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, the Battle of Hastings.  I have had the good fortune to walk along the actual battle scene in England.  The medieval Tapestry, Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde, is probably the world’s most famous embroidery. It is remarkable both as a source of 11th century history and as a work of art.  It is an invaluable historical representation of the arms, costumes, manners and ships used by the Normans (led by William The Conqueror) prior to the Norman conquest of England and the tapestry is a national monument of France.

I recall that it was found in a horse barn being used as a blanket for horses when it was rescued, cleaned and placed in the museum.  One scene that I remember well among the hundred showing the boats, horses, armor and clothing is the famous Halley’s Comet that is above  one of the battle scenes. This newer version of a YouTube depiction shows animated battles (be assured that there are NO moving scenes in the museum). It is pretty cool.  Don’t miss it.

Tapestery, Cathedral and Normandy Beaches Await Senior Citizens

The Bayeux Cathedral of Notre Dame de Bayeux is another well-known monument and you will want to see the interior on your visit here. Take a tour of the Bayeux Cathedral – part of the World’s Greatest Attractions travel video series by GeoBeats. Bayeux Cathedral is an ornate, Norman-Romanesque sanctuary and a treasured jewel in the town of Bayeux. Bayeux’s 13th through 19th century Gothic Cathedral is in the town’s center.  It has 11th century Romanesque towers, a groin-vaulted crypt, which is decorated with 15th century frescos.  The City Hall, Hotel-de-Ville, was once the region’s catholic Bishop’s Palace.  A museum and the law courts are housed here. Underneath the massive structure lies an ancient crypt that houses murals of biblical figures.

The German army occupied Bayeux in 1940.  The Allies took the town on D-Day plus one, June 7, 1944.  It was the first town liberated, and it was the first to greet General de Gaulle on his return to France on June 14, 1944. Although Bayeux is only a short distance from the D-Day invasion beaches of Omaha and Gold, it was spared bombardment during the historic invasion. Today, it is a sleepy, small town with cobblestone streets lined with small shops and Norman style timbered houses dating from the 17th century.

Wondering what you will do in Bayeux? This activity guide will help you plan and book activities during your visit. Close by to Bayeux is Ste. Mère-Eglise.  One of my favorite scenes in the Longest Day is when Charlie Company of the 82nd Airborne over shoots their DZ (drop zone) and they land under fire in the town square of St.Mère Eglise.

And the Normandy Cheese…

The region is full of fields and orchards, which in turn means that there are plenty of cows and fruit and so food in Normandy tends to be based on these products. In fact, milk from cows in Normandy makes up about half of France’s milk, butter, cheese and cream. Seniors, you will find in Normandy cuisine, dairy products like butter and cream are  used in the rich, thick sauces that accompany fish, meat and vegetable dishes. Veal (veau) is popular and sometimes cooked Vallée d’Auge style with cream and butter, and mussel soup is made with stock, white wine and cream.

Normandy cheeses include the ubiquitous Camembert, called in French “le roi des fromages – the fromage des rois” = The King of Cheeses…the Cheese of Kings, which has been around since William the Conqueror’s days. Other interesting and typical varieties include Neufchatel (or Bondon), the soft and square Pont l’Eveque, and the stronger, round Livarot. And be sure to try the Cidre and the Calvados.  Do enjoy the many wonderful foods in Normandy. You won’t come away with an empty stomach.  jeb

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