Abbaye aux Hommes, Caen
Ferry sailings from Portsmouth dock at the port of Ouistreham, a 15-minute drive (or by shuttle bus) from the city of Caen. This is an area of Normandy offering huge variety – from the D-Day beaches of World War II to William the Conqueror’s castle, from café society to seaside picnics. Although the city was devastated by wartime bombardment, some beautiful houses and churches remain remarkably untouched. Caen can be a hive of activity and worth a stop on your journey into Normandy, to Paris, or further afield. The region is steeped in history and has a vibrant modern cultural life too.
Travelling by car ferry to Caen gives you the convenience of having your own car to explore France with ease.
Excellent road links out of Caen make for an easy drive to Brittany, the Loire and the South of France. The elegant seaside resorts of Deauville and Cabourg are around 30 minutes away and pretty villages dot the coastline.
Disneyland Paris is 2 ½ hours by car (foot passengers can take a train direct from Caen station) and the Arc de Triomphe little more than two hours on the A13 motorway.
The Bayeux Tapestry is just 16 miles from Caen, a stunning 11th century work depicting the Battle of Hastings. Festyland on the Caen ring road is a small theme park with 1066 and dinosaur-themed attractions.
William the Conqueror’s unmarried parents were the 6th Duke of Normandy and the daughter of a tanner. He inherited the dukedom at the age of seven.
You won’t find much of William left at his tomb in the Benedictine Men’s Abbey next to city hall – only a thighbone.
Caen was the birthplace of Charlotte Corday, bath-time murderess of the French Revolutionary figure Marat.
Normandy is famous for its regional delicacies of rich, thick creams and aromatic cheeses, and Caen has plenty of shops and restaurants offering these distinctive flavours.