Dreamy Places in France: the most beautiful village of Barfleur
Welcome back to the series that brings you beautiful, fascinating and often historic places to explore in France. From the summer heat of Provence (part 1 here), the beauty of the organic vines and wines in Dordogne (part 2 here), we now travel north to an area well-known for its beauty, charm and history. Yes, we're off to Normandy!
Normandy in a nutshell
Normandy as a whole is made up of 5 départments stretching across from Seine-Maritime east of the Seine river; Eure, home to Giverny and Evreux, Orne, home to Alençon and the Suisse Normande countryside, Calvados and Manche. From the Côte d'Albâtre to the Côte Fleurie, the Cotentin Peninsula, the rolling hills of Suisse Normande south of Caen and the other lively towns and cities of Rouen, Le Havre, Dieppe and Cherbourg there is something for everyone.
So where shall we add to our growing guidebook for travelling around France? What gems can we uncover in this region?
Beautiful though it is, we're going to be over 100 miles away from Mont St Michel (perhaps a post for another day) - the most visited monument in France outside of Paris.
So, what if we want to go a little off the beaten track, escape the crowds and explore?
Well, I have something up my sleeve in Manche (get it?) 🤪
Okay, sorry it's a terrible joke, but as the sea here is called La Manche (the sleeve), or the English Channel if you're British, we're exploring the area also called Manche. It's something of an underrated gem. So let's move on from bad jokes and explore...!
The Manche départment
Whether you're travelling from elsewhere in France, from Paris or arriving from the UK by ferry (here's a reason to stay closer to your arrival port!), this wonderful part of Normandy has plenty to offer. If you love seaside landscapes, discovering seafood and culinary delights, walking, watersports and history then come along and discover Manche.
Most Beautiful Barfleur
Yes, we're going to one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France. The association of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France® was founded in 1982 by Charles Ceyrac's initiative to bring together people's energy, passion and wish to protect and promote exceptional heritage. Today there is a national network of 159 villages which have to satisfy the specific criteria of the Association to be considered and then evaluated officially.
Find out more at their website and in their great book (update annually). You can buy the 2020 edition (in English) here and here (in French), or click the image below (affiliate links used, at no cost to you).
Come discover the salty air of Barfleur, with its local delicacies (including the Barfleur "Blonde" which is a wild mussel from natural beds near the port and best eaten between June and September), and historic monuments, arts and crafts.
It is also on the GR 223 walking/hiking route "Sentiers des douaniers" so if you're feeling energetic, you could walk to the lighthouse at Gatteville on that route (only 2 miles/3 km) or the longer walk to 2019's favourite village of France, Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue with its historic Vauban towers (approximately 9.5miles/15.5km). You can find out more, do your trip planning and check the maps, elevations and more at the tourism website for the GR 223. I love coastal walks, so I'd definitely be keen to explore this way. In fact I think the entire route from Carentan to Mont St Michel sounds pretty good.
After all that exertion, I'd enjoy a gentle day walking around Barfleur, exploring the ceramic artist's pottery workshop, the antique shops and art gallery. The church is a listed historic monument and there are listed stained glass windows in the nearby Chapelle de la Bretonne. A fine lunch in the little port would be great.
The countryside of Normandy is always a delight and Manche is no exception. So I think I'd very much enjoy staying a little further from Barfleur at the Domaine de Ravenoville (around 30 minutes drive). It's fascinating and one-of-a-kind and as I love buildings and architecture, this would be really interesting for me. The estate was largely destroyed in WWII and although utilised as a gun emplacement by the German army for resisting the D-Day landings, the house and buildings were largely left in ruins. The reconstruction and care of buildings post-war is really interesting to me so I found it amazing that the Louis XIII architecture has been reconstructed. The dovecote from 1621 has now been fully restored and you can even stay in it, with modern luxuries. Imagine cleaning those 2,000 pigeonholes by hand! Find out more about the restoration and history here.
Dreamy Place to Stay: Le Domaine de Ravenoville
So a Barfleur bolthole is always possible, a small hotel in the town or down the road in popular Saint-Vaast might be just what you fancy. From next year, I have heard that there will even be accommodation on the amazing little island of Tatihou, where you can enjoy a warm micro-climate, birdwatching, sailing or marvelling at the plants which grow so successfully there.
As I'd be driving around this beautiful countryside to explore the cheesemaking, the cider-making and the other culinary delights, not to mention the fact that I could go off exploring the rest of the Cotentin Peninsula from here, I'd be very happy staying in this delightful Manoir.
I love history (and WWII history especially) and from my first visits to Arromanches, the landing beaches and this area back when I was a schoolgirl, I have always adored Normandy. (Yes, I could do a post a week on Normandy alone and twinned towns. 😀) I have a not-so-secret love for spitfires, early 20th century music and 1940s fashion. But that's another story...
So, back to adventures around this beautiful part of Manche. At the domaine, you can stay as a large group or choose between the Manoir, Pigeonnier/dovecote or Pavillon. If you like the modern-day comforts but also to be surrounded by history, places with attention to detail and beauty then you might love it here too. Look at the fabulous video to see more of what the domaine has to offer.
It seems that even after all these years since my first school trips here, I've fallen in love with Normandy all over again. Do you love it or long to visit? Tell me more by dropping me a line via email or becoming a newsletter subscriber (details at the end of the post.)
Le Domaine de Ravenoville, Ravenoville, 50480 Cotentin, Normandie
You can find the domaine at Sawday's and Pierre d'histoires so I have linked to both websites here.
Sawday's website: https://bit.ly/sawdaysravenoville
PdH website: https://bit.ly/revenovilledomaine
Village/commune: Ravenoville, Cotentin peninsula in Manche. Around 20km from Cherbourg and 27km from Barfleur, with a lovely beach.
Nearest international airport: Nantes (NTE) is 327km away by car and flights from Europe, Africa and Canada often use this airport. Paris Roissy (Charles de Gaulle) is around 350km away and Paris Orly around 364km, so it is always possible to arrive there and catch the train, then hire a car so as to avoid the city traffic.
Nearest rail station: Cherbourg (27.6km) (direct train from Paris, every 4 hours and takes around 3 hours journey time from Paris St Lazare.) The new "train Nomad" will be in service from the beginning of 2020, providing comfort, wifi, mobility accessible trains and bike storage. This is like the TGV service, but it is an intercity train. www.seat61.com can help you plan further if you want to arrive by train.
Nearest ferry port: Cherbourg is really convenient for Manche and the whole Cotentin Peninsula, with regular sailings from Ireland, and Poole or Portsmouth in the U.K. www.ferrysavers.com
Car hire is a good idea, unless you're on a bike tour of the area, a car will help you get around with ease. carrentals.co.uk can help those from the UK. Other comparison sites such as Kayak can help you find the main operators including at Cherbourg and other places. It's worth noting that the SNCF (national rail in France) website can also help with car hire at stations - see voyages-sncf.com/train/train-avis for more details. There are charging stations in most towns and some villages too if you have an e-vehicle. Charge Map has many details here.
Places to note and things to do:
There is a pottery/ceramic artist studio to discover as well as much more.
Local companies to support include Cherwood, creating great wearable textiles and fun bags, like this great tote.
Nearby in Cherbourg, there is a wonderful umbrella - maker, Le Parapluie de Cherbourg. Do not miss their beautiful craftsmanship and special editions such as D-Day Anniversary, Titanic and St James collaboration. bit.ly/umbrellasofcherbourg
The famous wood-fired bakery selling their brioche, breads and much more.
Island of Tatihou - museum
Some of the best oysters in France are from Saint-Vaast, so don't miss out!
The incredible history of D-Day is never far from your experience in Manche, so if you would like to delve into it more I will have a blog post of travel tips, locations, history and more coming soon. In the meantime, here are some starting points for your travel planning:
The Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église
The Crisbecq Battery near Ravenoville
Barfleur Tourist Office - 39 Rue Saint-Thomas Becket, 50760 Barfleur. Website here.
For the Cotentin Peninsula and links to plenty of D-Day history, the Tourist offices in Carentan and Ste-Mère-Église are very helpful. Their website is here.
I hope you've enjoyed this tiny taste of one of France's Most Beautiful Villages and the area around it - full of nature, countryside, coast and history.
Where to next?... see you soon with another Dreamy place in France.
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