SAMPLE TOUR

     
Excerpt from a "Chateaux, Churches and Cathedrals" tour,
an itinerary through historical and architectural sites.

- After lunch, return to the large intersection, and take the road slightly to the right, to CERISY-LA-FORET. The road crosses the beautiful beech forest of Balleroy. In Cerisy, cross the village and turn right at the road marked "Abbaye". Leave the car by the church and visit. Afterward, walk around the pond, just below the cemetery, for the view of the apse of the abbey church.

- Return through the village of Cerisy and continue on the D34 to the road to Saint-Lo (D972). Turn right.

- Go through Saint-Lo, following signs for Coutances. Shortly after leaving the town , bear right on the D900 to Periers and Lessay. Follow it to LESSAY. At the entrance to the village, turn right in the direction of La-Haye-du-Puits. Cross the village. At the end, you will see the abbey church on your left. Park the car, and walk up to the church. The entrance is at the end of the street, on the side of the church.

CERISY LA FORET

The abbey was founded by Robert II the Magnificent, Duke of Normandy, in 1030, to house the relics of St.Vigor brought back from Jerusalem by Robert's chamberlain. The church was finished under his son William the Conqueror at the same time he was building the Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen. The church suffered greatly during and after the French Revolution. The remaining church is mostly Romanesque.
Its plan is designed after the antique basilicas. The nave, reduced to three bays from the original seven, is unusually high. The choir is vaulted with slim ribs. The choir and the apse continue the three-story elevation of the nave, a large number of windows bringing in an abundance of light.
Outside, the three tiers of the apse, the choir and the belfry form a remarkable perspective.

LESSAY

The abbey was founded in 1056 by Turstin Haldup, a powerful Lord of the Cotentin, close to the ducal family. It was probably completed in 1096, when Turstin'son, Eudes Au Capel, was buried in the choir.

The apse is very similar to that of Cerisy. The nave has seven wide bays, remarkable because they are the first example of ribbed groined vaults over a wide span, a technique that made possible the great Gothic cathedrals. The gallery, encircling the whole church, is built in the thickness of the walls. The apse is oven-vaulted, with its windows divided in two tiers.

-After the visit, return through the village and turn right on the D652 , the road to Creances. At the end of the road, turn left on the D650.

- In the village of PIROU, turn left to the castle. Of the five gatehouses, only three remain: the old sheepfold, the outer bailey, with its service buildings, and the castle itself, encircled by a moat. The visit includes a tapestry, in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry, recounting the conquest of Sicily and Southern Italy by the sons of Tancrede de Hauteville, a minor baron from around Coutances.

- Return to the D650, which follows the sandy coast through neat fields of leeks and carrots, the local specialty. Stay on it until Blainville-sur-Mer, about 15 kms. Turn left on the D244 through Saint-Malo-de-la-Lande to GRATOT. Leave the car in the lot on the left, in front of the church. Walk past the church through the long alley of tall trees, across the moat of the castle. Take the self-guided tour of the Chateau (make sure you get the English booklet).

- Return to Saint-Malo de la Lande and to the D650, turn left and continue to Tourville. You may want to stop a minute by the church. From the statue of Tourville, the French admiral who lost the battle of La Hougue against an English fleet in 1692, the view extends over the Havre de Regneville, a wide estuary set in an austere landscape of sandy dunes. Stay on the D650. The road follows the wide estuary of the Sienne river, with its vast expanses of salt marshes. At the Pont de la Roque, where you cross the Sienne river, check the view on your right, across the estuary. Halfway up the hill, as the main road bears left, take the road on the right to Regneville-sur-Mer, where you will have dinner.

PIROU

The oldest parts of the fortress date from the XIIc. More than a thousand years ago, the Vikings attacked the original wooden fortress, but could not capture it. A long siege ensued. Then, one day, the castle fell silent. The Vikings entered without a fight: Magically transformed into wild geese, the defenders had flown away in the early dawn. It is said that, until the 18th Century, a flock of geese came to nest at the castle and stayed from March until the first nice days of May. They ate without fear from the hands of the local inhabitants.

GRATOT

Beyond the bridge over the moat and past the fortified gate lie the romantic ruins of a manor house that belonged to the Argouges family. A long time ago, a Lord of Argouges fell in love with a beautiful young woman. When he asked to marry her, she admitted that she was a fairy, and that she could accept only on the condition that he never pronounced the word Death in her presence. One day, the lady was late coming down from her room for a great reception. Impatient, the lord ran upstairs, swearing, and uttered the fateful word. The fairy disappeared out of the window of the great tower and was never seen again.

     

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