Pious statesmen, explorers and travellers
Have you ever wondered about those mail-clad horsemen who came ashore in Sussex and defeated the only Anglo-Saxon army ever raised, changing Britain for ever into the bargain? The Normans – or Norsemen – were more than just a warrior race who had occupied what is today Normandy for two generations. They were pious statesmen, explorers and travellers, and builders of some of finest cathedrals in Christendom. They invented the term knight, perfected mounted assaults, and developed what is now called chivalry. They also enforced their will on people under their domain with an iron fist and at the point of the spear. The Normans were a phenomenon for five centuries, controlling vast areas of France, England, Ireland, Wales, the island of Sicily and providing guards for the Ottoman Sultans in Constantinople. Many of the young men of noble Norman families took part in the First Crusade to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims. This week-long trip will take us to Normandy and help us to understand these people on their home soil because even a thousand years on, the mark which they left is still there in Normandy.
Today, we will board our coach to Dover, travel by a ferry, and then motor down through Flanders, past Boulogne-Sur-Mer and Abbeville to Caen, the centre of Calvados and the ducal court of William and Matilda of Flanders. Paul Beaver, our expert Guide Lecturer will be on hand to show you the highlights of the French countryside on the journey and give a welcome talk in Caen.
Our day starts with an introduction to William, Duke of Normandy at his birthplace at Falaise. After an excellent French style picnic lunch, we’ll drive across Normandy to Alençon to see the castle where our Guide Lecturer will explain medieval siege warfare.
The centre of the Norman experience is the fabulous embroidery kept in Bayeux. Made in English nunneries to tell the story of the Battle of Hastings in October 1066, it is a wonder of the world. We might even get the chance of sampling a flight of calvados in a quiet café as we walk through Bayeux. Our guests will have the option of taking the bus to Gold Beach, where British soldiers landed on D-Day, or there is time for sightseeing and shopping in Bayeux. The evening will be free to explore Caen and medieval streets with their picturesque bars and shops.
This morning will have a leisurely start with a lecture on William’s legacy, both in France and in Britain. We will then journey to Rouen and lunch at the oldest restaurant in France and see the amazing collection of photographs of the famous who have sampled the delights of Normande cuisine before us – from Brigette Bardot to David Niven, Charles de Gaulle to American presidents. In the afternoon, we will explore Rouen, the Norman capital, and its fine cathedral.
The highlight of this morning is the visit to the burial place of William, the Abbey of Saint-Étienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes. It was founded in 1063 by William the Conqueror and is one of the most important Romanesque buildings in France. We’ll then be heading back to Calais, take the ferry to Dover and back to London.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Andante Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with water (wine with dinners)
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
- Field Notes
- Hotels - Accommodation in hand-picked hotels.