Lower Normandy: protected beauty
The region is comprised of three departments boasting sites and cities known far and wide. Are you familiar with Mont-Saint-Michel, Deauville, Granville, Caen or Bagnoles de l'Orne?
Welcome to Lower Normandy! Born and bred in the region, Stéphanie Lebailly manages the INTER-HOTEL Ô Gayot in Bagnoles-de-l'Orne. "It's a family affair because we manage the Gayot as a family. The idea was to continue the story of Relais du Silence le Manoir du Lys in another way. Le Manoir was the parents' version. We wanted to set up in the centre of Bagnoles and offer a different feel: a bistro ambiance, a two-star hotel and, most importantly, a store selling local products. It's nine years now and the gamble paid off."
INTER-HOTEL Ô Gayot
A region of history, sea and nature
La Manche boasts the indomitable Mont-Saint-Michel which attracts millions of visitors throughout the year, the coastline and many family amusements: "There are a lot of parks, the Champrepus zoo (near Avranches), a reptile house, the Alligator Bay animal park and the sealife centre in Cherbourg." To the north of Avranches, the town Coutances, the "historic" capital of Cotentin, stands on a hill overlooking the bocage. The town and its magnificent 13th-century cathedral are well worth a detour with the Saint-Nicolas and Saint-Pierre churches not to mention the town of Saint-Lô protected by the ramparts on the Cotentin Peninsula.
In the neighbouring department of Calvados, who doesn't know the cities of Deauville and Caen? Deauville's American film festival, beach and wooden promenade are known around the world. And Caen has lived several 'lives' : the city of William the Conqueror had a unique heritage, including the famous Caen coat of arms, until the Second World War when the city was destroyed during widespread bombing. Caen also lies in close proximity to the D-Day Beaches of 6 June 1944. The Caen Memorial stands in remembrance of this sad period; a must-visit during your trip to Caen. The city known as the "city of 100 bell towers" is jam-packed with wonders: the castle, abbeys, churches and museums. But Caen also boasts green spaces for nature lovers, including the famous "bird hill".
What does Stéphanie like about her region? "Most of all, the environment: the forest, the trees and the nature. I like the colours of the seasons which go from soft green in the spring to brighter summer colours. Autumn, in particular, is my favourite season. It's the colours of the Indian summer in Normandy."
Simple pleasures by the sea
No visit to Lower Normandy is complete without a trip to Orne. Begin in Argentan with a visit to the Maison des Dentelles lace museum. One of the most famous fortresses in Normandy during the Middle Ages is now a town worth visiting, with fishermen particularly impressed by the Noé lake. An array of parks will delight nature-loving visitors.
Another town equally worth a visit is Bagnoles de l'Orne, the only spa resort in the north-west of France. Stéphanie tells it in her own words: "Bagnoles-de-L’orne sits at the heart of 7,000 hectares of forest. It's a verdant setting and a little paradise far from the urban jungle."
Bagnoles de l'Orne
"In Bagnoles-de-L’orne, don't miss anything related to legends: the Bed of the fairy Gione, the Dog's Rock and St-Ortaire Chapel. With their stories of fairies and witches, all these places are must-visits and dreamlike."
"For people who love greenery, peacefulness, architecture, serenity and legends, Bagnoles-de-L'orne is the perfect spot. Just three hours from Paris, it's easy to switch off. All guests who explore Bagnoles want just one thing: to go back."