Historical Bayeux

By Philippa Burne, UK, June 2011

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Sometimes I am astounded by the sheer age of things in Europe; you can almost feel the weight of history – but in a good way. Bayeux, in Normandy, northern France, close to the coast of the English Channel, was first settled by the Romans in the 1st century!

These days it is most famous for the Bayeux Tapestry, a glorious and huge piece of embroidery (measuring 1.6 x 225 feet) depicting the historic events leading up to the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066 in which William the Conqueror invaded and defeated Britain, became King and changed the course of history, in fact changing the English language as well (ever wondered about all those French sounding words?).

More recently, Bayeux was in the centre of much of the fighting in the Second World War. Despite this proximity though, the medieval city remained largely intact as it escaped bombing, and these days the small town of only 16,000 people is a must visit for its narrow streets and architecture. This includes the Cathedral Notre Dame de Bayeux, a Gothic/Norman Romanesque structure dating from around 1077.

A more modern site that attracts many visitors is the British Cemetery, the largest from the Second World War; there are 4648 graves. Given its proximity to the coast, Bayeux is a popular place to stay when touring the D-Day beaches of 1944: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. There is also a museum in Bayeux with information and memorabilia of the battle.

And when you’ve had enough history, slip into one of the town’s many cafes and restaurants and find out why French food is so talked about worldwide.

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