Caen was the favourite residence of William of Normandy. His castle is long gone, though some ramparts remain. It suffered badly during World War 2 and now, 60 years on, is a modern university town and the largest town in the region of Basse Normande (Lower Normandy). The university however is an old established one – 1432. Because the bombing cleared away many medieval houses the churches and towers that remain are dramatic as they rise above the modern city. There are about 120,000 inhabitants, many of them young people – an estimated 45% are under the age of 25.
It is 14 Km from the coast and 230 k from Paris.
You can travel by car from any of the Channel ports or take the train – the station is about a kilometre south of the town centre and it is in the station area that many of the hotels are to be found.
Being a modern town there are cinemas and theatres a plenty as well as outlets of famous Parisian stores – though local stores are good too. Plenty of inexpensive faster food outlets as you would expect in a city with a relatively young population, but there is more relaxed dining too. There are markets on Fridays and Sundays. In summer most activity seems to centre on the Pleasure port – on the canal which links Caen to the sea.
For those who appreciate history and art, despite its apparent modernity Caen has plenty to appreciate- the Beaux Museum has works by Poussin, Monet, Durer and Rembrandt among others.
Sports are well covered with Rugby, football, skating, swimming and ice hockey being only a few of those practised and of course you are near to the sea with all that offers.
The surrounding countryside also has its charms and opportunities for walks, organised or not, horse riding and biking. The local tourist office, Place Saint Pierre, will have leaflets suggesting routes and places of interest. Look out for signs to the many brocante sales. Not only might you find the perfect piece for your new home it gives you a really good chance to practise your French and meet the locals.
Food and Drink
In the pedestrianised area known as Quartier Vangueux are a choice of restaurants including an Algerian one, Cous Cous Kouba, with excellent cous cous alongside those offering traditional Normande fare based on butter and cream rather than the olive oil of the south. This style of cooking is known as Vallée d’Auge. Much of the food on offer is local from the area to the south west of the town known as Pays d’Auge.
Garden Grill, 20 Rue de Bernieres, Tel no: 31 85 43 45
La Carlotta, 16 Quai Vendeuvre, Caen, Tel no: 02-31-86-68-99
The town offers a special welcoming service to new comers. You can obtain details from the town hall, but basically it seeks to introduce them to local French families which could be both pleasant and helpful.
It would be helpful too to use a really bi-lingual estate agent such as those selected from the Sextant Property network. They know the area well and can discuss with you exactly what it is you require and what your budget is. They will accompany you on viewings, pointing out features that you might overlook in your excitement. They can tell you about such things perhaps as rights of way or the possibilities of a potential home. Whether your choice is just for the occasional weekend or a more permanent move you will be one step nearer after meeting with them.