Manche Activities and Things To Do On Holiday

Visit Cite de la Mer Aquarium and

Visitors, Cite de la Mer, Cherbourg, Manche, Normandy, France

Submarine, Cherbourg

Situated in the old port of Cherbourg, this museum is housed in the former Transatlantic Terminal Building, opened to the public in 2002 and is dedicated to the submarine world and discoveries under the sea.  It houses a cylindrical aquarium 8 x 10 metres displaying marine life according to the depth.

There is a tour of the decommissioned nuclear submarine Le Redoutable – launched by General de Gaulle in 1967 - housed in a dry dock in the permanent Exhibition Pavilion and is the world’s largest submarine open to the public.

An audio guide visit takes approximately 45 minutes. Note: children under 6 are not allowed in the submarine for safely reasons.

For more information contact: (00 33) 2 33 20 26 26 or go to http://www.citedelamer.com/

Go to the Beach at Carteret

The 2 beautiful beaches at Carteret backed by the dunes of Hatainville on the south west coast of Cotentin are probably some of the best sweeps of sands in Normandy.

Protected by the Channel Islands and benefiting from the warmth of the Gulf Stream, Carteret - along with its twin resort of Barneville - has been a popular choice for family beach holidays since the fashion for sea bathing started.

Beaches are supervised from July to the end of August and you can try sand yachting and speed-sail on the beach below the old church. Carteret is a charming resort and fishing port, with good shops, restaurants and Thursday market.

Visit Jersey for the Day

Manche Iles Express operates services between Granville, Barneville-Carteret and Dielette to the Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Sark and Alderney daily from April to Sept and school holidays, weekends Oct to March. www.manche-iles-express.com

Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, is about an hour away and makes a lovely day trip. The beaches, coastal paths and country lanes are a paradise for walkers and cyclists and St Helier, the capital, has fashion boutiques, jewellery and antique shops - perfect for shopping and with plenty of cafes and restaurants to relax in when you tire.

Go to Valognes Market

At 20km south east of Cherbourg, visiting the Valognes Friday morning market makes a popular outing for travellers using the Brittany Ferries Poole and Portsmouth routes to the Cotentin Peninsula.

Start with a coffee at one of the cafes around the main square before shopping for local fruit and vegetables in season and pots of roses and bedding plants if you’re on your way home. Browse the clothes, sample the cheeses and buy a basket if your purchases begin to weigh you down.

Valognes has several small hotels and restaurants for a civilised lunch at a reasonable price. Along with many other Normandy towns, Valognes was badly damaged during 1944. However several of the beautiful Renaissance town houses of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries owned by aristocratic families - which earned the town its name of ‘The Versailles of Normandy’ - have survived.

To complete your day, the majestic Hotel de Beaumont is open to visitors and Hotel de Thieuville houses a museum devoted to cider ‘eau de vie’ brandy and leatherwork - tel: (00 33) 2 33 40 22 73 for opening times.

Visit Christian Dior’s House, Granville

The 1920s pink painted villa ‘Les Rhumbs’ high on a cliff which was the childhood home of France’s most famous fashion designer, is now a museum exhibiting some of the most stunning pieces of his haute couture. The exhibition tells the story of his life and his legacy through the work of designers Yves Saint Laurent and John Galliano.

Wander round the beautiful cliff top gardens and take some refreshment in style overlooking Mont Saint Michel Bay. Open May - Sept.

Visit La Maison du Biscuit

Hamlet Costard, 50270 Sortosville-en-Beaumont

As soon as you arrive, a tasting is offered and there is a shop, for purchasing or taking orders, plus a tearoom on-site. There are more than 200 regional specialities of biscuit and 6 different kinds of cookies are made here each day. Open Tues - Sat from 0900 - 1230 and 0200 - 1830. For more information tel: (00 33) 2 33 04 09 04 or visit www.maisondubiscuit.fr

Visit the Ludiver Planetarium

Discover the fascinating universe of astronomy, planetarium exhibitions and sky observation. 1700 rue de la Liberation, Tonnerville. www.ludiver.com

Walk the Sentiers des Douaniers (customs officers’s path), including Carteret and the Nez de Jobourg

Discover the picturesque wild moors and heathers of the Baie d’Ecalgrain and Nez de Jobourg (‘Jobourg Nose’), an area with some of the highest cliffs in Europe, some 126m high. On a clear day, the panoramic view includes the Channel Islands of Aurigny and Guernsey.

Visit Alligator Bay Reptile House, near Mont St Michel on the road to Pontorson.

Children and adults too will love the crocodiles, alligators, lizards, snakes and iguanas. The farm of 300 tortoises ranges from the giant Seychelles to the African spurred tortoise. Open 1000 - 1900 April - 30 Sept and 1400 - 1800 Oct, Nov, Feb and March and weekends and holidays only in Dec and Jan. For more visit www.le-reptilarium.com

Visit Castles

Pirou Castle

Reputed to be the oldest surviving castle on the Cotentin Peninsula, Pirou was built in the twelfth century first from wood and then stone. Its purpose was to defend Coutances from sea attacks, though the sea has since receded and the castle now lies inland.

In the eighteenth century, the castle was used as a farm and then started to deteriorate. Restoration began in 1968. Local legend has it that when under siege, the Lord of Pirou and his family turned into geese. Unfortunately, when they came to reverse the transformation spell, they discovered the wizard’s book they had used had been destroyed during the siege.

St Saveur le Vicomte Castle

Originally just a keep, Godefroy d’Harcourt built the castle in the twelfth century. When he died, he left it to Edward III and the English occupied it for some 19 years. Situated next to the river meadows, it houses the town’s Tourist Information Centre.

Gratot Castle

Situated in Gratot village north west of Coutances, Gratot Castle was built by the d’Argouges family in the thirteenth century. All that remains now from the original construction period are the 2 towers. The main house dates from the fifteenth century and the pavilion from the eighteenth.

The castle was abandoned and fell into ruin, being restored over 20 years by volunteers between 1968 and 1988. Open all year, there is a welcome desk and gift shop in the summer months only.

Bricquebec Castle

A castle with a long history including use by the Knights Templar in the thirteenth century and occupation by the English in the fifteenth century. Distinguished visitors include Queen Victoria in 1857 and, a hundred years later, Field Marshall Montgomery.

Now, part of the castle is a hotel and restaurant, with some castle remains being open to the public in the summer.

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