Avranches in Normandy is an historical city that was once a royal city under Louis IX, and saw an important battle during WW2, overlooking the beautiful bay of Mont St Michel.
Having passed hands over the centuries from the Celts, to the Saxons, to the Franks, Avranches became known in the Middle Ages as the place where St Aubert received his vision to transform what was then known as Mont Tombe into the glorious Mont St Michel, which is still an important place of religious pilgrimage today. St Aubert's skull, claimed to show the hole where he was touched by God, is displayed in a shrine inside the St Gervais church. Under Louis IX, fortified walls were built and Avranches became a royal city. The town subsequently suffered damage during the 100 Years War and the Wars of Religion but it received its worst damage of all during the Allied bombings of WW2 which destroyed a lot of the town. The breakthrough of Avranches on 31 June 1944, led by General Patton, was an important victory for the Allies, pushing US troops ahead into Brittany. A memorial to General Patton stands in Patton Square where a Sherman tank also stands vigil.
Avranche's unmissable attraction is the Scriptorial d'Avranches containing exhibits from the monastery at Mont St Michel, especially manuscripts. The museum has a collection of 3,000 volumes as well as 200 manuscripts, the oldest of which date back to the 18th century and were found in the abbey's treasury. There are also other collections including sacred objects from archaeological finds to paintings of the Mont. At the Museum of Art and History of Avranches, you can discover lots of exhibits looking at the town's past including religious sculptures, paintings, furniture and 3 rooms dedicated to the WW2 battle. The town also has some wonderful architecture with a keep built in the 11th to 12th centuries, the 15th century episcopal palace that now serves as the courthouse and the stunning Notre Dame de Champs which was reopened in 1962 after suffering damage during WW2. A great view of this church can be had from the pretty gardens of the Jardin des Plantes d'Avranches, which also looks out over the bay of Mont St Michel.
Enjoy some fresh local produce at the lively weekly market on Saturday mornings. Choose from seasonal fruit and veg, delicious seafood caught on the day, foie gras sold directly from the farmers who produced it, fresh flowers and more. You can enjoy many of the traditional tastes of Norman cuisine in Avranches, especially seafood with oysters and mussels harvested from the bay and pré-salé lamb reared on the salt flats of the bay, which gives the meat it's unique taste. Holding onto the tradition of the cheese board, why not try some great Norman cheeses such as Camembert, Livarot and Pont l'Eveque and finish your meal with Calvados apple brandy?
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