Falaise in Normandy has a rich history as the birthplace of William the Conqueror and the battlefield of Falaise Pocket during WW2, and is surrounded by beautiful, peaceful countryside.
Born at Falaise château in 1027, William the Conqueror, the first Norman king of England, would have known the castle in its previous motte and bailey incarnation before the stone château of today that was built during the 12th and 13th centuries. The seat of the Dukes of Normandy, and one of the oldest stone fortresses in Normandy, it has lately undergone extensive restoration work and now has several interactive exhibits and activities. An impressive bronze statue of WIlliam stands in front of the town hall. Falaise's other historical interest comes from the decisive battle for the Falaise Pocket during Operation Overlord in 1944. A strong Allied victory over the German army, Montgomery famously called it the 'beginning of the end of the war'. Today, there is a memorial on the site of the battlefield, the Memorial of Montmortel, dedicated to the military and civilian lives lost in the battle.
The town has several pretty churches with abbeys in the surrounding countryside. St Vigor chapel is just a few minutes drive away, a 15th century chapel that has been turned into a contemporary art masterpiece by Japanese artist, Takubo. Art has also found its way into Falaise through painter André Lemaître, who has 90 of his works on display in the Andre Lemaitre museum in the town. Many of his paintings are of the stunning Normandy countryside between Falaise and Honfleur. More quirky, the Automates Avenue is a museum of a Parisian street whose windows are filled with 300 automatons in animated scenes, creating a fairytale atmosphere.
Take time out to explore the wonderful countryside around Falaise that is perfect for walking and mountain biking. Visit la Brèche au Diable where Paleolithic archaeological discoveries have been found and go to the top of Mont Joly where the tomb of famed 18th century actress, Marie Joly, lies. There are also some great climbing opportunities in the mountains overlooking the château. Kids will love visiting the nearby adventure parks, and why not try your hand at some river sports on the river Orne? Canoeing, kayaking, pedalos, rowing boats and more are a great way to discover more of the area by river. If you prefer your watersports in a more predictable environment, Falaise has a brilliant aquatic centre where you can take part in aquasports such as aquabiking, aquaboxing and aquagym, and enjoy a variety of swimming environments. Relax afterwards in the jacuzzi, sauna or hammam or enjoy a post-workout massage.
Norman cusine is rich and tasty with lots of creamy and cheesy dishes, and desserts made with apples, all washed down with cidre, the local cider brewed from apples grown in Normandy's orchards. In Falaise you can sample some of these delicious dishes in a beautiful historic town.
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