Lisieux in Normandy sits at the heart of the beautiful Pays d'Auge countryside and is the second most visited pilgrimage site in France.
Surrounded by splendid green countryside and valleys where Normande cows roam in the fields and tasty cider apples grown in the orchards, Lisieux is a pretty historical city where St Teresa lived in the late 1800s. Raised at Les Buissonnets, which is open to visitors, on the outskirts of the city, St Teresa became a nun at the nearby Carmelite convent in 1889 when we she was 15. During her time there she proceeded a write an autobiography entitled 'The Story of a Soul' which became incredibly popular when it was published after her death from tuberculosis at just 24 years old. After her beatification the Basilica of St Teresa of Lisieux was built and has become the second most visited pilgrimage site in France, after Lourdes. Finished in 1954, the basilica is a beautiful Neo-Byzantine creation that was one of the largest churches built in the 20th century.
Damaged whilst it was still being built, by the Allied bombings of WW2, the basilica has a wonderful crypt of marble and mosiacs and a shrine to St Teresa in the upper basilica. The city was badly bombed during WW2 and a military cemetery containing the graves of 3,725 British and 469 German soldiers lies on the outskirts of the city. St Peter's cathedral is one of the rare monuments to survive the 1944 bombings unscathed. Constructed from soft limestone in the 12th century, it is the first example of flying buttresses in Normandy. The Chapel of the Virgin was built by Bishop Cauchon who acted as supreme judge at the trail of Joan of Arc. Outside the cathedral, the bishop's garden is a beautiful array of plants designed by Le Nôtre, who designed the gardens of Versaille. Lisieux also has an unusual archaeological garden where the ruins of some ancient baths were unearthed and different coloured soils, plants and shrubs have been planted to give an idea of the original shape of the baths - perfect for a quiet, contemplative walk.
The area around Lisieux is covered in glorious countryside peppered with farms and villages and crisscrossed by various footpaths and mountain bike trails. Leaflets and brochures of routes in the Pays d'Auge area can be found at the Lisieux Tourist Office. You can also go fishing and canoeing along the nearby rivers or why not follow part of the Route de Cidre and visit some of the various orchards and distilleries along the 40km route? Several traditional farms can be visited around Lisieux including the Domaine des Saint Hippolyte where you can visit the orchards and trace the production of great Normandy cheeses from milk to the final product, and the famous Normandy beef, with exhibitions and videos on the farm. A nearby ostrich farm, Cerza safari park and an animal rescue centre that receives nearly 800 injured wild animals every year, provide may different opportunities for those who have a love of animals. The stunning moated manor of the Château de St Germain de Livet is nearby, known as the jewel of the Pays d'Auge, as well as the 18th century Château de Vendeuvre and medieval Château de Crèvecoeur-en-Auge.
Purchase delicious local foods from farm shops and get your meat, cheese, and cider direct from the farmer who grew and produced them. Apples are fermented into cider; Calvados, an apple brandy; and Pommeau, an aperitif made from apple must and Calvados. Cheeses popular in the area include Livarot, a full-bodied soft cheese with an orange rind; Pont de l'Evêque, a subtle, slightly nut square cheese that is soft and smooth; and classical favourite, Camembert, with its recognisable subtle, smooth taste. A great place to try the traditional tastes of Normandy!
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