Images and text ©Chris Wormald 2014 – use only after a fee has been paid and permission granted.
Caen is a modern university city crammed with 21st century consumerist delights (if you like that sort of thing). The huge ramparts of William the Conqueror’s chateau, with a great art gallery and museum within, dominate the semi pedestrianized shopping centre and make a very impressive sight of flags and stone.
Caen suffered massive damage during the Second World War and a lot of the city centre is bland and rebuilt, but with a great tram system and buses to everywhere . However if you walk towards the lovely Abbaye aux Hommes you will find vestiges of the old city. There are many antique shops and an extraordinary number of bars and restaurants with pavement seating for visitors and students who mingle with the locals in the lovely Place St. Saveur. The Abbaye aux Dames at the other end of the centre is also a must see.
Some fascinating old streets (one full of antiquarian and modern bookshops) are ready to explore and boutiques abound for well heeled clothes shoppers. A favourite street of mine (photographically) is Rue Froide which seems to attract an interesting crowd.
The Porte de Plaisance with its floating harbour has some interesting sailing craft plus lots of bars and clubs. Very lively in the evening, I surmise. More surprising however, on Sunday mornings, the area attracts crowds when the large car-park and some adjoining streets are given over to a large market selling food and what-have-you, including some North African items attracting some of the large ethnic population in Basse Normandie.
The Stranger’s Cemetery up by the Botanic Gardens has poignant and neglected reminders of past lives.
Spending time inside and outside glasshouses at the Jardin des Plantes is worthwhile. There are some grand structural plants and a sweet meditation area with a very green Buddha.
Living as I do, in a very quiet rural area, a trip to Caen means stepping into the modern world. It represents an extraordinary change of gear, just over an hour’s drive from my tree fringed, 200+ year old, peaceful, solar powered stone cottage.
Don’t look now, but American culture is creeping closer, as this diner in Mondeville seems to indicate.