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January 9, 2013

France: Caen

Église Saint-Pierre (HDR)

Église Saint-Pierre (HDR)

Our travel plans mandated a stop in or near Caen France.  On the English Channel (or la Manche as it is called in French), Caen is the largest town near Ouistreham, our point of departure for the overnight ferry to Portsmouth England.  United Kingdom’s Pet Travel Scheme dictated that our accompanying canine, Gigi, be treated for tapeworms not less than 24 and not more than 120 hours before our scheduled arrival time in the south of England.  In other words, we needed to find a vet for Gigi’s treatment and we would have to hang out near Caen until the drugs took hold.  We’ve had more romantic reasons for visiting a town than a tapeworm treatment.

Château de Caen

Château de Caen

No matter the motivations for a visit, Caen offers plenty to explore.  In fact, the Michelin Green Guide gives the town its highest rating, three stars.  Caen is particularly impressive given that the city was devastated by heavy bombardments during World War II.  Today Caen’s modern pedestrianized core, sprinkled with surviving and repaired historic churches, sits at the base of the sprawling hilltop Château de Caen built by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century.

On opposite sides of the castle, perhaps by plan, are two 11th Century abbeys, one for men and one for women.  The Abbey of Saint-Etienne or Abbaye aux Hommes, the men’s abbey, is the larger and grander of the two complexes.  On a hill, the women’ abbey, Abbey of Sainte-Trinité or Abbaye aux Dames, has the better views.  In between our Gigi found plenty of interesting p-mail messages most likely completely unrelated to the two abbeys.

Inside Église Saint-Pierre (HDR)

Inside Église Saint-Pierre (HDR)

Église Saint-Pierre (HDR)

Église Saint-Pierre (HDR)

There’s one difficulty we had with Caen.  We could never manage to pronounce the name of the town in way that was understandable to the locals.  Caen is pronounced this way.  To us that sounds exactly the way we pronounce it; to the French the way we pronounce Caen sounds nothing like the name of a town in Normandy.

And we knew from experience that our language troubles would not go away soon.  After we crossed the channel at night we’d be in the UK.  Between the British regional accents and the non-phonetic place names, serious language confusion lay ahead.  After all, the United States and Britain are two sovereign states separated by a single language.  At least for Gigi there were no worries; all p-mail is written in the same language.




1 Comment »

  1. these are awesome pictures

    Comment by Nathan — January 11, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

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