Today we wake up in Caudebec in Normandy on the right bank of the river Seine.
Walk down the ships gangway and you step right into a picturesque village with outdoor cafes and even a pharmacie (drugstore) just across the way if you need to buy sunscreen, toiletries, etc.
Even their 14th century prison is welcoming.
At the center of town is the 15th century Church of Caudebec-en-Caux. (seriously? Did I just touch the wall of a building that was likely built around the time of the War of the Roses?)
According to the signage outside of the Flamboyant Gothic style church, King Henry IV of France is said to have declared this church to have been the most beautiful chapel in his kingdom. There are just over 300 sculptured human figures representing saints and aspects of day to day life. Like many buildings in the area, portions of the church were damaged during the Religious wars and then again later during World War II, but has since been restored. The beautiful stained-glass windows date back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
After breakfast, the two tours that are included in the cruise fare were ready to depart. The first option was an excursion to drive the route des Chaumieres to see some of Normandy’s famed thatched roof houses. I opted for a tour to visit Jumieges Abbey, a former Benedictine church considered to be one of the most ancient monasteries in the western world.
We boarded the comfortable, air conditioned motorcoach, and arrived at the abbey approx. 35 minutes later.
The first thing you see as you approach are the twin 150 ft towers of the abbey that was founded in 654. (yes.. a three digit number..) Then was destroyed by the Vikings in 841, but was rebuilt by the Duke of Normandy in 942. The church was consecrated in 1067 by William the Conqueror. Sadly the French Revolution was its undoing and left nothing but the ruins of the cloisters, towers and facade. Its a haunting feeling walking thru the arches and over grounds that hold so much significance to the residents of Normandy.
The village around the abbey is charming as well.
Back on the bus an on our way for a visit to the much more in-tact and currently operational Benedictine monastery of St. Wandrille. There we met a charismatic monk who explained life at the monastery and the history of the grounds.
At the end of the tour we were treated to a visit to one of the most unique gift shops …ever. If I had more room in my bags I probably would have purchased every Gregorian chant CD, honey confectionery and home fragrance item on the shelves. The good news is they have an online store if you want to check it out.
Tonight we overnight in Caudebec to make our way out for on an all day excursion tomorrow to the Normandy beaches and the history of of Operation Overlord… aka the Battle of Normandy.