Delightful Hôtel Tardif in the Heart of Bayeux
Tourists flock to Normandy for a variety of reasons, one of which is a visit to the historic city of Bayeux for its magnificent Cathedral of Notre Dame and the historic Bayeux tapestry. Did you know that it is not a tapestry at all but is a work of wool embroidery on linen? The nearly 230-foot long Tapisserie de Bayeux dates to the eleventh century and depicts the battle of Hastings in 1066 and William the Conqueror’s famed victory. The tapestry is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and definitely worth seeing.
What if you could find an elegant place to stay, within five minutes’ walking distance of both sites, in this appealing Norman city? Well, Hôtel Tardif is just the place – a fine chambres d’hôtes, located right between the Tapestry and the Cathedral. Once you step into the grand courtyard of Hôtel Tardif, you will forget that you are in a city at all. It is warm and inviting as it takes you back in time, and you will receive a friendly welcome from your host and hostess. The back garden is spacious and tranquil, perhaps a fine place for breakfast on a sunny morning. As you can see in the first photo, the cathedral spire seems close enough to touch – and a magnificent cathedral it is! Consecrated on July 14, 1077 in the presence of William, Duke of Normandy and King of England, it is composed of several architectural styles including Romanesque, Norman, and Gothic. It is said that this cathedral is one of France’s most beautiful.
Hôtel Tardif was built in the mid-18th century to welcome the botanist, Master Moisson de Vaux. He had previously left Versailles and his King to discover the new world and its natural wonders, but returned after a few years to settle at Tardif to study the plants he brought back with him from America. Some of the trees in the park are part of his legacy and will be enjoyed by guests today. The elegant bedroom shown in the photo is named for him. There are seven exceptional guest rooms, all with en suite bathrooms, spacious and comfortable accommodations and fine views over the parkland. Bedrooms are flexible in that they can accommodate two, three or four people. Dinner is not offered at Hôtel Tardif, but there are at least thirty restaurants from which to choose in Bayeux, some only a few steps away.
This is a well-loved home and a family residence, welcoming guests with promises of comfort, tranquility and authenticity. Elegance is the keyword throughout. Attention to detail ensures that all guests are made to feel right at home with all modern conveniences at their fingertips without sacrificing true French style. Each room has been tastefully appointed with antiques and fine fabrics, and the décor is in keeping with the historic details of the building. Breakfast is an enjoyable meal served in the splendid dining room in front of a marble fireplace. It is an excellent way to begin the day as one plans their sightseeing excursions.
Guests should be sure to explore Bayeux’s Medieval Quarter on their walks through this delightful small city. There are lovely surprises around every corner. Art and history lovers will appreciate the many museums in Bayeux including the Baron Gérard Museum presenting art, porcelain and lace, as well as the various craft workshops and art galleries in the town. The commercial center includes shops, restaurants, brocantes and antique centers. Bayeux has twice-weekly markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
From this central Normandy location, vacationers can take day trips to World War II sites, Caen, Honfleur or Le Mont Saint-Michel – all within easy reach. Spend time at the D-Day landing beaches (Omaha, Arromanches, Gold, Sword and Juno), the Caen War Memorial, the exceptional Le Mont Saint-Michel and the lively seaside village of Honfleur where one can stroll the winding streets to see what inspired artists such as Monet, Boudin, Renoir and others. Honfleur’s harbor remains the same as it was in centuries past.
Hôtel Tardif is located in the Basse Normandie département of Calvados (14), most familiar for its apples, cider and apple brandy. This is the département whose coastline suffered most from the Normandy invasion. Those beautiful beaches, so engulfed in battle over sixty years ago, are today lovely, peaceful vacation destinations for people from all over the world. We are all fortunate to be able to enjoy not only the beaches along the Channel but many unique towns in the département such as Lisieux, the capital of the Pays d’Auge, founded over two thousand years ago and still rich with timber frame houses and an interesting history. It is perhaps best known for the Carmelite nun, Thérèse of Lisieux, whose memoir, The Story of a Soul, was posthumously published when she died from tuberculosis at age 24. The memoir had such impact that she was made a Saint of the Church in 1923 by Pope Pius XI and a Doctor of the Church (the only woman to hold this title) by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
Pay a visit to Livarot, too, a name you will recognize because of the tasty cheese it produces by the same name. A wonderful French cheese web site, Fromages.com, describes Livarot: “The cheese is circled by five bands of rush leaves that prevent the cheese from collapsing during maturing. These five bands are reminiscent of the five stripes a colonel wears on his uniform; it is for this reason the cheese is known as the Colonel. Today these bands are more for show than necessity in production. In fact, industrial dairies replace the rush leaves with bands of green paper. The lovers of this cheese delight in its strong odor and full flavor, with a taste that is perfumed and slightly piquant and spicy.” Livarot is one of Normandy’s oldest and most popular cheeses and received its AOC classification in 1972.
Caen is the largest city in Calvados. Here you will find what remains of the two great abbeys (Abbaye aux Hommes and Abbaye aux Dames) and the castle ruins, Château de Caen, on the banks of the Orne River, all three built by William the Conqueror and his Queen Mathilde. The castle site is an expanse of lawns, museums (Musée des Beaux Arts and the Musée de Normandie) and views of the city from ramparts. Although the city suffered immense damage during World War II, today it is a monument to peace exemplified by the Caen Memorial opened in 1988.
The coast of Calvados is named Côte Fleurie (Flower Coast) and is dotted with resorts such as Deauville and Trouville, both known for their nightlife and casinos, and Deauville for the American Film Festival each September. Many people prefer the less touristy towns of Houlgate and Villers-sur-Mer farther west along the coast. South of the Côte Fleurie is the area of Normandy called the Pays d’Auge, which we mentioned earlier when telling you about its capital, Lisieux. This is the true Norman countryside with spotted cows and dairy farms, lovely woodlands and valleys, apple orchards, meadows and country manors, and, of course, châteaux. Stop at a village patisserie to purchase a tarte normande (apple tart) or along a country road to buy cider – the signs offering cider for sale are everywhere. One must be sure to sample the local cuisine that includes lamb, crêpes, seafood such as Coquilles Saint-Jacques and oysters, and Normandy’s world renowned cheeses, cream and butter! [Painting of Trouville 1864 by Eugène Boudin]
Inland, the Suisse Normande beckons those who love to spend their time with nature. There are white water rapids and the amazing scenery of the valleys and gorges carved out by the Orne and Rouvre rivers. Hikers and walkers will appreciate the trails named for various themes that take them through the lush Normandy countryside.
Hôtel Tardif is a grand manoir just waiting to become your ‘home away from home’, giving you the opportunity to become a part of Bayeux and the Calvados département where you can enjoy a restful country vacation and all this region has to offer. We will take you to other wonderful Normandy getaways in future issues of N4Normandy, so please be sure to look for them! Until then, do visit Hôtel Tardif on the au Château web site. Contact information follows.
[Photo credits: All photos of Hôtel Tardif are courtesy of Anthony Voidie.
The photo of Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Bayeux is courtesy of
and copyrighted by Cold Spring Press 2006-2012. All rights reserved.
The photo of the Eugène Boudin painting is in the public domain.]
Hôtel Tardif: http://www.au-chateau.com/Tardif.htm
au Château – the Ultimate Lodging Experience in France: http://www.au-chateau.com
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