Support our mission
 
The 13th century Notre Dame Cathedral in Bayeux, France, towers over the streets of the city, as seen from a peaceful park.
The 13th century Notre Dame Cathedral in Bayeux, France, towers over the streets of the city, as seen from a peaceful park. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The 13th century Notre Dame Cathedral in Bayeux, France, towers over the streets of the city, as seen from a peaceful park.
The 13th century Notre Dame Cathedral in Bayeux, France, towers over the streets of the city, as seen from a peaceful park. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
One of the old half-timbered houses in Bayeux historic city center. Note the carved figures adorning the house.
One of the old half-timbered houses in Bayeux historic city center. Note the carved figures adorning the house. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
People enjoy something to drink at a cafe with colorful tables and chairs in old town Bayeux, France.
People enjoy something to drink at a cafe with colorful tables and chairs in old town Bayeux, France. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Notre Dame, Bayeux, France's 13th-century Gothic cathedral rises up over the streets of the city. Its crypt dates to the 11th century, but the copper dome is from the 19th century.
Notre Dame, Bayeux, France's 13th-century Gothic cathedral rises up over the streets of the city. Its crypt dates to the 11th century, but the copper dome is from the 19th century. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
A pair of poppies lean against the gravestone of an unknown soldier at Bayeux War Cemetery. It is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in Normandy, with 4,848 soldiers from the United Kingdom and other countries buried here.
A pair of poppies lean against the gravestone of an unknown soldier at Bayeux War Cemetery. It is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in Normandy, with 4,848 soldiers from the United Kingdom and other countries buried here. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
You can't take photos of the Bayeux Tapestry, but you can buy woven replicas of sections of it at the museum gift shop. This one, depicting the Battle of Hastings, costs a pretty penny at 299 euros. But cheaper versions can be found. The tapestry is an 11th-century embroidery of wool yarn on woven linen, 230 feet long and 20 inches tall. It recounts the tale of the conquest of England in 1066, by William the Conqueror.
You can't take photos of the Bayeux Tapestry, but you can buy woven replicas of sections of it at the museum gift shop. This one, depicting the Battle of Hastings, costs a pretty penny at 299 euros. But cheaper versions can be found. The tapestry is an 11th-century embroidery of wool yarn on woven linen, 230 feet long and 20 inches tall. It recounts the tale of the conquest of England in 1066, by William the Conqueror. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Tourists and locals stroll down Bayeux's Rue Saint Jean during its Wednesday morning market.
Tourists and locals stroll down Bayeux's Rue Saint Jean during its Wednesday morning market. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Shoppers stop to inspect the fish on sale at a stand at the Wednesday morning market on Rue Saint Jean in Bayeux, France.
Shoppers stop to inspect the fish on sale at a stand at the Wednesday morning market on Rue Saint Jean in Bayeux, France. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
This poster in Bayeux depicts the 1944 D-Day invasion, done in the style of the 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry. It was the cover of ''The New Yorker,'' July 15, 1944.
This poster in Bayeux depicts the 1944 D-Day invasion, done in the style of the 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry. It was the cover of ''The New Yorker,'' July 15, 1944. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Visitors sit on a shop-lined Bayeux square, in front of the cathedral.
Visitors sit on a shop-lined Bayeux square, in front of the cathedral. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Bayeux, along with the rest of Normandy, is a great place to try French cuisine, especially fish and seafood. At l'Alchimie on Rue Saint Jean they served this pollock served in an orange sauce on rice.
Bayeux, along with the rest of Normandy, is a great place to try French cuisine, especially fish and seafood. At l'Alchimie on Rue Saint Jean they served this pollock served in an orange sauce on rice. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
People walk up the cobblestoned Rue des Cuisiniers in the old Normandy city of Bayeux, as a pair of shopkeepers have a conversation.
People walk up the cobblestoned Rue des Cuisiniers in the old Normandy city of Bayeux, as a pair of shopkeepers have a conversation. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
This monument to the deportees, civilian victims and the resistance is on the back side of Bayeux, France's city hall.
This monument to the deportees, civilian victims and the resistance is on the back side of Bayeux, France's city hall. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Visitors walks through the Memorial des Reporters, or Reporters Memorial, a park that on concrete slabs lists the names of over 2,000 journalists killed in the line of duty around the world since 1944.
Visitors walks through the Memorial des Reporters, or Reporters Memorial, a park that on concrete slabs lists the names of over 2,000 journalists killed in the line of duty around the world since 1944. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

The 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy will bring vast numbers of visitors to the memorials and sites along the invasion beaches, where some of the last veterans alive who helped win World War II will be honored.

If you’re thinking of going for the anniversary or during a quieter time, seeing where the Allies came ashore will be the highlight. But the town of Bayeux, a quick, 15-mile drive east from Omaha Beach, makes either a great side trip or a convenient place to stay while visiting the region.

Bayeux’s most famous attraction tells the story of a much older war that changed the course of history. It is home to the 230-foot-long Bayeux Tapestry, an 11th-century tale of the Battle of Hastings. Make sure to get the audio guide to hear how King William I — Guillaume to the French — conquered England and laid the foundations for what would become Britain.

The tapestry was at once a creative work and a brilliant piece of propaganda — few at the time could read, but the illustrations make clear who was “in the right” in a three-way feud among nobles and their armies.

From there, we walked to Rue Saint Jean, a main road that continues in varying names. On market days, vendors are out selling food and drink — with free samples — along with souvenirs, clothing, toys and even some livestock. While knowing a few words in French always helps, there are enough tourists from across the Channel that they’re likely to understand a little bit of English.

Some of the shops on the street sell specialties from the region, which is heavily agricultural. Their most famous beverage is calvados, an apple brandy that takes its name from the greater area. Pommeau, a mixture of calvados and local apple juice, is a mellower, tasty alternative. I’d also recommend buying a jar of fine-grained, spicy mustard, spiked with a dash of calvados.

After a free sample or five, we stopped for lunch at l’Alchimie, which offered a creative yet affordable three-course menu, paired with a wheat beer or a glass of wine. I doubt you’ll go wrong with seafood fresh off the boat in Bayeux.

We then wandered through some of the town gardens to the 13th-century Notre Dame Cathedral, a rebuilt Gothic church that started out as Norman-Romanesque in 1077, when King William came for the consecration. The Tree of Liberty outside dates to 1797 and is in some ways just as impressive for surviving so long.

Even amid the church’s serenity, reminders of war are never far away. Shops still sell bullet casings, helmets and other pieces of the WWII scrap that once blanketed the town. And less than a mile from the cathedral, the Bayeux War Cemetery memorializes the 4,848 servicemembers who died under the command of the United Kingdom and its commonwealth.

Across the street from the cemetery is the Reporters Memorial, a forested park with pathways to concrete slabs that list the names of more than 2,000 reporters who, from WWII to the present, died in the pursuit of providing the public with information about their world. It’s a good reminder that journalism is so much more than a commentator you don’t like on a cable news channel.

slavin.erik@stripes.com Twitter: @eslavin_stripes

DIRECTIONS: Bayeux is accessible from multiple local roads and by train from Paris Saint-Lazare Station.

COSTS: The tapestry museum is 9.50 euros for adults, 5 euros for students and free under age 10.

INFORMATION: Online: bayeux-bessin-tourisme.com/en

Migrated

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up