The port of Cherbourg at the tip of the Manche peninsular is one of the major Channel ports and is predominantly marine orientated, whether boating or fishing.The Submarine Redoubtable is at a scientific marine complex called ‘La Cité de la Mer’ and the port of Chanteryne has two marinas. Nearby are the Italian gardens at Chateau de Brécy and at Château Urville-Nacqueville is a vast rhododendron garden. The peninsular abounds with extraordinary parks and gardens. Badly damaged at the end of the War, Cherbourg has nothing of great architectural consequence as is the case with St Lô, the departmental capital, where there is a splendid national stud specialising in the ‘Norman cob’.
Throughout the Cotentin peninsular, sandy beaches are never far away and créperies and seafood restaurants abound as do sea ports, fishing villages, camp sites and pretty little towns like Valognes with its cider museum, market and Easter antique fair. The village of St. Mere Eglise, the principal objective of 82nd Airborne in the early hours of 6th June during Operation Overlord, is perhaps best remembered for the Paratrooper whose chute was caught on the steeple and became the unwilling witness of the slaughter of his comrades below. The stained glass windows are a tribute to the liberators of the village with the symbols of their companies and of the Free French.
To the west, Barneville and Carteret with their sandy beaches and fishing ports are sheltered by the Channel Islands and warmed by the passing Gulf Stream. Coutances, which dates from the 3rd century was until 1796 the main town of the peninsula. With its fine cathedral, it is famous for the rich creamy cheese it produces, The seaside resort and fishing port of Granville, with its 15th century ramparts has a museum of the town’s history (pirates, mariners and belle époque bathing) and another in the childhood home of Christian Dior, concerned with the history of fashion. The delightful garden has a panoramic sea view.
Avranches, which looks across the Bay to Mont-Saint-Michel, has a library with medieval parchment manuscripts from the Mont stored for safekeeping during the Revolution. Severely bombed during Operation Cobra and General Patton’s liberation, parts of the Norman Donjon and walls remain and two museums cover religious relics and art collections dating from Medieval times. Mont-Saint-Michel is the most visited site in France and both the bay and island are listed as World Heritage. Linked to the mainland by a dyke built in 1877, the area has the highest tides in France and is famous for the salt pasture sheep which graze on the rich salty grass.