The beach at Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, which was given the codename “Utah Beach” for D-Day, stretches over 5 kilometres and was the first of two American landing sectors.

 

It was the English general Bernard Montgomery who decided on this beach, in order to establish a beachhead in Cotentin, and hasten the capture of Cherbourg and its deep-water port. A little further inland, was another landing zone: Sainte-Mère-Eglise, where the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were dropped. Allies suffered heavy losses there but Sainte-Mère-Eglise was the first French town to be liberated by the Allies.

 

 

The church of Sainte-Mère-Eglise

The church windows and the church tower pay tribute to 82nd Airborne Division. A mannequin hanging at the end of a parachute is a reconstitution of a scene which really happened on D-Day: Paratrooper John Steele hung there, seriously injured, for two hours before he could be rescued.

Mile marker 0 of the “Liberty Road” is situated near the townhall in Ste Mère-Eglise. It was inaugurated on 18th September 1947.

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Utah Beach Landings Museum in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont

Situated on the very site of the American landings on 6th June 1944, the museum celebrates the military and technical achievements, which rendered Madeleine beach famous.

The battery of Azeville

The battery was a part of the Atlantic wall.

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Ferme-musée du Cotentin

 

The farm was still in activity at the beginning of the 20th Century. It has now been turned into a museum, where visitors will rediscover the atmosphere and activities of a farm of that era: visit the common room, the press-house, the bakery, and the stables. Outside, you will encounter local breeds such as the Cotentin donkey, the Bayeux pig etc.

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday NormandyAirborne Museum in Sainte-Mère Eglise

Set in a 3000 m² park, near the church, this museum is a hymn to the extraordinary achievement of American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions who landed in Sainte-Mère-Eglise in the night of 5th to 6th June 1944.

Marshes and polders fit harmoniously into a traditional boscage landscape.

 

Meadows, grazed or mowed, are criss-crossed with ditches and dotted with peat bogs; these have been created in the wetland that stretches out to the sea, to the east and to the west. The marshlands are inhabited by characteristic flora and fauna; the landscapes here have two faces, changing with the seasons.

La Maison du Parc

 

The best way to understand this particular environment is to visit “la Maison du Parc”. Here, nearly 500 m² of themed areas enable you to go on a fun sensorial tour of the wetland (exhibition, film about the seasons, panoramic view-point, boutique, lounge...).
Outside, look-outs have been built on the edge of a lake, in a sensitive natural area of about a hundred hectares. From there, on your own or with a nature guide, you can observe birds in their natural environment.

 

Fauna and flora

 

The park welcomes 4-5% of France's white storks and 30% of France's western yellow wagtails, for example.

In autumn, several dozen or sometimes hundreds or thousands of birds pass through the park to reach their wintering area. A not-to-be-missed show

The park also boasts 4,600 km of hiking paths, including 18 interpretive trails so you can learn while you walk! You can also discover the park by bike, on horseback, on a donkey, as well as aboard a boat or a canoe.

 

 

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Where to see nature

 

Bocage, dunes, estuaries, moors, rivers, marshes, peatlands… the park has a wide diversity of environments. On the sea side, the Beauguillot Nature Reserve welcomes numerous birds for the winter, visible from the 2 observatories accessible free of charge. On the marsh side, the flooded grasslands of Les Pont d'Ouve provide refuge for large wading birds like great egrets, cattle egrets or spoonbills. From the observatories surrounding the water, observe teals, wigeons, pintails and more.

 

Holiday NormandyIn winter,

on the horizon, sky and water merge: flooded marshes are said to be "white", and almost seem to turn the Cotentin peninsula into an island.


In the spring,

rivers return to their beds. In the vast prairies, fish give way to cows, horses and birds.

From the Cape of Carteret, overlooking the sea, the view is breathtaking! The Channel Islands appear in the distance: the Ecréhous, Jersey, Guernesey.

 

From there you can reach the dunes of Hatainville… ideal spot for a picnic. Carteret, with its “belle époque” villas, is a pleasant destination for walks and outings with family and friends. On the other side of the harbour, in the village of Barneville, the charming Saturday morning market offers fresh local products. From Barneville-Carteret, you can also reach the Channel Islands – on a sailing boat or a ferry: Aurigny, Guernesey, Sercq et Jersey, the choice is yours!

Other interesting sites along the coast near Carteret

The beach cabins of Carteret

When sea bathing became popular in the late 19th Century, hotels and villas flourished along the beach of Barneville and on the heights of Carteret, combining elegance with typical seaside architecture. On the beach of la Potinière, in Carteret, pretty white and blue beach cabins sit on the sand.

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From the cape to the dunes

Above the beach of Carteret, a path follows the coast, running along the headland of Carteret, to the North. As you reach the semaphore, a new landscape appears: the dunes of Hatainville, rising at 60 metres above sea level. Along the path, you will discover the ruins of a church dedicated to Saint-Germain-le-Scot who evangelized inhabitants in Cotentin during the 5th Century.

The dunes of Hatainville

The dunes of Hatainville are part of the dune field of Baubigny, and rise at 80 metres. This 1.5 kilometre strip of land along the coast is an important piece of local biological, historical and cultural heritage.

The coastal path of Carteret

This portion of the coastal path links Carteret beach to the “beach of the old church” (plage de la Vieille Eglise). The path offers beautiful views over the Channel Islands. In the 18th Century, it was used by Customs officers to watch over the coast and spot smugglers arriving from the islands. At the top of the cliff, the remains of a coastal battery can be seen: the battery was built in 1745, during the war of the Austrian succession. It was in use until the middle of the 19th Century.

 

For sport enthusiasts

The sailing school and watersports club in Barneville-Carteret offer many activities, whatever your level: dinghy, catamaran, windsurfing etc.


 

Portbail

Built along a natural harbour, Portbail – nicknamed the “Smile of Cotentin” - is a very picturesque village. Former port of call on the ancient trade route for pewter, Portbail has seen commercial vessels make way for yachts.  It has kept its charming atmosphere with its pretty village streets, two churches, the bridge with its 13 arches, and hexagonal Gallo-Roman baptistery…

The frescoes of Canville

In 1982, when the whitewash was removed from the walls of the chapel in Canville-la-Rocque, 16th Century frescoes were revealed. They depict the story of three German pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela.

A windmill in Fierville-les-Mines

On the hills of Fierville, a windmill is still in action. Renovated in 1997, it is in perfect working order. Wheat, buckwheat and spelt are grinded here. The mill is open to visitors and is the scene for different events (the harvest festival for example). The miller’s house has been converted into an inn, where you can enjoy lunch.

Alexis de Tocqueville described the Val de Saire area as “a long meadow that ends with the sea on the horizon”.

 

Here, world-renowned sites such as Tatihou, the Vauban towers (listed World Heritage), or the Gatteville lighthouse (second highest in France) stand side by side with lesser known sites such as the “valley of 9 mills”. Gourmets will of course have heard of Saint-Vaast oysters and mussels from Barfleur. Val de Saire is also the first producer of vegetables in Lower-Normandy, and the unforgettable golden Brioche of le Vast, a delight that attracts many regular customers!

From le Vast, drive towards Quettehou, pronounced “Quet’hou”. This charming village is worth a stop before reaching the port de Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, or you can make a small detour and drive to Saint-Pierre-Eglise – where you will see menhirs – and then on to Barfleur. Wherever you go in Val de Saire, you will enjoy its wealth: its “terroir”, its history, its people.

Gatteville Lighthouse

Gatteville has the second highest lighthouse in France: 74,85 metres. When you climb to the top, do not forget to count the steps: the lighthouse has as many steps as there are days in a year and as many windows as there are weeks...

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View-point at La Pernelle

The belvedere in the small village of La Pernelle really is worth a detour. From there you can enjoy stunning panoramic views: the bay of Saint-Vaast and the “baie des Veys”, and from Gatteville lighthouse to the cliffs of Grandcamp-Maisy, in Calvados.

The waterfall of Le Vast

The river Saire flows through the little village of le Vast and offers a captivating spectacle as it turns itself into a cascade. The artificial waterfalls were used in the 19th Century to operate the old cotton mill.

Barfleur

Barfleur is one of “the prettiest villages in France”. Take a walk along the quays of Barfleur, at the end of which you will reach the church and the lifeguard station on the shore. Do not miss: the medieval “cour Sainte-Catherine”, the garden of the Augustins, the house of Julie Postel, and the Sainte Marie Madeleine chapel… And of course, do not forget to sample Barfleur mussels, lobster and other local seafood!

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Don't miss in Val de Saire...

Tatihou and La Hougue

Tatihou Island can be reached from Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue at high tide as well as at low tide aboard an amphibious boat. A bird’s paradise (ornithological reserve), Tatihou is well known for its garden, its maritime museum, its casemates and its Vauban tower, listed World Heritage by UNESCO (as is its continental twin in Saint-Vaast).


 

Holiday NormandyThe port of Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue

The shopping streets all converge to the port, where many yachts and fishing boats are tied up. In the 19th Century, the port of Saint-Vaast was visited by sloops, schooners, brigs, and “bisquines”. If traffic is not what it used to be in the port, the quays are always bustling with life, to the delight of holiday makers!

 

Between land and sea, la Manche is a generous land, with breath-taking landscapes...

 

Discover the bays of Quervière or Ecalgrain, visit the lighthouse of Goury, take in the view from the top of the granite cliff of Jobourg, 128 metres above sea level... Take a walk in the dunes of Biville, or between the gorse and the heather around the megalithic stones “Pierres Pouquelées”. Follow a path along dry stone walls in this area also called “little Ireland”.

During your stay in la Hague, you will find many hidden treasures, and fall under the spell of charming hamlets, with their low houses, nestled away from the wind.

A selection of favourite sites… amongst many others!

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Parks and gardens of la Hague

La Hague, well known for its wind-beaten headlands, also enjoys a particularly mild climate. Bordered by the Gulf Stream, it is a land where enthusiastic botanists have grown exotic plants from the southern hemisphere like the botanical garden of Vauville, surrounding the family chateau. Other gems include the park of Nacqueville chateau, the garden of Jacques Prévert…

A tribute to Prévert

In the 1930s, Jacques Prévert and his friends fell in love with this little piece of paradise: the tip of la Hague. In 1971, the poet purchased a house in Omonville-la-Petite, where he lived until he died in April 1977. Prévert was buried in the village cemetery, next to his wife Janine and their daughter Michelle. The house was converted into a museum, devoted to the poet. The unusual garden, situated in the “valley of the mill” is also dedicated to him and features Prévert’s favourite plants. It was created by Gérard Fusberti, who appealed to the poet’s entourage – Janine Prévert, Yves Montand, Ursula Vian, Juliette Gréco, Picasso...

The ports

Port du Hâble, port Racine, Goury, Diélette... Facing the Channel Islands, along 80 kilometres of coast and despite the strong currents at Raz Blanchard, many boats find in la Hague welcoming natural harbours: from modest fishing boats taking shelter in port Racine (the smallest port in France), to beautiful sailing boats tied to the pontoons of Port-Diélette.

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Weekend NormandyThe hamlets of la Hague

Typical of the region, the hamlets of la Hague are great to visit during a leisurely walk. Huddled against each other, the traditional houses form small hamlets, taking shelter from strong winds. In Herqueville, Jobourg, Auderville,or Omonville-la-Rogue houses are low, made of sandstone and schist. These were a favoured subject for the famous painter Jean-François Millet, born in Gréville-Hague, in a hamlet named Gruchy; Millet also painted the Angelus.