The Orne region of Normandy is the perfect place to visit for a peaceful, relaxing break: beautiful countryside, lots of history and wildlife, a pleasant climate, but also with plenty to do, both locally and within reach of an easy day trip. Here are a few things to look out for.
Medieval Domfront is the closest town to Étoile du Nord, situated five kilometres to the west of the gite. Handy for the shops and market, it’s also worth exploring the town’s historical charm: enjoy the views from the ruined castle, visit the 11th century church of Notre-Dame sur l’Eau, or simply explore the streets, squares and cafes.
Fifteen kilometres from Étoile du Nord, the spa town of Bagnoles-de-l’Orne is a popular attraction, with its belle-époque and Art Deco buildings scattered around the fringes of a beautiful lake. As well as spa treatments, fine dining and the famous casino, activities include walking, horse riding, mountain biking, golf and tennis.
The Forêt Domaniale des Andaines
The Andaines forest is right on the gite’s doorstep, with plenty of beautiful woodland walks, including lakes and an arboretum. Wildlife includes deer, red squirrels, wild boar and an impressive variety of birds. Perfect also for horse riding and cycling.
If you like food and drink you’ll love Normandy’s markets, with their focus on regional tradition and the diversity of local produce, including a spectacular range of sea food, cheese, baking, meats, honey, cider, and so much more. Within a few kilometres of Étoile du Nord you’ll find a market for every day of the week, but do bear in mind that most markets only take place in the morning, so get there in good time!
Here are the days for some of our more local markets:
Tuesday: Athis-De-L’orne, Bagnoles-De-L’orne, Couterne, Passais-La-Conception
Thursday: Ceauce, La Ferte-Mace
Friday: Bagnoles-De-L’orne, Domfront, La Chapelle D’andaine
Saturday: Bagnoles-De-L’orne, Flers, Ranes, Tinchebray
Sunday: Alençon (also Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday), Argentan (also Tuesday and Friday), Montilly-Sur-Noireau (1st Sunday of the month)
For a full listing: see Normandie Tourisme’s guide to the region’s markets.
Food and drink
Seafood, including lobster, clams, whelks, scallops, mussels and oysters; a range of local meat specialities, including pré salé lamb from sheep reared on the coastal salt-marshes, and locally reared duck, pork and venison; the cheeses, most famously Camembert, but also Pont-L’Evêque, Livarot, and all kinds of wonderful cheeses from the daily markets; Calvados, ciders, pommeau and pear liquor… All available from the region’s shops, markets and restaurants. No wonder people don’t want to leave!
Quite understandably one of France’s must-see heritage sites, Le Mont-Saint-Michel is a breathtaking island set in the bay where Normandy and Brittany meet. Beautiful and atmospheric, and packed with history and charm, a visit to Mont-Saint-Michel is a truly unforgettable experience.
Note: like any world-famous heritage site, Le Mont-Saint-Michel can get busy. In our experience it’s well worth getting there early to soak up the atmosphere as the place comes to life. Also, most of the restaurants facing the bay have fabulous views for when you want to take the weight off your feet and relax after all that walking – it’s easier to get a window/terrace table if you get there early!
The D-Day coast and Bayeux
Less than two hours from Étoile du Nord, the D-Day beaches are another must-see for anyone with an interest in Europe’s history. The museum at Arromanches tells the story of the landings, or simply visit the beaches and soak up the atmosphere.
Only a few kilometres from the beaches, Bayeux is a beautiful town, home to the famous tapestry.
Depending on which of the Loire Valley’s many chateaux, historical towns or vineyards you choose to visit, the region is only a couple of hours or so from Étoile du Nord. One of the most beautiful, and historical, parts of France.
An hour and a half from us, Le Mans is a great destination for a day trip, with its museum of the famous road race – a magnet for all motor-racing fans – plus the old town, cathedral, and more.
Lunch in Paris? Why not? Europe’s most romantic city is only a two-hour train journey from our nearest station in Flers. If you need any help working out the train timetables or planning your visit, just ask your hosts at Étoile du Nord.
Another of France’s most beautiful regions, Brittany is within reach for a day trip from the gite. The ancient standing stones at Carnac are less than three hours away; the beautiful Côte de Granit-Rose (pink granite coast) is a similar distance; while the cobbled streets of Dinan are only an hour and a half from us.