20160423_183056Pont de Brotonne in the distance (April 2016).

Thinking back to my time in Normandy, I realize that one place that is seldom-mentioned would be Caudebec-en-Caux. This small town is unassuming, but is actually notable in its location, given that it’s a stop for tourists taking a cruise along the Seine River from Paris for the “classic” Normandy tour. Caudebec-en-Caux (or “Caudebec” for short) doesn’t get as much recognition as other notable cities in Normandy (Giverny, Rouen, Le Havre), but nevertheless has a tranquil ambience that’s worth spending an afternoon checking out, should one be in the area.

Situated along the Seine about 27 miles/43 km west of the capital Rouen, Caudebec has long been a strategic location for trade and commerce, not to forget tourism. The common itinerary for tourists coming from Paris is to pass through Mantes-la-Jolie, then Giverny, before a potential stop in Rouen (and Caudebec-en-Caux) and emptying out to Le Havre on the Atlantic Coast.

During my two years living in Normandy, I’d ever really known Caudebec to be a “transitional” sort of place. There were a few times that I actually stopped in town to check out the shops and nearby villages, perhaps to grab a kebab before returning to my place of residence, but otherwise, I never considered it much of a place worth checking out. Mainly, Caudebec was my transfer spot from Le Havre to Rouen along the bus route, where I had perhaps anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to kill before reaching my intended destination.

It’s a shame, really, because Caudebec does have a few sites worthy for a visit. Besides its lovely views of the idle Seine River from the Pont de Brotonne, there are also points of elevation in the small town, from which one could take in more of surrounding area from above. Of course, there’s also the iconic maison des Templiers, which date back to the 12th and 13th centuries that tie into the Catholic military order from Jerusalem just a century prior. And in the springtime, if you’re lucky, you might come across some bright cherry blossoms in town.

12-16-15 (Caudebec-en-Caux) La maison des templiers.Maison des Templiers.

12-16-15 (Caudebec-en-Caux) Old buildings.Half-timbered homes characteristic of Normandy.

Just 2.5 miles/4 km east from the town center, you’ll come across the Abbaye de Saint-Wandrille (aka “Fontenelle Abbey”), a Benedictine monastery dating all the way back to the 7th century BCE. Much of the place is in ruins today, but there is no doubt that the towering remnants evoke the grand splendor that it used to be centuries ago. My brief visit there left me fairly-impressed, as I had no idea such a place used to exist.

12-16-15 (Saint-Wandrille) Abbaye de Saint Wandrille.Abbaye de Saint-Wandrille.

West of Caudebec is Villequier, just 2.6 miles/4.2 km away where the family of famed author Victor Hugo is buried. The author himself isn’t buried here, but rather in the Panthéon in Paris– however, he did spend some time in this village, and it’s also where his daughter, Léopoldine, drowned in the Seine River at age 19.

12-16-15 (Villequier) Musée Victor Hugo.Musée Victor Hugo.

Although Caudebec-en-Caux never really made a lasting impression on me due to its “transitional” sort of location along the bus route, I admit that it’s worth spending an hour (or two) just wandering its small town, with its occasional half-timbered houses iconic of the Normand tradition, a few boutique shops, or perhaps a picnic along the Seine before continuing to transition to wherever you head next– Paris or Le Havre (and beyond in Normandy). It’s a beautiful spot to be idle and enjoy the good weather should it come in the spring and summer months, as well as to reflect on the “Normand,” French tradition along the Seine River.

20160423_175829Destinations…

— Rebecca

39 thoughts on “Destination: Caudebec-en-Caux, France

  1. It’s always cool to read an article on a place I’ve never heard of. Seems like Caudebec is well worth a stop, especially with the Victor Hugo connection. Love the moody shot of Abbaye de Saint-Wandrille.

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    1. Definitely is! The abbey was a striking one, and even if it’s mostly ruins, a stop even for just a couple of minutes is enough to take in the somber atmosphere of it all.

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    1. I didn’t know about that! I’ve never been to Besançon, but I’d be keen on going someday. Especially if it’s Victor Hugo-related! I appreciate the share. 🙂

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  2. Thank you for this interesting post. Even though I knew the name of the town, I don’t remember ever stopping there. This is a good suggestion for a road trip along the Seine valley.

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    1. Caudebec is a small town, and it’s often forgotten as a potential destination for visitors. But it is the gateway to the rest of Normandy, so it definitely needs to be higher on people’s radar!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just after reading your article, I stumbled across a book in the library about writers’ houses, and found Villequier, which made me smile 🙂

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  3. Looks like a wonderful place to explore. During our two-week road trip around Brittany, I fell in love with those cute half-timbered homes. I was surprised by how many of them were actually crooked, with the structures not precisely symmetric or aesthetically attractive, making them appear straight from a fairytale.
    Many of the half-timbered houses we saw in Dinan were beautifully restored without disrespecting the legacy of traditional buildings, and I just couldn’t stop taking photos of them. I might even dig up my old photos and write a blog post about the trip. Thanks for sharing and transporting me to France. Aiva 🙂 xxx

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    1. Brittany is certainly a beauty, too; I adored my time in Saint-Malo and Dinan. The half-timbered homes and their asymmetrical structure definitely lends charm to the region. It’s a beautiful place, that’s for sure!

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  4. Thanks for sharing all about this little town. I need to explore more of Normandy! I remember learning about the death Hugo’s daughter and how it affected him in one of my French literature classes when we read the poems “Demain dès l’aube” and “À Villequier.”

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    1. I’ve heard of “Demain dès l’aube,” but not “À Villequier…” it does make sense, though, as it’s an homage to his daughter and the site where she died. I’ll need to read that sometime! Hope you can return to Normandy once lockdown restrictions are lifted!

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    1. Normandy is a very-underrated region of France. There’s a lot more to it than just the D-Day beaches, and I have fond memories of living there for two years. I highly recommend a visit over when you can!

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    1. Caudebec-en-Caux is a small town that isn’t touristy, but it still does have a few charms to check out. If you’re ever in the area, I’d encourage a stop-over!

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  5. Super interesting! I have never heard of Caudebec before and it really seems worth checking out! I went to Normandy many years ago when I was a kid and have very good memories of there, and I really want to rediscover this region again! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Caudebec isn’t a touristy spot, but it’s a stop along the Seine for tourists heading through Normandy on their way to Le Havre/Honfleur. Normandy is a beautiful region not far from Paris/île-de-France, and it should definitely be a place for visitors to check out!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. LOVE this post. This makes me miss travelling so much. I’ve actually never heard of this place before, but seems like such a nice place to check out. Will definitely be adding this to the list when I get a chance to go to France!

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