An hour and a half from Paris, nestled in the Risle valley, the town of Pont-Audemer, often nicknamed the Norman Venice, is a remarkable site full of treasures. Its heart is cradled by two arms of the Risle river, linked by numerous picturesque canals. These canals, which structure the city, make it a rare example of preserved planned urban development. Around it, in the Risle valley, the charm also works instantly.

The Norman Venice

The historic centre of Pont-Audemer offers to amateurs or simply curious people the great richness of its heritage: narrow streets and medieval alleys, canals, Saint-Ouen church, old wash houses, small stone bridges, mansions and houses of notables. The old tanners' town has many half-timbered houses with corbelled walls that are reflected in the waters of the Risle. The numerous waterways, where the leather that made the reputation of the town (150 tanneries in the 18th century!) was worked, criss-cross the welcoming historic centre and add to the charm of the place. Lively and well-maintained, it also reveals a modern architecture well incorporated into the rich historical heritage: the "Théâtre de l'Éclat", the paved lace of the Place du Pot-d'Étain, the water jets on the Place Victor-Hugo... A city to discover, a city of character!

With its pretty and flowery streets (classified 4 Fleurs), Pont-Audemer is one of the "100 most beautiful detours in France" and offers many discovery tours. The town also boasts a nautical tourism with its nautical base and centre, its ponds and rivers for fishermen. Like the tourist route with its 13 richly documented and illustrated panels that will take you through the town. With an audioguide, during 1h30 and 2,2 km, from place to place, anecdotes, small and big stories will reveal you the nuggets of this city with its unique medieval character. A leaflet and map is available at the tourist office.

An unmissable church

Imposing although still unfinished, the church of Saint-Ouen thrones in the heart of the Pont-Audemérienne city, and is listed as a Historic Monument and is one of the first buildings of Norman flamboyant architecture.

From the original Romanesque church, built in the 11th century, the square lantern tower and the choir remain. One can admire, near the altar of the Great Sacrament, two Romanesque capitals: one represents warriors, the other, less bellicose, is decorated with floral motifs. In the 15th century, during the great movement of reconstruction of the religious buildings after the Hundred Years' War, they began to transform the church into a cathedral, but the building site remained unfinished. The Romanesque architecture was gradually replaced by magnificent Gothic elements. The church resumed its service, flanked by a high tower and a... a low tower, never finished, but still topped, which gives the facade its so particular physiognomy. The parish church of Pont-Audemer also preserves a splendid collection of stained-glass windows that can be discovered with wonder from chapel to chapel. In all, fourteen old stained glass windows (two from the 15th and twelve from the 16th) and nine modern ones (from the 20th). The "beautiful unfinished", finally houses an exceptional organ, dating from the end of the 16th century, entirely restored between 1996 and 2000 in the workshops of Michel Giroud in Grenoble. Its remarkable wooden case has seventeen stops distributed over two manuals and a pedalboard

A museum of choice

Located in the heart of Pont-Audemer, the family home of Alfred Canel (1803-1879), a writer, local scholar and politician, but also an archaeologist and lawyer in his early days, has housed the cantonal museum since 1884. Manuscripts, incunabula, emblematic books... the large 19th century library is full of treasures. It consists of about 15,000 books covering the period from the 15th to the 19th century. In addition, there are 6,000 volumes from the Norman library, a legacy of Alfred Canel. A universal spirit associated with a generous personality led him to bequeath his possessions to the community.

On the first floor, you can discover a large gallery fitted out in the 19th century to house the collections of the cantonal museum, like a surprising cabinet of curiosities. Today it is known as the Gallery of Arts and Sciences and offers collections of fine arts, local archaeology, natural sciences and industry.

The museum's entertainment policy is very rich throughout the year and temporary exhibitions are frequently organised there. Coléo, the museum's mascot, invites children to explore the house of the politician in a fun and instructive way. A nice stopover in this charming city!

Beautiful getaways in the surroundings

First of all, you'll reach the Montfort state forest, an extraordinary landscape on the right bank of the Risle. An unusual forest, the true green lung of the Risle valley, where softwoods and a high level of biodiversity dominate. In short, a precious bubble of nature that makes it an ideal place to breathe in with the family! Several paths are accessible for walking and hiking, including a 3 km discovery circuit (departure: aire des Cateliers, in the centre of the forest), decorated with signs, which presents the rich diversity that constitutes this environment.

On a spur with a breathtaking panoramic view, the medieval castle of Montfort is listed as a Historic Monument. It will reveal all the secrets of ducal Normandy. Fights, historical re-enactments, concerts and various cultural events are also organized there. The site of the castle forms a rural setting where it is pleasant to stroll, enjoy the majestic view over the Risle valley or take a pleasant picnic break. A place full of history to discover!

Not far from Pont-Audemer, the ponds of Toutainville also form a magnificent site and offer multiple activities for water sports lovers. Whether for sailing or towed activities, the main body of water proves to be perfect

In Routot, you won't want to miss the Maison du Lin. In the 18th century, the halles de Routot specialized in the marketing of linen cloth, a plant that is grown abundantly in the region. One discovers the whole panoply of tools for the cultivation, the uprooting and the transformation of flax, but also the weaving and the maintenance of the fabrics. For the home and the table, head for the Maison du Lin shop.

Then Quillebeuf, with its peaceful and timeless charm, abounds in historical treasures. The maritime city surprises by the extent of its heritage. The church of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Port, the Grande Rue lined with 16th century timber-framed houses, and the facades of the houses with symbols and graffiti engraved by sailors tell the story of the town. Quillebeuf, a former seaport, still lives to the rhythm of the river and the incessant ferry crossings. The artists were not mistaken, some great painters have set up their easels in the Seine valley like Eugène-Louis Boudin or William Turner.

Finally, the Marais Vernier is a village but also a protected natural area located in the heart of the Vernier-Risle maritime marsh, itself located within the Regional Natural Park of the Norman Seine Loops. This vast space between the Seine and the wooded slopes is home to the largest peat deposit in France and is one of the largest wetlands in the Seine Valley

Smart info

When? You can go there all year round, although the arrival of fine weather is more pleasant. The first frosts of autumn also give the area a special charm

Getting there. By train, plane or car, everything is possible.

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Useful. To best prepare for his Norman escapade.

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