Of the 3 towns close to Eco-Gites of Lenault it is Condé-Sur-Noireau that we visit the most. The boys go to school there, I go the market most weeks and we drive through it to get to the boys' sports clubs. Admittedly it is not the prettiest of towns but what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in floral displays and the shops and services etc you'll find there. Let me take you on a small tour of Condé-sur-Noireau.
|Image from map-France.com|
A Little History
Condé-sur-Noireau is named after the Noireau river which passes through the town and which means black water. The town played an indirect role in the 100 years war. A Spanish mercenary named Francois de Surienne launched an attack on the medieval town and castle at Fougeres in Brittany from Condé-sur-Noireau, which led Charles VII of France to invade what was then English Normandy and thus led to the end of the Hundred Years' War.
500 years later it played it's role in the beginning of the end of World War II but in doing so the town was almost totally destroyed by the Allied Forces. After the war the town needed to be rebuilt as quickly as possible and charm and beauty were not high on the building agenda.
Condé-sur Noireau can boast at least one famous son. In the centre of town is a statue to Admiral Dument d'Urville and the boys' middle school (collège) is named after him. Born in the town in 1790 he was an explorer, cartographer, scientist and rear admiral. His work led him to explore around Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica where he named various plants and even an island off New Zealand after himself.
|Jules Dumont d'Urville - image from Wikipedia|
Modern Day Condé-sur-Noireau
Shopping and Eating
FoodFrom a large InterMarché supermarket to all the small food shops you'd expect in a Normandy town you should be able to get all your food requirements in Condé-sur-Noireau. At a quick count I think there are at least 8 bakers although we reckon the best bread is from the baker's opposite the main church! Most butchers and bakers will be open on Sunday morning as will the town centre Carrefour supermarket but the large Intermarché and other shops will all be closed all Sunday.
Bars and RestaurantsThere are plenty of bars which, in the French tradition, often double up as tobacconists and newsagents. Some also serve food. You have plenty of restaurants to chose from but be aware that many of these will not be open on Sunday evening or at all on Mondays. We have eaten in several so can recommend:
For fine French dining - Au Bouquet de Saveurs
For typical Normandy dishes - Le Bistrot Normand
For crêpes - La Licorne
For pizzas - Les Trois Ecus
Take-AwaysNormandy does not offer a large number of take-away options but there are 2 kebab shops and a pizza take-away. Les Trois Ecus also does take-away pizzas.
MarketEvery Thursday morning sees the town centre closed to traffic for the weekly market. Here you'll find everything from clothes to plants, live chickens to furniture as well as all the usual food stalls. It's a very popular market so do expect crowds and queues at some of the more popular stalls.
Wine and CiderIf you are after stocking up on drink, La Cave Muzard is the place to go where you'll find a large selection of wines as well as local Normandy products - cider, calvados, apple/pear juice and poiré.
The ParkCondé-sir-Noireau's park is a lovely leafy spot with many unusual trees and a large lake around which you can take a leisurely stroll or settle down for a picnic. There is a children's play area, a boules pitch, tennis courts and every summer the town council opens up Le Condé Plage - The Beach! This sandy area next to th elake is where you can sunbathe or make sandcastles and where there are all sorts of activities from free concerts, pedalo/kayak hire and, the time we went, one of the weirdest spectacles we have ever seen - BMX bike diving! Don't ask!
Swimming PoolYou are not allowed to swim in the park lake but for water babies there is L'espace aquatique (swimming pool) consiting of an adult deep pool, shallow play pool as well as large slide, current area and bubble pool. In school holidays on every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon the main pool has a large inflatable to keep older children entertained. If the weather is hot the roof can be retracted to allow the sunshine to flood in.
Do remember though, that in French pools men must wear tight fitting trunks and you will be refused entry if you have shorts-type swimming trunks.
CinemaLe Royal has recently been refurbished and is now run by a team of volunteers. Every month there will is a good range of films and at least one will be a Version Original i.e. in the language the film was made in and subtitled in French. Just make sure though that if you don't read French that the film you are going to watch is actually in English ... not all are!
MuseumsThe local Library also houses the Espace Musée Charles Léandre, an art museum which has regular other exhibitions on a range of local topics.
Musée de l'imprimerie typographique is a printing museum although we have yet to visit. Have you been?
Floral DisplaysIf there is one thing French towns all excel at, it is there floral displays and Condé-sur-Noireau in no exception. I wrote a blog about their flowers last year with plenty more photos if you are interested.
Condé-sur-Noireau is a fine example of not judging a book by it's cover. It may not have the charm of towns in other parts France but it a bustling place with plenty of things there to warrant a visit. Have you been and if so what would you recommend to people?