Here’s our round-up of cultural hotspots, festivals, events, activities and regional specialities
Eure’s châteaux – it has more than 30 – tell the story of a strategically important region once ruled by England under Richard the Lionheart. Visit his superb, though now ruined, Château Gaillard in Les Andelys – and Château de Gisors, a fortress of the Dukes of Normandy built to protect the area from the French in the 11th and 12th centuries. Meanwhile, the Château du Champ de Bataille and Château de Beaumesnil, a beautiful baroque-style building surrounded by a moat, can shed light on later periods. Beaumesnil also runs caramel-making workshops, as well as other activities and events throughout the year.
Eure’s historic abbeys, meanwhile, bear testament to the département’s importance as a religious centre. Not to be missed are Bec Abbey at Le Bec-Hellouin, which is still home to 15 Benedictine monks. On the banks of the Andelle river at Radepont is Fontaine-Guérard Abbey, once a nunnery and now open to the public. You should also see the treasures of the Collegiate Church of Écouis and the decorative stonework of the Church of Notre-Dame de Louviers. Bernay Abbey, partially reconstructed in wood after sustaining damage during the French Revolution, is also fascinating, and the town’s art museum is a great place to discover Eure’s medieval past.
Take the tourist bus from the station at Vernon and the commentary will tell you about this interesting town not far from Giverny. Look out for the 15th-century House of Past Times, home to the tourist office; the keep of the old castle built by Philip II; and the 16th-century mill standing on the remaining piers of a medieval bridge.
For a picture-postcard history of Normandy, head to the heart of the Boucles de la Seine Normande Regional Natural Park, where you’ll find the 53-kilometre Route des Chaumières (the Thatched Cottage Trail). It starts at a house in Notre-Dame-de-Bliquetuit and travels through many of Eure’s most charming villages, including Aizier, Vieux-Port, Saint-Ouen-des-Champs and the Marais-Vernier.
This region has long inspired artists and the Musée des impressionnismes in Giverny will tell you the story of the Impressionist painters who flocked here in the 19th century. If you’re lucky, you might see some of Monet’s pieces on display.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bernay is tucked away in one of the abbey buildings, while the Musée d’Art, Histoire et Archéologie in Évreux is housed in the old Bishop’s Palace. For a window into glassmaking in France, the Musée du Verre in Conches-en-Ouche is the place to go.
For art exhibited out in the open air, visit the Château de Vascoeuil, where sculpture and nature exist in perfect harmony at this centre for contemporary art on the edge of the forest of Lyons.
The Italian-style Théâtre Legendre at Évreux has recently reopened after 13 years of extensive renovations – visit the municipal tourist office at to see what’s on. Or you can head to the town’s Maison des Arts for contemporary art.
The little theatre at the Moulin d’Andé is an out-of-the-way gem where you can attend recitals and soirées while enjoying the breathtaking views over the Seine valley that the village affords.
FOOD AND DRINK
Normandy is, of course, justly famous for its apples, and the département of Eure has plenty of wonderful apple tartes, pommeaux, ciders and brandies just waiting to be sampled. Rosé cider, which is made using a red-fleshed apple, is a fresh take on the tipple. Go to the Pressoir d’Or in Saint-Jean-de-Frenelles for dégustations of this and other apple products.
Apples are harvested from September through to the New Year – depending on the variety and the weather. But October is as big a month as any for gathering them in, and this is generally when the humble fruit is celebrated in all manner of festivals all across Normandy. The biggest in Eure is the Fête de la Pomme, du Cidre et du Fromage in Conches-en-Ouche.
Before that, in September, the Festival of 1001 Vegetables is celebrated in the wonderful potager of heritage and unusual vegetables at the Château de Beaumesnil. Artists, gardeners, chefs and local food producers all come together for this vegetable and gardening extravaganza.
Part museum, part chocolate shop, the Michel Cluizel Chocolatrium welcomes more than 16,000 visitors each year. Here you can discover the story behind these superior chocolates, take a workshop – and (oh yes!) taste the choccies of course.
OUT AND ABOUT
In the Norman Seine River Meanders Regional Nature Park and the Marais-Vernier there are many trails to follow that will enable you to explore Eure on foot or by bike, with voies vertes linking Le Bec-Hellouin with Évreux, and also Bernay with Broglie. There’s also a major route along the Seine on the border with Seine-Maritime.
Look out, too, for boat tours and water sports. At the Aux Plaisirs de Mon Moulin outdoor activities centre at La Croix-Saint-Leufroy you can enjoy canoeing, kayaking, cycling, pedal boat rides and more. You’ll find other centres for water sports at Brionne, Montfort-sur-Risle and Poses.
From France Today magazine