Just a short walk from the Men’s Abbey and Ducal Castle, the 18th century townhouse of Le Clos Saint-Martin offers every modern comfort in spacious, high-ceilinged rooms, tucked away behind a tranquil courtyard near the city centre.
Less than 10 miles from the ferry port at Caen-Ouistreham, Le Clos Saint-Martin is a real find for anyone wanting to visit this fascinating heritage city at the start or end of a holiday. And with a regular shuttle bus linking the port to the town centre, it’s also a great address for a city break without a car.
Owner Sylvie Vandevivere works at the local tourist board so knows everything about providing her guests with atmospheric, period accommodation, combined with 21st century amenities and a warm, friendly welcome. She’s also a mine of information on making the most of her home city.
Sylvie and her husband Jean-Noël bought the house nine years ago and spent a year living elsewhere whilst it was completely renovated. Little had been touched since World War II and many original features from the 16th and 18th centuries had been covered up. Although in a wonderfully central position for shops, restaurants and tourist attractions, the house is set back from Place Saint Martin behind another property with its own private courtyard and terrace.
Le Clos Saint Martin offers three guest suites and one double bedroom on a B&B basis that includes a lavish Continental breakfast served in an exquisitely pretty dining room. Every care has been taken to decorate the house in keeping with its high-ceilinged rooms, stone chimney breasts and spiral staircase, whilst including modern amenities like power showers, free WiFi and flat screen TVs. Expect sumptuous soft furnishings, period furniture, and loads and loads of intriguing collectables from sepia photographs to china ornaments, lace accessories to old hats.
Every room is individually decorated in keeping with a private period property. We stayed in the Margaux Suite on the first floor (€135 per night for 2 people in 2012). The outer door opens into a passage that leads to the luxury bathroom with double basin and bath with shower over; separate wc; and huge bedroom with king size bed and courtyard view. Our friends slept upstairs in Marie Suite (€115 in 2012) that featured a luxury shower room and a view to the spires of the Men’s Abbey, last resting place of William the Conqueror.
If you’re travelling by car, Caen is a great base for visiting Deauville and Honfleur to the east; Falaise and the Suisse Normande to the south; and Bayeux and the D-Day beaches to the west. Or just stay in the town to visit the museums inside the Ducal Castle, the Men’s and Women’s Abbeys, and the intensely moving Caen Memorial, a museum that champions world peace through displays on the international conflicts since World War I.
Gillian Thornton has been a freelance journalist for more than 30 years, writing everything from parenting features to celebrity interviews, corporate copy to heritage articles. A member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, she has been concentrating on travel writing since 1998 and is a widely-acclaimed specialist on France, writing for all the Francophile newsstand titles as well as for ferry magazines, airline publications and tourist boards. Gillian also contributes travel features to The People's Friend, My Weekly, Woman's Weekly, and Go Holiday, on destinations as far apart as Finland and Oman, Florida and Poland, but she also loves travelling round Britain. 'I never mind where I go,' she says. 'There's always something new to discover.'