At the southern end of the Normandy-Maine regional park, on the border of Normandy and the Pays de la Loire, Alençon is a town that we had passed by many times on holiday. The day finally came when we took the time to turn off the national road from Rouen to Le Mans (this was in the days before the A28 was built) and visit the town centre.
With its picturesque old quarter, the magnificent church of Notre Dame, its markets, shops, parks, gardens and lace museum, Alençon was a revelation. The view of the town from the national road had given no hint of the medieval architecture and small, winding back streets that we discovered.
Alençon is now our adopted “home town”. Market days (the market is in the town centre next to the Notre Dame church and in the car park behind the Tourist Office) are on Thursday and Saturday. It’s two “chocolatiers artisanales”, the Maison Glatigny (pictured) and Pédro, are open all year round from Tuesday to Saturday.
In winter there are two skating rinks in Alençon; the main rink on the N12 Brittany road (next to the Parc Elan near Carrefour) is open from October to May and costs 5.50€ for adults including skate hire; but the town also installs a free rink in the glass-roofed Halle au Blé in the town centre – entry and skate hire are free.
A lot of people visit Alençon in the expectation that the famous “Alençon lace” will be on sale in the shops – it isn’t. Nowadays, production is limited to the output from a small workshop next to the Musée des Beaux Arts, set up to preserve the tradition. The only sales outlet is the reception desk of the museum which also houses a permanent exhibition of lace and lacemaking. Be warned – the lace is breathtaking not only in its delicacy but also in its price!
Our bed and breakfast is just 10 minutes from Alençon centre.