Saint-Lo is an old Gallo-Roman town famous for its horse stables. In fact it’s often called the capital city of horse-riding. A former medieval fortress, it is now an agricultural centre, having been rebuilt from scratch after the allied invasion of Normandy in WWII.
Saint-Lo was originally called ‘Briovère,’ meaning ‘Bridge on the Vire River.’ ‘Saint Lo’ then transpired from ‘Saint Laud’ which was the name of the bishop of Coutances in the 6 th century. But the Vire River is still remembered due to the important, economic role it has played; for years it was the only form of transport for merchants.
When the wars struck, the Battle of Normandy and WWII, for example, the city was 95% destroyed due to it being a strategic crossroad. Samuel Beckett nicknamed it ‘Capital of the Ruins’ and eventually people begun to wonder whether it should be kept as ruins, in testimony to WWII. However, the rebuilding went ahead and today the town is a thriving place.
The town began to develop in the areas of horse-riding and horse-breeding in the C17th when the King’s Minister: Colbert, introduced the idea of ‘Royal Stud farms’ because he believed horse-breeding to be a reflection of national wealth. The first farm was then opened by Napoelon in Saint-Lô. In 1912 this farm had 422 stallions and from then onwards, throughout the C19th to the present day, the stud-farm has positively influenced the local countryside and economic life of the region.
First stop should be the famous National stud farm, where horses include the Norman Cob and the French Selle. Then the Notre-Dame church is worth a visit as it is one of the few buildings to have withstood the 1944 bombings. Built during the 13 th 14 th and 15 th centuries using Gothic styles, its most notable feature is an outdoor pulpit that Victor Hugo protected from demolition in 1863. And the Musée des Beaux Artes has paintings by Corot, Boudin, Millet, Moreau and Léger, while the Musée de Bocage Normand has numerous examples of traditions in west Normandy.
There are also exhibitions in the town hall, a theatre, a cinema, a Saturday market, a tennis club at 775 rue de l’Exode and a watersports centre at 85 rue Yvonne Godard. Golf, boxing, rugby, football, gymnastics, horse-riding and swimming are also catered for and the Vire River provides the opportunity for fishing, canoë-kayaking and boating.
Food and Drink
Cheeses such as ‘Camembert,’ ‘Livarot’ and ‘Pont l’Evêque’ are local specialities, as well as Normandy cream (used in most recipes), chopped liver and cider as Normandy is a major cider-producing region. ‘Calvados,’ an apple brandy is also popular and makes up the ‘Trou Normand’ (Norman break). ‘Kir Normand,’ cassis topped with cider, is a good aperitif and‘Flan Normand’ is a classic, apple tart.
- La Péché Mignon, 84 rue du Maréchal Juin, tel no : 02 33 72 23 77, menu 15-30€
- Le Tocqueville, 9 ave Briovère, tel no : 02 33 05 10 84, menu 15-30€
- La Gonivière, Rond point du 6 Juin, tel no : 02 33 05 15 36, menu 30-60€
Our team of sale advisers at Sextant Properties will be happy to help you to find a property in Normandy. We have a large network of partners in Normandy. All of them are registered French real estate agents and speak both French and English. Whatever kind of property you are looking for: farmhouse, longere, barn, gite, B&B, country house, mill, castle or chateau, we will do our best to find a property in Normandy matching your requirements. Do not hesitate to contact us to find out more about our selection of properties for sale near St Lo.