Caen – host of the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy

         Aerial view of L'Abbaye-aux-Hommes and the old centre of Caen         © Ville de Caen

With the London 2012 Olympic Games behind us, it’s time to look forward to the next major championship – the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy (WEG) from August 24th to September 7th 2014.

As the riders and nations now focus on qualifying and preparing for this event, we thought we’d introduce you to the area of France that the Games will be held in, the city of Caen where the Games will be centred, the equestrian venues and what else to look forward to as a part of the 2014 WEG experience (and there is a lot!).

We visited Normandy in August and checked the city of Caen as well as attending the three day event held at the National Stud of Haras du Pin. In the next few articles we’ll be bringing you details of what we discovered and what we thought of it. Let’s start with the city of Caen..............

Caen – city of the Normandy Games

The 2014 World Equestrian Games is to be centred in the city of Caen (pronounced Con) and seven of the eight of the official WEG disciplines (Jumping, Dressage, Eventing, Driving, Vaulting, Reining and Para-Equestrian Dressage) will take place there, while the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel will be the stunning location for the Endurance.

Less than two hours by train from Paris, Caen is located in an urban district of Normandy which has approximately 400,000 inhabitants. We drove from Paris via the scenic route (as opposed to toll freeways which are much quicker but less interesting) and, on approaching Caen we were slightly underwhelmed by the town after the beauty of the Normandy countryside. It seemed like a nice large town but not terribly interesting or beautiful.....which just shows how first impressions can be wrong! We headed for the Centre Ville and Bureau de Tourisme (Town Centre and Tourist Office – come on, time to learn a few phrases) and find a hotel for the night before exploring a bit.

      One corner of the ramparts of William the Conqueror's Ducal Castle

Close by the Tourist Office we stumbled across the first bit of interesting architecture and history (actually we parked under it by accident and when I say a bit, it’s quite a large bit); the Ducal Castle of William the Conqueror – yes, him of the Battle of Hastings 1066 fame. He was born in nearby Falaise and he made Caen his main place of residence resulting in some amazing buildings from that period. At the 2006 WEG in Aachen I learned about Charlemagne, at the 2002 WEG in Jerez I learned about sherry, now I’m learning all about dear old William – any youngsters reading this, take note, it could be a good way to persuade your parents to take you to the 2014 WEG. However I’m wondering if William the Conqueror may refer to an eventing rider by the time these Games are over.

Caen Normandy France

      Part of the pedestrianised area of Caen

Having settled into the hotel Best Western Le Dauphin (highly recommend it) we set off for a wander and now discovered the true character of Caen. In the heart of the town there are pedestrianised areas with cafes and shops which are overlooked by some more of William the Conqueror’s architectural heritage – L’Abbaye-aux-Hommes (The Abbey of the Men) which now includes the Caen City Hall while at the other end of town is L’Abbaye-aux-Dames (yes, you’ve guessed it, The Abbey of the Women, built by William’s wife Mathilda). As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words so here are some photos.

      L'Abbaye-aux-Hommes which now also houses the Caen City Hall

      A perfect spot for pizza

      Wonderful character of the buildings overlooking the old town

      Plenty of cafes to while away the hours or pick up a snack

Caen is a University town and the place has plenty of activity but is also quiet and peaceful in areas. Despite the fact that it was heavily bombed in the war (which probably explains why it doesn’t look so spectacular as you drive in as there lots of more modern buildings) luckily in the old town there are still old squares with restaurants and cafes, small streets with grocery stores and local shops plus interesting nooks and crannies to explore. It really is a lovely town and will be a great location for the Games; it has the same feel as Jerez in that things are an easy walking distance and it has a lovely atmosphere and real character. While we were there the weather was warm and comfortable and the average temperature high is 20 – 22 degrees for August and September

      Just a few minutes from the Stadium, a house like this might be perfect to rent...................

      ................... unless you fancy something a little more traditional

I’m not quite sure how all of the accommodation will be sourced for the 800 competitors and over 500,000 spectators expected but there are to be announcements about this soon. I think a lovely house in town would be perfect – walk to the venues, eat in the town’s restaurants and visit all the local attractions

 As you leave the middle of the town, large avenues open up and lead out to the Peripherique, a main road which circles the town and takes you out to all of the major freeways. Just inside of the Peripherique are the four main town based venues for the Games. These are already existing venues which are going to be enhanced and extended by 2014;

The D’Ornano Stadium: where the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, Jumping and Dressage competitions and the Dressage and Jumping phases of the Eventing will be held (the cross country phase will be held at Le Haras du Pin stud about an hour away)

The Exhibition Centre: where the Reining events will be held as well as hosting the Equestrian Village and exhibition areas, restaurants and sideshows and event organisation centre

The Zenith Indoor Arena: venue for the Vaulting, located next to the Exhibition Centre

The Prarie Racecourse:  where the Para Equestrian Dressage and Carriage Driving will be held

We had a look at all of these venues as they currently stand and will tell you more about them along with photos in the next article. In the meantime, if this all too much talk about architecture and cafes and you're ready for some WEG 2014 equestrian action, this should get the juices going

 

 

Comments

I an having trouble trying to work out where the games will be held on a map of Caen,and good clean accommodation, walking distance would be great, how good is public transport etc.