Les Andelys lies by the River Seine in the Upper Normandy region of northern France, about 20 miles northeast of Evreux and 20 miles southeast of Rouen. The town is nestled in verdant countryside below a row of striking chalk cliffs and overlooked by the ruins of the once-mighty Chateau Guillard. So named for its two constituent settlements of Grand-Andely and Petit-Andely, the two fishing villages would later grow to form a single town. The area boasts several famous sons: it was the birthplace of Nicolas Poussin, the foremost painter of the French Baroque style; the balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard, who would become the first person to cross the English Channel by air; and Sir John George Woodroffe, also known as Arthur Avalon, a writer and lecturer on Indian philosophy who is credited with introducing Hindu and Yogic practices to the West.
In medieval times, Les Andelys’ strategic position on a bend in the river attracted the attention of both the French monarchy and the Duke of Normandy, King Richard the Lionheart. He had the imposing Chateau Gaillard built on a cliff above Les Andelys, in order to protect his hold on the area and its capital, Rouen. Some cruises offer the chance to tour of the ruins of the besieged castle, which still stand remarkably well preserved and offer incredible cliff-top views of the surrounding country and the winding Seine below.
The town itself has no shortage of attractions either – including the Nicolas Poussin Musuem, an 18th-century mansion that houses collections of fine and decorative arts, as well as Poussin’s classical masterpiece, Coriolanus Being Implored Upon by his Family. Nearby in the centre of Grand Andely is Saint Clotilde’s Fountain, an historic pilgrimage site famed for the water’s healing properties.
The Andelys also have a beautiful gothic church apiece: the compact, steepled Saint Sauveur Church in Petit Andely boasts an organ built in 1674, a Louis XIV altarpiece and statues from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries; while the sprawling Notre Dame Collegiate Church in Grand Andely houses paintings by Varin, Nicolas Poussin’s master, as well as towering stained glass windows from the 16th century that feature the locally venerated Sainte Clotilde.
For a historic meal in every sense, head to La Chaine d Or, a charming building which dates back to 1751 and which features frequently in a number of respected French gastronomic guides.