Although Allied bombing leveled three-quarters of its buildings during WWU, Caen (pop. 120,000) has skillfully rebuilt itself into a vibrant university town. Its biggest draw is the powerful Memorial de Caen. The best of Normandy’s WWII museums, it features footage of the war, displays on pre-war Europe, a haunting testament to the victims of the Holocaust, and a new wing exploring the Cold War. Take bus #2 to Memorial. (02 31 06 06 44; www.memorial-caen.fr. Open mid-July to Aug. daily 9am-8pm; Sept. to mid-July reduced hours. ‚17, students ‚15.) Flanking the ruined chateau of Caen’s most famous denizen, the twin abbeys Abbaye-aux-Hom-mes, off r. Guillaume le Conquerant, and Abbaye-aux-Dames, off r. des Chanoines, hold the tombs of William the Conqueror and his wife. (Abbaye-aux-Hommes open 9:15am-noon and 2-6pm; ‚1.55, students ‚0.80. Abbaye-aux-Dames open M-Sa 8am-5:30pm, Su 9:30am-12:30pm; free.)
Trains run to: Paris (2Vau\, 12 per day, ‚26); Rennes (3hr. 3 per day, ‚27); Rouen (2hr. 5 per day, ‚19); and Tours (3Mhr. 2 per day, ‚27). Bus Verts (08 10 21 42 14) covers the beaches and the rest of Normandy. The tourist office, pi. St-Pierre, offers free maps. (02 31 27 14 14; www.ville-caen.fr. Open July-Aug. M-Sa 9am-7pm, Su 10am-lpm and 2-5pm; Sept.-June M-Sa 9:30am-lpm and 2-6pm, Su 10am-lpm.) Hotel de I’Univers , 12 quai Vendeuvre, has reasonable prices and a convenient location. From the train station, follow av. 6 Juin to its end and turn right. All rooms have a shower, TV, and telephone. (02 31 85 46 41. Singles ‚28, doubles ‚33. AmExV.) H6tel du Chateau O, 5 av. 6 Juin, has large, bright rooms. (02 31 86 15 37; fax 02 31 86 58 08. Singles and doubles ‚35, with shower ‚45. Oct.-Easter reduced prices. MCA7.) Ethnic restaurants, creperies, and brasseries line the quartier Vaugueux near the chateau, as well as the streets between Eglise St-Pierre and Eglise St-Jean. Get your groceries at Monoprix supermarket, 45 bd. du Marechal Leclerc. (Open M-Sa 9am-8:30pm.) At night Caen’s old streets come to life. Rue de Bras, rue des Croisiers, and rue St-Plerre are especially popular. Postal Code: 14000.