Manche is a French department in Normandy named after La Manche ("the sleeve"), which is the French name for the English Channel.
Manche is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. It was created from part of the province of Normandie.
The first capital was Coutances until 1796, and it resumed that role after World War II because of the almost complete destruction of Saint-Lô during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. When Saint-Lô was rebuilt, it again became the capital.
The Department includes the Cotentin Peninsula down to the famous Mont St Michel; though not the off-shore Isles Anglo-Normand (Jersey, Sark and Guernsey), which are British Commonwealth protectorates. These islands are a wonderful example of when Normandy invaded England and vice-versa, and oaths of allegiance to new kings got mixed up. Other reefs and not quite islands such as the Minquiers are technically British, though they are annually contested in good fun by French and Channel Island fishermen. The coast is fantastic for sailing and boating though the unusually fast tidal races require a certain yachting skill to navigate safely.
The region is lush and green with amazing sandy beaches, remaining very rural and farming orientated. The peninsula was originally joined as a single land mass to Cornwall and Dorset in England, so the countrysides are very similar. Flat marsh areas as Marais are common and great for wildlife and bird watching. Walking, cycling, and horse riding are possible on local trails from most towns, opening up some of Europe's most beautiful scenery. A wonderful canal tow path, river Vire, and disused railway line walk from the north coast past St. Lo to Mont St Michel, is another way to take in the countryside stopping off as you go in nearby towns.
The region and around St Lo is the horse capital of France, where the cooler climate compared to the south is ideal for breeding and training. The national Haras stud at St Lo is worth a visit as it reflects the history of people working successfully with horses on their local land.
France's first EPR reactor is near completion at Cherbourg and the TGV fast trains are planned for Paris to Caen and Cherbourg for 2020. The current train service is reasonable at 2 1/2 hours on a through train. Its hard to imagine now the World War II landings and the sheer scale of destruction that was done to the area, an area chosen then for its geography and wide coastal sandy beaches.
The climate is oceanic, with relatively mild winters temperatures can drop to -10°C for a few days occasionally. Temperate summers, around 25°C, can occasionally reach 40°C in direct sun light. Precipitation is substantial, and varies greatly by region, between 700mm on the coast and 1300mm in the southern central area. Highly localised, not life threatening flash flooding has been experienced over the last few years in the spring period.
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