You may have wondered why I have been rather quiet over the last ten days or so. Then again, you may not have noticed the distinct lack of posts. I rather hope, that for at least one person, it was the former, but that is my self-indulgent side talking!! Anyway, I have been fortunate enough to have had a short break in Normandy, France not far away from Lisieux staying in the below converted apple barn; you could not ask for a more tranquil and picturesque setting I am sure you will agree!!!
Normandy is France at its most antiquated but it is also incredibly beautiful, full of lush green valleys and half-timbered barns as well as hidden chateaus and wonderfully crumbling shuttered houses. The region is rich with history from the first world war however, this is not the only reason people visit the area; it is also a foodies’ idea of heaven and locals are extremely proud of the region’s culinary products!
Ten foodie things to do in Normandy:
1. Spend the day in Honfleur wandering around the market and numerous foodie shops.
2. Visit local markets, again and again and again!! During the first three days of our stay, we visited three markets (I’m not kidding!!). Although you may say ‘Seen one market, seen them all’, I really wouldn’t say this is the case. The array of goods on offer from local producers at French markets is truly fantastic, so fantastic in fact, that you would rarely need to visit a supermarket as long as you didn’t mind the French’s lax attitude to health and safety laws….! The market at St-Pierre-sur-Dives each Monday is, in my opinion, one of the best local markets to visit. The beamed market hall is a reconstruction of the original 13th century building which was badly damaged in World War 2 and is the hub of activity with local honey, saucisson and even live animals on offer.
3. Wake up at the crack of dawn to buy fresh croissants and bread from the local patisserie. There really is nothing better than a fresh French stick…in fact, Neil really couldn’t get enough of the stuff!! Apparently it is required by law that there is somewhere to buy bread in each village in France so obviously, there is no shortage of patisseries so take advantage!!! The pastries produced at these local bakeries are also superb and well worth a try; tarte au pomme is a regional speciality.
4. Become a cheese expert. There are so many wonderful cheeses produced in the region from Pont L’Eveque to Camembert so there is no excuse! There are cheese museums at Livarox and Camembert that, I believe, provide tours in English. We were fortunate enough to attend the annual Fete du Fromage in Pont L’Eveque during our stay. The array of cheese on offer was tremendous and the smell was immediately overpowering as soon as you entered the tent!!
5. Make a complete mess of yourself eating Moules. When visiting Arromanches, I managed to not only make a mess of myself but also my handbag, my glass, the wall behind me and even the table next to me which was (fortunately!) empty!! Needless to say, my moules bleu (mussels with white wine, shallots, garlic, cream and blue cheese) et frites (chips) were very indulgent but thoroughly enjoyed!!
6. In garbled French, buy a few bottles of cider from the crumbling farm-house where it is produced. It will be well worth the effort and embarrassment as it WILL most probably be the best cider you have ever tasted. We were lucky enough to even see the cider being labelled in an ancient press at Ferme Belleau, Notre Dame de Courson.
7. Overindulge. So much so that you never want to see cheese, pate or bread ever again and gain at least half a stone in a week!! The rich, creamy and hearty food of Normandy sure is delicious but by the end of a week, you will be craving vegetables like you have never craved them before in your life!! How the majority of French people are so slim and energetic, I will never know!!!
8. Do eat at the local restaurant . However, when booking it is often useful to ensure that you know what you need to say in advance; everyone was rather confused when my Dad enquired whether he could book a table for four people for last night…..!!
9. Discover that crepes aren’t just a dessert and can be eaten for more than one course during a meal! We visited two creperies during our stay, each meal was excellent and certainly very filling!
10. If all else fails and you are feeling a bit homesick, try the local MacDonald’s which will always be just around the corner!