I love France. A lot. I would love it even more with some vegetarian dishes in the menus. But this is a forgivable mistake because I have all my croissants and baguettes and pain au chocolate and tarte aux pommes and the flan… Yep, I am a carb addict, and that makes France a true heaven. And I thought I tasted all the goodies; that is until I met “la galette” (the salted crêpe made with “black” butter, filled with eggs or cheese or ham or… anything else, coming directly from Normandy). Therefore… I had to go there to check a little bit closer the surroundings.
And so I did! I was in love with the beautiful beach in Deauville with its fashionable crowd (yes, that one which gather every year all big movie stars – they even have their own personalized cabins), even the water on La Manche was too cold for me. I took a long, long walk in Trouville-sur-Mer while I was dreaming of all the untold stories of the elegant yachts in the port. I felt like a child in a candy store when I discovered Honfleur, with such a nice panorama over the sea and town (and I even went in the marry-go-round). And, in the end, those kilometers on foot from the parking space to Mont Saint Michel were rewarded with a splendid view and an angelic violin concert in one of the castle’s rooms.
To see in Normandy: my favorites were Giverny and its marvelous gardens (the place that inspired Monet; if you want to know more abot the painter, try www.artsy.net – Monet’s bio, works, exclusive articles, as well as up-to-date Monet exhibition listings as well as suggested contemporary artists). Then, Granville (where Christian Dior museum is situated, in a huge garden of roses) and Le Havre (for its amazing Museum of Modern Art, MuMa, and the impressive bridge Pont de Normandie. And I cannot forget those cliffs from Étretat! Don’t miss the hydrangea walls and the D Days beachs (Omaha beach is the most known).
To try: to learn some history (I know I was very poor at this in high-school). I read somewhere that you can convince a child to stay put and watch the famous Bayeux tapestry if you said it is just a very large comic strip. Well, I pretendedfr that I am one, and I was surprised to see that I learnt more about France in an hour than in so many history lessons. But if you are a fan of knight and spade stories, pay a visit to Rouen (where Joanna d’Arc was put into trial), Chateau de la Falaise, Chateau Gaillard in Les Andelys and the city of Caen.
To stay: I tried some private castles and it was fun to have dinner in an old style way, with silver plates on a table so big that I can barely hear what anybody else says. But also nice and chic boutique hotels. (Chateau Mesnil Geoffroy, Hotel Restaurant des Ormes)
To eat: OK, that was a challenge. In a good way. I ate a lot (a lot!) of salted gallete, tarte aux pommes Normande every day and pain au lait every morning (well, sometimes even in the afternoon, as a snack), jars with caramel au beurre salé (I tell you, this was the ultimate temptation), kilos of cheese (after all, I was in the region where Camambert, Livarot and Pont l’ Évêque). Try some mussels with french fries in Veules les Roses. To drink: try calvados or the cider. And take home a box of biscuits La Mère Poulard (the factory is right on the way to Mont Saint Michel).
Photo: Atout France (Pierre Torset, Franck Charel, Jean Francois Tripelon-Jarry, CDT Calvados, Fabrice Milochau), www.dreamingof.net