February 27, 2012

Weekend in Normandy

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:13 pm by newsurroundings

It would be a shame to leave Belgium without having visited Normandy, France, so we did squeeze in this one last trip before our upcoming move.  On the way to our inn, we stopped in Honfleur, a small port town made famous by the fact that Monet did a lot of his painting there.  I could imagine in spring that it was an especially lovely village.  We spent a couple of hours going in the many art shops and had tea and apple crisp at a tiny little earthy cafe run by one man who was cook and waiter.

the port town of Honfleur

I thought we would go for an authentic French experience, so I booked a bed and breakfast in the country about 20 minutes outside of Bayeux.  I actually didn’t look at the location closely enough, so we were both surprised when we kept driving further and further away from town along narrow roads, into the countryside as it was beginning to get dark and very foggy.  Bryan is really good about not saying what he is thinking, but I could tell he was not happy.  We finally arrived and we were warmly greeted by our French hostess, Odile, at the La Ferme du Pressoir in the town of Villers-Bocage.  Odile speaks very little English and we speak very little French, but we somehow understood each other and communicated fairly well.  I actually liked the fact that she always spoke to us in French, even though I’m sure she could have greeted us in English if she had wanted to.  It made our trip more fun.  She showed us our very large room (3 beds and a crib!) and then offered us a drink and snack.  She recommended a really good restaurant nearby, so we went out for a nice dinner.

La Ferme du Pressoir

The next morning we came down to a big spread of pastries, cereal, omelets made with just-laid eggs from the farm, a cheese plate, juice and cider made at the farm, and coffee and tea.  Wow!  We ate a little of everything so as not to offend and enjoyed it all.  I had no idea at the time that apples (pommes) are so plentiful in Normandy.  During our 4-day stay, we enjoyed apple pie, apple crisp, apple sauce, and apple butter and drank lots of apple juice and cider.

Bon Appetit

We had booked a d-day tour with Gold Beach Tours, so we arrived early in Bayeux for our morning departure.  It had taken many emails and phone calls before I was able to find a tour that was operating, since it’s the low season for tourism.  Well, we waited and no one came.  We called the company and there had been an error and they didn’t have us booked.  I had the confirmation with me, and they were able to take us that afternoon.  So, other than the fact that we could have slept in longer, it worked out.  We walked around town, went in the cathedral, and saw the 70-meter long, nearly 1000-year old tapestry that tells the story of the Norman invasion of England.  It is actually embroidery on a linen cloth, not as I was expecting, but still very impressive.

Bayeux cathedral

The tour took us to Gold Beach, the Arromanches, Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and Pont du Hoc.  Seeing the actual location of the invasion and being able to imagine the conflict, made history come alive.  Visiting the cemetery where nearly 10,000 soldiers are buried and seeing the wall of names of thousands who were missing in action, was very moving.  The tour piqued our interest in history and made us want to read more about WWII.  Our guide recommended watching The Longest Day, so that is on our to-do list, as well as rewatching Private Ryan.

American cemetery

We had dinner at a wonderful restaurant,  La Pommier, in Bayeux.  I had the cod fish and Bryan had the pork.  Check out his appetizer below.  We weren’t able to identify most of what was on his plate, and he didn’t actually eat much of it, but it sure was a pretty and unusual dish.

fresh from the sea

The next day we were greeted with another wonderful breakfast, this time including chocolate croissants, one of my favorites.  We went to Mont St. Michel, a gothic abbey built on a rocky island off the coast and, as our host said, it was “magnifique”!  It is one of the most frequented sites in France, so we really appreciated the fact that we were there during the low season.

Mont St. Michel

From there we drove to the coast and on to Dinan, stopping for yet another delicious meal on the way- goat cheese salad with baked apples.  Dinan is a lovely walled medieval town with rambling cobbled streets, half timbered buildings, and a castle.   We shopped for a while and I bought a few tea towels for gifts and some speculoos-flavored chocolate powder.  Can’t wait to try that!

Dinan, France

We were tired after a long day, so were happy to find a pizza restaurant where we could have a quick dinner and then get back to the inn to relax.

The next morning we enjoyed our last breakfast at the inn with our delightful host.  She sent us off with a hearty “Au Revoir!”, a hug, and a complimentary bottle of apple cider.  Superbe!

February 2, 2012

Doing a Double Take

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:19 pm by newsurroundings

I was shopping in our local grocery store a few weeks ago and could not believe my eyes when I saw this.  They had a new kind of pizza I had never seen before called “Big Americans”- made in Europe.  It is supposedly an American-style pizza with a Real Big Taste.  See for  yourself.