When I left you last, Charles and I were heading in heavy rain along a super highway, from the Pas de Calais in the north of France to Normandy in the west. We had finished our marvellous lunch with French friends, the de Saulieus, see https://suddenly70.ca/2017/10/23/pilgrimage-to-france-part-2/, and were ready for new adventures.
Chateau d’Audrieu in its glory
We arrived around 6:00pm settled in our delightful room in a charming old chateau called Chateau d’Audrieu, in the heart of the Calvados region, another Relais et Chateau property. As we drove up the long path to the front of the stately mansion, the rain stopped and the sun came out. We were not exactly hungry, but thought a snack was in order, and after we unpacked I attempted to find the bar. This place had many corridors and staircases and my sense of direction in hotels is not great. I always turn the wrong way out of an elevator, but no matter, we eventually found the tiny perfect room with a small bar and settled into some comfortable seats.
We chose light refreshments, Charles smoked salmon, and I, a salad and of course I had some bubbly. We chatted amiably with some guests beside us from Charlottesville Virginia, which had recently been prominent in the news, and after hearing their tale, we then headed off to find our room once again.
light supper in bar at chateau, yum smoked salmon
Although our plan was to go to the Normandy beaches, particularly to Juno Beach, a Canadian landing site, we thought we would first explore the local area and visit the town of the famous tapestry in Bayeux. After a delicious breakfast in a small dining room with windows overlooking the gardens we charged up Google maps and headed out. The village where we were was a complex set of winding roads, but we found our town about twenty minutes away, and what a charmer.
centre of Bayeux
The cobblestoned town square had an area for parking, where we left the car, and then headed on foot across a picturesque bridge with an old working windmill on one side and pots of flowers everywhere. It rained and then the sun came out for our photos, which was very timely. We explored the small town and up one street was a small antique store where I found a silver plated fish set for six and knew that it would be perfect in Florida. We flirted with the idea of hopping on a little train that toured the town, but opted to walk considering all the calories we had been consuming since we had arrived in France.
We discovered a small museum with historical artifacts and porcelain, which we found informative; and realized we had once again worked up an appetite. An outdoor café that advertised fresh mussels and frites appealed. The mussels were extremely tiny, but there were many of them, and they were scrumptious with a light white wine sauce. A very nice baguette along with the fries accompanied. We watched a young boy learn how to eat mussels by using the shell to retrieve each morsel from a second shell. It was quite amusing as he was very proud of his new expertise.
eating mussels and visiting the museum
We lined up for tickets and then walked slowly with many others, in a dark room and viewed the famous Tapestry of Bayeux and its story. It is simply amazing that it has survived intact for 9 centuries with its colors still vivid and the story and history easy to follow. It is over 200 feet long and 20 inches high and depicts the details of the Norman Conquest. Please check out the link above for more complete details and pictures.
Afterwards we wandered through the town, found a baseball hat for Charles, who forgot to pack one, and needed it for his fair skin in the sun. It was a cute hat, but never became a trip souvenir as he managed to leave it in a washroom. Then we retrieved our car and headed back to the chateau for what we thought was a Michelin Star dinner in the dining room.
beautiful dining room with pink rose for me
Originally the restaurant had a Michelin star, but had recently lost it. However, the waiter assured us that the food would be excellent. It was fine, a bit disappointing, but the room was stunning, and the service was very good. We went back to the bar after dinner and I thought it fitting that I have some Calvados in Calvados. I will still remain a cognac drinker.
Bed and up early to go to Juno Beach. We arrived at the Centre, which is a museum and tribute to 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the war. There were 14,000 who landed on D-Day at Juno Beach. We toured the rooms that were complete with a movie, pictures, video, interviews, and the history of Canada before the 2nd World War. At first we wondered why we were seeing all these pictures of the Depression and stock market crash, and the rise of anti Semitism in Canada, and then we understood. It was important to have the background before the war. There was a texture to all that we saw, and it was easy to shed a tear when reading the stories. After, when we walked outside we imagined it full of the ghosts of young men swarming up the beach that was now quiet except for the sound of waves. We spent some time just remembering as we viewed the many monuments on the grounds of the Centre.
We were by the sea, and thought it appropriate to find a café that served seafood. One of the young people who worked at the Centre told us about a restaurant nearby that we could walk to called La Maison Bleu. It was perched over the water and had a black board with lunch specials scribbled on it. We chose the fresh oysters from the seabeds there, and half a grilled lobster also from the local waters. It was almost as if they jumped out of the sea onto our plates they were so fresh. I was in heaven. The lobster was so good I just scarfed it down and sucked out all the juicy bits. I was a happy girl. Then we had dark chocolate ice cream that I squirted a lemon on, cuts the richness, a couple of glasses of rosé, and we knew we had consumed our big meal of the day.
water near Juno, Maison Bleu inside and leftovers of lobster
little town of Courselles sur mer
back in bar, more smoked salmon, and the rose followed us from the dining room
Then we went for a brisk walk in the small town, Courselles sur Mer and bought a few gifts, and finally headed back to the Chateau for a nap. As expected we didn’t eat dinner, but just a snack once again in the bar. But before that, I decided to go for a swim in the outdoor pool. Brisk would not be an understatement, but I felt virtuous and my swims always give me a chance to meditate when it is quiet and I am alone. No other crazies in the cold water.
We left early the next day for Brittany, and a hotel I had chosen purely by intuition, and also by the fact they were located by the sea and had a 2 Michelin Starred restaurant and a swimming pool. We arrived around lunchtime of course and sat outside by the small pool. Actually the hotel, Anne de Bretagne, was small and intimate, and sat facing the Atlantic Ocean and wild looking sand dunes. We were nicely greeted and ate at one of three tables and ordered Dover sole that was fresh and grilled and was wonderful. I think there was a small potato. We chatted with another couple and then went to our room with a view, and unpacked.
many views near Anne de Bretagne including fishing huts on stilts
I the late afternoon we visited a small seaside town called Pornic which was a discovery, as who has ever heard of a resort destination called Pornic, except perhaps the French. This is located on the edge of the sea in northeastern Brittany or the Loire – Atlantique as it is called, and is a very popular destination for French tourists, judging by the activity on the streets, the quay and on the beach. It is picturesque and many people stand in the water and gather fresh mollusks to take home. There is a large castle, a marina, and is situated with views on the Atlantic. We walked around, bought some chocolate, and then went back to the hotel about a 20-minute ride away.
I had planned to have our final meal in France at the hotel’s special restaurant and had booked it in advance, and asked hotel staff for dinner suggestions in the town of Plaine sur Mer which was within walking distance. They suggested La Tara about a 15-minute walk by the sea in the Port de Gravette, which is the little port where the hotel is situated. This was an open-air very casual place and we sat on a small terrace overlooking the sea. All the seafood offerings were fresh; they almost jumped out of the ocean onto our plates. There is a lot of seafood jumping in this part of France. We started with oysters and followed these with a large shareable plate of cold choices, langoustines, periwinkles that we extracted from their shells with a slim pin, and pink shrimp. Lots of chatter and high energy. We enjoyed ourselves immensely especially the dessert of tarte tatin which Charles ordered and I shared, and as we all know sharing doesn’t include caloric intake. Sure. Then we walked back to the hotel and with the balcony doors open and the sound of the sea, we slept.
I always love to visit local markets and that was on my agenda for Sunday morning. It was pouring when we awoke, but I had read about a town called St. Michel Chef Chef where they specialized in special cakes and that was near a town where we found an open air market filled with people and rain and puddles and mud, but we walked around nevertheless. I love watching people and sampling the fares that are on offer. The town, St. Brevin had great food stalls. The original plan was to eat lunch there, but the rain made this impossible, so we headed to the town whose name I love, St. Michel Chef Chef and bought some goodies. Turns out the chef/owner of Anne de Bretagne, was actually born in this town.
market day in the rain
We decided to go back to the hotel and find some lunch. The outdoor restaurant wasn’t open because of the rain, and the main restaurant was only for major fare, so we ordered some light things to eat in our bedroom. We were really looking forward to the big meal in the evening, and were thrilled with the food, service, décor and wine. It was an incredible meal and we got a bit dressed up for it. We were seated at a wonderful table in the center looking out at the sea view. Some bubbly to start with an amuse bouche on a tiny plate with 4 different ways to sample oysters, including a sorbet. Then we chose a meal of crustaceans: red crayfish from Brittany marinated as carpaccio in stuffed pasta with velvet crab consommé, then spider crab with caviar, broccoli cream and tonka bean jelly, langoustine with citrus, zucchini and lemon thyme, fresh almond emulsion, lobster from Brittany with wild garlic, girolle mushroom, a type of chanterelle, infused with white wine, potatoes roasted with salted butter, then an Atlantic cheese platter, and finally poached peach with boldo, a type of herb, hibiscus flower caviar and sorbet with orange foam.
female sommelier, in fact all the wait people were women
amuse bouche of oysters
pondering the cheese choices
unique serving pieces
Yes, we ate every morsel, but the portions are very small and delicate. We drank a Meursault 2013, and discussed the fact that we had just ingested the children’s inheritance. The restaurant is named Mathieu Guibert, after the chef/patron, who is all of 36, gorgeous, charming and a brilliant host. In the tiny bar afterwards I had my favorite, Framboise Sauvage, an eau de vie that is difficult to find. I felt very spoiled and content. If you haven’t noticed in all my blogs yet, I love food and good wines. I adore exploring different culinary styles as does Charles, and as I explained I think in my last writing, we choose our trips based on beauty of area, history and culture, we like to learn something new, food and wine, and seeing friends, or meeting new ones and lots of walking, or for me swimming.
We left the enchanting hotel in Brittany the next morning, and headed east back to Paris to stay in the airport hotel. Dinner was just fine, very plain, but the breakfast buffet was fantastic at the Pullman, an Accor hotel. I think I may even have gone for a swim. The next morning we departed for Toronto to savor the memories of our French trip.
I hope you enjoyed the three parts of our Pilgrimage to France and will check my blog soon for an update on our summer in Toronto.
Bisous, or kiss kiss,