A taste of Normandy

Normandy countryside in late September

September is a lovely time to visit Normandy, the sun still sparkles in between the rain showers, and the countryside is impossibly lush and green. Flowers are still blooming and the butterflies are out – I counted seven peacock butterflies on just one Sedum plant.

Peacock butterflies

The summer visitors have gone and the gites are emptying, but the markets are still full of the freshest fruit and vegetables, a myriad of choice cheeses, rustic loaves of bread, piles of garlic and creamy Normandy butter.

Cheese please

We bought Comte which is a French nutty hard cheese, some emmental with cumin, and some glorious pink cheese with tomato and herbs and some green cheese with basil. All perfectly scrumptious. On the market you can even buy baby chickens, ducks, turkeys and guinea fowl which are rather cute, apart from the turkeys, although I’m not sure that is everyone’s reason for buying them!

Going quackers

Normandy is full of orchards and apple trees of many varieties, and Normandy cider is justifiably famous. Cider’s alcoholic relative,  Pommeau is especially delicious, made by mixing apple juice with Calvados. While sipping this delicious super appley concoction at the home of the cider lady – she looks like a Sylvie apparently, but we don’t actually know her name so we just call her the cider lady – I asked her if it had any medicinal properties. She paused for a moment and then shrugged her shoulders ‘No, she said, it’s just alcohol.’ The French have never been dissemblers.

Apple related alcohol

La Manche is an area of Normandy laden with history. On 6th June 1944, 836 000 men landed on the beaches here. Beaches which came to be known by their American names like Utah and Omaha beach which were the locations of terrible conflicts. And so began the Battle of Normandy, one of the greatest battles of the 20th Century. Many sites and museums in la Manche pay tribute to this particular episode of the Second World War and this is one of the reasons visitors come here. Another top attraction is the fairytale Mont St Michel, which is a spectacular site and a great place to visit. If you climb to the top you will get a great view out over the deceptively beautiful estuary which has defeated many a would be invader.

View from the Mont St Michel

English people often dream of a new life in rural France, and while you can certainly pick up large rural properties at a fraction of the price you’d pay in the UK, the cost of living is higher, in particular food, clothes and white goods, and work is hard to come by.

Violet garlic

My friends who live there have been quite entrepreneurial. Charles is a gardener and builder. So many people have part time homes here with enormous lawns, that if they didn’t pay someone to cut them, it would be a jungle by the time they came back for a visit!

Action mower

Dominque, Charles’ wife is French, and teaches children in local schools as well French on Skype to people from all over the world of any level who want to learn the language. If anyone reading this blog would like to learn French just leave me your contact details or send me a DM through the Eccentric England Face book page and I’ll put you in touch with the best French teacher in Normandy!

Cats rule the world