After arriving in Charles de Gaulle airport on time and after the usual horrible inevitable wait, hoping your suitcase isn’t going to the one that doesn’t arrive. I met my tour group members who had spent time in Paris for a few days. They had all found each other and our exit from the airport was hassle free.
On a very wet rainy afternoon we started our 6day tour of Normandy – sadly the view was rather dismal, but the lush looking countryside in all shades of green was still pretty.
The charming little town of Bayeux is the stop for the first 3 nights. It has a strong historical past which is evident in the architecture of their impressive cathedral. Luckily it was spared from the bombing in the second world war which destroyed so many cities in this region and was in fact the first French city liberated after the D Day landings.
Hotel Reine Mathilde’s newly renovated annex was a welcomed sight to shower, unpack and relax before our first dinner together starting appropriately with French Onion Soup.
Bayeux came to life during our walking tour with local guide Claire. She skilfully led us through the town, while cleverly covering its historical influences and the lifestyle of today’s inhabitants.Ending at the famous 950-year-old Bayeux Tapestry, embroidered on linen to tell the story of William the Conquers Battle of Hastings.
30 minutes away is the coastline and the famous beaches of the D Day landings in 1944. In driving rain, we walked through the American cemetery at Omaha and spent a dry hour or so in the Museum which, through movie clips and many display’s helps put this massive historical event in context.
Our first day finished with a visit to the immaculate garden of Chateau de Brecy’ – A restored 15th century formal garden. It is impressive and someone certainly has to have a love affair with the hedge clippers.
My New Zealand French friends Jacque and Anny became our guides in the attractive old port town of Honfleur. With its legendary past based on the port and its impressive architecture it’s no wonder everyone wants to visit here. It was market day and the local produce was on display along with large caldrons cooking specialties like – tripe sausages with onions and apple and blood sausages !!!Once again the rain spoilt our walk and diving into a restaurant for lunch to help dry out was the best decision.
The sun came out for our second garden visit to Jardin de Castillon. I found this little gem on my research trip last September and I could spend lots of time here gaining ideas for my own garden in Dunedin.
Eating in the evenings at local restaurants is always a must and time doing research definitely pays off. La Rapier and L’Ange Saint Laurent deserve recommendations in Bayeux, both served delicious seasonal food of the Normandy region. But,no visit here would be complete without tasting their famous cider made from apples or pears and the aperitif Calvados. Apple trees are in blossom all over the countryside and everyone seems to have a few trees in their backyards.Blue flag Iris’s are flowering everywhere, they are certainly a popular late spring flower in this region and have always been a favourite of mine.