If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here.
We left the exceptional ‘Les jardins d’epicure’ and headed on our way to Normandy, it was a two-hour drive, but we had plenty of time to kill as we would not be able to check into our next lodging until the afternoon. We decided to head to Honfleur and then Deauville.
We drove through Honfleur along the coast but did not stop. We had been there two other times, it’s a beautiful port town, but it is very crowded with tourists, so we decided to keep going and to stop for lunch in Deauville.
Deauville and its sister city Trouville are summer towns, famous for being playgrounds of the rich from WWI onward, Coco Chanel found success here with her summer-clothe creations in linen.
I love it most for being the backdrop for scenes from two of my favorite French movies: Les Coeur des Hommes ( 1 & 2). This movie is the male and French version of Sex and the City and Deauville is where the four actors go in both movies to escape Paris.
Being a summer town, Deauville was completely empty. All the beach houses were closed up; no one was on the beach. Nobody there, nobody home.
We stopped for a crepe. It was not good. It should be a national crime to serve a bad crepe in Normandy.
After that, we headed to our hotel that would be our home-base for the next three days. The Manoir de la Riviere is a quite beautiful place, the property is gorgeous, but I would say it operates more like a gite than a hotel. And there is a difference.
A gite is a bed and breakfast. You know that you are staying in a room that is part of someone’s house. A hotel typically has more services and amenities. The Manoir de la Riviere advertises itself to be a hotel but really doesn’t live up to it.
There is a long uncomfortable history between the English and the French. Thousands of years of wars and no love lost. So when we arrived at the hotel and my husband greeted the owner in French, something he would assume he could do in France, the proprietor immediately said, “English only please.”
Well, that kind of rubbed my husband the wrong way.
The entire time that the owner was “welcoming” us she was complaining about how much her retirement sucked because she had too many guests and she really hoped that it would slow down a bit so she did not have to work so hard.
The room was comfortable enough, but the bathroom was very odd. It was on a second floor that was built into the room (the toilet was on the same level as the main room) and had a sink and a bathtub. It offered a hose for showering, but there was no way you could stand up to shower. I am five feet tall and I could not stand, my six-foot tall husband could barely kneel in the tub, and a shower was out of the question. I ended up having to shower him like a dog so that we would not get water everywhere!
We are “make the best of it” kind of people so that is exactly what we did. We knew the hotel was just going to be our hone-base. We knew we were going to be out most of the day and had restaurants selected for dinners. And in fact that evening we dined at the lovely Chateau d’Adrieu.
As opposed to “Les jardins d’epicure” where the chef really experimented with ingredients and flavors, the food at the Chateau d’Adrieu was classic. Very well made, with exceptional quality product, but nothing innovative or surprising.
We did not order dessert but received a plate of delices all of which seemed to be catered to the multitude of American and British tourists that stay at the hotel, something I didn’t like. I can have chocolate chip cookies and pecan pie at home, I do not need to go to France for that..a shame.
Friday morning we woke up late, missed breakfast and took off to catch up to our itinerary. We stopped for some picnic supplies in a small village on our way to our first destination known as the route de Suisse Normandes, a driving circuit of small towns along the Orne River known for its picturesque hills. Having worked the actual Suisse Romande I found it entirely hilarious that these little towns thought they could compete. It was an interesting drive and it offered us plenty of picnic spots where we enjoyed a lovely lunch.
Remember when I mentioned I would get back to the rental car in my Part 1 post? Well, here we go. We are in Normandy, land of lots of WWII damage, lots of WWII history, lots of WWII memories. Our rental car? German. With German plates. I don’t want to be totally paranoid, but we got lots of looks. There are plenty of American and British tourists, so that is not unusual for the locals, our car? I’ll just repeat again, we got a lot of looks.
We even got bumped in the town where we picked up picnic supplies. We got hit by a landscaping truck with a functionaire driver who was already drunk at 11:00 in the morning. My husband swears that the driver was shocked when he got out of the car and spoke perfect French, I am sure it was the fact that he is over six-feet tall and a big farm boy!
In any case, later in the afternoon while we were visiting Omaha beach I was cognizant of our car plates! The beach was empty (did I mention that October is an awesome time to go on vacation in France, you have the country to yourself!) we took a nice long walk and then headed down the coast to go buy some sweets.
Normandy is known for its cream and its butter. The cows are happy and produce is extraordinary product. They have nothing but the most beautiful green grass to eat and miles and miles of land to stretch out on. I have yet to visit Ireland but I imagine it is that green, I have never seen green so green and I can understand why my husband prefers butter from this region.
So when wanting butter, Camembert, or caramel (mainly made from butter) you go to the source, and in Normandy that is Isigny-Ste-Mère.
After two nights of discovery menus the basically included seven courses I skipped dinner, in fact, I barely ate anything the entire day, I needed to fast!
Tomorrow would bring more food adventures….