I spent the bank holiday weekend in Normandy hunting down boulangeries that open on Sundays, driving through beautiful countryside (fields of the greenest grass, meadows of bright yellow rape seed), dipping my toes in the freezing – but crystal clear – sea and contemplating the epic D-Day invasion of Normandy.
First of all, the Eurotunnel Shuttle is brilliant. We stayed the night in Folkestone in a tragic, but perfectly adequate, Premier Inn, got up at 7am and drove down the road to the tunnel. Not a queue in sight. We had a few security checks (it looked like they were wiping toilet paper on the handles of our car, it was probably something a little more elaborate – like checking for explosives), flashed our passports then BOOM – drove onto the train that would whizz us under The Channel in less than 1/2 an hour.
We didn’t realise quite how large France was, nor how important it is to check the scale on a map before setting off – and so it took a little longer than expected to drive to Etratat, on the coast of Normandy, from Calais. No matter. After a cafe creme and croissant from the service station (even service stations are chic in France) we powered on down and a few hours later arrived at the quaint Camping Municipal in this pretty little seaside town.
We erected our tent before wondering into town for moules & frites and a beer in a medieval hotel, original beams intact (but painted blue, unfortunately) and red-checkered table cloths on the little tables. Now slightly tipsy, we mounted the steep cliff for a good view over the bay – and of the eroding cliffs yonder. Dinner was a bottle of crisp white wine, French bread (no butter) and a big salad with lardon, goats cheese and delicious French dressing.
I loved waking up in a tent, walking barefoot across the dewy, daisy-dotted grass to the tap to clean my teeth and breathing in the smells of the French countryside. Nothing compares to sleeping outdoors.
Now, I could write about France, the French, the food, the coffee, the patisseries, the houses, the shutters, the campsites for hours. But not everyone shares my enthusiasm, so I’ll keep it brief and instead annotate some photos…
This is Rich at our lovely campsite:
On Sunday we drove over Le Havre bridge on route to the D-Day landing beaches. I realised as I climbed the steep road, foot on the accelerator, hands gripping the wheel, that I’m actually quite scared of heights. Great timing for such a revelation.
We stopped at Honfleur for a coffee and macaroon. This beautiful port, surrounded by tall skinny rickety-looking buildings, induced a profound longing in me to up sticks and settle in a pretty French village, maybe on the coast, and write about all-things-French.
Palm-sized raspberry macaroons, stuffed with cream and fresh raspberries. And other delicacies…
We drove to Ouistreham to visit the D-Day landing beaches. As Rich is obsessed with WW2, this was – for him – the equivalent of me going to Canada and having a coffee with Joni Mitchell, followed by an acoustic jam. He took some photos…
I took some photos too…
On Monday we drove back up to Calais, stopping off in a tiny village to buy a fresh baguette, Port Salut, French butter and a plastic knife for a picnic in the car, then in Fecamp for a cafe creme (I love that they give you brown sugar biscuits with every cup of coffee you order. I love it even more that Rich never eats them so I get to have his as well).
And then back onto the shuttle and home within an hour and a half of boarding.
What a delightful little trip to France!