Night Of The Museums in Normandy

Night of the museums in Normandy

This Saturday, 18th May is Night of the Museums in Normandy. It’s actually a European event and is happening throughout France. It’s an opportunity to visit some sites that will be open late and entry is often free. This link gives details of those museums participating in the five Normandy sectors. There is also another event called Pierres en Lumières on the same evening. This event features magnificent buildings that are lit up as dusk falls.

Nearby museums include the Scriptorial at Avranches where the Mont-Saint-Michel manuscripts are held. Christian Dior’s childhood home and museum in Granville is also participating.

Christian Dior Museum

A couple of the D-Day museum are open late but there is an entry fee. They include the Utah Beach museum at Sainte-Marie-Du-Mont and also the Airborne Museum at Sainte-Mère-Église.

Normandy Airborne Museum

There are also events at Avranches, Azeville, Barenton, Cherbourg, Granville, Gréville-Hague, Hambye, Omonville-la-Petite, Saint-Lô, Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Sainte-Mère-Eglise, Vains and Villedieu-les-Poêles-Rouffigny.

Night of the museums in Normandy

You can watch a video of the 2018 event at the Utah Beach Museum. It’s in French but gives you an idea of what to expect throughout the evening including re-enactments.

Night of the Museums in Normandy is a wonderful opportunity to explore some of the history and heritage Normandy excels at.

Coutances – A Normandy Garden

Coutances - A Normandy Garden

I made the most of the sunshine earlier in the week while I was in Coutances. I took these quick pics on my phone in the Jardin des Plantes. It’s one of Normandy’s oldest gardens and is a mix of French and English influences.

Coutances - A Normandy Garden

The team of gardeners work hard to keep it looking immaculate. I always look forward to the themed planting. There is always a focal point. In previous years I’ve seen a 2CV car, a bee, an art easel, Disney characters a three tier cake and a bicycle for the Tour de France. They certainly are creative. The photos below are from previous years.

Coutances

Currently the planting is colourful rather than themed. Beds of purples and pinks contrast with yellows and oranges.

Coutances - A Normandy Garden Coutances - A Normandy Garden Coutances - A Normandy Garden Coutances - A Normandy Garden Coutances - A Normandy Garden

The garden is spread over several levels. Children can amuse themselves in the playground area and also have fun racing up the raised maze.

The remainder of the week was changeable weather-wise. However, the sun is out again. I’ve cut the lawn and also sat outside in the sun for a while. I do hope my guests are enjoying the good weather and will get the chance to visit the gardens which is just across the square from the cathedral. This is the view from the garden entrance looking towards Coutances cathedral.

Coutances - A Normandy Garden

3 Unmissable Normandy Brunch Spots

Normandy brunch spot

If you’re looking for Normandy brunch spot, then read on. These three places were featured in a Côté Manche article this week.

Normandy brunch spot

Brunch is becoming more popular here in Normandy but isn’t as readily available as in the USA or the UK. Many restaurants in France open at lunchtime from 12 – 2pm and then again at 7pm. The concept of an early breakfast or late lunch is still relatively uncommon.

However, these three places in Granville and St-Lô are ahead of the game.

La Bonne Aventure in Granville

A new tea room opened in Granville in mid April in the grounds of the Christian Dior museum. The gardens and the Dior museum provide a beautiful setting. Brunch is served on a Sunday and can be either sweet or savoury depending on what takes your fancy.

La Bonne Aventure, jardin Dior, 1, rue d’Estouteville. Open 7 days a week. InApril and May from 9am to 7.30pm. From June to August it’s open from 9am to 8.30pm. Their website is here.

Christian Dior Museum

Le Choix de la Reine in Saint-Lô

This retro tea room is famous for sweets concoctions such a millionaires shortbread, scones, tiramisu and brownies. This Normandy brunch spot has been open for around 18 months. It also operates as a restaurant at lunchtime. A handful of tables are often full as diners listen to jazz while enjoying the home-made food. There’s also an outdoor pavement seating area. Brunch is served here every Saturday.

Le Choix de la Reine, 25, rue du Neufbourg. Open from Tuesday to Saturday. You can call 02 50 48 98 60 to make a reservation. To check out the daily specials have a look at their Facebook page by searching for @lechoixdelareine.

National Croissant Day

Chez Dame Gourmand in Granville

Brunch is served here every Sunday and on public holidays from 12 – 4pm. Orange juice, organic apple juice, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, savoury dishes, sweet treats, bread, scones and cupcakes are just some of the choices.

Dame Gourmande. 2, rue du Général-Patton. Open from Wednesday to Sunday from 12 to 6.30pm Phone to book on 02 33 48 93 99.

Normandy Brunch spot

 

May Day in Normandy

May Day in Normandy

The 1st of May is May Day in Normandy and throughout France.

It is a public holiday  to celebrate labour day and is known as La Fête du Travail. It celebrates workers rights and the majority of shops and even tourist attractions are closed today.

It is also associated with an old lily of the valley tradition. If someone offers you a sprig of lily of the valley, then you should accept it to bring good luck. 

A sprig of lily of the valley is known as a brin de muguet. The tradition dates back to 1st May 1561 during the reign of King Charles IX. The king had received a sprig  himself and decided to return the gesture. He therefore offered the flower to every lady in his court.

This tradition continues today as small bouquets are given to friends and family.  Charities and labour organisations are allowed to sell bouquets of lily of the valley, tax-free, on the street on 1st May. They must, however, respect  certain regulations.

If you’re visiting France and are wondering why there’s so much lily of the valley around, then now you know. Happy May Day from Normandy!

 

How To Make A Normandy Aperitif

Normandy aperitif

Kir normand is a traditional Normandy aperitif (an apéro). You drink it while waiting for your food to arrive in a restaurant.

The recipe is

  • 2cl of crème de cassis (blackberry liqueur),
  • 2cl of calvados (apple brandy)
  • top the glass up with dry sparkling Normandy cider.

You can also replace the cider with sparkling white wine. Variations to the blackberry liqueur include mûre (blackcurrant), framboise (raspberry) or pêche (peach).

An apéro can also be a drink you serve at home with friends or family. It’s usually served with reasonably substantial fare such as:- thin slices of baguette spread with fish or meat pâté, saucisson, mini pizzas, cheese straws, ham and cream cheese rolls, sausage rolls etc.

Whatever you decide to eat with your Normandy aperitif, just remember to say santé (cheers)!

Normandy aperitif

Top 10 Tips For Visiting Mont-Saint-Michel

Top 10 Tips Mont Saint Michel

Top 10 Tips Mont Saint Michel

Here are my top 10 tips for visiting Mont-Saint-Michel.

  1. Factor in time to get from the car park to the island. It could take half an hour depending on where you park. Try and park as near to the shuttle buses as possible. Check out the Tourist Information Centre leaflet which has a map of the car park.
  2. The shuttle buses run very frequently so although there may be a queue you shouldn’t have too long to wait. The shuttle buses are free. There are 4 drop off/pick up points – the car park, the shops, the dam and the island.
  3. Some ticket machines for the car park only take cash and others only take credit card. Take your car parking ticket with you and pay for it before you return to your vehicle. Parking ticket machines are near the Tourist Information Centre and the main walkways to the car parks.
  4. Dogs aren’t allowed on the shuttle bus or in the abbey. They are permitted to go on the island and possibly in bars and restaurants depending on their policy.
  5. Check the tide times and opening times of the abbey. During the summer the abbey is open late. As Saturday is often a day when people start or end their holidays, it can be a good day to visit. The island is always open so if you arrive early before the abbey or shops open, you can still wander round enjoying the views.
  6. There are a lot of steps on the island and in the abbey. Taking a pushchair isn’t recommended due to the steps and cobbled streets.
  7. Restrooms are located near the Tourist Information Office, (inside the main entrance to the island) at the top of La Grande Rue and at the top of the first staircase in the abbey.
  8. Refreshments can be purchased before you get to the island in the shops near the car park or in the bars and restaurants on the island. Food and drink shouldn’t be consumed in the abbey.
  9. If you are going to go to the abbey, plan your route up to it. During peak season, the island is very busy. The main entrance leads to a narrow cobbled street (La Grande Rue) with bars and restaurants that leads up to the abbey. Most people take this route. There is a staircase immediately after the post office (La Poste) which is on the left near the main entrance. Although it’s a lot of steps to climb it can be preferable to the narrow main street. A better option is to avoid the main entrance completely. Instead, as you approach the island, look over to the left where there is a turreted structure and an archway. It’s not always accessible during the high tides. This is a gentler and quieter route.
  10. Take your time in the abbey as doubling back isn’t easy. Pick up a leaflet in the ticket hall that gives a map of the abbey’s layout as this will help you to get your bearings.

For more information, check out this in-depth guide with  more tips for visiting Mont Saint Michel. You’ll also be able to browse photos, videos and practical information.

Mont-Saint-Michel ramparts

Salle des Chevaliers at Mont-Saint-Michel
Salle des Chevaliers at Mont-Saint-Michel

 

We spent 3 weeks creating the best online guide to Normandy on the web. It includes everything from a bucket list, must see attractions to the best places to eat and drink.

It covers Mont St Michel, Monet’s garden, the D Day beaches, wine tours and much more. .

It’s packed with our personal recommendations, maps and videos.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR THINGS TO DO IN NORMANDY GUIDE

2019 Normandy Music Festivals

Normandy music festival

This fantastic map shows the range of Normandy music festivals taking place in 2019. (Credit Normandy Tourism) For all the details you can visit their website . There’s a wide range of concerts and festivals to appeal to different audiences.

Normandy music festival
Credit:Normandy Tourism

One of the biggest events is taking place at Hérouville-Saint-Clair near Caen from 4th – 7th July in the grounds of Beauregard castle. Acts include Tears for Fears, Limp Bizkit, Fat Boy Slim and The Hives. One day ticket prices start from 49€.

For something completely different, the renowned jazz festival in Coutances will be held from 24th May – 1st June. This festival is now in its 38th year and attracts international jazz artists. The line-up includes Angélique Kidjo, Electro Deluxe, Kneebody, the Amazing Keystone Big Band and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. The sets for Jazz Sous Les Pommiers (or Jazz Under the Apple Trees) are dotted all around Coutances and some are outside meaning you can enjoy the music as you stroll around. Tickets start from 12€. You can purchase tickets from Les Unelles in Coutances or alternatively go online via www.ticketmaster.fr. More information about the concerts are here.

Whatever your taste in music, you’re sure to find something in Normandy to suit you.

Normandy Easter Activities

Normandy Easter Activities

There will be Easter egg hunts taking place all over Normandy this weekend. Only Easter Monday is a public holiday so they’ll be spread over the three days of the extended Easter weekend.

This link gives details of a number of hunts in and around Granville. The nearest ones to me are at Equilly and Cerences.

This list of 29 farms holding easter egg hunts also has details of one at Mesnil Rogues. This is a farm that’s about 10 – 15 minutes away. It’s called La Ceuillette, Ferme de Lucie and there’s a farm shops that sells products such as honey, jam, cider, apple juice and calvados.

You can also look at the map option to see where they are.

If you don’t fancy an Easter egg hunt, then there’s plenty going on. On Saturday the abbey at Mont-Saint-Michel will be open until 10.30pm and there’ll be a high tide at around 9pm. You’re advised to get there around 2 hours before and will hopefully see the island cut off from the mainland.

 

Mont-Saint-Michel high tides

For a list of church services happening around postal code 50450, check out this link. In Villedieu-les-Poêles the bell foundry will be open on Monday. The nearby Zoo de Champrépus is a popular family day out and will be open on Easter Monday.

You can also read about French traditions around church bells and chocolate fish here.

Obviously Easter should be celebrated with chocolate. The chocolate shops and pâtisseries are full of amazing creations.  Weather-wise it’s currently warm and sunny in Normandy and that looks to continue for the rest of the weekend. If you’re in France at Easter, you’re bound to find something to tempt you.

 

Top 3 Omaha Beach Places To Visit

Normandy American Cemetery

If I had to choose my top 3 Omaha Beach places to visit I’d opt for La Pointe du Hoc, the Normandy American Cemetery and Les Braves. In just over 7 weeks time Normandy will be hosting events for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

I visited these 3 Omaha Beach spots in February 2018 on a chilly but sunny day. I wanted blue sky for the photos I was going to take and I wasn’t disappointed. Rather than visit a museum, I chose 2 places where there were visitor centres. This gave me a real feel for the challenges that the American troops faced at Omaha Beach.

Normandy American Cemetery

It took me around an hour to drive to Omaha Beach. I started my day at La Pointe du Hoc. It’s between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. You can read about my visit here. I genuinely felt as if history came to life as I walked around this battle site.

D-Day

 

Next on my list was Les Braves. This beautiful steel sculpture is on the beach just beyond the memorial. Again, the clock seemed to roll back as I thought about the men who lost their lives on this beach. My review is here and includes a video of the beach.

D-Day

My final stop was the Normandy American Cemetery. The visitor centre is very informative and the cemetery itself is unforgettable. It is beautifully maintained and a fitting tribute to those for whom Normandy is their final resting place. The drone footage in my review article shows the extent of the site.

Normandy American Cemetery Normandy American Cemetery

 

It is still one of the most memorable days I’ve had in Normandy. I can still recall the emotion I felt as I visited each of these 3 amazing sites. Time now stands still for these heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.

For more information about Omaha Beach visit this page.

English Canons At Mont-Saint-Michel

Canons at Mont-Saint-Michel

I saw some fabulous old photos of English canons at Mont-Saint-Michel today. They were on the Facebook page of Archives départmentales de la Manche. I hope the link below works but if not do find their post from 8th April and take a look at the additional photos.

The canons are English and were used during the Hundred Year’s War to try and take over the island of Mont-Saint-Michel. In 1434 the English troops settled on the nearby island of Tombelaine. They were unsuccessful in their attempts to break the Mont’s defences. Today it remains the only part of Normandy not to be conquered by the English soldiers. Following their failure to capture the island, these canons were abandoned. They have since been installed just inside the main entrance. They are called Les Michelettes and each one weighs 2.5 tonnes. I have to confess I’ve never seen them. Possibly because I often take a quieter route up to the abbey that doesn’t involve going through the main entrance. I must pay attention the next time I visit!

Canons at Mont-Saint-Michel

Photo credit: Jean Bazard

Alternative link to Archives departementales de la Manche