Today is National Cheese Lover’s Day (20th January 2019). And what better way to celebrate than taking a look at a cheese shop in Normandy?
I visited Au Carnaval des Fromages in Granville earlier this week and they kindly allowed me to take photos of their lovely shop. They’ve been cheesemongers for over 35 years and were originally based in Camembert in the Pays d’Auge in Normandy.
Understandably, Camembert cheese features heavily in the range of artisan cheeses they sell. They also make their own Camembert. Other Normandy cheeses such as Pavé d’Auge, Livarot and Pont l’Evêque are also available. I also spotted Mont d’Or and Bleu d’Auvergne amongst others.
If you’re not sure about a particular cheese you can ask to try it before you purchase it. You can select a variety of cheeses for a cheese board. This is known as a ‘plateau de fromage’ and the cost will depend on the varieties you choose.
As well as cheese, they also stock other dairy products such as cream and eggs. The épicerie part of the shop stocks artisan food and drinks including beers, fruit juices, cider and caramel sauce. There’s even saucisson flavoured with roquefort cheese.
The high tides at Mont-Saint-Michel will return next week. They happen on around 20 days each year with two high tides each days. The high tides mean that Mont-Saint-Michel is cut off from the mainland and it becomes an island.
It’s quite an impressive sight to see particularly if you’re on the island when it gets cut off. Bear in mind you may have to wait an hour or so for the tide to subside. The main entrance takes a while to clear but there is another route off the island.
From Monday 21st to Thursday 24th January the tide co-efficient will be over 100. That number is the measurement of how high the tide will be.
For information about Mont-Saint-Michel including the tide timetable for 2019 please go to this page. The tide timetable is in the section entitled ‘How can you make the most of your time there?’
Watch a time lapse video of this amazing phenomenon.
The Mont-Saint-Michel tourist office website page is here.
The Normandy Airborne Museum is located in Sainte-Mère-Église’s square just opposite the church. An effigy of American paratrooper John Steele hangs on the church spire. The museum pays tribute to the paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division. The paratroopers landed in Sainte-Mère-Église on the night of the 5th June and into the early hours of the morning of D-Day. From the invasion preparations in England through the battles for liberation, meet the Airborne troops and accompany them on their heroic journey to victory in Normandy.
See one of the many excellent reviews below.
Alternatively, you can read more TripAdvisor reviews here.
Address: 14 Rue Eisenhower, 50480 Sainte-Mère-Église
For a real taste of Normandy life, why not visit a local market? Throughout La Manche region of Normandy markets are held every day of the week. The list below gives details for each day.
The majority of markets are open in the morning from 8 or 9am and finish around 12 – 1pm. This is where locals go to buy their fruit and vegetables, cheese, cider, meat, fish and bread. Producers are local and can be found at a number of the markets and tend to have a regular pitch in each town or village.
Markets are very sociable. If you see someone you know then you greet them with a kiss or a handshake and have a chat. They’re great places for people watching too.
Some of the larger markets sell a wider variety of goods including plants, clothes and footwear.
I visited the Villedieu-les-Poêles Tuesday market in the summer. Even though I arrived towards the end of the morning, I had to drive round a couple of times to find a parking space. One of the car parks near to the Tourist Office isn’t available for parking as some stalls are set up here. There are also stalls in the main street and by the church. Some of the photos below look a little hazy but it’s the smoke from the rotîsserie. These are a firm feature in Normandy markets and sell grilled sausages, ham or lamb with french fries.
It’s definitely worth getting there early or be prepared to spend a little time finding a place to park. It shows how popular the market is.
It can be overwhelming to plan a visit to the Normandy landing beaches. As well as the five beaches, there are also museums, memorials, bridge, batteries, statues, and sculptures. And they’re dotted around a pretty large area.
Hints and Tips
There are five beaches, so the first step is to decide which one or ones you want to visit. This article gives an overview of each of the beaches and the key sites. If you already know which beach you want to visit, you can skip this step. Perhaps you have Canadian, American or British ancestors or family members who fought in the conflict. American forces tackled Utah and Omaha beaches, the Canadians took Juno while the British landed at Gold and Sword.
The next step is to use this article to familiarise yourself with the key sites. You’ll be able to see photos, read a description, watch videos and get links to the majority of the attractions.
Then use this map to see how far things are from each other. This will help you to plan your day and the route you’ll take. Check opening times for museums, visitor centres and batteries where you need a ticket. Not all sites are open all year round and some sites close for lunch. In winter sites tend to open later or close earlier due to the shorter days.
Also plan where you’re going to have lunch. The majority of restaurants are only open between 12 and 2pm for lunch.
The pins on the map are colour coded according to the beach they represent. The turquoise ones on the left are for Utah beach and green is for Omaha. Gold has yellow pins, Juno is red. The blue or purple pins on the right show the Sword beach sites.
Use a combination of both the map and the article as not everything appears in both places. For example, the Overlord Museum is very close to the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer but it isn’t on the map. Equally, Les Braves memorial sculpture on Omaha Beach at St-Laurent-Sur-Mer is missing from the map.
Finally, be prepared for how you might feel visiting these sites. Emotional and poignant is how most people describe it. Discovering the challenges faced and sacrifices made gives a feeling of gratitude and respect.
Are you thinking about a winter trip to Normandy but are concerned there might not be enough to do? While it’s true that the main tourist season is Easter to the October school holidays, Normandy doesn’t close down completely. This Top 10 list will show you there’s no shortage of activities even in the winter months.
1. Visit Mont-Saint-Michel
The jewel in Normandy’s crown. A magnificent island commune topped with an abbey spread over three levels. It can get busy during the summer months so out of season is the perfect time to explore. Some restaurants, bars and shops may not be open all year round but you can check the list in this guide. The abbey is closed on 25 December and 1 January during winter.
2. Take A Walk On the Beach
With an extensive coastline, there’s no shortage of beaches. Even in summer, they’re not crowded. Read more here.
3. Potter Around A Local Market
Most towns have a weekly market even during the winter months. Many sell fruit and vegetables alongside local food and drink produce. A great opportunity to shop like the locals.
4. Explore A Nearby Town
I live equidistant from the towns of Coutances, Granville and Villedieu-les-Poêles. They all have something different to offer.
Granville has a harbour and a bustling centre town centre. It contrasts with the peace and quiet of the high town with cobbled streets and fortified walls. The Christian Dior museum is located just outside the town.
Villedieu-les-Poêles is known as the copper town. It is home to 35 historic workshop courtyards where pan makers, lace makers and coppersmiths used to work. There’s also a bell foundry.
Coutances has plenty of historic buildings – the cathedral, chapels, two churches, the town hall and the hospital quarter. Nearby are colourful beach huts, a ruined castle, a nature reserve, lighthouse and lime kilns.
5. Learn About D-Day
There are over 100 sites relating to D-Day including cemeteries, memorials, museums, beaches and batteries. Check this page to find out what’s open during the winter months.
6. Celebrate Being A Foodie
Normandy is bursting with delicious food and drink. Find out more about local specialities here and the top 10 Normandy foods.
7. Visit A Chateau or Abbey
Here’s my top 10 list of chateau and abbeys. The features ones are all in La Manche region but there are others throughout Normandy. Information is here. Check the details for opening hours.
8. Discover Medieval Bayeux
There’s more to Bayeux than just the tapestry and you can easily spend a day here. If you are visiting in January the tapestry museum is closed and re-opens at the beginning of February. You can find out more about the key Bayeux sites here.
9. Take a Day Trip
If you want to venture a little further afield, a trip to St Malo in Brittany might fit the bill. It’s around a 90 minute drive away. Read more about it here. The seaside towns of Honfleur and Deauville are around 2 hours but well worth the drive.
10. Be A Photographer For the Day
Even in winter there are some great photos to be taken in Normandy. Whether it’s blue skies, amazing sunrises and sunsets or the winter luminosity, this time of year is a photographer’s dream. Less people around means you can take your time getting a great shot to remember Normandy’s beauty. Here’s a year of my photos in Normandy.
There’s more inspiration for Normandy winter attractions in the video below. Alternatively, visit the Normandy website.
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.
For many people one of the highlights of a holiday is trying different food and drink. Whether that’s in a supermarket, at a local market or in a restaurant, it’s great fun. France is very passionate about food with local specialities being a particular favourite.
Restaurants usually offer à la carte but set menus are very popular. They’re called ‘formules’ and a lunchtime set menu is ‘une formule de midi’. They’re also generally very good value for money.
I tried out Chez Cedric in Gavray a little while ago and wasn’t disappointed. It’s on rue de la Poterie just off the main street. The new owners took over in January 2018 as previously it was a restaurant known as l’Épicerie. It’s open at lunchtimes from Monday to Saturday inclusive and is also open on a Friday evening.
I visited on a Saturday lunchtime and opted for 3 courses for 12,50€. You can choose just a main course, starter/main or main/dessert. There’s a children’s menu and à la carte.
There were two or three choices for each course. My starter was a terrine – a coarse meat paté served with salad and a basket of bread. I selected the beef casserole for my main course. The meat was beautifully tender and was served in a rich sauce alongside chips and salad. For dessert I treated myself to a salted caramel cake with vanilla ice-cream.
For a good value lunch, this really was excellent. I’ll definitely go back.
This picturesque view is one of 35 historic workshop courtyards to be found in the Normandy town of Villedieu-les-Poêles. This particular courtyard is called the Cour du Foyer (or the Furnace Courtyard) and houses the pan maker’s museum and the lace-making house. It’s one of the prettiest courtyards and is situated at the top end of the town.
The entrance to the courtyard is just out of shot on the right of the photo above. However, you can see the archway into another courtyard a little further down the street. The archways leading to each courtyard originally had wooden doors that were closed at night. Each courtyard housed several families. The ground floor of each building was the workshop with the living quarters located on the first floor. The living quarters were accessed by the stone steps on the outside of each building.
This courtyard was were some of the many hammering shops were based and where artisans hammered out copper plates . In 1742 there were 139 hammering shops and you can learn more about them in the pan maker’s museum. Today, the town is known as the copper town and boasts a number of shops selling copper cookware and other copper items.
A visit to Bayeux Cathedral is an absolute must if you are visiting Normandy. The cathedral is just a few minutes walk from the tapestry and is very centrally located. You can see the spires and towers from a distance. In fact you can even spot it from the Bayeux Cemetery and Memorial on the outskirts of the town.
The Tourist Office provides guided tours of the cathedral in both French and English. You can buy tickets at the Tourist Office and find more information here. If you prefer to do your own tour then entry to the cathedral is completely free. There are some explanation panels about the architectural detail dotted around the cathedral. Alternatively you can purchase a guide book in the Tourist Office. It is written by François Neveux with collaboration from Claire Ruelle. The price is 5,70€. It gives a very good history of the cathedral and guides you round the interior and exterior.
For more information about Bayeux, visit the Bayeux guide here. Or you can watch the video below showing the exterior of the cathedral.
Today is the last day for visiting the Christian Dior Museum before it re-opens in April. The museum is housed in three floors of the famous couturier’s Normandy home in the seaside town of Granville. Although Dior was born here in 1905 his family moved to Paris several years later. However, the Granville house was retained and became their holiday home.
Two exhibitions are held each year in the museum with displays of clothes, shoes, jewellery and perfume from past and present Dior collections. In between the exhibitions, the museum closes to allow time for the current displays to be dismantled. For the benefit of visitors, the gardens remain open throughout the year. The rose garden is magnificent in June.
The villa is set on a cliff edge and can be reached by car with street parking nearby. Alternatively, you can climb the steps from the lower town near to the promenade and enjoy fabulous views of the high town as you reach the top.
The next exhibition will open on 27th April 2019 and will focus on Princess Grace of Monaco (the film star Grace Kelly). It will feature some of the Dior outfits worn by the princess.
Visitors are not allowed to take photos inside the museum. The video below (in French) shows the interior of the museum.
For more information, you can visit the Christian Dior museum website. You can find it here.