Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 4 - July 2 : Normandy

After a good night's sleep, we woke up to a bright, sunny morning in Lisieux. We left our hotel around 9 and went to the local patisserie for breakfast. This morning I changed it up and got a raspberry pastry instead of my usual pain au chocolat. It was 2 pieces of very flaky pastry dough made into a sandwich with raspberry jam. I had never eaten a pastry like it before, but as always with French pastries, it was delicious and very filling. After eating our pastries, we wandered into the market that was in the square in front of us. Saturday was market day in Lisieux and in addition to the food market, they had one area that was all clothing. My cousins and I browsed for a few minutes and each of us came away with a dress. Cute and inexpensive is a good fit in my book.

Little cafe where we ate breakfast- love the chairs!

As our free parking was about to run out, we hit the road towards our first destination, la Domaine Saint Hippolyte, a local farm dedicated to Normand products and traditional Normand practices. The farm was no more than 10 minutes from our hotel, maybe less. We arrived a few minutes after they opened and we were the only visitors there for the next hour and a half or so. The man working in the shop said that it's busier during the week than on the weekend.

First we toured the farm. There are old restored farm buildings on the property that house exhibits on Normand farming in addition to the working buildings. They are growing apples to be made into apple juice, cider, pommeau and Calvados. Their orchards are reaching maturity and soon they will have enough apples to make these traditional drinks. They also raise cows with are primarily used in their production of traditional Normand cheeses, Pont l'Eveque and Livarot. The cows actually graze among the apple trees, which helps keeps the weeds down among the trees and helps shade the cows from the harsh summer sun. They also have other traditional Normand animals- a really big horse, a donkey, some goats and fish. After touring the farm, we went back to the visitor center for a tasting of their apple juice and cheese. The cheeses were very strong, so I could only eat a small dose, but they were good and the apple juice was outstanding. I would say that it is easily the best apple juice I've ever had. After buying some souvenirs, we were on the road again, heading to the coast.

The manor house at Domaine St Hippolyte

Part of the apple orchards

The cows grazing with the city of Lisieux in the distance

The cows like the shade of the apple trees

A baby Normande cow with the species "sunglasses"

A big Normand work horse

Entrance to the boulangerie

We drove to the coast through the countryside and for the next hour or so, we were passing farms, all growing wheat, corn and sunflowers or raising cows and horses. We were driving on a lot of small, winding country roads. Basically every so often you drive through the downtown of a small town and then on the other side, the farms start again. The countryside is really beautiful. At one point we had to stop because a herd of cows was crossing the road.

Cows have the right of way! ;)

We finally hit the coast in Ouistreham, and followed the coast to Arromanches, where we stopped for lunch. I had been to Arromanches twice before, so I knew that it was a good spot to stop, stretch our legs and eat. We had paninis and ate them on the wall overlooking the beach. After browsing the gift shops and stopping for dessert, we were headed back out, but not before a little French kid on a bike crashed into me! All of a sudden I heard tires braking hard and thought to myself, someone's lost control of their bike. Before I knew it, I felt something hit my leg. Luckily I was standing leaning up against a short pole and the brunt of the crash was into the pole, otherwise I'd have been taken out hard. I turned around and an embarrassed French kid picked up his bike and ran into his house!

The cliffs to the east of Arromanches

The beach at Arromanches

Lunch overlooking the beach

Back in the car, safe from any more out of control mini cyclists, we headed down the coast to the American War Cemetery and Omaha Beach. After going through the museum, we went out to the cemetery and saw the lowering of the colors. Then we went to Omaha Beach to see the landing beaches up close.

The graves

Lowering of the colors

Omaha beach

As it was getting late, we started to head towards the hotel in Villedieu-les poêles. We got to the hotel, unpacked and went out to find a restaurant for dinner. Even though it was Saturday night, a lot places we closed. We did find one place that looked good, but they were all booked up with reservations that night. We ended up back at the hotel restaurant, which had pretty good food, but slow service due to a large group dinner.

Downtown Villedieu-les-poêles

Villedieu is known for its copper (poêles means pots in French)

Overall, this day went much more smoothly than the previous!

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