A weekend in Normandy

My friend invited me super last minute for a weekend away in France. Her friend was unable to go so I took her place. The trip consisted of me, my friend Talia and then her two guy mates who I have met a handful of times.

 We met bright and early at Liverpool Street Station and then got on the train to Southend Airport. The airport was tiny and hardly any passengers there, which mean check in and security was plain sailing. We grabbed some breakfast, it was gross. They had run out of porridge so I paid £2.75 for 2 slices of toast and jam – I could’ve bought 3 loaves of bread for that! The scrabbled egg didn’t look any better so glad I avoided that!

 It was soon time to board the plan, this was not a normal plane I would fly on, but much much smaller, with only 2 people per row! I was unfortunate enough to be sat right at the back of the plane next to a screaming baby. I asked to move to be with my friends and away from the baby but was told seat were allocated to help balance the plane (oh great!) and I couldn’t move. The jourey was super quick and it seemed that by the time we had taken off it was ready to land again. I occupied myself by catching up on the apprentice!

 We landed into to Caen airport,  Northern France in the Normandy region. Now Tom has lived in France all his life and his parents have a place here, they met us at the airport and left Tom the car so we were able to get around. The first stop was to be a historic one and we headed to the Normandy beaches. We went to Arromanches – les – Bains and to the beach there. We started off in an circular cinema watching 20 minutes all about the D-Day landings which was really interesting and very cleverly made. We then wandered down into the town where we all enjoyed a crepe (pancake), which was delicious – mine was sugar topped with Chantilly cream.

 We then headed back in the car to Caen, the major city in Normandy. We wandered around Caen looking in the shops and also bought some items from the bakery. We headed to the port and stopped off for a drink as we weren’t meeting Tom’s brother for a while. We sat outside drinking, when its €2.80 for a large glass of wine its rude not to! We then headed back to the city and met Tom’s brother in a bar called Au Chef Raide. From the outside this doesn’t look very inviting but once inside there are comfy seats and it’s a very cosy atmosphere, there are also board games for customers to use. We ordered some more wine and waited for the rest of the party to join us. Once they arrived we ordered some food. Myself and Talia decided to share the baked camembert which was served with a whole baguette and also share a terrine de campagne, which was also served with a whole baguette. Everyone else opted for either a burger or croque monsieur. We were absolutely starving and were super pleased when out food arrived and it tasted absolutely incredible, everything typically French all on two plates and it was just what we had been craving all day! Surprisingly we managed to nearly eat the whole lot – it was divine. We stayed until 9pm and left early as it was at least an hour’s drive home. On leaving I noticed where the place cooked there food and it was all under 1 grill, I was so impressed that all the bar needed was a grill and they made absolutely delicious food – it really inspired me!

 The next day we woke early to do the boulangerie run, we headed into the town of Rânes and picked up a feast! We ate breakfast with Tom’s mum and Dad which was lovely, I had a croissant and a mini brioche. We then got ready and headed in the car to the town of Falaise to the Saturday morning market. The market was half inside and half outside and had lots of different stalls to visit. I bought a punnet of strawberries and have never tasted anything so nice, best strawberries I have ever eaten – I ate the lot! We were meeting Tom’s brothers girlfriend twin sisters and her boyfriend (confusing I know!). They lived in a converted chapel and it was incredible, they had done it up themselves and had done such a good job. There living room was right at the front of the chapel and then the bedroom was a messane using the original stairs bannisters from the chapel itself. We had some wine and chatted and it was the perfect way to spend a Saturday lunchtime. Following on from this we decided to visit the Chateau of Falaise as it had been recommended to us. The chateau was great, on arrival you get give iPads, and in each room you have to scan something in the room and then the iPad shows you what the room used to look like in the olden times. This was a really interesting way to learn about the history of the chateau. We also climbed to the top of a turret for some great views.

 After the tour which took about 2 hours we headed to the town of Bagnoles-de-l’Orne. This is a spa town with a massive lake and was absolutely gorgeous, I loved it. I felt like I was in the alps in Switzerland or something. We had a drink in  bar, I had a hot chocolate and then shared a croque monsieur with Talia. I would definitely like to visit this town again as it was super pretty.  We popped to the shops on route home to buy some cheese and wine and other snacks.

 We arrived back to the cottage and tucked into the cheese and started on our 2 boxes of wine! We got all the board games out and started with scrabble which was fun as we were all awful! Then Talia and I cooked a chilli con carne for us all. We spent the evening drinking wine, eating and playing games in front of the fire. It was bliss.

 The next morning Tom’s parents kindly did the boulangerie run for us all. We had breakfast and then got ready before walking to the goats cheese farm. This farm was literally round the corner from Tom’s parent and it was great. We got to pet the goats and then were given a tour of the farm and showed how goats cheese is made. At the end of it we bought a large selection of goats cheese as it was so cheap! We headed back to the cottage for lunch,, which consisted of homemade carrot and coriander soup, French bread, goats cheese (of course!) and a variety of other cheeses. It was delicious.

 We then headed to La Chapelle-d’Andaine where we were to watch a horse show called La Michaudiere (Ferme du cheval de trait). We arrived early so we could pet the horses/donkeys before the show started. We got front row seats and watched this slightly odd horse show which had a lot of French humour which we did not get. However it was cool watching the men ride 2 horses at the same time whilst standing up. After the show we were provided with Normandy cider and hot chocolate.

 We drove back home and back to the warmth of the cottage fire and played some games before dinner. Dinner was raclette, which Talia had last time she visited and hadn’t stopped raving about it – it lived up to its expectations and was divine. We cooked our own meat on the top of the raclette and then grilled cheese underneath it. It was all served with potatoes, salad and side sauces. The most amazing meal ever and I would eat it all over again now!

 I had an early night before getting up early to head to the Deaville aiport to fly home. I had such a lovely chilled weekend and it was just what  I needed. I think the French way of life is great, and we should all aspire to live like that, especially us Londoners who are always in a rush when really there is no need to be. Sometimes we just need to take time to chill, relax and reflect in the country – it’s good for the soul.

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