I visited La Ferme de la Butte this week to sample and buy some Normandy cider. They’re fairly local to me at around a 15 minute drive away. I include a bottle of Normandy cider in my welcome basket for guests so I wanted to check out this local producer.
The farm produces sparkling cider (semi-sweet and dry), sparkling pear, calvados (an apple brandy) and pommeau which is an aperitif. They also produce their own apple cider vinaigrette and sell apple juice.
I sampled a semi-sweet cider (doux) which was very pleasant and you can definitely taste that it’s made on a farm. The owner also offered me a pommeau.
At 17% it certainly warms you up and this was before 9.30 so it also woke me up. It’s a lovely aperitif and is stronger than cider but not as strong as calvados.
The calvados is aged in barrels for either 5 or 10 years and comes in various sized bottles from 20cl to 150cl. Here’s their price list when you buy direct.
How To Find Them
This map shows their location. They are at 14 route Saint-Martin in the small village of La Meurdraquière in Normandy.
From the D7 take the road towards La Meurdraquière. This road is called Route du Doux Coeur. After around a kilometre take the turning on the right by looking for the signs to the farm. Carry on until you see this sign.
Here you turn left and then follow the road round to the right.
A Calvados Event in August
I chatted to one of the owners while I was there. She explained she moved to the farm in 1961 when she married her husband. The farm had belonged to his parents. At first they used to make cider and calvados and also sold apples. Gradually, they have added other products to their range. Their cider is sold in the supermarket and also convenience store in Gavray. From Wednesday 7th to Friday 9th August they’ll be open from 10am and you can watch how calvados is made.
I really enjoyed my visit. I bought some cider and added it to my current guests’ welcome basket. I hope they enjoy their Normandy cider.
Looking to find out what’s on in Normandy this weekend? Here are just a few suggestions.
Fête de la Musique
This weekend Normandy will host a series of concerts throughout the region. There’s one in Gavray on Friday 21st from 8.30pm and it’s free. Alternatively, why not go to a summer concert given by a local choir at Hambye Abbey. It starts at 6.30pm on Saturday 22nd and is also free. For the full list of events, take a look at the website to find out what’s on. The concerts range from gospel, choral, rock, pop and jazz so there’s something for everyone. The majority of the concerts are free.
If you quite like the thought of finding a genuine French antique, head to Granville on Sunday 23rd. This is a monthly event and is called a brocante. It will be held in the Cours Jonville which is a square in the centre of the town. The fair opens at 8am and closes at 6pm. It’s held in the open-air but the weather is due to be good this weekend. Make sure your you have cash with you and you know your French number if you ask the price of something.
The village of Percy is holding its annual fair on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd June. On the Saturday there will be a funfare, bands and a firework display. On Sunday there will be more music and also a parade of floats from 2pm. The theme this year is the 1970s. I’m sure some of the costumes are going to be very entertaining!
For more information about summer events in and around Villedieu-les-Poêles, take a look at this brochure. Normandy certainly has a lot going on.
Cherbourg is much more than a Normandy arrival and departure port for ferries. There is a natural history museum, a museum about the liberation, parks and gardens and a fine art museum. You could easily spend a day here or fill in some time before boarding a late ferry.
The Cité de la Mer is a maritime museum housed in the former ArtDeco railway station built in 1933. There are six separate spaces to visit:
The Ocean of The Future
A new space for 2019. Visitors can explore 17 aquariums spread over three floors.
This permanent exhibition covers the period from 6th June to 26th June 1944. From D-Day through to the day the city was liberated, you’ll learn how Cherbourg inhabitants were affected during this time. You can view large scale photos and a film to help bring history to life.
The Men and Machines Gallery
The ground floor hosts a unique collection of deep-sea diving craft and submersibles.
Visit the Le Redoutable submarine and take an audio guide tour around the control centre, canteen, engine room and cabins.
Walking into the Depths Adventure
This is a 50-minute long immersive trip that transports explorers into the depths of the ocean. On board the simulator you begin a virtual dive down into the mysterious, inhospitable world of the ocean depths.
Titanic, Return to Cherbourg
Take an historic voyage on The Titanic and travel with 50 million emigrants on their way to the New World. The fateful shipped docked in Cherbourg on 10 April 1912 before setting off on its final journey. The stories of those emigrating as well as historic events behind the sinking of the liner can be discovered.
I’d recommend you arrive in the morning to really make the most of the museum. Your ticket is valid all day so you can leave for lunch and return later. Alternatively, you can eat on site. Le Quai des Mers restaurant offers à la carte or set meal options. Seafood platters are very popular. There is also Le Ruban Bleu Snack Bar. You can grab a snack or a drink here although it’s only open during the high season.
The museum is based at Allée du Président Menut, 50100 Cherbourg-en-Cotentin. Check out the website for opening times and ticket prices.
Watch the video below to give you an idea of what to expect in this spectacular Normandy museum.
Le Mémorial de Caen – A Normandy Museum
The Caen Memorial Museum, Centre for History and Peace (Le Mémorial de Caen) is built on a blockhouse used by German troops during the Second World War. The bunker has recently been opened up as part of the museum. There’s a lot to see in this Normandy museum and a minimum of half a day is recommended but to immerse yourself fully you can spend a full day here. The museum covers the events leading up to the Second World War and how the conflict unfolded. There’s also a section on the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy. Visitors can also learn about other conflicts such as the Cold War and the Vietnam War. If you are visiting Normandy to explore some of the D-Day landing sites, the museum is a very good place to start.
You can download an app, purchase an audio guide or, alternatively, just wander round watching films, reading display boards, looking at exhibits and photographs. History will come to life before you as you walk through the decades of conflict since the Second World War.
The museum is open 7 days a weeks although check opening times on the website. It closes for part of January and opening times differ throughout the year. From April through to September it’s open from 9am to 7pm. There’s plenty of free parking together with a restaurant, snack bar, gift shop as well as various places to sit throughout the museum. Information about the snack bar and restaurant is here. It costs 19,80€ for a single ticket but family tickets cost 51€. A family ticket allows 2 adults and at least one child (under 18) entry although there’s no limit on the number of children. If you want to see other Normandy sites such as Arromanches 360 circular cinema or Cité de la Mer in Cherbourg (a nautical and maritime museum), then there are packages available for joint tickets.
How To Get There
Caen Memorial Museum
The museum is on Esplanade Général Eisenhower, 14050 Caen
GPS N 49° 20′ 24″ – O 00° 37′ 16″
By car: coming from Paris on the A13 or from Rennes on the A84, take the Northbound ringroad (périphérique), exit n°7
By bus: no.2 from the city centre. Easy access for disabled people.
There is access as well as facilities for people with reduced mobility.
The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth measuring nearly 70 metres long and 50 cm high and depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. Characters include William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, (later King of England).
You can read about my visit to the the museum here. The 58 scenes are technically an embroidery rather than a tapestry. I enjoyed my visit here enormously. The intricate embroidery is exquisite in its detail. I particularly enjoyed looking at the 2D facsimile in more detail and spotted all manner of things I’d not seen when looking at the original. The link includes information about each area of the museum, practical information, photos and a video.
The museum is at 21 Allée des Augustines which is just off the rue de Nesmond. It’s open 7 days a week from February through to December but check opening times on the 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.
If you’re looking to buy cheese in Granville, then Le Fromager de la Baie is the place to go. the shop has been open just over a year and is based at 34 rue Lecampion in Granville. They are open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9am – 1pm and 3pm – 7pm. On a Sunday morning they open from 9.30am – 1pm.
You can also find them at the Avranches market on a Saturday morning and also the Saint-Pair-sur-Mer market on a Thursday morning.
Throughout the year they stock over 200 different types of cheese. You can also buy cream, butter and other Normandy specialities.
I called in to the Granville shop recently to buy some cheese. I opted for a goats cheese and a Tomme de Savoie which is semi firm and has a greyish-brown rind. I also selected a deliciously creamy and pungent Bleu d’Auvergne and a rather unusual Gouda with cumin. They’ve all been delicious.
Earlier this week I went on a guided tour in Roncey, a small Normandy village in La Manche region. For over an hour we heard the story of how Roncey was liberated on 29th July 1944, the destruction and the re-building after the war.
The American troops that had landed at Utah Beach on 6th June began to advance inland and liberate towns and villages. A small area near St-Lô was selected and bombed extensively so that the defences could be penetrated. This led to the ‘Roncey pocket’ where German troops became trapped in Roncey in their attempts to flee the advancing troops. Their exit route was blocked by a broken down lorry and they could not escape. Fierce fighting and bombing ensued on 28th July until Roncey was finally liberated on 29th July.
As well as the loss of life, around 70% of Roncey was demolished. The town hall (Mairie), school and the presbytery remained. The church was demolished along with 46 houses. 43 other dwellings were damaged and further damage was caused by pillaging and bulldozers clearing the village. The photos above show the church as it was, after it was destroyed and the modern structure that has replaced it.
There are a number of information boards throughout the village in both French and English with photos showing how the village used to look.
The information board above showing Place de la Halle is on the blue building in the photo above.
This row of brightly coloured houses and shops are directly opposite the church and the main square. They were completely demolished on 28th to 29th July.
The buildings were rebuilt using concrete and brightly painted. Here you can see an example of a new building (salmon pink in colour) contrasting with an older building that survived the bombings.
Town Hall (Mairie)
There is also an exhibition in the town hall. Their opening hours are:
For information about the guided tour in Roncey and others, please see this information. The tour will be repeated on 26th July and 9th August. You meet at 11am near the church, it’s free and you don’t need to book. The tour is in French but the panels as you walk around the village are in French and English.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day on 6th June, I wanted to share this poem to honour the veterans.
WHO ARE THESE MEN?
Who are these men who march so proud,
Who quietly weep, eyes closed, head bowed?
These are the men who once were boys,
Who missed out on youth and all its joys.
Who are these men with aged faces,
Who silently count the empty spaces?
These are the men who gave their all,
Who fought for their country for freedom for all.
Who are these men with sorrowful look
Who can still remember the lives that were took?
These are the men who saw young men die,
The price of peace is always high.
Who are these men who in the midst of pain,
Whispered comfort to those they would not see again?
These are the men whose hands held tomorrow,
Who brought back our future with blood tears and sorrow.
Who are these men who promise to keep
Alive in their hearts the ones God holds asleep?
These are the men to whom I promise again:
‘Veterans’, my friends – I will remember them!
A beautiful poem written by Jodie Johnson in 1996 when she was 11.
This year the commemorations are very high profile with dignitaries from all over the world attending events. Normandy is also welcoming many veterans and/or their families this week.
If you’re anywhere from Cherbourg to Mont-Saint-Michel on the afternoon of Friday 7th June you might be lucky enough to see a fly-past by 4 Dakota aircraft. The Dakotas will be following the Voie de la Liberté which is the route taken by the American troops as they advanced south after D-Day. They’ll take off from Cherbourg-Maupertus airport at 13.41 and will arrive at Huisnes-sur-Mer at 15.00 which is just south of Mont-Saint-Michel. At each of the following towns they will circle before heading onto the next destination: Cherbourg, Valognes, Sainte-Mère-Église, Utah Beach, Sainte-Marie-Du-Mont, St-Lô, Villedieu-les-Poêles, Avranches, Pontorson. Huisnes-sur-Mer is the resting place of almost 12,000 German soldiers who died during the Battle of Normandy. The video below shows the route and the expected times of the Dakotas.
This week Normandy is hosting a whole range of events to commemorate D-Day. Four of the D-Day landing beaches are in the department of Calvados while the fifth is located in La Manche region.
In La Manche region the key locations are Carentan, Sainte-Mère-Église and Utah Beach. The full calendar of events in Normandy can be found here.
This website (in French) gives an overview of the road closures and traffic restrictions for the D-Day events in La Manche. This includes Carentan on the 5th, Utah Beach on the 6th and Sainte-Mère-Église on the 9th. There is no windscreen sticker system in place (there is in Calvados on the 6th) but it is inevitably going to be very busy.
Utah Beach was the landing beach where American troops landed. There is a museum overlooking Utah Beach and it will be open on the 6th. Sainte-Mère-Église is home to the Airborne Museum that honours the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. The museum is across the square from the church where an effigy of a paratrooper hangs.
A number of my guests have brought their bikes to Normandy to enjoy some cycling. Normandy has 1600km of véloroutes (cycle routes) giving you cycling itineraries via traditional cycle paths or secure roads with little traffic. The cycle routes are designated by special signposts. 700km of these routes are greenways (or voie vertes in French). Greenways are specially built tracks – often former railways lines or towpaths – where there is no motorised traffic.
For the serious cyclist there are a number of long routes such as the landing beaches to Mont St Michel. There are 2 options here meaning you can start from either Utah beach or Arromanches. The route is 210km (130 miles long). There’s more information here including a detailed route.
If you’d prefer to drive and take your bike, then you could cycle near Mont-Saint-Michel. You can’t leave your bike at the foot of the island or take your bike onto the island. The only permitted places to leave your bicycle are are near the Tourist Information Centre (near the parking) and by the dam. However, you can cycle to the foot of the island and back again. Read the information here.
There are plenty of cycle routes near to the gite. This website lists some of them. If you scroll down to the bottom of the webpage you’ll see a list of routes – some of which have a bicycle symbol. The cycle route in the image below is around Nicorps and gives wonderful views over the steeples and bell towers of Coutances.
For more information about cycling in Normandy check out the website or watch the video below.
In just over a week Normandy will welcome veterans, veterans families, dignitaries and tourists for D-Day. Throughout the region there will be events galore to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day on 6th June.
Some events have already started and you can check out the programme of events here.
Alternatively, have a read of the Normandy Tourist Board’s visitor guide in PDF format.
The events will be impressive and emotional at the same time. One of the most ambitious events has to be Daks over Normandy. In 1944 the airborne assault on Normandy was formed by over 800 Douglas C-47 Dakotas. The UK and Normandy skies will be filled with Douglas DC-3/C-47 Dakotas and hundreds of Paratroopers. The event will be held in two locations: from 2 to 5 June at Duxford Airfield in the United Kingdom and from 5 to 9 June at Caen Carpiquet Airport in Normandy. Around 250 men and women will board the aircraft in the United Kingdom, fly across the English Channel and to jump into the historic Normandy drop zones. Have a look at the video below.
Traffic Restrictions in Normandy
There will be some traffic restrictions in place on 6th June around the landing beaches, Bayeux and Caen. More information is here.
There will also be local events away from the Normandy beaches. Coutances will be commemorating D-Day with an event on 6th June. There will be a ceremony at the cemetery at 6pm followed by mass in the cathedral at 7.30pm. An exhibition of D-Day related photos will also be launched and will run until 6th September. The large-scale photos will be dotted around the town. The cathedral and two churches escaped relatively unscathed during the war although many buildings surrounding them were destroyed.
A series of three guided tours will start the following week. They’re free and you don’t need to book. Meet on Wednesday 12 June, 11am at Roncey church to hear how the Germans were surrounded by the Allies. On Wednesday 19 June at 11am, the story of the destruction of the Pont de la Roque will be told at Heugeville-sur-Sienne. British troops dropped bombs on the bridge to prevent German reinforcements advancing towards the landing beaches. Finally, on Wednesday 26th June you can learn about Coutances reconstruction after the bombings. Meet at 11am at the Quesnel-Morinière museum courtyard. The tours will be in French.
D-Day was just the start of the Battle of Normandy and the fight to liberate Europe. However, some events will continue throughout the summer. The memorials, the cemeteries, the museums and the spirit of those who sacrificed their lives for our liberty will always be here in Normandy. Lest We Forget.
For a guide to the D-Day beaches, read this guide and watch the video below for an overview of some of the D-Day sites.
Finding vegetarian dining options can be a little challenging in Normandy but if you know where to go, it’s much easier. The region is a big seafood producer so if you’re a pescatarian, you’ll have no problem. It is however also famous for wonderful dairy products such as cheese, butter and cream. The range of dining options is increasing though so let’s take a look at where you can eat and food terms to avoid.
Close to home are two restaurants offering vegan or vegetarian choices. Restaurant Délice is just a few minutes drive away in Gavray with plenty of parking opposite near the church. They are open Wednesday to Saturday lunchtime and evening and also for Sunday lunch.
Restaurant Délice is at 9 Place du Dr Beck. Their website is here. Phone number: 02 33 51 61 14. They speak English.
A little further away is the Auberge du Mesnil Rogues which is on Route de l’Auberge in Mesnil Rogues. Their opening times depend on the season. They’re always closed on a Monday but are open on a Sunday for lunch and in the evening. Have a look at their website. You can contact them on 02 33 61 37 12.
I would always recommend making a reservation and advising that you’ll be eating from the vegetarian menu. Normandy is getting better at offering vegetarian options but there aren’t as many choices as in the UK, for example.
There is also a pizza shop in Gavray. You can phone your order through or just go and place your order and wait until it’s ready. Read about them here.
The nearby towns of Granville, Villedieu-les-Poêles and Coutances also have restaurants with vegetarian options. Italian restaurants serving pizzas and pasta are a good choice. Alternatively, you can try a crêperie which is a pancake house. Savoury pancakes are known as galettes while sweet ones are called crêpes. These three towns are all within a 20 minute drive of my gite.
La Crêperie de Sophie, 74 boulevard Alsace Lorraine, 02 33 45 54 45
Don Camillo, 4 Rue d’Harcourt, 02 33 45 00 67 (Italian)
Le Ratelier, 3 rue Georges Clemenceau, 02 33 45 56 52 (crêperie)
La Rose des Sables, 2 Place General de Gaulle, 02 33 45 01 40 (middle eastern serving couscous and tagines)
La Taverne du Parvis, 18 Place du Parvis Notre Dame, 02 33 45 13 55 (bistro with vegetarian and meat/fish options. Serves salads, tarts, omelettes and pasta) https://www.hotel-restaurant-taverne-du-parvis.com
Crêperie La Morinière, 1, Rue Quesnel-Moriniere, 02 33 07 52 20
Pizzeria La Pergola, Zone Industrielle la Mare, 02 33 45 93 22 ww.lapergola-restaurant.fr I’ve eaten here a couple of times. It’s very good value but also very busy.
Le Diner’s, 3 rue Georges Clemenceau, 02 33 90 24 24
Le Borsalino, rue des Isles | Port de plaisance du herel, 02 33 50 02 99 http://www.borsalino-granville.fr/ They do pizzas but also have a more varied menu if there are meat/fish eaters in your group. I’ve eaten here.
Pizz A Bruno, 35 avenue des Matignons, 02 33 91 92 30 http://www.pizzabrunogranville.com
La Courtine, 10 rue Cambernon, 05 45 82 34 78. This crêperie is in the high town. I’ve eaten here plenty of times as it’s a favourite of my neices.
Picorette, 22 rue Saint Sauveur, 02 33 59 93 49. this is a tea room rather than a restaurant but does have some lunchtime options for vegetarians.
Pizzeria Le Saint Hubert, 9 rue des Cohues, 02 33 51 24 29
La Cuisine de Leonie, 6, place des Chevaliers de Malte, 02 33 61 07 94 This is a crêperie and I’ve eaten here.
Le Moulin à Café, 16 Place des Chevaliers de Malte, 02 33 61 03 39
L’Agora, 10 Place des Halles, 02 33 50 43 04 (crêperie)
These are just a selection of some of the restaurants, bistros and crêperies in the local area.
Useful Food Terms
Always check before you sit down that a restaurant can cater for vegetarian diners by having a look at the menu. The list below includes some of the ingredients you might like to avoid.
viande – meat
viande hachée – minced beef
poisson – fish
jambon – ham
merguez – sausage made with beef
andouille/andouilette – spicy sausage made with chitterlings
thon – tuna
lardons – diced bacon
poulet – chicken
moules – mussels
crevettes – shrimps/prawns
calamars – calamari
st jacques – scallops
saumon fumé – smoked salmon