For the past 25 years, I have been following my passion designing, leading and experiencing culinary, wine and cultural tours throughout Europe. The festive holiday season always takes me back to an unforgettable Tauck Tour event I experienced in France several years ago.
My introduction to France’s love affair with food from Normandy was thanks to farmhouse cooking expert Chef Susan Hermann Loomis, author of the yummy story cookbook On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town. Susan charmed us with her honest, yet simple approach to the culinary arts. Who knew children were served brioche with chocolate for their after school treat. Now that’s worth running home to!
Normandy is one of France’s regions which often gets left behind in the culinary hype. More commonly, the region is famous for its sights such as Mont St-Michel – whose religious architecture is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site; the D-Day Landing relics from WWII in Dieppe; and a real artists’ community in Honfleur considered the birthplace of impressionism. In fact, this year I purchased Claude Monet’s Palate Cookbook which is a detailed account of the artist and his passion for his kitchen potager garden at Giverny. I’m slowly working my way through each recipe using only the purest ingredients Claude himself would have used.
The region of Normandy just begs to be explored, with its dramatic coastline, pastoral rolling hills and quaint villages. Whether you are self-driving or on an organized tour, the local farmers and producers open their doors to explain the many secrets of their production processes. Normandy offers an exciting and high-quality gastronomical variety.
Starting with the apple – yes, we have apples here in Canada but somehow, the French explain the processing as if it were an art form inspired by nature. In the heart of the Pays d’Auge, is a wonderful orchard called the Domaine Dupont – passionately cared for by a family since 1858. The green, sweet, crunch, sour, ripe apples are used in making cider and the regions well known spirit, calvados. The latter can be purchased here in North America, ranging in price for a bottle of Pere Magloire Calvados VSOP at $43 up to a Charles De Granville Calvados 30-Year-Old for $405.
Another unforgettable stop as you explore Normandy is the Palais Bénédictine in Fécamp. The museum houses an extensive collection of sacred and ancient art from Bénédictine heritage and then leads you into the only Bénédictine distillery in the world where there are hammered copper stills dating from the 19th century.
As you drive through the rolling hills you will undoubtedly come across the Norman cows which are known for their quality milk, used to make famous cheeses such as Camembert, Livarot and Pont l’Eveque as well as Isigny cream and butter. Oh, how I love the way the French cook!
While driving the Normandy coast, I suggest you take a guided tour with the oyster farmers who will show you how they cultivate the world’s best cupped oysters. Ever been to a fish auction? Luxurious seafood is up for bids including scallops and lobsters. Now there is some serious entertainment.
I think one of the delights of Normandy is the opportunity to stay in a wide choice of accommodation. Try mixing it up and spend a few nights in a converted chateau, then move on to a quaint seafront cottage. Want to treat yourself even more, then spend a few nights at the 5* Relais & Chateaux Hotel Saint-Delis in the heart of the historic district of Honfleur. This historical residence of the painter Henri de Saint-Delis, dates back to the 17th century and is a charming reminder of days gone by.
If you’re looking for a genuine farmhouse cooking experience, La Vieille Ferme (the Old Farm) in Fresne-La-Mere is as real as it gets. Currently they offer virtual private cooking classes for friends/family or open groups where you can meet other culinary inquisitive people from around the world. It’s a great and accessible way to savour a taste of Normandy.
If you enjoy a slower pace, then try a luxury river cruise out of Paris and float along the Seine River to the northern part of Normandy. I love luxury cruising with AmaWaterways, Tauck and Uniworld River Cruises because they offer:
- River cruise ships which are elegant, welcoming and have interesting design
- Luxurious accommodation
- Michelin-inspired cuisine
- Signature experiences
- Impeccable service
- All-inclusive pricing
I hope you are inspired to feed your soul as you explore the world, enjoying the simple pleasures of its bounty, savouring every delectable morsel while connecting with others through authentic conversations around the communal table.
Contact Hibiscus International to book your luxury travel to Normandy, France and beyond.