We have just spent 3 nights in a tiny little village called Marais Vernier in Normandy, a great place to base ourselves while we explored the D-Day beaches, Bayeux & a handful of other cute little towns. Even more amazing than the attractions though, was the hospitality shown to us by our hosts (Elena, Patrice & Dominik).
We first met Dominik while we were in Aix-en-Provence where he was living in a share house with Billy, before moving home to Normandy for his summer holidays. We mentioned to him that we might be coming this way, and he suggested we could come and stay with him. We didn’t expect any more than some space to unroll our sleeping bags, but when we arrived Dominik welcomed us into a comfortable loft in a traditional Norman thatch roof cottage! It was separate to the main house on a beautiful little acreage with a few sheep, a coop full of chickens, a couple of horses, a few cats and a cheeky little dog called Nick.
We then met Dominik’s parents, his mother is from Germany and a translator by profession which made communication a breeze, his father is French, speaks a little English and has a great sense of humour! He likes cheese too so we got along pretty well 😉 I’ve now been convinced that Roquefort is the greatest cheese in the world.
His parents then suggested we take a ride around the village on their little horse drawn buggy, what a treat! The horse only spoke German though so if you wanted it to stop you had to call out “HALT!” Hehehe!
The next day we planned to head along the coast to check out the Bayeux tapestry & the D-Day landing beaches. We woke up to hot coffee that Patrice had left in our room in a thermos, showered in the house and had breakfast of bread, jam, fresh milk from a local dairy & delicious soft boiled eggs from the family’s chickens! By this stage we were starting to feel very spoilt and made plans to cook dinner for everyone on our final night in Normandy.
The town of Bayeux was an hour or so away and the tapestry was a much better visit than we expected. Having been to a fair few museums in a short period of time you get a bit sick of just looking at things. The tapestry tells a story, that was the purpose of it. Each year it was out on display in the Bayeux cathedral (also quite impressive) to remind the towns folk, who were largely illiterate, of the sequence of events in their history. As you walk around the tapestry the audio guide explains the story to you which is much more interesting that just gazing at it and trying to figure it all out. The thing is something like 70 metres long and about half a metre high.
We then left Bayeux and drove on to Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery. Hard to imagine all those ships and soldiers landing on the beaches which stretch out along the coastline for 80km or so. You’d think they were regular beaches if it wasn’t for the old bunkers, gun emplacements and the remains of a few trenches long filled in and covered in grass. The American Cemetery was pretty moving, the graves just stretch out nearly as far as you can see.
The next day we had a bit of a sleep in (after a late night eating moules & frites with Dominik & his girlfriend, Marie). Patrice helped us get some breakfast together and then pulled out a few bows and a whole bunch of arrows from the cupboard so we could do some archery in the back yard! I was concerned that the horses were a little too close… And Elyse did her best to hit them but after a few attempts we were keeping most of the arrows on target. We even had a competition going, trying to hit some balloons, with a final score of 3-3. Great fun! In the afternoon we set out to Honfleur a coastal town with a whole bunch of restaurants and church made from wood (shipwrights and timber were easier to come by than masons & stone at the particular time). We found a nice takeaway shop and had crepes & galettes on the harbour with cider. In the evening, we a knocked up an asparagus risotto for everyone which seemed to go alright before playing some cards 🙂
I’m yet to find a region in France that I don’t like, but Normandy is just fantastic, especially when you’re staying with people that make you feel like family.