Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend the night in a giant Calvados barrel? Probably not – I hadn’t either! But when I discovered that overlooking the lush countryside of the Pays d’Auge, B&B owners Patrick and Paulette had converted a 10,000-litre Calvados Barrel into a snug bedroom, I had to check it out.
When Patrick and Paulette set their hearts on opening up a B&B, they were looking for two things. Firstly, a property in the timeless Pays d’Auge – Normandy’s lush agricultural land of picture-perfect countryside. Secondly, they were looking for a project so that talented handyman Patrick could get stuck into some serious building work while Paulette could use her creative flair to work on the design.
When they happened upon an abandoned nineteenth-century cider farm, Domaine de La Cour au Grip, located on the 25-mile Cider Route, they realised they’d hit the jackpot. The site consisted of a main farmhouse and several outbuildings, all made out of the traditional wattle-and-daub and in a total state of disrepair. Their idea was to convert the outbuildings into guest rooms for the B&B and keep the main house as their family home.
When they set to work they quickly discovered barrels and bottles and all kinds of paraphernalia left over from the days of cider production. The pièce de resistance was the giant Calvados barrel that they found in perfect condition. With no question of throwing out such quality oak, Patrick immediately started planning how he could best use the barrel. When the idea of another guest room came to mind, it was the perfect answer – a bridge between past and present.
I had visions of a cosy but slightly claustrophobic bedroom with barely enough space for a bed. Instead, with windows on three sides offering 35 miles of uninterrupted views across the valley and a clever bespoke interior design, the result is a light and inviting bedroom that feels very private. Another semi-converted barn has a lounge and shower facilities for guests staying in the barrel. With one exterior wall missing to allow for spectacular views over the valley, and stacks of hay where the farm cat sat purring atop, I loved the rustic charm of this barn setup.
All the furniture in the barn comes from clever upcycling of the barrels and wood that Patrick found during the renovation work. My favourite was the rocking chair.
Having checked in to my barrel, I took a seat in the barn, enjoyed a glass of delicious local cidre and admired the view over the valley and the disappearing sun that set the barrel aglow. All was well with the world!
For more information on food and drink in Normandy, please visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.
All photos and text © Maggie McNulty / Normandy Tourist Board