Normandy has seen many famous artists come and go, among them iconic painters like Monet and writers like Oscar Wilde. Here are some of my favourite haunts where you can follow in their illustrious footsteps and stop for a bite to eat or a coffee. I have also included some bonnes adresses of interesting watering holes with a suitably arty touch.
This quaint village on the banks of the River Seine was home to Monet and his family for many years, and is now a cultural mecca for art lovers worldwide. Giverny’s perfect pit-stop is the Ancien Hôtel Baudy, where Monet would meet up with fellow painters Cézanne, Sisley, Renoir and co. The restaurant serves traditional brasserie-style French cuisine. The nearby Musée des Impressionnismes has regular exhibitions which perfectly compliment a tour of Monet’s house and gardens and the Terra Café in the museum itself is handy spot for a bite to eat or a coffee on the terrace.
With its half timbered buildings and picturesque fishing village on the Seine Estuary, Honfleur was a favourite haunt of the impressionists. They often would get together at La Ferme Saint-Siméon overlooking the town, which was then just a humble farm and inn. Impoverished artisits would sometimes pay the landlady with a painting when they were short of cash. Today this five star hotel with gourmet restaurant offers serious creature comforts to guests who can share the same views as Boudin, Monet and Corot.
This medieval masterpiece is where Monet painted his famous cathedral series and makes for the perfect city break. La Couronne, France’s oldest inn, ideally situated on the Place du Vieux Marché, serves a special Impressionist menu and is a cosy place to soak up the local atmosphere. No trip to Rouen would be complete without a wander around the Fine Art Museum, home to some exceptional impressionist works, which has its very own café in the light-filled atrium and serves a yummy Sunday brunch.
In the heart of town, Les Tribunaux is Dieppe’s oldest and most popular café. Housed in a historic eighteenth-century building, it is the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by. Years ago, Renoir, Monet, Flaubert and Maupassant drank here, and it is rumoured that Oscar Wilde wrote a few novels in the café.
Time appears to have stood still at Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei, one of France’s plus beaux villages in the south of Normandy. Home to artists down the years, I would strongly recommend you visit the Auberge des Sœurs Moisy where renowned artists, among them Corot, Courbet and Mary Renard, liked to come to rest as well as to paint. This inn’s most original feature is its celebrated Salle des Décapités, decorated with an intriguing walls of black heads drawn in profile. Nestled behind the inn/museum is the Auberge des Peintres de Saint-Céneri, a restaurant featuring the work of local artists, and La Taverne Giroise are locally recommended eateries where you can sit out on the terrace in the sunshine. Every Whitsun weekend, the village opens its doors to 40 artists and many visitors from near and far for a chance to meet the artists, as part of an annual event called Les Rencontres de Saint Céneri.
For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.
Cover photo © Normandy Tourist Board | Text: Alison Weatherhead