With the UK and Irish travel industries getting back up and running after almost four months of lock-down, you may be beginning to act on those travel aspirations by booking your first post-lock-down holiday. If you haven’t already booked, you might be wondering where’s best to go. Staycations are all the rage right now, but taking the ferry abroad is also a possibility – after all, you can still bring your own car! Normandy is a great option for a summer holiday, thanks to its proximity to both the UK and Ireland. Hop on a ferry at Newhaven, Portsmouth, Poole, Dublin or Rosslare, and enjoy a hassle-free journey complete with car, to any one of Normandy’s ports – Cherbourg, Caen/Ouistreham, Le Havre or Dieppe – disembark the ferry et puis voilà, you’re on your way.
Another strong argument for making Normandy your first port of call this summer is its food and drink. Nicknamed the ‘larder of Paris’, Normandy is known the world over for its fantastic produce; from dairy products such as rich butter, thick cream and the four famous Normandy cheeses (Camembert, Neufchâtel, Pont-l’Evêque and Livarot) to shellfish, salt-marsh lamb, and beverages such as Calvados apple brandy and apple or pear cider.
Here are five things I can’t wait to do on my upcoming summer holiday to Normandy:
1) Taste some teurgoule
The ultimate in comfort foods is good old fashioned rice pudding and Normandy’s teurgoule is no exception. Served in a large bowl, break through the volcanic crust covering the dessert to reveal a creamy rice pudding with a cinnamon kick. The recipe is a simple combination of five basic ingredients and should ideally include Normandy’s unique creamy milk. The secret is to leave the pudding to cook at a low temperature for a good long time in an earthenware bowl. I can’t wait to order this alongside a type of brioche called fallue and a glass of Normandy cider!
2) Enjoy oysters by the sea
The best place for oysters in Normandy is the village of Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue at the tip of the Cotentin peninsula. There are over 40 oyster farms in this scenic spot, and when the tide’s out, the beach reveals row upon row of tables stretching out to sea, all laden with sacks full of oysters. The oyster farmers pick up these sacks morning and night at low tide, and sell them straight on to local businesses, including to the many restaurants that line Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue’s pretty marina – where I intend to go and sample them for myself!
3) Partake of some poiré
In the south of Normandy, the Pays de Domfront is the region’s pear country. Poiré (pear cider or perry) is produced in this area by around 20 producers, and carries the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) quality label. Naturally sparkling with a 4% alcohol content, this refreshing fruity tipple is the perfect accompaniment to any course, from aperitif to dessert, and is particularly popular across this part of Normandy as an alternative to champagne. My favourite two poiré farms are the Ferme des Grimaux and Ferme de la l’Yonnière, where I will be stopping off to stock up!
4) Savour saffron ice cream
One of my favourite memories of Normandy is my visit to TV-executive-turned-farmer Miriam Duteuil’s saffron farm, the Domaine de Gauville. After buying the farm in 2012, Myriam saw her first saffron harvest in 2015, and today she yields about 700g of saffron a year. She sells her saffron to professional chefs and the general public, along with a range of saffron-flavoured preserves, biscuits, cake, mustard and vinegar. When I last visited, Myriam served me up some delicately-flavoured saffron ice cream, produced by a local dairy, which I simply can’t wait to try again!
5) Nibble on Neufchâtel
One of Normandy’s oldest cheeses, Neufchâtel is known for its distinctive heart shape, and although it can be found in the UK and Ireland, it tastes so much better in Normandy, where it is made with unpasteurised milk, resulting in a strong, tangy and oh-so-creamy taste. Tradition has it that during the Hundred Years’ War, Norman girls would give English soldiers a heart-shaped Neufchâtel cheese as a token of their affection. But that was then and alas I’m no soldier, so a visit to the Ferme des Fontaines to see how Neufchâtel is made and pick up some cheese to take home will do me just fine.
For information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourism website.
Cover photo © Tommaso Cantelli / Unsplash | Text: Fran Lambert