Lobster in the Chausey Islands

On a gloriously sunny June afternoon, we set off en famille from the seaside port of Granville on the Jolie Vedette ferry service to the Chausey Islands  We were off for a few days’ well earned rest at the end of the school year to stay at the picturesque Hôtel du Fort et des Iles, the only hotel on the main island of Chausey,  the Grande Ile.

Having arranged trips here in the past for journalists and my Instagrammer buddy George the Explorer, I was intrigued to see first hand where the best lobster in Normandy is to be found. Having grown up a few miles from the heart of England, every time I see the sea, I get a childishly happy feeling and want to rush in and paddle, whatever the time of year. So the idea of all that sea on an island which is 7km long by 5km wide made me seriously giddy with delight!

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© Hôtel du Fort et des Iles – Les Îles Chausey

I have to admit, I was not up early enough to catch sight of the fishermen bringing in the lobster pots, but I did take some photos! Lobster fishing in and around the Chausey archipelago is a long-held tradition and the perilous waters and rocky inlets around the 365 islands at low tide and 52 at high tide, are perfect for lobsters to breed. The blue lobster, known locally as Chausey lobster, is a beautiful indigo colour and a paragon of natural design.

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© Hôtel du Fort et des Iles – Les Îles Chausey

The Hôtel du Fort et des Iles restaurant offers a special five-course menu with foie gras to start and baked lobster with a rich sauce at 79 euros. This was my holiday treat. I tucked in cheerfully while my husband looked on enviously. I did however graciously share a claw plus a glass or two of white Burgundy. You can also opt for a half lobster with baked potato and salad on the lunchtime menu at a reasonably priced 24 euros.

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© Hôtel du Fort et des Iles – Les Îles Chausey

Once the day-trippers have left, the island comes into its own and you can set off to explore the fort and the beaches. As a nature reserve, there is oodles of wildlife to see and the local guide can take you on a trip to meet the local flora and fauna.

7240-Chausey parc à huitres bateau ©georgetheexplorer – CRT Normandie-© georgetheexplorer – CRT Normandie
© George the Explorer

Another option is to join Franck Voidie on his yacht at Granville marina and set sail for Chausey on a half-day cruise with gourmet picnic included. Here is a taster of Franck the skipper in action in this video with some excellent shots of the archipelago and a few words of French, bien sûr: 

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© YouTube / Voidie Voile

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

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Cover photo: © George the Explorer | Writer: Alison Weatherhead

5 food festivals to feast on this autumn

Normandy is a food lover’s paradise, particularly in autumn, so why not hop across the Channel and visit some of the foodie festivals taking place across the region? From cheese and seafood to the iconic apple, here is our pick of 5 Norman festivals not to be missed this year:

1) 17-18 September: Fête du Fromage (Neufchâtel-en-Bray)

Neufchâtel is the oldest of Normandy’s four cheeses and is easy to identify – it’s the heart-shaped one! Legend has it that during the Hundred Years War between France and England, Norman girls would give English soldiers Neufchâtel as a token of their affection. To celebrate their rich, creamy cheese, the town of Neufchâtel-en-Bray, 45 minutes inland from the port of Dieppe, created its very own cheese festival. The event makes for a fun day out where the family can pick up Neufchâtel recipes, go for a tasting or two, buy local products at the market and enjoy entertainment galore. There will also be a Neufchâtel‑themed evening meal followed by music and dancing.

For more information, visit: bit.ly/NeufchatelFeteDuFromage (French)

Heart-shaped Camembert Cheese
© Hemis Corbis / Fotolia

2) 20-22 October: Festival Mange Ta Soupe! (Carentan)

The French truly have a festival for most types of food, and Mange ta soupe! [Eat your soup!] festival is surely proof of that. Situated in Carentan, an hour’s drive from the port of Cherbourg, this festival has got soup enjoyment down to a fine art. Boasting a soup bar, cooking lessons, local producers’ market, car boot sale, book fair, live music, fireworks display and the all‑important soup contest, this festival will give you a warm feeling inside.

For more information, visit: www.mangetasoupe.eu (French)

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© Festival Mange ta Soupe !

3) 28-29 October: Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques et des Fruits de Mer (Villers‑sur‑Mer) 

Seafood fans won’t want to miss Viller-sur-Mer’s annual Scallop and Seafood Festival, which takes place a mere 20-minute drive along the coast east of Ouistreham. Enjoy a day at the seaside with a difference, tasting and learning about seafood, in particular the town’s renowned coquilles Saint-Jacques [scallops] from the region’s leading chefs. Stroll through market stalls run by local fishermen selling their wares, listen to live music and entertainment for all the family, and pick up tasty local products to take home.

For more information, visit: bit.ly/VillersFeteDeLaCoquilleSaintJacques

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© Normandy Tourist Board

4) 11 November: Foire aux Harengs (Lieurey)

An hour’s drive inland from the port of Le Havre, Lieurey welcomes 10,000 visitors each year to its popular herring fair. This tradition dates back to the 15th century when merchants delivering herrings to soldiers stopped in the village during a snowstorm, and decided to sell the fish to the villagers so it wouldn’t go to waste. Every year, horse‑drawn carriages bring kilos of herring to Lieurey to commemorate what happened centuries ago. Activities include a herring contest, stalls selling herring‑themed treats, cooking demonstrations, family rides in a horse-drawn carriage and pony rides for the children.

For more information, visit: bit.ly/LieureyFoireAuxHarengs (French)

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© Mairie de Lieurey

5) 11-12 November: Fête du cidre à l’ancienne (Le Sap)

An hour south of Ouistreham, the village of Le Sap’s annual cider festival celebrates the ancient art of cider making and the traditional practice of using a working horse to power the apple press, demonstrations of which take place at regular times over the two days. There’s a great atmosphere, with music, dancing, pony rides for the children, and market stalls selling local products. In addition to your freshly pressed cider, you can also enjoy a baguette with your favourite Norman cheese or an apple tart.

For more information, visit: bit.ly/LeSapFeteDuCidre

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© Normandy Tourist Board

For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.

Cover photo: © Philipimage / Fotolia.com | Writer: Fran Lambert