The excitement of crossing into another country is something I never tire of. Shuffling passports, different coins, signs to place names I’m not sure I’m pronouncing correctly. I spent my pre-parent life exploring the globe and post parent life exploring the UK via holidays and breaks. This summer there was an itch for something different and we decided on a camping trip to Normandy in Northern France.
When I was pregnant we did a big road trip across France down to Carcassonne and I’d forgotten all the small things I love about France; patisseries, long lunches, houses with shutters. In Normandy, I found ‘shutter people’, small metal heads and shoulders that hold shutters open.
French Retail hours are unfathomable to me, but that’s OK, there is always another day. Produce; I don’t eat meat but I can appreciate how much the French invest in good meat, in Normandy there seemed to be an independent boucherie in every village and always a boulangerie. Oh my! I had forgotten how good fresh French bread and pastries are. I ate several prize winning tarte au citroen and can confirm a worthy award winner.
When we began researching camping in France, it seemed to offer a bit more, sites with pools and restaurants. We pickedfrom the Cool Camping guide. The site is set around a faded château and a lake in which the dark shadows of carp can be seen. It takes a mix of motor homes, tents and caravans. With glamping and chalets options too. The restaurant sells great takeaway pizza, for those evenings when you can’t be bothered to BBQ. Family friendly with a relaxed vibe. There is a pool, playground, table tennis and other bits and pieces that kept an bare-foot 8-year-old happy, which took the pressure of us.
Normandy this August was baking hot, but it can be very ‘English’ in it’s weather and hence the interior of the province is green, rural, dotted with apple orchards. It is the calvados region think and try apple brandy, apple jelly and local cider (we did).
Half an hour away are the elegant seaside resorts of Deauville, Trouville-sur-Mer and the harbour town of Honfleur. The heat forced a slow pace, we could have done more, but the beauty of the campsite setting, the joy of the French-ness of the local town, the short hop to the coast felt as if we did little and a lot.
French produce markets are a wonder, quality produce, good prices and fantastic smells. My aim in France was brocante markets and I did find a couple of those, they were more antiques than vintage or second-hand. A new discovery and favourite thing; vide grenier French car boot, we happily picked through French knick-knacks and coming away with, amongst other things, a vase, old metal badges and packets of toys sold for a 1 euro. We drove to a village billed as having a vide grenier, to discover the entire village closed to traffic and all the space turned over to braderie, second hand items, of every shape. My only frustration, that purchasing was limited by size of (the now deceased) small car (maybe I cursed it?).
Vive La France! I am already planning next summer.