Following a two hour or so train from Paris to Normandy we arrived to the main train station of Caen, picked up our rental car and made our way toward the coastal road to spend the day sightseeing the famously chic, Deauville (oft referred to as the Hamptons of France) and then Honfleur before making our to an evening at a priory turned B&B.
The first sight in Deauville is a fleet of sailboats, the sun shines brightly and the water is deep blue. Narrow streets lead us to a market in the main square.
Deauville has a 1,000 year old history but has only been the renowned resort it is today since the 1860s with a large credit to Duc Charles Auguste Louis Joseph de Morny. The Duc helped establish a railway direct from Paris to the northern ville, the hippodrome for horse races, and a small casino. Today, it remains an epicenter for horsing events with an added Hollywood history since the Deauville American Film Festival first began in 1975.
The market had been lovely to pass through and I picked out a decorative pillow case to bring home which sported a crop, tall boots and a helmet.
Port at Honfleur
We were back on the road that hugs the Atlantic coastline and made our way to Honfleur. The sight of the port is an impressive staggering of buildings leaned against each other for support. It’s beauty has been captured by some of the greats including Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet and Johan Jongkind. On this summer day, I recall lots of bright colors but also lots of charcoal grey buildings throughout the village.
We chose a restaurant along the port, a delicious menu of seafood fare with gorgeous presentations on the plate to match. To describe the oysters of Honfleur — even growing up in an old fishing town, it was like this was my first oyster. Perfect in texture and size and a taste that resonated with the natural saltiness of the Atlantic Ocean. I think the next time I order oysters, I’ll have to go back to Honfleur to truly satisfy the craving.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon strolling through shops and meandering to our evening’s abode in time for the last hours of daylight and a home cooked meal at The Priory at Gouvix.
View from our bedroom window
Along the way, we passed wooden sign carved with Calvados, an apple liquor local to the region. We pulled into the driveway of an ivy covered home, and knocked on the door. Inside an old woman provided a menu of four options, organized by age and made on the premises. We left with a 12-year bottle.
A few windy, narrow roads later — both enchanting and terrifying when the mammoth oncoming semi would appear to come head on every now and again — we had arrived.
The inn was once a priory dating back to the 1800s and out our window we could see the old church, now mostly unused.
David, a British expat had bought and converted the family-owned home years ago and proved to be a chef extraordinaire but with such effortlessness it was as though, eating anything less than farm and backyard garden to table delightfulness would just be uncivilized.
We, and the other guests of the priory, strangers until dinner, gathered around the outdoor table to enjoy delectable courses. We were among two veteran British soldiers including an Ammunition Technical Officer, affectionately shortened as ATO, who spent many of his days in Belfast during The Troubles, a very sweet couple on their first trip across the pond from the North of London with thick accents recognizable from Guy Ritchie films. To the west of Deauville, where we would adventure through the next day is home to Omaha Beach, a memory still fresh for this part of France.
There was a large antipasto salad of burrata and prosciutto with fresh melon. Following, a slow roasted chicken from the nearby farm. Dessert, a whipped up peach cobbler. Everything from about a 1km radius of farm fresh.
And of course, the wine, Calvados and Apple Ciders flowed.
Ultimate cheese plate
Out came the cheese platter, a delicious assortment of Camembert, bries and local choices. A local choice, also the most fantastic of the bunch, was a semi firm, yet perfectly smooth, creamy and sharp amazing palette explosion that can only be bought near Gouvix.
After a deep, if slightly tipsy and overstuffed sleep once the sun went down close to 11pm we awoke at dawn to cool crisp morning air, golden light and roosters calling. Looking out the window of our room and down to the dining table, yet another gorgeous breakfast awaited us with homemade yogurts and jams, croissants from the nearby patisserie and freshly brewed coffee. A glorious ease into the day before journeying through WWII history, with our first stop at the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc.
Pointe du Hoc