I love France. In particular I love Normandy and Brittany. I love the people, the granite farmhouses, the sleepy fishing villages, the rolling countryside and of course the bread, croissants, crêpes, cidre and especially the calvados, so I had been really looking forward to this trip to the Cotentin peninsula.
We flew into Dinard, hired a car, and drove to Dinan for lunch. This is one of my favourite towns and I find it very hard to pass through this area of France without stopping and wandering through the mediaeval streets.
Our first evening was to be in Granville but Gilly wanted to stop at a cemetery on the way. For those of you who do not know Gilly, I should explain that this was the Mont des Huines German war cemetery where slave workers from the Channel Islands were buried and was all in the line of her research. The photo above is Mont Saint Michel and was taken from the cemetery.
The next morning we took a boat to Chausey.
Les isles de Chausey are a small archipelago of islands 17km (10 miles) off the coast of Normandy in the English Channel (La Manche).
They are, in effect, Channel Islands, except that they are owned by France and the Channel Islands are a self-governed part of the British Isles.
We wanted to visit the island to see how it differed from the other Channel Islands. The main island of Chausey has a permanent population of about 30 people and is very reminiscent of Herm. This actually came as a bit of a surprise as I had always thought that the island was bigger and had a greater population.
The trip allowed for about 3 hours on the island and so we had time to explore and exclaim to each other at the similarities to Herm around every corner.
Back in Granville we had a cute apartment overlooking a square and, with several restaurants close by, the only dilemma was where to eat!
Leaving Granville behind we drove up the coast to Barneville-Carteret. I had heard a lot about Carteret over the years and was ready to be impressed by a cute seaside town with cafés and a bustling market. Unfortunately these are one horse towns with not much going on. I had just said to Gilly that I would not be surprised to see somebody I know around here when we bumped into old friends of mine from Guernsey (Pete & Lorraine Rose) who were visiting with their boat. We joined them in a trip to the hypermarché in Barneville where we stocked up on supplies of Calvados to take home with us.
Having failed to find the beach at Carteret, which we are told is the prettiest part, we headed inland to Briquebec (left) where we stopped to look around the castle and the old town (below).
That night we stayed at a beautiful château in Le Rozel. We arrived while the château was hosting a market for the local village so we hastily checked in and joined the fun. There was local produce including artisan breads and cakes which we bought for lunch the next day. Then we played quoits, archery and table football.
The only drawback was that it was in the middle of nowhere so we had to drive about 7 miles to find the nearest restaurant in Diélette.
Afer breakfast we had a look around the various out-houses and walked through the woods before moving on toward Le Nez de Jobourg.
Le Nez de Jobourg is almost the most northerly point of the peninsula and about as close as you can get to Alderney without getting your feet wet. This area again felt very familiar; the landscape and the architecture was very similar to Guernsey's south coast.
You can clearly see Alderney in the background of the above picture. We could also see both Jersey and Guernsey from here and I felt just a little homesick knowing that many of my friends were so close but just out of reach.
We were heading to Barfleur but had one more stop to make on the way in the pretty fishing village of St. Vaast La Hougue.
We took our time wandering around the harbour, soaking up the atmosphere, listening to the seagulls and eating lunch.
This was my favourite kind of day. A warm summer day with the sun glinting off the sea and the tang of sea salt in the air. We could take our time watching the fishermen mend their nets, locals sipping coffee or something stronger outside the cafés, and children playing by the boats, ice-cream in hand. Best of all I didn't have to worry about work!
There was a similarly relaxed atmosphere in Barfleur (below).
Here we had booked into a self-catering fisherman's cottage right by the harbour and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the town and deciding where to have our next meal. As you will have noticed by now, food is never far from my mind. Next on the agenda was a little drive further up the coast to the Utah Beach Museum where the American section of the D-Day landings took place.
Nearby was the town of Sainte Mere Eglise where a paratrooper got caught in the tower of the church (above) and if you look closely he is still there!
There were a lot of American tourists here, as you can imagine, and the local area is certainly geared up to catering for them.
In fact the entire town's economy seems to rely on the U.S. dollar, from the American diner style restaurants to the 'Hairbourne' barber's shop, and from the many shops selling morally questionable militaria souvenirs to our bedroom that night which had a definite U.S. military theme.
Overall, it was a battery-recharging break, driving down country lanes which had echoes of the Channel Islands around every corner in their names, their granite farmhouses and walls, and in their atmosphere.
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