This western half of the Normandy peninsula is dotted with lovely beach towns like Granville and Carteret, and is full of fields, sweeping beaches and surging tides, but not that many people.
Beach, Beach and Seafood
In Bricquebec, one such castle remains standing that was built in the 11th century! Though many of the buildings here were destroyed by both Allied and German bombs during World War 11, this castle was unscathed, as was the place we'd bed down for the night....Chateau le Val.
The Chateau goes back to the 16th century, co-owner Frans Tijssen told us, as we enjoyed an al fresco lunch in front of the big steps that lead into the castle.
He and his business partner Karin, originally from Holland, came to Normandy in the late '90s for a holiday. They ended up loving it here especially the climate, which some say is bad but is definitely an improvement over the Dutch lowlands.
"We can sleep 25 people for a wedding or a reunion," Karin told us. There are separate apartments including a two-bedroom unit with its own kitchen, so it's perfect for a large group who want to do some of their own cooking to save.
"Besides, out here in the French countryside, there aren't a lot of choices for restaurants. The whole places goes for $4500 weekly or about $1500 per night.
"The chateau was occupied by German officers during the war," Frans said. "it was used as a barracks. Right down the road there is a silo that was used to fire V-2 rockets at England."
The owners also have a pair of 'wolf dogs,' friendly beasts who live in a cage but are docile and friendly despite their uncanny resemblance to wild wolves.
Empty for Five Years
The property used to total 2500 acres in the 1860s. It took hundreds of hours of labor to renovate the walls, modernize the many large windows, and install a modern heating system.
One interesting building just in front of the chateau is a dove covey, a round building which was once filled with doves, each in their own little nest in wall-mounted cubbies. A thousand doves once called the cute round building their home.
Over a salad of olives, grilled sausages, green salad and fresh pate, Karin and Frans shared their story of renovation... on a royal scale! Today many of their visitors are from the Netherlands, The UK, and mainland Europe, not as many French vacation in Normandy.
In the garden he keeps a bread oven, that he heats up with logs and inserts bread dough. He makes a lot of bread, but not money. He gives it away, like much of the prolific produce he grows in the garden.
At the end of our visit, he brought out a bottle of a mysterious elixir called 44. He said to make it you take a bottle of calvados, mix in 44 oranges and 44 coffee beans, and let it ferment for three years.
This pale yellow liquid is 44, and it's quite strong and sweet tasting. Travert said he rarely ever leaves La Manche, and is nearly self sufficient with his Edenlike garden and bread baking. It's a good life here in Normandy.
Here there are tides that rival the great levels found in Newfoundland...boats are left leaning on their sides, beached until the next tide comes in.
It's whitewashed and has the feel of an inn on Cape Cod or Nantucket in Massachusetts. The pricey restaurant brings in big crowds and there's a pool tucked away behind the wood fence.
Dining in Normandy has its own charm, the biggest question is how the people eat so much delicious cheese and aren't fat. Some say the answer is reservatrol, the compound found in red wine.
Our guide also told us about the Norman Hole... it's when you're having a big dinner and you stop and take a shot of Calvados...BANG right down the hatch...then resume your meal. You gotta fill the Norman hole, I guess.
Like this on Facebook: