After talking with a number of other exchange students, it seems like Normandy is a popular destinations for foreigners hoping to branch out and visit a new part of France. I had the opportunity to visit with a number of other people on my program September 15 and 16. You’ve already read about my experience at the American cemetery, but here are some other highlights from that weekend:
Giverny (Monet’s home/gardens)
We took a tour of Monet’s estate, which he not only designed himself but used as the basis of many of his works. My favorite parts were seeing the lily pad pond with the Japanese-inspired bridge and the field of flowers sorted by color. They say it changes in its appearance throughout the year, with new flowers popping up depending on the season, and that it will never look the exact same as it did when we saw it. We didn’t have a lot of time to wander around on our own, but of course we got some photos before heading out.
As the bus jolted to a stop for part 2 of your trip, I fell in love with charm of this small town. Right on the water, Honfleur is packed with restaurants, boats, and small shops. We first ate lunch, which, of course, meant seafood. I take any opportunity I can get to eat good food when it’s not overpriced like it is in Paris! Moules-frites seemed to be the popular choice amongst the locals, which I topped off with some French onion soup (aka onion soup when in France!) and an apple tart. Following lunch, we went on a walking tour of the town, during which we saw the church and a number of other local landmarks. And, of course, we had to take some more time to admire the view.
The Calvados Experience
When we realized we were doing an activity that involed alcohol, every immature college student on the bus (the entire bus) got pretty excited. This, however, was not exactly what we expected. The Calvados Experience is an over-the-top production that follows the creation of this local apple/pear brandy, calvados. As we moved from room to room and learned how Calvados came about and continues to be made, from the invasion of Vikings in the area to the collection of apples, it made us crave a sweet apple juice drink, maybe even cider. But, as we found out during the tasting, that is not exactly what calvados is. I had tears after just a sniff of the drink; needless to say, I was unable to fully participate in this cultural experience and put my glasses down after just a couple sips. Others, however, held their noses and downed their drinks. Didn’t seem worth it to me.
Yes, you’re reading that right. We arrived at the local convent, our five-star hotel for the night. We broke off into groups of twos and threes. Riana, Sophia, and I found our rooms and then headed to dinner. The cider they served was significantly better than the calvados, but still too alcoholic for my taste. Definitely more of a sparkling apple juice fan. We ate salad, chicken, vegetables, and rice, and I was honestly elated to finally be getting some vegetables into my diet. Then came the cheese, of course, which I did not partake in as a result of a poor experience with cheese and nausea a few weeks back, and dessert, which someone accurately described as an apple pie for someone on a diet (yet it still included lots of bread and sugar so maybe a French diet?). I may have been at a random convent full of nuns and way out of my element, but after everything else that day, I slept SO well that night!
The convent was located in Bayeux, part of the Normandy area. After a quick breakfast of bread and coffee (classic France), we went on a walking out of the city. Honestly what I really remember was getting a pain au chocolat from a local bakery because I was so hungry. We also saw a cathedral and the bar that a number of people had gone out to the night before when we were staying at the convent. Yes it feels wrong typing that out in the same sentence. Finally, we saw the Bayeux tapestry, which is super long and I was super tired and the tour was all in French so once again, I cannot provide much insight. Apparently, it’s actually famous internationally, so that’s cool.
Lunch at the Chateau
Ok, so this was not exactly a castle, more like a farmhouse, but it was a pretty impressive setup in the room where we ate. Colorful lanterns and string lights on the ceiling set the vibe and while most people drank wine, I opted for Coke because I knew I would fall asleep otherwise. We ate bread, of course, then duck with some minty beans (?). As you can probably tell, I was not the biggest fan of the “minty beans,” as I prefer to keep mind far away from savory foods, but the duck was tasty and it was nice to try something new. I skipped out on the cheese once again, but thankfully, had a real dessert this time. Chocolate lava cake and whipped cream. Oh my.
Our last stop for the weekend was the American Cemetery; you can read about my experience there here. Hope you enjoyed this update and hope I can get better at posting on time!
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