Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 555 : Traveling to the North

This morning after an early morning run, we set out to drive from Etoges in the Champagne region via Paris to Normandy where we would spend the next two and a half days touring around -- of course seeing the well-known beach sites of the battles of World War II, the seaside towns, and more.

Our first stop was the small town of Pont L'Eveque, where you guessed it, they have made since the 13th century, a washed rind cheese of the same name. Creamy and luscious on the interior with a light orange washed rind exterior. It is rustic and barnyardy and at least in the US, extremely pungent and definitely not one of my favorites. However the cheese we got today in Pont L'Eveque was out of this world -- artisanal, farmsteady, flavorful and all around fantastic. If you had put the Pont L'Eveque you get in the US next to this cheese, you would not think that they were the same cheese, that's for sure!

After Pont L'Eveque, we went for what was supposed to be a "gourmande" lunch at the Ferme San Simeon overlooking Honfleur, one of Normandy's seaside resort-y towns. The lunch was at a Relais Chateaux hotel with what promised to be a wonderful restaurant. Yes the view was wonderful, but that is where it stopped. 90 euros for a prix-fixe lunch that offered nothing really for vegetarians and if you ordered a la carte the only dish you could order was heirloom tomatoes prepared three ways for 59 euros, really? No matter how amazing those tomatoes were this just simply was ridiculous. So we inquired about having two salads which we received, however in a land of fresh produce and at the height of the produce season, these were the most uninspired salads, they were fine but boy they didn't stand out. And for what they cost, I could have gone out and bought ingredients myself and created a salad that was worlds better and even bought a bottle of wine to boot! Oh well, you live and you learn while traveling, right?

Moving right along, we drove to Deauville and Trouville, two French seaside resort towns that were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and unfortunately the charm and lovely qualities of the towns has faded. Nice to see but nicer to imagine what they might once have been.

Gosh the beginning of this trip to Normandy sounds not very exciting, well it definitely went way up hill from there! On our way back from Deauville and Trouville, we stopped into the Manoir d'Apreval, a local cidery where they make three of their own alcoholic ciders, apple juice, apple cider vinegar, calvados (the liqueur of the region, an apple brandy) and pommeau (a mixture of apple juice and calvados). After a tasting through all they had to offer, I settled on a fantastic bottle of demi-sec cider that was the height of delish! A truly local product made right there on the farm where we purchased it with the seventeen different apple varieties they grow on their twenty-five acres.

From our cider stop to our petit auberge, a gorgeous old world French farm house hotel set back from the seaside towns and in the country side, this was the height of French country relaxation that's for sure. Nothing too over the top and extravagant, just simple and beautiful! Stay tuned for tonight's dinner and tomorrow's trips to the World War II beaches.

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