The cliffs of Normandy
While the Normandy coast doesn’t benefit from the same consistent soleil and azure seas as southern France, it does have an undeniable charm of its own. Small villages and the picturesque countryside still serve as home to the fisherman and farmers that are behind the region’s famous specialties.
Practically any restaurant you go to in Normandy will pair their freshest catch of the day with artisanal cider and locally grown, seasonal vegetables, a simple pleasure that is becoming rarer and rarer in France.
A weekend stay in the seaside city of Cabourg combines the pleasures of a beach getaway with the discovery of the area’s rich history. For a truly special treat, book a room at Le Grand Hotel whose most famous guest, Marcel Proust, immortalized the hotel in his writing. The ocean view rooms are unbeatable in this freshly renovated hotel.
The restaurant at the Grand Hotel
In late spring and summer you can enjoy breakfast or lunch at the hotel’s restaurant on the beach, a perfect start to a day of relaxing with a good book and your feet in the sand. If you didn’t spring for the pricey sea view from your room, book a spot at the hotel’s restaurant. The window lined lobby and dining room are the perfect place to watch the sun set.
The Grand Hotel Cabourg
For more modest accommodations, book a room at Le Cottage, which has charming rooms at reasonable prices and is centrally located. The hotel offers morning breakfast, which can be served in the quaint garden, weather permitting.
The town of Cabourg, while small and quiet during the off-season, has much to offer. Have a tea and patisserie at Dupont where you will find a delectable selection of chocolates, caramels, and confitures that make great gifts to bring home.
Normandy is know for its excellent dairy products and artisanal alcohols, combine the two at Chez Guillou, where the house cocktails are all made with a base of crème fraiche; such as the “Vallée d’Auge” (crème fraiche, liqueur de praline, Calvados) or the “Alexandra” (crème fraiche, Cognac, liqueur de cacao). Those who are lactose intolerant or faint of heart can opt for a more reasonable kir or coupe de champagne.
The scallop carpaccio at Le Baligan
For dinner head to Le Baligan where the butter and crème fraiche fête continues. Start with the homemade soupe de poissons followed by the house specialty fish marmite or seafood sauerkraut. The restaurant is a favorite among locals so be sure to reserve in advance, especially on weekends. If you can’t get a spot at Le Baligan, scour the restaurant menus and pick a spot that proposes sole meunière– this dish is a specialty in the region and it is well advised to take the opportunity to savor its butter-soaked succulence.
Cabourg is also a great starting off point for a number of day trips around the region. Immerse yourself in World War II history at the D-Day Beaches or stroll the sandy beaches of Deauville, famed for their yearly American Film Festival. Drive to Etrétat and experience the stunning views of the cliffs and rock formations typical of the northern coast. Head east and discover the charm of the quaint fishing village of Honfleur, which is home to the picture perfect narrow houses that surround the central dock as well as famed classical composer Erik Satie.
The harbor at Honfleur
For a truly surreal experience, visit Maisons Satie which is filled with eccentric exhibitions including an enormous winged glowing pear, a collection of the composer’s surrealist sketches, and other audiovisual delights.
Wherever your coastal travels take you, don’t forget to stop at a seaside cafe or port side restaurant and order some moules frites accompanied with artisanal cider!
The author and photographer, Emily Dilling Poulain in Cabourg
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