Europe 2017 – Part 2 – Normandy

Saturday, September 23

We got an early start this morning and drove to Caen, arriving in time to do a little walking tour before lunch at Bouchon du Vaugueux.

Caen took a severe blow in the Normandy invasion, and the surviving bits of the old town are stitched into modern buildings in a tasteful manner that maintains the original scale and style of the city.

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Bouchon du Vaugueux

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This is a very small and charming place, with warm and caring service.  The many choices are listed on blackboards.  We chose the two-course menu at 25 euros, starting with a chunk of lightly smoked salmon with black caviar and ginger, and foie gras. Next were veal kidneys and steak.  The food is simple but very tasty.  Accompanied by a bottle of Cotes du Rhone, Domaine des Violettes, and coffee, the bill came to 70 euros.

 

http://www.bouchonduvaugueux.com/

After lunch, a quick drive to Bayeux, a lovely town but a bit overrun with tour buses, etc.  The Tapisserie de Bayeux (Bayeux Tapestry), depicting the events leading to the Norman conquest, is a must see.

 

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We also stopped into the Cathedral.

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Saint Robert

Back in Caen, or Saint Contest to be more precise, we checked into the B&B Hotel, no frills but quite comfortable and cheap (43 euros a night), just a few minutes drive from the center of town.  It’s also totally quiet, and the beds are especially comfortable.  We asked for extra pillows, as we always do, and slept very well.

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Dinner was at Le Dauphin, where the specialty is the tripe.

Le Dauphin

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A nondescript hotel dining room, it offers a menu at 30 euros that is quite satisfying.  We began with a presse of chicken, and salmon with small shrimp and avocado.  Next we both had the famous tripe, served in a jus with carrots and potatoes, very good.  Dessert was a pear mousse on a cake base with ice cream.  With a bottle of Beaume de Venise, the total was 88 euros.

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http://www.le-dauphin-normandie.com/165-le-restaurant

Sunday, September 24

Today our plan was to visit Honfleur and Deauville, with stops in a couple of charming towns, Pont l’Eveque and Beuvron en Auge.  We set out in the morning and programmed the GPS, or “Madame”, as we decided to call it (due to her tyrannical insistence on directing us to toll roads, even though we had programmed it to avoid them).  Unfortunately, this meant we had to ignore her and rely on our map and the road signs.

The first stop was Pont l’Eveque, where we stopped to stroll and take some photos.

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Then on to Honfleur, where we walked around the harbor before lunch.

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St. Catherine church

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Bell tower

After checking out several restaurants, all from the Michelin guide, ignoring the hundreds of others which looked like tourist traps, we settled on L’Ecailleur, and it turned out to be a fabulous choice.

L’Ecailleur

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From the 31 euro menu, we chose the oysters and a combination of shrimp and sea snails to start, then had cod on a cream sauce with Middle Eastern spices, ratatouille, and mashed potatoes, and a breast of pintade (Guinea hen) with fried sweet potatoes.  For dessert I had a molten chocolate cake, very intensely chocolatey, with ice cream, and Stanley had an apple crumble.  With a bottle of Cotes de Provence rose and coffees, the bill was 96 euros.

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Service was perfect, and the decor evokes the inside of a yacht.

http://www.lecailleur.fr/

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After lunch, we drove along the very pretty coastal road to Deauville, and not finding a place to park, continued on through as far a Villers sur Mer.  Then, after some further difficulties with Madame, found our way to Beuvron en Auge, passing through some very scenic countryside.

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Back in Caen, we chose Le P’tit B for dinner.  Michelin showed no restaurants in Caen that are open on Sundays, so I had to resort to Tripadvisor, where a poster noted that this restaurant was a cut above the tourist traps that line Rue du Vaugueux.  It turned out to be an excellent choice.

Le P’tit B

The 31 euro three course menu offers many choices.  I started with six oysters, while Stanley had a vichysoisse with crab.  He had a duck breast with cherry sauce while I had skewers of rouget and shrimp, with saffron risotto.  For dessert, another molten chocolate cake, this one less intense but good nonetheless, and a strawberry “tarte” with white chocolate in a white chocolate shell on top of a nut and crumb base.

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With a bottle of Coteaux Bourguignons, the bill was 88 euros.

The atmosphere is charming and service attentive.

http://leptitb.fr/

Monday, September 25

The day started out drizzly, so we visited the Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen in the morning where we encountered that charming French habit of ecclesiastical Muzak.

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Tomb of William the Conqueror

then set out on a scenic trip southward, and as we drove the weather improved, getting sunny on and off during the afternoon.  We passed through some charming old villages, stopping for lunch in Flers, a nondescript town, but one with a restaurant with a Bib Gourmand in Michelin.

Au Bout de la Rue

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We loved our table because we could see directly into the kitchen.  It was fun to watch the cooks at work, and note that it was so spotless and well organized.

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The weekday lunch menus, at 19.50 for 2 courses and 24.50 for three, are a great bargain.  Stanley ordered the three-course, but I was tempted to splurge a bit by ordering the day’s specials a la carte.  I had the ris de veau (sweetbreads) with broccoli (15 euros), pickled red onion and greens in a vinaigrette, and lieu jaune (yellow pollock) with trumpet mushrooms and spinach (18.50).  Stanley started with smoked herring in a “cheesecake” with beets, then had a slow-roasted loin of pork with an orange sauce (utterly superb).  We shared his dessert of raspberry semifreddo with raspberry coulis.

With a wonderfully intense bottle of Madiran, and coffee, the total was 93.20.

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https://www.auboutdelarue.com/

We then made our way back to Caen through more scenic countryside, confounding Madame as much as possible.  For our last night in Caen, dinner was at Villa Eugene, a modern restaurant on the outskirts of the city.

Villa Eugene

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This was another great choice.  The extensive menu is entirely a la carte, and quite reasonably priced.  The decor is someone’s idea of hip, not mine, but it’s nice that the lighting is not harsh like in so many restaurants in France, and there are candles on the tables.  A cordial welcome and nice service are pluses.  The food is French but with some Italian overtones.

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We started with vitello tonnato and croque monsieur of langoustines, then had ris de veau with langoustines, and  filet of Saint Pierre (British name John Dory).  I was thrilled to find Saint Pierre, which is similar in flavor and comparable in price and quality to Dover sole, for only 22 euros.  It was a real treat.  Desserts were le St. HO, a variation on St. Honore cake, cream puffs topped with whipped cream and served on a shortbread, and a white chocolate sphere filled with raspberry sorbet and topped with a hot raspberry sauce that melts the sphere.  As you may have guessed, the cooking here is creative.

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With a bottle of Cotes du Rhone for only 21 euros, the total was 108.50.

http://villa-eugene.fr/

Tuesday, September 26

Heading to Dinan in Brittany (next post coming soon) , we stopped at Mont St. Michel on the way.  I was there thirty-two years ago, but it was Stanley’s first visit and I enjoyed  seeing it again.  I would highly recommend arriving early.  We got there at 10:00 and it was not yet crowded, but when we left around noon the tour buses had arrived and the hordes were swarming up the hill.  I won’t do a detailed description as the photos pretty much tell it all.

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Restoration of the cloister in progress.

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