french bed sign

I love looking for souvenirs when I am on holiday and our trip to Honfleur was no exception. I loved these metal plaques stacked in twistable frames, there were a few that caught my eye and some, like this one, that made me smile.

This one epitomises, Ohh la la to me.

I didn’t buy it as I wouldn’t know where to hang it but it does go to show the difference between our countries and what is acceptable in both.

What do you think?

Claude Monet Giverny

One of the great things about summer holidays in new areas is visiting local sites of beauty or historic interest and Normandy certainly has an abundance of it, so much I had to pick and choose as 5 year olds don’t take too kindly to being dragged away from the swimming pool!

When I say local, I mean within a reasonable distance and Giverny is about a one and half hour drive from Honfleur but it was very well worth it.

In Giverny you will find the home of Claude Monet with the gardens he created including the water garden with the world famous water lilies.

Because of the enormous amount of interest the entire village of Giverny is now dedicated to tourists and there is a fabulous free car park at the beginning of the village with an underground passage under the busy road.

We were in a queue for at least half an hour but I did see others ‘jump’ it with their tickets bought online so do keep this in mind and check out the site before you go.

The tour starts in the shop and there is every souvenir imaginable to tempt your Euros out of your pocket.

Claude Monet Giverny

We started our tour with the gardens as after a gloomy, wet drive the sun came out and I didn’t know how long it was going to last.

Claude Monet Giverny

In front of the house in a central point is a wide avenue with arches where plants are scrambling up, I could imagine the joy Monet had walking down and maybe picking a few flowers for his desk. Rows and rows of flowers in parallel lines each row themed a different colour.

Claude Monet Giverny

Claude Monet Giverny

and an underground passage takes you over to the water garden which is stunning. Following the walkways we were delighted by many different views of the pond, the water lilies were in flower and there was a peace in the air and a serenity that was overwhelming.

Claude Monet Giverny

and the water lilies …

Claude Monet Giverny

me and the girls family portrait ;)

Claude Monet Giverny

and this last one from the other end

Claude Monet Giverny

Anyone remember his paintings with the boats on the lake? I saw the boats!

Claude Monet Giverny

With the gardens completed it was time to visit the house and no photography was allowed inside which is a shame as his study was filled with his artwork. His bedroom was home to gifts of paintings from his close friends, Cezanne, Renior, Manet, Pissarro and Rodin.

Claude Monet Giverny

His dining room was yellow, two shades of yellow – completely yellow which Bessie thought was the most beautiful room she had ever seen but she loves Belle and the Beast and yellow is her favourite colour.

Claude Monet Giverny

Alice was taken with the kitchen and so was I, tiled with pretty blue tiles and copper pans shining hung around the room with the most massive oven and cooking berth imaginable. The only photo I was permitted to take was the view from Claude’s bedroom window, what a sight to wake up to eh?

Claude Monet Giverny

This will go down as one of my Normandy highlights and if you get a chance do visit, we were charged £9.50 per adult and children under 7 go free. Just be warned, a small bottle of coke and a small bottle of apple juice bought from the bar heading back to the car park cost us €8 = £8

moules mariniere

When in France eat like the French and what meal comes more to mind on the northern coast of Normandy than Moules Mariniere?

On visiting the beautiful town of Honfleur all of the restaurants lining the Vieux Bassin offer Moules mariniere with pommes frites and un verre de vin blanc, now that is music to my ears.

Honfleur fish market

When shopping in the local hypermarket or the fish market on Honfleur harbour, the choice of fish and shellfish is out of this world, live crab and lobster, Cabillaud (cod) snails and tons of moules. We decided to buy some mussels and have a go at the French recipe.

market honfleur

The fishmonger advised half a kilo of moules per person and the first thing to do when you get back home is to clean them making sure all the seaweed is pulled from the shells. A good rinse under cold running water and you’re ready to go.

mafrket stall honfleur

Chop a small onion and a clove of garlic and sweat it in a large pan that will hold all of the mussels.

garlic market stall France

Add a glass of white wine and bring to the boil.

moules mariniere

Add the mussels to the liquid and cover for 3 – 4 minutes

moules mariniere

Throw on a generous handful of chopped parsley and stir

moules mariniere

Serve with fresh bread

moules mariniere

Bon appetit!

moules mariniere

Some of our holiday photos of Honfleur, Normandy France – more to come

honfleur france vieux bassin

The beautiful Vieux Bassin in Honfleur and a family portrait.

family portrait Honfleur

Normandie Brittany FerriesIt seems a lifetime ago now that we were in France and enjoying our Siblu holiday in France at Bonne Anse Plage and as an extra to that holiday we were asked to review a Brittany Ferries crossing from Portsmouth to Caen.

Now as we practically live on the Eurotunnel doorstep it made more sense for us to make our own way down departure day, we could rise at the crack of dawn and be opening a beer by 4pm in our holiday home but for our return we were allocated an overnight crossing and decided to see what it was all about, after all we both love a ferry crossing and rarely these days get to do one.

We arrived in the town of Caen early and decided to eat before the 9pm boarding our last plate of moules marinieres for a while and then we visited check in at the port to find out which cabin would be ours. We were efficiently ushered on board and once parked we took our overnight bag and made our way to our overnight accommodation.

waiting to board in Caen

A neat and tidy room with four bunks, a window and a bathroom, the girls LOVED it and wanted the top bunks but as there were no guards we made them sleep below. Before retiring for the night, we explored the ferry and found some great bars and eateries, a children’s room with soft play and drawing tables too. There was an onboard Duty Free and I treated myself to a perfume only to find I could have bought it cheaper from a high street chemist which was annoying.

Brittany Ferries

It ended up being quite a late night for us seeing as we didn’t board until 9pm so we all gratefully crawled into our comfortable bunks when the time came.

Brittany Ferries onboard pics

The alarm in the morning is soft, pleasant music coming through the system and a few warnings that we are approaching land at 5.30am! THAT ladies and gentlemen is early in my book but needs must so we woke, got the girls up and ventured out on the search for some breakfast. There were plenty of places to choose from and plenty of time to eat too. I’m not chatty at the best of times in the morning but at that time of day forget it.

The ferry was brought into port, the cars drove off and before we knew it we were back in a very grey and wet UK after such an amazing holiday.

Brittany Ferries pics

I was very impressed with Brittany Ferries, the room was clean and comfortable, I’d have liked to ask the captain to let me sleep a bit longer but hey-ho you can’t have everything in life.

For us, it wasn’t the best option as we live so close to the Eurotunnel, had we carried on up the motorway to Calais we’d have been home the same day as leaving La Palmyre BUT for anyone living to the west or north of the UK and travelling to France this would be the perfect option and cut out a hell of a lot of mileage for you and therefore cost of petrol too. I would definitely consider it in that case. It would also save you travelling time  and when we’re talking holidays this is of utmost importance.

I can assure you the staff on board were all incredibly professional, I didn’t hear any noise around me from other rooms and our crossing was very a smooth experience from start to finish.

melon au port - Caen

Last supper, I ordered Melon au Port wondering how a port would serve melon and they served it quite simply by filling it with a glass of port! Should have guessed that one!

Disclosure – We were offered a return journey by Brittany Ferries, we only took half for reasons explained above and if you are closer to Portsmouth than the Eurotunnel and heading south into France this would be the ideal means of getting there in a relaxed and leisurely fashion.

 

oysters from MarennesOne of my favourite things about travelling is understanding the local customs. Trying, for the short period of time that I’m there, to fit in and live their life for a while; drink their drinks, visit their local places of interest and more importantly try their food.

Our recent holiday in France was another of my trying out periods and one product Charente Maritime is very popular for is huitres or oysters to you and me. Now oysters aren’t an every day food product for us, the last time I had them Paul and I were on our way to Washington and we had stopped off at the beautiful town Annapolis. We found a fabulous restaurant looking over the harbour and ordered oysters which came prepared and served on a bed of ice, a delicious meal.

So when I saw all the huitres farms dotted over the local area I knew trying was a must. We took a short trip to Marennes – Cite de l’huitres and explored the town centre and market place.

Marennes cite de la huitre

With my pigeon French I managed to ask a fish seller where we could buy some oysters and I understood his directions (miracle) and directed us to Chenal de la Cayenne where we found this

Chenal de la Cayenne

A lovely lady who didn’t speak a word of English demonstrated how to open the shells (I so wish I had captured it on video) and passed me her opened oyster to try – I couldn’t remember chew or don’t chew? In my doubt I swallowed it down whole and was instantly reprimanded by the lady, ‘No, you must chew!’ she said in French

oysters from marennes

‘Why?’ I asked after all I’m sure somewhere I read that you shouldn’t.

“It’s better for your digestion as they are difficult to digest.’ came her reply

Marvellous! I’m going to end up with a dodgy tummy too!

I enjoyed my oysters but Paul was a bit disappointed with his and we stuck to Moules Marinieres and Maigre the local fish from La Gironde after that but one product that did catch his eye in the supermarket was this

choux de bruxelles

Now either you’re a brussel sprout fan or not, and come the winter I do them quite frequently with roasts and various other meals especially our Christmas Dinner but brussels in a tin I draw the line at.

He insisted, we are on holiday so I caved in and needless to say they returned to the UK with us along with local pate’s, biscuits in pretty tins and tinned sardines too.

Eager to get rid of them I proposed them with an evening meal and they were disgusting.

I tried one and there was no texture at all to it, I squashed it with my tongue against the roof of my mouth after which I pushed all of mine to one side, Paul kept on trying and ended up admitting they were horrible too. Defeated!