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!

 

Siblu pool Bonne Anse Plage

Our chosen Siblu Village, Bonne Anse Plage is situated on the Atlantic close about half way down in between La Rochelle and Bordeaux. Run your finger down the coast of France and you’ll find a large estuary La Gironde and it’s right on the tip at La Palmyre, an incredibly peaceful setting immersed in pine forests and nature.

The accommodation is mobile homes most of which are owner’s homes let out over the peak season. Ours an Esprit, was comfortable and spacious we liked it instantly but would suggest an outside decking area as it offers another ‘room’ and after three days of solid rain the ground was very muddy, as careful as we were it got dragged into the home.

On checking in we were handed the keys, a map of the site and an entertainment guide which came into it’s own on rainy days as we were able to keep the girls occupied at the children’s club where they could colour, paint, sing and play games along with children of a similar age.

Siblu Holidays in France

The entertainment staff are incredibly friendly and professional, all are multi lingual and shows are held in French and English! Once our girls got the hang of it there was no dragging them away from the dance floor or the games. I loved the fact that when a child was declared ‘out’ they joined the ‘Crazy Conga’ where, if they were the craziest, they got to win a prize too!

Siblu Bubbles Club

I think the highlight of our stay here at Bonne Anse Plage has to be the HEATED swimming pool. It is The. Best. Ever.

Divided into three pools, the shallow children’s pool has a step in and out, it has a fabulous lighthouse slide at one end and a curly slide at the other which my two were on All Day. I even tried it myself and the tip is to lie on your back and lift your bottom if you want to go faster ;)

The other two pools are separated by a low wall, on one side the ‘adult pool’ with one section roped off for serious lane swimming (yes I did do 6 lengths one day) The other side is 60 cms deep and has two colourful centre pieces for the children to play around. And of course the three slides red, green and yellow each one brilliant.

This has been a brilliant holiday, the weather hasn’t been the best but then it’s crazy all over Europe right now, Other Half enquired about coming back next year in July. Other Half even went to view the mobile homes up for sale with an idea of his much desired retirement one day (he’s got 20 years to go but he likes to dream)

So chances are we’ll be back here one day. I’d thoroughly recommend it and coming soon a post on our travels around the area, Ile d’Oleron, fresh oysters and a gorilla called Mike.

I’ll leave you with a video of our Siblu holiday, my PC is on the blink so there are a few blackouts towards the end but after three days working on it I decided to go with it anyway, enjoy!

About Siblu Villages

Siblu owns 15 holiday villages across France in popular locations from Normandy to the Cote d’Azur. Most parks have large pool complexes which are monitored by lifeguards at all times, three free children’s clubs for 1-4s, 5-9s and 10-14s, evening entertainment with shows, singers and other family friendly entertainment, and a wide array of sports facilities, including multi-sports pitches.

Siblu has sold holidays to France for more than 30 years and takes around 120,000 customers from the UK every year. Siblu’s teams are a mix of French and English speakers and activities and shows are delivered in both languages.

Disclosure :- Siblu kindly offered us 7 nights in an Esprit home in return for an honest review of their holidays in France. We loved it and we also paid for an extra 4 nights to prolong our stay… we wished we’d stayed an extra week.

Look at that choice of red wine!

I suppose many have seen recently in the papers and dotted around internet the excellent promotions being organised to fill up our ferries going back and forth to France. Well at £18 for our car and all four of us, we thought we’d give it a go and booked up for a day trip to France.

I remember as a teenager I used to get very excited at a day trip to France, back then it was new and seen as very chic, something to boast about in class and nudge up your street cred a couple of notches. Then we all heard about Booze Cruises, people making the journey to visit the hypermarkets and stock up their home bars to the hilt. Photos of cars laden with crates and crates of beer unloading at Dover made us all giggle and look down our noses a bit at the peasants who obviously ‘Had a Problem’

Well that’s just what we did last week, such peasants! :) We caught the 9.15am boat and eagerly climbed the stairs to the restaurant for the well advertised Full English Breakfast – Buy One Get One Free or BOGOF as they are commonly known. I joined the queue whilst Paul and the girls grabbed a table and collected my breakfasts which looked absolutely delicious. I got to the till and my smile was wiped clean from my face when I was presented with a bill for £18.36 (2 x ketchup, 2 x Farmhouse b’fast, 2 x cups of tea)

‘Buy One Get One Free?’ I asked.

‘Have you got the voucher dear?’

No, I didn’t have a voucher and therefore I wasn’t entitled to the offer even if it was advertised on their website with no mention of voucher.

Promotions beckon

A little disgruntled but not enough to ruin my day, we visited the onboard shop to collect our 6 bottles of wine as advertised on their website. Queues of customers lined up with boxes of J.P Chennet Chardonnay and I too collected my box and joined the queue.

‘Have you got your voucher love?’

‘What this one?’ I offered her a voucher that had been given to me at check in claiming 1 free bottle of wine.

‘Yep, that’s it.’ One free bottle of wine, how are you paying for the others?’

I pulled out my print offs from their website showing Full English Breakfasts – BOGOF, and the promise of 6 bottles of wine and asked why I couldn’t access any of these excellent offers. A manager came over and with a pained expression explained it depended on which link I had gone through as to what I was entitled to.

‘But that is not explained on your web site is it? There is no mention and I find that very misleading.

Needless to say a shrug of the shoulders and I’m a ‘very sorry’ is all I got. It was quite obvious he had had thousands of similar complaints and just redirected us all to the web site with a ‘Maybe try contacting them directly’

Booze Cruise winter 2010

We didn’t let this ruin our day either, not the foul weather, not the bad meal we had at Citte’ d’ Europe but now it is time to find a few answers from P&O and ask for a little clarity on their website methinks.

I would still throughly recommend these day trips as excellent quality. Just make sure you get the right link so as not to be disappointed with your gifts or lack of them like we were.