17 Sep 2009

Normandy Interlude

Bayeux tapestry, normandy, french essence, vicki archer


It is ‘raining , pouring the old man is snoring’ kind of weather this week in St Remy. The chill is well and truly in the air and the mist is hanging low and heavy over the house this morning. There are no complaints because I have had many sun filled and scorching days this summer but there is always a little part of me that laments the changing seasons; it is just one way that makes me only too aware that the clock is always ticking.
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Last week was entirely different and the days were warm and balmy; the strength of the sun’s rays made it hard to believe autumn had arrived. Mr FF and I drove up to Normandy to meet with friends for a few days and were greeted by blue skies; Normandy, capital of cream and camenbert, performed beautifully. With a colder and wetter climate than Provence, a climate reminiscent of England, we were expecting to rug up and spend our time looking out from beneath an umbrella. The umbrellas stayed in the car along with the sweaters, scarves and hats. I asked a local girl what the fuss was about, ‘ bad weather in Normandy’….I didn’t believe it. All I could see were clear skies ahead. She told me that July and possibly August are the two months of the year that don’t require heating and that normally it rains steadily throughout the year. It seems we were lucky.
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We explored lots, we saw lots and we ate lots. I learned that Normandy produces only four cheeses, Camenbert, Livarin, Pont l’Eveque – all named for the Norman towns where they were originally made – and the heart shaped Neufchatel, one of the oldest cheeses in France. If you are a cheese lover like me, a visit to this part of the world can only be described as deadly, dangerous and delicious. Bad weather and there is kind of an excuse to eat up. I had no excuse; weather was fine, dining was finer.
In between savoring the dairy delights of Normandy we managed to visit Joan of Arc’s Rouen, the riviera of the North and racing town of Deauville and the quaint fishing port of Honfleur.

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We spent the morning of September 11 at Omaha beach and were touched beyond words; the memorial for those brave soldiers lost in the June 1944 D Day landings is emotionally charging but also a tranquil, fitting and serene resting place for our heroes. That afternoon we went to Bayeux and saw the 70 metre long linen embroidered cloth (not technically a tapestry) commemorating the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England nearly a 1000 years earlier. Two battles, nearly eight hundred years apart remembered in entirely different ways but both equally extraordinary and moving.
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We visited Monet’s Giverny and yes it is just like the paintings. The water garden was the highlight for me and I have come home with an overwhelming urge to find water lilies for our pond. His home is maintained as it was and I presume that the gardens are re-planted each year as close to his original vision as possible. The flower gardens are a riot of colour; large cascading blooms overflowing and crowding the narrow paths and intricate walkways. This garden, unlike many French gardens, has a sense of mischief and fun to it; nothing clipped and nothing too serious.
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As I finish writing this little recap the mist is still hovering and the rain is gently falling. I can imagine Normandy on a day such as this; the wild rocky coastline and the contented cows grazing on her rich pastures. I can picture the mottled rose coloured hydrangeas that grace the roadways, fill the vases in the restaurants and the bunches that are sold for a song in the markets. I can envisage Monet in his garden surrounded by the flowers so dear to his heart,


I can feel for Joan of Arc and the life so perilously cut short in Rouen and I will never forget D Day, 1066 and all that. xv

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Shelley Trbuhovich

i have such happy memories of a family reunion (with my english side) in normandy, there was no rain at all, just plenty of cheese and cream eating and site-seeing and laughter during late, late wine consuming evenings….a very fitting farewell to my terminally ill uncle. ten years later, we are planning to do it all again, in memory of our beloved uncle/brother/father to my cousins, but this time in bordeaux in 2010! femme de montmartre -melbourne, australia


Blogs are wonderful things, a vehicle to transport anyone to a place of beauty, real or imagined. This blog is part of my morning meditation. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for sharing. Sandi

Little Rus

Monet's house and garden do look like his paintings! Amazing and so special when you think that he lived there. I always treasure this kind of experience of visiting homes where truly famous people lived, inhaling the air and soaking up the atmosphere. It's so inspirational.

mimi charmante

Chris and I spent nearly two weeks driving around Normandy and Bretagne five years ago and fell in love. We were there for the 60th anniversary of D day which made it so incredibly special. Thank you for posting this today as it gives me the inspiration to go back again soon! However, this time, we will be driving around the south~

Deja Pseu

What a nice "tour" you've given us, merci! I've always wanted to see the Bayeux Tapestry. Monet's home in Giverny is one of my very favorite places visited in France (so far). It was such a thrill to be in the spot where he painted and look at the same scenery!

Linda Merrill

Amazing to spend 9/11 at the American Cemetary. I was there a few years ago and it's quite powerful to stand in that tranquil setting and imagine what D-Day was like.

My one regret when I was there was not having seen the Bayeux tapestry. I think the museum was closed and I was only there for a day a half. Anyway, thanks for the tour!


you capture the moment so serenly…in words and ways to make anyone want to visit. One of your many talents, sounds like you had a delightful time!


I have always hear that Normandy is a wonderful place and your description just deepened my desire to see it for myself. I always love your take on the places you visit, Vicki! Thank you. xx

Pamela Terry and Edward

What a wonderful trip. I feel as though I went along with you. And yes, you must find some waterlilies! It would be a dreadful waste of a pond if you do not!!!

Happy Rainy day to you. We have the same weather here today.


Your photos bring me directly to where you were.

Very interesting. Through your lens, I can see other parts of the world.

Thank you


As always, a sheer delight. Merci beaucoup for all the intriguing beautiful and informative posts.
As a fellow Francophile, your words and images are tres recherche du temp perdu! (without the slightly negative nuance of the word recherche of course.) I am now addicted to your blog!


I love when you give a French History tour— your words are so eloquent and descriptive I feel like I am there touring with you and FF.

Beautiful photos — happy you had nice weather!


Angie Muresan

Oh Vicki, I never need an excuse to eat! I am just lucky that although I live in the US, I live within minutes of city center so I walk whatever I eat off. And our little city has great dining!
Normandy sounds like my kind of place. Cheese, gloomy weather, tapestries, gardens! And I love that harbor!


I love this post and your vacation sounds delightful and delicious!!!
I really love that area of France and appears like you had a fabulous time.


Thank you for the voyage through my home sweet home!
I worked for several years in Giverny at the Musee d'Art Americaine, now the Museum of Impressionism and run by the state.
I did event palnning and also decorated some of the many historical homes owned by the
Terra Foundation.
My office was in a little yellow stone house on rue Claude Monet.I loved looking out my window in the spring.So many pastel cowslips ! sigh…


What a beautiful post.As a younger woman then living in Germany I spend many summers in France: Provence, Bretagne and Normandie, I love France.
My husband and I were the last time 10 years ago in Paris and now bring our two younger children over from America…I can't wait to be there again. Giverny is on our list too, it must be fantastic. You write so lovingly and witty! Thank you!

Alison Gibbs

Hi Vicki thanks for taking us along to Normandy with you. It sounds fabulous.
It's raining, it's pouring is what I was singing with little Riley when I babysat him yesterday. He's 2 next month and such a sweetheart. Whenever it rains he sings that song.


Thank you for the mini vacation away…I have always wanted to go to Monet's gardens, I believe my mother took 300 pictures there on a perfect day, you feel that you are inside one of his paintings,because it is still the same. And Deauville, did you feel Coco's presence there? I am ready for Fall but we still have the heat here, for another few weeks at least.

bayside gardener

Thanks Vicki for sharing your little break with us. I'm amazed that Normandy produces only four cheese but they are certainly some of Frances' finest. I love Pont L'Eveque, one of my favourite indulgences when I get to Richmond Hill Larder.
Bon Weekend

Miss Kris

Hi Vicki~

What a reminder to ALL who lost their lives on D-Day, to bring us piece and freedom!!! What a captivating place to be on
Sept 11th.

~Miss Kris~

Renee Finberg

i am jealous. thank you for sharing these gorgeous locations (and the memorial as well).
you are very fortunate to be able to explore every inch of france.



How gorgeous! You are so fortunate to have visited these famous and beautiful sites in Normandy. And the cheese would definitely be dangerous for me. Fond memories for you to ponder in the mist. Thanks for the post. I'm reading "My Life in France" by Julia Child right now. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it to you.

Josephine Tale Peddler

Honfleur looks so beautiful. I love sea fishing villages. And Monet's home is beyond words! I've never thought of the change of seasons as being 'time passing by' but I see that it is a poignant time. Enjoy your weekend Vicki. xx


Your photos of Giverny garden look like paintings. I can imagine easily how Monet had inspiration. In Provence, we have a weather from Normandy these last days , did you bring it back with you ?


sounds like a wonderful trip – we took a similar route through Normandy. When we were at Omaha Beach – we walked the beach and then scaled the cliffs – and then went to the cemetery – it was on June 6 too – and it was rainy and damp, just like the day of the invasion – it was as though we were participating in an enactment – which funny enough, some Belgians were doing…we stopped at a cafe where there were all sorts of vintage army vehicles and men in old uniforms – they were not french and it took us awhile to figure out what was going on – this was 2003 and the men were practicing for the 60th anniversary of D-Day which was in 2004 – they were doing a reenactment of the day… The cemetery was beautiful…very moving…our daughter was in 4th grade. It made history alive for her.
Lily pods – be careful – because they spread rapidly and can quickly take over – we have a pond in our town that started in one or two and now is completely covered – the owners have dredged it a couple of times to rid the pond of the overblown lily pod growth, to no avail.
as always, i love my days in France via your blog.

Ingrid Mida

I too feel the march of time when the seasons change…. How lovely that you had sunny skies in Normandy. I enjoyed seeing the Bayeaux Tapestry. Given what it has been through (stuffed on the back of a cart during Napolean's time etc), it is in remarkably good condition and is a wonder to behold.


I love this area! I went there for a few times! I do love Honfleur! It is such a charming place and it is not that far from my place (about 3 hours driving)!



We were in this area of France last year. Being English I can cope with any kind of weather. Sunshine does make everything look so much better, but what's nicer than being holed up in a French restaurant with the rain pouring outside and you are inside with all the gastronomical delights that a French restaurant can offer ? Pure bliss. XXXX


A lovely commentary Vicki, thank you. I almost felt like I was in a different country, not still in France. That's why the French countryside is so enchanting. Each province has such individuality & uniqueness. Unlike here, where except for the weather, each State feels exactly like all the others.
Millie ^_^


Thank you so much – you just took me on a positively wonderful journey.
Paris for me was just the beginning of my French romance. I so want to see some more.
The cheese sounds wonderful and my mouth is watering – my senses are filled.
x Sue

l'air du temps

the way you captured your travel is incredibly beautiful. thanks so much for sharing this time with us. i could almost feel myself walking through Monet's garden…

Visit-Normandy Blogger

I can vouch for what Vicki says, that the weather in Normandy is much maligned; the coastal regions are much damper than the rest, but all of Normandy suffers from the same reputation! We live inland near Alençon in Lower Normandy, and from early June to mid-September we have had 8mm of rain – none at all except on 6 days during that period. In fact we are under drough restrictions. It seems in recent years, due to climate change or whatever, traditional weather patterns have gone out of the window.

Regarding the cheeses, in addition to Livarot, Neufchâtel, Camembert and Pont l'Evêque there are at least 20 others from Normandy.

If this link works: http://www.frencheese.co.uk then search for "normandy" and you'll see. So you have many more excuses to enjoy Normandy cheeses next time!

Bon appetit!


Oh, lucky…lucky! I have Giverney on my "so want to do things in France" list…along with a return to Provence…

I'm glad to hear the weather knew you were visiting…


Bretagne and Normandie are on my travel wish list! I'd like to travel by car around those beautiful place and stay there for a while!

Is it raining here too and my mood is very bad ! I really don't like the cold and the rain especially when you are obliged to go out an do things!
The only thing I like is that it's time to go bake again! So plumcakes, muffins, cookies…I'm back!
How are you Vicki?


Your lovely images have reinforced my desire to see this area of France on the next visit. Hard to believe I grew up right across the Channel and never got there. Cheese, I love, and all the dairy products from there are wonderful – cream, butter etc.

Thanks for sharing Giverny – Monet was inspired by his beautiful house and gardens – I must see them too.


this looks like the most beautiful trip. I'm ashamed to say I have never been to the war graves- I'm not sure I would hold it together very well- I am someone who starts crying when they read the war memorials at stations. France is so wonderful, so layered. I want the doctor to write me a prescription for a eurostar ticket!


Vicki, what a beautiful woman you must be. Your words speak to me. You are a brilliant writer, and an amazing observer of all things beautiful…& I can tell you see something beautiful in everything.
merci beaucoup,
Marsha in Houston, Texas

Callie Grayson

So glad the weather was amazing for you. I took that same trip a few years back and it was cold and raining. BUT I enjoyed the trip so very much! The history of such places is what draws me to them.



It has been just over a week since I was in the lovely France- I can hardly wait to go back. It was an amazing place to visit.


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