Tuesday 27 September 2016

4 to try: Bites and beaches in Normandy

Short breaks in France

Published 15/05/2016 | 02:30

Rouen's gothic cathedral.
Rouen's gothic cathedral.
Chateau la Chineviere
A remaining German tower on a Normandy beach is a reminder of what could have been if D-Day ended differently.
Legendary apple tarts: Dubliner and cook Sinéad Allart (née Wilde).

From the D-Day landings to fine dining and delicious home cooking, Normandy brings past and present together in a fantastic French getaway.

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Roam in Rouen

Stretching alongside the River Seine, Rouen is Normandy's historic capital and its stunning Gothic cathedral dominates the landscape (it's the city's best-loved building and well worth a visit). In contrast, the modern Church of Joan of Arc is also striking.

It rises over the Place du Vieux-Marché, where the saint was burned at the stake in 1341. Dine at La Couronne (lacouronne.com.fr) - dating from 1345 - it's where Julia Child enjoyed "the most exciting meal of my life". Try the Normandy cheese board.

How: rouenturisme.com

Tour the beaches

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Normandy's beaches aren't just for sunbathing.

At daybreak on June 6, 1944, Allied Forces stormed these sands in the biggest amphibious invasion in history - they were, of course, fighting the Nazis.

Five historic beaches include Juno, Utah and Omaha, with guided tours available from the nearby town of Bayeux - where you can also see the famous tapestry.

Giant German towers along the coast serve as a chilling reminder of what could have been had D-Day ended differently.

How: normandie-tourisme.fr

Visit Wilde Kitchen

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A beautifully restored farmhouse at Benoîtville is the home of vivacious Dubliner and cook Sinéad Allart (née Wilde). Located just 20km from Cherbourg, Allart operates a charming bed and breakfast and cookery school.

Guests can sign up for one to six-day courses in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. Her apple tart is legendary. If the meals served up here are a testament to Sinéad, then the cheeky, three-legged cat, Tom, is proof of the skills of her husband, the Belgian-born vet, Philippe.

How: wildekitchen.net; from €165pp

Check into Château La Chenevière

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This 18th-century mansion and farm at Port-en-Bessin is now a luxurious hotel nestled in the Normandy countryside. Set just 3km from the D-Day beaches, it was occupied by the Nazis in WWII and later taken over by the Americans.

It was fully restored in 1988 and won the Condé Nast Johansens award for best countryside hotel in 2016. Chef Didier Robin's restaurant is inspired by traditional and regional recipes.

How: lacheneviere.com; rooms from €260 in high season

Don't miss

The cows! Normande cattle are beautiful creatures with their characteristic panda eyes or 'lunettes'. But they're not just pretty faces... their milk produces Camembert, one of Normandy's biggest exports.

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