Not always..... 'a tranquil retreat in the heart of the Normandy countryside'

Monday, 1 July 2013

Balade Gourmande

Each summer some of the local food producers in the Bocage region of Lower Normandy get together and organise a 'gourmet walk'.  It's an opportunity to explore this beautiful area and to sample some of the local produce. This year the walk began at an 'escargot' farm near to St Georges de l'Odon, which is just off the A84 motorway.
 
 
The idea is that you walk through the countryside and  enjoy a gourmet meal en-route.  We arrived a little bit early and were able to see how the escargots, which were going to be served as aperitifs, were reared. I'd noticed some polytunnels near to the farm and thought that perhaps this was where the snails were kept but rather unexpectedly, inside the polytunnel, was this lovely vintage car!
 
So where were the snails?
Well they were all hiding under wooden planks in beds of tasty mustard plants.
 
 
They didn't look all that appetising 'al fresco' but were quite delicious dished up with herbs and garlic, piping hot from the oven!
 
After snails and cider we set off along a footpath through the woods and after a couple of kilometres arrived at our first stop for starters of pigeon pate and ...more cider!
 
 
We walked through a pretty valley where charolais cattle were grazing by the river bank...  
 
...and continued to follow the track uphill and there, up on  the ridge, the main course was being served. Tasty duck and beef kebabs served with a courgette sauce.
 
It was starting to get hot and the path was getting steeper

 
but the views across to Aunay sur Odon were worth the climb.
 
We walked through cornfields studded with poppies and cornflowers
 
 
The track, which had taken us through the fields of crops, swung down through
a tiny hamlet of  pretty houses. This one looked like a cottage from a fairytale.
 
It turned out that this was the home of Dutch born artist Annemarie Janssen.
 It was so unexpected to come across her studio when
 only minutes before we had been walking through cornfields! 
 
 
We left the studio and her lovely garden and followed a shady track and said hello to ......
......maybe I had drunk too much cider?
 
Just around the corner the cheese course was being served
 
5 different kinds of delicious, locally produced goats cheese
 
We set off again along a woodland path
 
 and then out onto a paved lane.
We were now going back downhill towards .....
dessert! Delicous apple cake and rice pudding (a Normandy speciality)
 
Now for the final stretch of the walk - thankfully it was cool and shady under the trees but I would really have liked to put my feet in the stream...
 
Almost 5 hours after we had set off we arrived back at the 'escargots' farm for the best cup of coffee ever!  This had been a brilliant day out in the countryside, everyone we met was so friendly, the day was very well organised and we had the opportunity to buy some produce to take home.
 

Friday, 28 June 2013

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

A (dead) elephant in the garden.....?

If you google 'Elephant Lily' you will come up with lots of lovely photos of this dear little baby elephant....
Elephant lily
  
but this wasn't quite what I was searching for when I tried to find out more about the curious tuber I'd planted in a pot in the garden two summers ago. 
 
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I waited in vain for a spectacular plant to appear......the pot got tucked away in a corner over winter and it wasn't until this Spring that I realised that something interesting was sprouting.
By May the large, tightly wrapped flower started to unfurl.



 
A few days ago the waiting was over...
 
This amazing plant is an amorphophallus konjac.  It has even more impressive relatives....
 
This is the amorphophallus titanum more commonely known as the Titan Arum or The Corpse Flower because of the stench of rotting meat which it gives off . 
 
The amorphophallus konjac is also fairly pungent and might be more appropriately called 'Dead Elephant Lily' ! 
 
Orchard Gites in Normandy amorphophallus konjac
 
I decided to move it away from beside the door of the gites to a spot in the garden where it can be admired but not smelt! A corpse-like smell might be rather unnerving for the guests.....
 
Fawlty Towers - The Kipper and the Corpse
 
 

 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Apple blossom in Normandy

 
It's that time of year when the countryside in this part of Normandy is at it's prettiest.
 
 
The cider apple trees in the surrounding orchards are a froth of pink and white
 
 
and the delicately scented flowers never fail to delight!
 
 
Some of the flower buds are the darkest pink 
 
 
whilst others are much paler depending on the variety of the apple.
 
 
Some of the trees here at the gites are old, heritage varieties which are less commonely found these days.  Not far from here is La Maison de la Pomme et de la Poire   at Barenton where you can find out more about the heritage varieties and learn  about the process of cider making as well as having the opportunity to sample some local cider. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 





Thursday, 11 October 2012

Add a touch of French Vintage Charm to your life


It has been really exciting this week as Julia and I have opened 
a new Etsy shop called
which sells all the lovely vintage treasures we find at flea markets and attic sales. 

Also part of the team is Celestine, who is 'our girl in Paris'.  Celestine has been the inspiration for the shop and she adds a touch of her Parisian flair to Vintage Belle Epoque.

We have got off to a fantastic start as one of our items was selected to be in a 'treasury' on our first day of trading.  We couldn't believe that our lovely blue enamel Number 7 had been spotted so quickly!  These French house numbers are not easy to buy as they are not available in French hardware shops so if you want a new one you have to apply to the local mayors office.  Julia spotted this in a 'brocante' near Villedieu les Poeles.  It was one of our first purchases and so far this Number 7 has been very lucky for us as lots of people have looked at our shop via the treasury, which was compiled by Val  who is a Canadian textile artist.

On Day Two, we sold our first item to Wendy, a lovely Australian lady who adores all things French. We packaged  this brioche mould 'toute suite' and it is now on it's way to the other side of the globe.  I love the way that ETSY links buyers and sellers from all over the world!

If you have a love of vintage 'shabby chic' French style do pop in to our shop and see what we have listed at the moment.  We are adding to our stock all the time and listing items as quickly as possible so we hope you find something to treasure!