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.

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