Mont St. Michel

We finally made it to the Mont today. We left at 7 am to beat the crowds and mostly succeeded except for a few bus loads of Japanese tourists, including a wedding party (see photo). Left Ellie at home–there was no way I could have carried her up all those steps and chiens are interdit in the Abbey.

The new parking arrangements leave something to be desired. The car park is at least a 3/4 mile hike to the shuttle, which only takes you across the causeway and drops you a good quarter mile from the town gate. From there it is a steep uphill climb, followed by many, many flights of stone stairs. Still, it was worth the effort to see such a unique and inspiring view.

We also had trouble finding a restaurant open, since today is also a French holiday. Our first 2choices (in Courtils and Avranches) were closed. We ended up at a very elegant hotel restaurant in Avranches–le croix d’or. Lunch was tasty and copious. The didn’t have lamb so I had pork, preceded by a beef stuffed in cabbage and followed by an excellent cheese course, with a very nice pouilly de Loire–a new wine to me. The high point was dessert. Here is Libby enjoying her tasting plate.

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Pre-sale lamb

Quiet, restful day. Only one item of note. Went to a little creperie/grill here in Agon for lunch and had the best lamb chop I’ve ever eaten. Turns out it was the famous pre-sale (meadow salted) lamb from the region. The lambs feed on marsh grass near mont st Michel bay which makes them tender and juicy. Ellie very much enjoyed the bones. Tomorrow to Mont St Michel itself. Hoping to get an early start to avoid the crush of visitors.

D-day beaches

We went to thé beach again today but for historical purposes. Got up at 6 am to meet thé tour starting from bayeux. There were 7 of us plus the guide–a lovely frenchwoman named dominique who lived in the US. (see photo). We saw some german gun emplacements, then to omaha beach. Now it is just a pretty beach, with people walking their dogs and sunning. Then we went to the american cemetery, which everyone knows from saving private ryan. it is very moving in person. Some other points along omaha beach and then pointe du hoc (which libby thought was called kitty hawk). This is where the rangers scaled sheer cliffs to bring down german long guns except they were no longer there. It is very impressive all the same.

After all this serious viewing, we went to lunch in bayeux. A very good restaurant–la rapiere. I had a vegetable appetizer and then veal in a Camembert sauce. Unbelievably good. For dessert, calva ice cream in shredded almond shell.

After lunch to see the Bayeux tapestry. The guidebook calls it the earliest comic strip and in a way that’s true. Very detailed images showing everything from William the Conqueror setting out in his longboats to the sheep they stole for feeding the troops. There was an audioguide that was very amusing but moved us along so fast we didn’t have time to take pictures. We probably spent more time in the gift shop (typical Americans).

Ellie didnt join us and was nowhere to be seen when we got back. It turned out she had wandered into the bedroom and the door must have blown shut. She was in there in the dark all day. Poor baby.

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Beach day

We decided to take it easy today. In the am we went to the marche in gouville, nearby. Then to chateau de pirou, which dates back to the viking invasion of normandy. Very interesting. Lunch at a cafe in town. The temp was 83 so we decided to go for a swim. The tide was out–about a half mile from the beach front. It was like a moonscape walking across the wet sand. Wish i had taken a photo but didnt want to risk ipad on the beach. Also excuse capitalization. My ipad is acting up.

Caen

We picked Libby up in Caen today. Had a great lunch. Libby had a poached egg over braised leeks which doesn’t sound like much but was absolutely delicious. Cathy had carrot soup and I had lentils 3 ways: pink lentils with apples, yellow lentils with salmon, and dark lentils with pâté. For a plat, I had parmentier, a kind of roulade with potatoes, herbs, beef cheeks and duck in the most delicious wine sauce. The others had salmon. All for 15€. MIAM.

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After lunch we saw the st. Pierre church which was started in the 7th c and then Libby and Cathy went to the war museum. Ellie and I went to st etienne church, which is where what’s left of William the conqueror was buried.

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Granville

Lots of photos today. We really liked Granville, a city of 13,000 that appears much larger. Good lunch at a restaurant on the water (photo). Cathy had hake; I went for meat after some lovely pink shrimp. Then walked out to the furthest spit to see if we could view Mont St. Michel (no, although the guidebook says you can). Drove up to the medieval ramparts, whose narrow streets have pretty little houses overlooking the bay. Then to the musee Christian Dior–a native son. Dogs not allowed but I did get a shot of the house.

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A la plage

The weather is much improved. It is sunny and in the 60s. I’ve been walking on the beach which is a quarter mile from our house. Today, Cathy, Ellie and I went to portbail, a little seaside town with an open air market. I found a great gift for Gail, but can’t reveal what it is because she might read this. Be assured, no goats were harmed.

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Coutances

Didn’t do much today except get our bearings. Drove to coutances, which has a world famous cathedral.

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Came home for aperitifs on the terrace. The weather is improving. Dinner was take out pizza with white asparagus with rose, followed by calvados.

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Part 3: Normandie

Didnt have wifi in roscoff so 2 days of amazing eating to catch up on lunch at the creperie owned by monique’s sister–Les amours jaunes. Very good crepes–I had mine with artichokes, lardons and cheese. Cathy constructed her own. Ellie happily shared both. For dessert, apple crepes with calvados flambee. MIAM–French for yumm.

Wandered around roscoff but too cold to take ferry out to ile de batz. For dinner we left Ellie at the apartment and went to the best restaurant in roscoff–l’ecume des jours. Truly outstanding. For an entree, I had the petoncles, which I described earlier (5/15) as a cross between mussels and scallops. (that’s how the fishmonger described them.). In fact, the are Teeny scallops, even smaller than bay scallops and about the tastiest seafood I have ever eaten. They were simply grilled (no doubt with butter) and I would have been happy to have them as my main course as well. But the veal was also first rate and came with interesting sides I’ve forgotten. (the petoncles came with magret de canard). We started with an of a sweet wine( guillot?) with pâté de foie gras and followed with a simple muscadet. Dessert included a pineapple mango mousse plus a bunch of sides. The ice cream was served on a small cold stone–no doubt to keep it cold. I thought the stone was a cookie and was frustrated trying to cut it.

Sunday we had two home-cooked meals, each outstanding. Monique and Joel made langoustines with a mustard mayonnaise sauce, followed by filet mignon in a mushroom cream sauce. Ice cream with fruit for dessert with the French equivalent of kool whip but much better. Lots of Loire wines–unfortunately I did not write them down. We had a delightful conversation–jocelyne and Bernard joined us for coffee and had us in stitches.

But we had to be off–a projected 3 hour drive turned into a 5 hour trek. Apparently every Parisian had taken a long weekend in Brittany and traffic was backed up for more than 30 miles. Just past the mont st Michel exit, Evelyn turned the driving over to Cathy and had a Calva to help steady her nerves. (Ellie slept through it all. ). See photo of the truck stop.

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Driving twisty back roads, we finally arrived in Agon-Coutainville, a beach front resort on the English channel. Michele and jean-Francois had waited for us and we had another feast: melon and prosciutto followed by petoncles!! There were a few left over which I intended to photograph (and eat) today but Cathy informed me this morning that jean-Francois had given them to Ellie! Bad dog.

Beautiful house and garden. Overcast and chilly but Ellie and I walked down to the beach.

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