Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Our Taste of Normandy Continues with Calvados! June 23, 2015

After our freshly prepared lunch and stroll around town, we met up with our group again and moved on to our last stop of the day.  We would be visiting a Calvados distillery.  This region of France is the only region where no wine is grown, it's actually too wet for the grapes to grow to produce good wine.  So, when good wine can't be made, the next best thing is to make Calvados! Calvados is made from apples and is a cider type brandy.  It ranges from a lighter cider to a Pommeau drink to a much stronger reserve that is aged longer.

There are approximately 200 Calvados producers in the Normandy region who bottle and sell their Calvados, and they all have to follow the Appellations for Calvedos.  We visited the Pierre Huet distillery.

Our guide started by showing us the process from beginning to end and explaining how the Calvados products are made, starting from the apples, or sometimes pears.

This is the machine that presses the fruit

And then we saw some of the areas where the distilling takes place.

All of the different types of Calvados are aged, and depending what type is made, it will depend on how long it is aged in the barrel.

These are some smaller barrels also used for aging

It was all quite interesting!

And after our tour, it was time for our tasting!  We tried the Cider, which is a hard cider, the Pommeau, and the 8 year Reserve.  

I enjoyed the Cider and the Pommeau was strong, but not too bad, and the 8 year, but at over 70% alcohol, it's just a bit strong for me!

We had our tasting with this nice apple tart, which paired really well of course!

We had a bit of time and most of us brought some bottles or at least little sample bottles to take home with us.  And we boarded our coach bus very pleased with our choice for the day!  Our group enjoyed the time we spent together and we definitely got to see some beautiful countryside in the Normandy region!  And it was paired with a wonderful lunch and great company!

When we arrived back in Caudebec, we had a bit of time before we had to be back on board, so Carol and I walked around the town a bit before boarding.  

And then we had some time to relax and enjoy that great panoramic view out of our cabin before dinner!  This was definitely the way to see Europe!  I'm not sure that I'd ever travel another way, if there were rivers to sail on, again!

Tonight's dinner is the Chef's dinner.  The Chef's all came out during the meal, which was nice because they did a fantastic job!

This dinner was the dinner when we probably became closest to the people we met on board.  And it happened over shrimp cocktail.  As I mentioned all of the food was very good. Each night we had choices of appetizers, entrees, and desserts from the region, but there were always the standard choices available.  Tonight one of the choices was Shrimp Cocktail à la Normandy and most of our table ordered this.  We had made friends with another couple and had been eating most of our meals with them. At the end of the table, a new couple had joined us tonight and we hadn't really had time to talk much to them yet though. 

So, when the shrimp cocktail arrived, neither Carol, myself or our new friends quite expected to see this!

It looked like a lobster!  Eyes and all!  It was huge and again, eyes and all! I mentioned before that Carol is fairly picky when it comes to things like this and before you knew it, our table was laughing pretty uncontrollably, well, except our new table mates who weren't quite sure yet about us I think!  You can see here, how Carol is nearly in tears over the site of this shrimp!  

At about this time, our waiter, who we loved, got into the hysteria, making antenna eye and faces behind me to get Carol to laugh more.  By the end of the appetizer course, we had become close friends with the couple at the end as well!  They were from Australia and we thoroughly enjoyed talking to them and learning about each other's countries!

After dinner every night there would be some sort of entertainment in the lounge.  Usually a piano player or light entertainment.  And always a late night snack, at 10:30 or so.

Another great day comes to an end.....

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Local Lunch during our Taste of Normandy Day! June 23, 2015 part 2

After our visit to Bayeux we were off to our next stop, lunch.  We went to a little village, Beuvron-en-Auge, which is known as "One of the most beautiful villages in France". It didn't disappoint! It was quaint, and so picturesque! We had lunch at a little B & B called Aux Trios Damoiselles.

We all ate together at a nice farmhouse style table in what I believe used to be a horse stable.  

And it's no surprise that cheese was our first course!  

I love cheese, I love France!  I've never had such amazing cheese.  We had a bit of a lesson on the cheeses too.

The French cheeses we can buy here in the US are not the same as the French cheeses in France.  In France they are not pasteurized, which means they can't be imported in the US.  These cheeses are just amazing.  

This one is a bit blurry, but we of course couldn't have cheese without some crusty bread, and our first bit of Calvados for the day.  Here we had the Calvados cider.  

Next up we had a meat platter.  It was somewhat like chicken salad and then a salami, and tomatoes.  Tasted better than the picture looks!

Then of course some quiche....

Then onto dessert.  Everything was freshly, homemade. This was a pudding, similar to a rice pudding.  This is our guide telling us about the dish. It was made right in this big stone bowl.  

And this was our hostess serving it to everyone.  She did it all!

Lunch was great! Afterwards we had about thirty minutes or so to walk around the village.  We shopped and took pictures and just enjoyed the beautiful day.

This was the courtyard of the area where we had lunch, at Aux Trois Damoiselles.

After exiting the courtyard, you walked into a little village area with just a couple of streets, lined with shops and restaurants.

Now, if we wouldn't have just had lunch, this would have been a great place to stop!

We were definitely visiting at a great time of year, June, as the flowers were blooming everywhere!

After our visit in town, we met up again with our group, and were ready to move on to our next destination.  Next up, we'd be learning about how Calvados is made!  We were ready!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Taste of Normandy! June 23, 2015

Today was the day that many of the passengers on board had been looking forward to.  Actually, it may have been the reason they had chosen this itinerary!  It was the day that they had the opportunity to visit the Landing Beaches of Normandy.  This entire region has so much history from the German occupation.  History that I thought I may have learned in school, but until you walk in those streets, and hear the stories about towns that were nearly totally destroyed, you realize that what I thought I knew didn't even scratch the surface of the war I touched upon.  There were full day excursions to the American Landing beaches and also the UK-Canadian Landing beaches.  

However, there was also a different type of tour available today as well.  This was the tour that Carol and I, along with about 20 of the other passengers decided to take.  This tour was called the Taste of Normandy.  Today we would be dedicating our day to the culture, history and traditions of the Normandy region!

Our first stop was a visit to Bayeux.  

Here we visited the museum in town and saw the famous Tapestry of Queen Mathilda.

There were no photos allowed of the Tapestry, but this was just simply amazing!  The entire tapestry is 230 feet long and it shows the story of the Norman invasion and conquer of England culminating in the Battle of Hastings.  A sample of the Tapestry looks like this picture

As we walked past each panel of the Tapestry, we had a handset, speaker that told the story as we walked along.  

After we viewed the Tapestry, we had about a half an hour to walk around Bayeux itself. It was a small little town, with of course, a big church!

And of course a few souvenir shops!  I did find a nice tea shop here and bought some tea to bring home.

Before long, it was time to meet back up with our group to head to our next stop on our Taste of Normandy tour!

We drove through the countryside, and it looked very much like home a this point!

Except for these lovely Thatched-roof cottages!

Our next stop would be lunch.....we definitely were looking forward to some Normandy traditions!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Rain Can't Stop Us! An Afternoon In Honfleur - June 22, 2015

After another lovely lunch on board the ship, Carol and I got ready for our afternoon excursion to Honfleur.  This was one of the optional trips.  We definitely wanted to visit this coastal fishing town!  The weather was definitely not cooperating today though, so we knew this so called "picture perfect" delight may not quite be as picture perfect as its expectations!  But we grabbed the umbrellas and piled onto the bus and off we went!  Those who didn't choose this optional excursion could stay on board, or maybe walk into Caudebec and see the Cathedral.  But it was quite a gray and rainy day.

We had a great group though and once we arrived in Honfleur we had a tour of the area and then some free time to wander through the cafés and specialty shops and just soak in all of the charm!

During our tour, we learned about the town and some of the original buildings.

All of the streets were just like this, narrow, winding and cobblestone.  Quite lovely!

This is very much a town for tourism, although I do believe there are people that live here.

One of the above pictures was the original jail in Honfleur, I believe we were told....

And then we made our way to the waterfront.  It was quite the photo op, even in the rain!

The houses all have their characteristic design here of being very narrow and very tall.  

This was definitely a place I would like to come back and spend more than just a rainy afternoon!

Our group kept plugging on, and believe me, snapping pictures while holding one of those big, blue umbrellas wasn't the easiest of things to do!

And yes, the umbrella did make its way into a few of the shots...

There were some great shops around every corner!

And so many restaurants!

After our walking tour, Carol and I walked a bit on our own, got some souvenirs and went to sit in a café for a bit until it was time to head back to our ship.

Tonight we were going to a special Bistro Dinner!  I don't have a copy of the menu anymore, but it was a special wine and almost tapas type dinner served up in the Lounge to a smaller number of guests.  We could sign up for this dinner in advance, and it was offered a few nights during our cruise.  There was no extra charge for this special dinner, and it was nice to try some different types of foods, paired with some different wines.  It was for the more adventurous eater - so for those who know Carol, it was not her favorite meal!  But everything was quite good, and here are a few pictures!

This was our first course

And then we had a soup, which was very good

This was the main course selections

A cheese course

And dessert

Today may have been a wet day, but we had a great time! We visited two very, very different locations and really enjoyed both. We couldn't wait to see what our third day would bring us!