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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Traveling – Normandy, France

After our brief stop in Rouen during our 2003 trip around the country of France, we drove to the Normandy coast.  We used Rick Steves guidebook, and he mentioned a working farm in the town of Ryes that is about fifteen minutes inland from the ocean as a unique place to stay.  This farm appealed to us as a quiet and inexpensive bed and breakfast to stay for a few nights while we explored the area.

We are comfortable traveling in Europe without having all our hotel reservations set before we leave home.  Before we leave on a trip, we arrange for our first place to stay, and then make our other arrangements as we travel.  If one place is full, we move on and try another.

On our way from Rouen to the coast, we tried calling the farmhouse to see if they had rooms for the night, but we kept getting a beeping sound on the phone and we didn’t know what it meant.  Along the way, we stopped at a castle and looked around.  Next to the parking lot was a Tourist Information center and I went in and asked them to help us with booking the room.

The nice woman at the TI tried calling the number in the Rick Steves book and also heard a beeping tone.  She then called information and found that the number in the book had some digits transposed.  She then called the farm with the correct number and booked us a room for that night.  We spend the rest of the day traveling along the Normandy coast looking at D-Day sites and some general sightseeing.

It was about 8 pm and very dark when we pulled into the stone courtyard of the 500 year old farmhouse of Andre and Madeleine Sebires'.  There was just one small light on in the house and it looked like there was no one home, but I knocked on the door and Madeleine came out and I explained in my very poor French that we were there to spend the night.  Not a problem, she took us to the outbuilding, up to some steps, and through a wide but short (five foot high) door to our room.  She indicated that the breakfast room was right under us in the outbuilding and asked what time would we like to eat in the morning.  We thought it was strange that she didn’t seem to be expecting us as there were no lights on in the courtyard.

The next morning we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of warm croissants, jam, cream, hot chocolate and orange juice.  We spent some time conversing ( the best we could) with Madeleine and explained that Rick Steves had published the wrong number.  She looked at the book and said it was the correct number, but their phone was busy because they were using it.  Oops, no wonder why she there were no lights on when we arrived - she wasn’t expecting us.

Madeleine called the number that the people at the TI had called and it turned out to be the Hôtel de Normandie‎, a small hotel right by the water in the nearby town of Arromanches.  She explained the mix-up about the reservations and everyone had a good laugh.  It was not a problem that we didn’t show up at the other hotel, as it was not the busy season, so they didn’t have to turn anyone away while they waited for us. 

To make up for our wrong reservation, we ate dinner one night at the restaurant of that Hôtel de Normandy.  We enjoyed a dinner of local whitefish in a cream sauce and had a table that looked out over the water.

We stayed three restful nights in Ryes, and used it for day trips to the coast, the town of Bayeux, the American cemetery at Omaha Beach, and the city of Caen.

It is quite sobering to travel the Normandy coast and see the remains of World War II battles, to visit the American cemetery and see almost 10,000 crosses of American soldiers buried there.  Intellectually I know that that is the cost to maintain freedom, but it is saddening to consider the losses to the families on both sides.

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

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