Wednesday, September 3, 2008

France Part 2

It's another rainy day, so I managed to get back to the internet cafe.

Day 6:

We arrived in Normandy late last night and got dinner at the creperie. My galette was disappointing, though. There wasn't enough cheese, so it was kind of bland. Anyhoo, today we went to the market in the next town over, St-Valery-En-Caux. We picked up the most delicious melon I've ever had! It was so sweet and smelled so fragrant. We also purchased lots of veggies and cheese, including a heart of neufchatel, which I think is my new favorite. I'm going to bring some back to the U.S. because you can't buy it there, since it's made from raw (unpasteurized) milk, which is illegal in the U.S.

In the afternoon, I took a hike by myself along the top of the cliff, then down to the water to walk back at low tide. This is my favorite thing to do in Veules-Les-Roses. As it was low tide, you could peer into the tidepools, where I found tons of little sea anemones. The ones that weren't submerged in water closed themselves up into blobs, so it took me a while to figure out what the hell they were. At first, it looked like a colony of squishy (yes, I poked them) black blobs hanging under the larger cave-like rocks.

Day 7:

My mother had found a listing for a lumberjack festival in one of her tourist books, so we drove two hours to get there, only to discover that it was for the next day. My father and I sufficiently teased her for that mix-up. However, it afforded us a a stunning drive through the countryside, along which we saw lots of cows, a farm with miniature ponies, and a closeup view of the windmills that generate electricity around here.

That night, we had dinner in Quiberville, which is another small beach town in Normandy where my mom's cousin Cecile (and her husband Patrick) have a summer home. We ate at this little brasserie right on the beach, with a view of their cliffs. I had the best hamburger of my life there. First off, it was on this huge roll, about six inches in diameter, of delicious French bread. Then the meat itself was thin, but spread out to fill most of the bread, so it actually wasn't horribly filling since there was less meat than you'd think. Toppings included melted grated gruyere cheese, chopped onions, ripe tomatoes, and lettuce, topped off with an orangey, slightly spicy tomatoe-based sauce. So good.

Day 9:

My parents and I took a walk on the other side of the cliffs, and then kept going through all this farmland. We eventually reached this tiny little town (maybe a couple dozen houses total) called Manville-Es-Plais. We went into its old church, which had somewhat ugly modern stained glass, but when the sun shone, it reflected all these bright colors onto the floor. It was beautiful, like being inside a kaleidoscope. On the way back, we took a different route, where we found a whole herd of Normand cows. These cows are used for their milk, to make cheese. They're brown and white speckled and typical of this area. This particular herd was friendly, all coming over to the fence when we stopped to look at them. I fed them grass for a while and tried to pet them, but they were nervous and backed away anytime I reached my hand out without grass in it.

This day was also the Grande Marée in Veules-Les-Roses, which is the day with the lowest tide of the entire year. At high tide, this beach is covered in medium-sized rocks, which are really painful and difficult to walk on. At low tide, though, a huge sandbar is exposed. And during the Grande Marée, the sandbar stretches for what looked like a third of a mile or so. It's incredible. I took a walk on the sand at night, and then stood in the water, letting it rise higher and higher up my legs as the tide slowly came in. It was, for lack of a better word, magical.

Dat 10:

My parents and I took a drive to a town called Giverny, to go to Monet's house. It was awsome! Because it's the end of the season and it was rainy, there weren't that many people. You could walk through the house quite easily, which was decorated in exactly the way Monet had it, right down to the placement of his collection of Japanese Ukiyo-E prints (of which there were dozens) on the walls. There were even photos on display of him standing in the rooms, so you could see how closely the decor matched up. His gardens (yes, the ones in which he used to paint) were also open, including the pond that provided the imagery for his iconic Japanese Bridge and Water Lillies paintings. I was in heaven. Monet is my favorite of the "old masters," and I really, really, really love his work. Standing on his very bridge, looking at the same water lilly plants he used to paint...I don't even know how to describe the feeling. It was practically an out-of-body experience.

In the afternoon, we went to Rouen, which is the old city that houses the cathedral Monet also used to paint. It rained the rest of the day, so we just did some shopping and headed back. We had planned to go to the creperie again, but when we got there, it was closed (even though its door says it's only closed on Wednesday). Then we realized that everything in all of Veules was closed. French people usually go on vacation for the whole month of August, and most of the "residents" of Veules are actually French vacationers. so once they leave on August 31, everything immediately shuts down. It was almost eerie to walk the streets with so many lights off and shutters closed. Also, it was 8 o'clock by now, and we were really hungry, with literally no food we could to cook ourselves. So we drove back to St-Valery-En-Caux, and luckily there were a few restaurants open. We actually ended up having a really good seafood meal, too. I had this dish with muscles, salmon, cod, and sole all on the same plate in an orange cream sauce. The sauce was so delicious, especially on the salmon, and I was really happy to get some fish in me (I am on the coast, after all).

Day 11:


The high tide today is ridiculous. It goes all the way up the cliff, whereas normally there's at least 15 feet of distance between the water's edge and the cliff face. Also, the raised dock that sticks out into the water is usually too high to jump off, but now the water level is only about five feet down. I guess this is the fallout from the Grande Marée. I've never seen it like this in Veules before, though, so it's pretty cool. If only it were a bit warmer, I could go swimming. But even with the sun out, it's freeeeeezing here!

Two more days to go in Normandy, then one day in Paris before returning to the U.S. Then you can expect lots of photos (I've taken 364 so far! Only 91 left!).

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