For a long time I wanted to drive through Normandy and Bretagne. Although located a few hours from Paris, I never had the opportunity to make this trip. It took the launch of the Cupra Formentor to make this trip to this very special region.
Born to live in the road
Throughout my trip I kept being asked what brand it was. Each time I answered with a big smile, it was the Cupra brand. And for those who were confused and told me that it was a Seat, I always answered the same thing… Continue reading
This trip lasted just over 4 days, departing from Paris. A programme that was fair in its approval. Equal, even: two Norman stages; two Breton stages. On both sides of the Mont Saint-Michel. Calvados first, and emblematic Normandy: diffuse luminosities, apple orchards, iris roofs, cream, shells. South of the Seine estuary, Honfleur is still full of the memory of the impressionists.
Watch the film of this trip
4 DAYS / 20 ROUTES
DAY 1NEAR. 200 km – Time 2H10
When I arrived in Deauville, I settled for two nights 200 metres from the estuary, in a house whose proven history begins in the 17th century. A house is a whole estate, main body and outbuildings. My stay made the most of all these elements with a lot of hindsight and relevance. Stone, brick, thatch, slate and wood provide the overall character, which the fittings extend in a comfortable, heritage style. In the bedrooms, classicism is refined by a restrained, contemporary sensibility; beautiful materials; a superior level of equipment. The setting of the main dining room adds to the virtues of sophisticated local cuisine. A second table offers in its thatched cottage what the sea brings, simply enhanced. Between the shiny leather of the armchairs in the living room and the aromatic spiciness of the calvados, we let ourselves go to a blissful numbness. And on the deckchairs in the garden, the sea breeze touches you.
It all starts in the Pays d’Auge and its manor houses are nearby, where the cider sparkles so pleasantly. On the road from Honfleur to the Cotentin, I stop at the D-Day beaches, Omaha Beach, Utah, at the Pointe du Hoc, where the second battalion of American Rangers distinguished themselves in Dantean conditions. Urville-Nacqueville, where the Cotentin peninsula is abandoned to the sea, is the only thing left in front of the hotel. Here again, artists and writers have come to look further afield.
Where to sleep at Honfleur
The Cour Sainte Catherine offers a perfect blend of modern comfort, history and authenticity in the centre of Honfleur… Continue Reading
On the other side of the estuary, there is Le Havre, where the city centre designed by Auguste Perret is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, concrete has a soul. Its stained glass windows make the Saint-Joseph church, 1951-56, a chromatic vertigo. The Museum of Modern Art’s collection of Impressionists is famous, but there is also the Caravaggio-like Vocation of St. Matthew by Hendrick ter Brugghen, 1619. The Volcano, an artistic generator of national significance, bubbles up in walls by Oscar Niemeyer, 1978-82.
THE NORMANDY BRIDGE
The memory of Boris Vian is attached to Landemer, and the Cotentin region has served the interest of readers in more than one way: Tocqueville, where the castle of the Count who wrote De la démocratie en Amérique is located; Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, where Barbey d’Aurevilly’s swaddling clothes and shroud were made; Omonville-la-Petite, where Prévert has enhanced the cemetery… The Cotentin as a friend. Meeting with Virginie, for whom the peninsula has no more secrets. And, following her, revelation of a country with a strong personality. The Irish landscape of Cap Cotentin; the customs path of the Hague (which begins not far from your home); the lighthouse of Goury, which signals to boats the violent tidal currents; the splendid bay of Ecalgrain; the birthplace of the painter Jean-François Millet, 1814-1875, in Gréville. This is just an example, I have opted for this programme. Here everything is established on the spot, according to the desires and curiosities of each one.
DAY 3NEAR. 226 km – Time 2h36
Here I am on my way to Cancale. I’m staying for two nights above the bay – with the Mont Saint-Michel in sight – in one of the refuges imagined by the chef Olivier Roellinger and created by the architect Christophe Bachmann. The old farm buildings were not expecting so much, they have been promoted to the rank of bed and breakfast par excellence. My accommodation artfully combines raw materials and contemporary geometry, rusticity and impalpability, comfort and network asceticism: no Wi-Fi here.
Where to Sleep at Cancale
In Cancale, facing the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, Olivier Roellinger invites us to take our time by living to the rhythm of the tides. A break that allows you to recharge your batteries… Continue Reading
A fireplace or wood stove, a granite basin, that’s the spirit. Breakfast arrives every morning, announcing the pleasures of the day. If desired, other meals are brought in, provided by the chef’s kitchen. Due to the pandemic situation, breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served in my room, but this does not detract from the flavours on offer. On site, the spa puts bodies and moods in tune with the Cancalais diapason with the right professionalism and refined means. A harmony without softness, a somewhat miraculous balance between wide-angle nature, respected heritage and a clear affirmation of the art of living today.
I find myself between the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, an artistic and religious phenomenon, whose spiritual heritage is assumed by the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem, and Saint-Malo, city of the privateers Duguay-Trouin and Surcouf, and of Chateaubriand as well. Or between the omelette au cul de poule and the crackers; the flat oysters reconciling everyone. I embarked on Ausquémé, built in wood in 1942, rigged as a cutter, retired from oyster dredging. This is the opportunity to really sail (in one of the most beautiful bays in the world, listed as a Unesco heritage site): Jérôme, the captain, asks me to help with the manoeuvres. Jérôme, the captain, will ask you to take part in the manoeuvres, which will give novices a strong maritime feeling and a certain pride (and will give others the opportunity to assess the handling and pace of a heritage boat). As for Emmanuel, the cook on board, he gives me a succulent demonstration that the products of the bay respond perfectly to the demands of the Roellinger spices.
I head for Dinard. I stay for two nights in a hotel with crenellated seaside architecture, on the Prieuré bay, where boats chuckle at anchor. Inside, we find an Art Deco spirit brought up to date. It is very successful, especially in the bar. In the rooms, comfort is meticulous: very nice bedding, light design furniture, large windows, pleasant bathrooms. From one room to another, blue and white, of course, but not only and not everywhere. The restaurant has a very pretty dining room, extended by a terrace. This is the re-opening of the place. I am lucky because in the kitchen, the chef prepares a tasting with local ingredients. Land and sea, French tradition! Outside, a sunny terrace and a swimming pool. Spa, hammam, gym contribute to the optimal well-being of the guests. Yes, really, let’s get back to normal.
DAY 4NEAR. 26 km – Time 2H10
If the day before I chose Mont Saint-Michel, today I’m heading for Saint-Malo. The ramparts and the old town; the Saint-Vincent cathedral (whose construction began in the 12th century) and the stained glass windows by Jean Le Moal, 1968-71; the castle, 15th-18th centuries; the port. However, Dinard’s pleasure villas retain much of the charm of the Belle Epoque, which saw them multiply along the beaches. It is possible to go and see the monumental figures that Abbé Fouré sculpted in the granite of Rothéneuf between 1894 and 1907. A milestone in the history of art brut.
It’s time for me to go back to Paris. In four days, I was able to discover the sea, the cliffs, the countryside, a bit of Calvados and many beautiful places. This part of the west coast, I recommend you to go there like that, without thinking too much, by leaving to the adventure by getting lost on the roads… A very nice way to discover this magnificent region at two hours from the capital!
NEW! If you are interested in this trip, contact me on Whatspp for more information, recommendations.