Posts filed under normandy

Pack Your Bags | Honfleur, France

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You know those faded posters that would hang in your high school classrooms of far away places that seemed to be from a different world? Distant locations like Mont St. Michel or Machu Picchu that felt as if they were in a world that you’d never actually see, but the picture just seemed… well, exotic. Or maybe just exotic in comparison to the topic you were learning about as a fourteen-year-old student who had just returned from their lunch period. I remember staring at those places every day and just noting all the tiny details of them.

Well, Honfleur is definitely one of those places that seems like it was made just for posters and impressionist paintings… but it actually is very much a real place you can visit in France. In fact, I’ll add that you really should go there. It makes for a perfect spot to see when you’re on your way to Normandy from Paris. In fact, can I just be a bit bossy and tell you exactly how I’d play out the day if I was planning a trip from Paris? Okay, then, I will... if you insist.

First, depart Paris in the morning. Give yourself enough time to get a rental car and hit the road. Drive to Giverny for an early morning visit- right when it opens, if you can time it. Then leave in time to Honfleur for a late lunch. You’ll arrive into town, park in the main lot by the famous harbour (you can easily do hourly parking there), and walk into for food. Don’t dawdle on the front side of your trip around the photographic harbour- all the restaurants stop serving lunch at 2pm, so you’ll want to be seated before then to avoid disappointment. (And by “disappointment,” I, of course, mean having to eat at some yucky spot selling stale sandwiches and fried chicken. 

My recommendation for a great spot for lunch is l’Atelier. It looks pretty standard from the front, but the interiors and the terrace is the perfect spot to spend a lunch. (Or an afternoon over tea/coffee & homemade baked goods.) The menu is really short for lunch- maybe 7-8 items to choose from- so it won’t be a great spot for the pickiest of eaters. However, if you’re an easy eater and want to eat amongst actual Honfleurais, this is the spot for you. The menu, while brief, is perfect. Think daily specials like a courgette (zucchini) and goat cheese tatin, a vegetable pasta with parmesan cream sauce, or vegetable soup served with goat cheese, honey & walnut tartines alongside it. And if you can, don’t skip dessert and coffee. It’s definitely worth the extra 30 minutes. 

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This spot is also great for kids, as it has a big space alongside the restaurant for tired kids to wander around while the food is cooked. Plus, an adorable vintage high chair for your baby to sit in while you eat.

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After you’ve finished lunch, head to the harbour for a photographic walk around the coloured buildings. If you’re with kids, take a few spins on the gorgeous Belle Epoque carousel sitting on the edge of the water. (We love to get a seat in one of the cool vintage airplanes up on the top level!)

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Walk off the water into the main square in town. There you’ll see the famous Saint Catherine’s church that was built by ship-builders and has a distinct look from it. The inside of the church looks as if you’re standing underneath upside down boat as you walk inside. Admission is free and definitely worth a stop.

From there, well, the choice is yours, but I’d recommend doing a little bit of souvenir shopping in the form of salted-butter caramel hunting. (Normandy is the king of salted caramel. It’s the home of the famous salt from Isigny-sur-Mer and great cream from the cows, making it the perfect place for such a treat to be made.) There are several shops near the cathedral that sell it, but I’ll recommend the smaller the shop- the better their seemed to be. Look for shops that have homemade little wrappers and women working inside that actually made them. Those are the ones you’ll want to spend your money on and will haunt you until your next trip to the tiny town.

And at that point, well, you’ve probably seen it. It’s a beautiful town, but a small one. After you’ve done that, I’d hit the road and keep driving on deeper into Normandy. We’ve stayed in the town a couple of times and I’m not sure it’s worth the extra time there in comparison to some of the other nearby places you can get go. (Though I do dream of staying and eating at Ferme Saint Simeon someday…) If you’re staying in the famous town of Bayeaux, you’re about an hour away, or you could keep going another hour and stay at our very favourite stop, Chateau de Servigny

Have you been to Honfleur before? What was the best part of your day there? Or, more importantly, the best thing covered in salted-caramel you ate?


FIND MORE OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS IN NORMANDY HERE OR IN MY FRANCE GUIDE.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on October 29, 2018 and filed under normandy, france, travel.

My Normandy | Chateau de Servigny

One of the hardest things about living in London with kids is the lack of space. To be candid, its one of the conversations Tyler and I have the most when discussing raising our kids here. We have so many memories of just wandering and exploring in our backyards. We have countless memories of quiet afternoons spent poking at roly-polys, riding bikes around, and just… well, doing weird kid stuff. Having outdoor space to roam as a kid is like having your own kingdom in which to conduct the weird experiments you concoct in your mind. You get to play out things that you imagined up that day at school. It’s not only a little laboratory for trial and error, but it also is a social ring in which kids can interact with each other without adult interference. 

And sadly, in 1300 square feet- you just can replicate that. And even at the parks, you often are keeping a close eye on your kid or having to force them to share their experience with someone else who may wander up. And while we love them having to learn to share and live with others, it does often interrupt their imagination and reroute the experience. 

All of that to say, the vast expanse of space we get when we travel is not lost on us or our children. There is little luxury in travel that we can really treasure than open space to roam and enjoy. (Okay, maybe a free spa with unlimited services…. I’m only human.) 

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The last time we spent the spring in Paris, my friend Stacy arranged for us to stay at the Chateau de Servigny on our trip to Normandy. It was so lush and we had the best time. With our size group this semester, it was actually cheaper for us to rent out the space than to do hotel rooms… so we were happy with our luck forcing us back here. Not only is it personally important, but it also has special significance as the treaty for the German surrender of Normandy was signed in the chateau! What a special place.

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If you’re headed to Normandy for a trip longer than a couple of nights, I think this is the perfect base for your travels. It’s location near St. Mere Eglise make it a perfect spot for D-Day Beaches and it’s about 2.5 hours away from the iconic Mont St. Michel…. Where I am, in fact, currently sitting in a cafe on as I type out this blog post. 

The Chateau has eight bedrooms that you can rent, a full kitchen, dining room, tennis courts, bathrooms, perfect sitting rooms and all the other amenities that can come with a privately rented chateau. We have a cook come in each night and she cooks us 3 course meals for €20 per person. It’s a fantastic value… especially when she tells you that the chicken she roasted came from her very own farm or her daughter works in the patisserie that made the triple chocolate cake you are eating.

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I really can’t say enough about what a retreat this space is for us. I hope you can come and see for yourself what special place Chateau de Servigny is.

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Looking for more on trips to Normandy? Find my France guide or read my previous Normandy posts.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 11, 2018 and filed under normandy, france, travel.

Pack Your Bags: The Perfect Normandy Itinerary

Over the weekend, we went with my students to Normandy. What started as a regular group trip evolved into an epic getaway when my friend, Stacy, hooked us up with a stay in the Chateau de Servigny. As you may have imagined, my students heads nearly fell off when we rolled up and they saw our accommodations for the weekend. 

Luckily, the fun didn't stop there. We had a day in Bayeaux- eating at our favorite spot and seeing the famous tapestry, touring the D-Day beaches, visiting Mont St. Michel in all of its Easter Sunday madness, frolicking through the port side town of Honfleur and wandering through Monet's garden in Giverny.

Normandy isn't the easiest place to get to from Paris, but I'm going to make it a little easierby doing a suggested itinerary for a few days there. In exchange, you have to indulge me and see a slew of pictures from our weekend away. If it's any consolation, most were taken by Stacy (who just happens to be an amazing photographer) and they are really pretty.

 

THE PERFECT NORMANDY ITINERARY

 

DAY ONE | DEPART FOR NORMANDY

You have a few options to get to Normandy- either rent a car at Hertz in Gare du Nord or train from Paris to Caen. From there, rent a car and drive from there.

Head to Bayeux (approximately 20 minutes from Caen).

Lunch at La Moulin de Galette (get the Galette l'Aure - but sub out the chicken for ham. It's incredible.)

Spend the rest of the day enjoying the tiny town of Bayeux: visit the Bayeux Tapestry, explore the town, or wandering through the town's stunning cathedral.

Stay at the Hotel Churchill, Reine Mathilde or the pricier (but equally central), Villa Lara Hotel.

 

DAY TWO | D-DAY BEACHES

Wake up. Have breakfast in Bayeux.

Explore Utah Beach. 

Drive to St-Mere-Eglise. Explore the Paratroopers Museum there. See the "paratrooper" hanging in memory of the US soldier who survived German fire by playing dead as he hung, stuck on the village's church steeple, during the chaos of D-Day. Eat lunch. Visit the tasty bakery in town.

Drive to La Pointe du Hoc. Visit the stunning place dotted with craters from explosions and explore German armories. 

Visit Omaha Beach & The American Cemetery above the beach.

Return to Bayeux. Relax for the evening in town.

 

DAY THREE | MONT ST MICHEL & VILLEDIEU-LES-POÊLES

Breakfast in Bayeux- at the hotel or from one of the nearby local cafes.

Depart for Mont St. Michel. (If you're not up for driving. Hotel Churchill offers a daily shuttle from their hotel to Mont St. Michel at an affordable rate!) The drive is two hours from Bayeux, and you'll have to either take the shuttle bus from the parking lot or walk 30 minutes to the famous rocky village.

Explore Mont St. Michel. Eat in town, do some souvenir shopping, explore the Abbey on top of the town, and enjoy the views offered from the top. You'll want about 2.5 hours to explore the town after you reach the base of it.

Depart Mont St. Michel. If you leave early enough, you can stop for lunch in Villedieu Les Poeêles. This tiny town is not only really cute with lots of cafes, shops and bakeries, but it also is the home to Mauviel copper cookware- the fancy kind that you can buy for 3x the cost in Williams-Sonoma.

Drive on to Honfleur, spend the evening eating in one of the endless restaurants dotted around the tiny seaside town.

 

DAY FOUR | HONFLEUR, GIVERNY & RETURN TO PARIS

Wake up in Honfleur. Shop around the town. Eat lunch in a cafe around the main port in the sunshine. Wander through the little streets. Visit Saint Catherine's Cathedral to see the naval-esque architecture of the fishing town.

Depart Honfleur for Giverny. Wander through Monet's family home, manicured gardens and legendary water garden. 

Drive back to Paris in time for dinner and an evening settling back into the City of Lights.

 

 

So there you have it- your Normandy getaway all planned out. Check out more travel advice in my France Travel Guide or contact me for a personalized consult for your vacation.



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy by L'Amour de Paris

 

 

Normandy D-Day Beaches

Our last day in Normandy

was spent hauling buns around the coast

trying to take in all of the WWII history.

Obviously, this is impossible to do in one day.

We had watched Saving Private Ryan ahead of time,

which turned out to be a good move.

Walking out to those beaches and having fresh visuals

of what happened on the ground below us

is a heavy feeling that is hard to explain.

You'll have to go someday and it experience it for yourself...

but it's an odd cocktail of pride & sadness that can only be drank slowly.

Regardless of being in the middle of the French countryside

I was left feeling as patriotic as if I was atop float in a Fourth of July Parade.

Our D-Day Itinerary through Normandy started with a visit to Utah Beach.

Walking out to Utah Beach,

it looked exactly like I had always pictured it.

From Utah Beach, we headed to the Paratroopers Museum in town

and had a quick break to have, in my opinion the best tailgate ever.

No, I don't really enjoying eating out of the trunk of a car before football games,

but somehow when it is out of a Peugeot in a small French village it seems much... classier :)

We cruised on up the road another hour or so till we arrived at Omaha Beach.

Then we found ourselves up the hill at the American Cemetery...

which is both hauntingly beautiful.

All those crosses representing people who had their lives cut short

so that others enjoy the promise of a full, free life.

It's humbling, no?

In retrospect, we could have skipped driving to Omaha Beach,

and just 

headed to the American Cemetery 

where there is a path to the beach from there. 

It overlooks the beach as you can see in the picture below. 

Oh well.

Normandy is an amazing trip. 

Honestly, one I hope to do over several times,

as I can tell this is a special place that only gets better as you uncover it.

{But I will probably always return to this private home rental

near Mont St Michel where we stayed.

It was completely perfect- location, cute owners, fabulous four course meal for dinner!}

Have you visited Normandy?

Do you know someone who fought there?

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy. 

Posted on April 13, 2012 and filed under "France", "French Day Trips", "Normandy", "travel", normandy.

Bucket List #31: Visit Mont St. Michel

You can't visit Normandy 

without a stop by Mont St. Michel...

I mean seriously, this place is striking in a way unlike any other.

{Editor's Note: Which is why we all have it pinned to our travel board on Pinterest.}

While I was driving, I glanced over and, unexpectedly, saw it on the horizon.

There it was with the sun sitting directly over it.

I completely flipped out.

It looked more like a fairy tale than anything I've ever seen.

I'm not being dramatic here,

I'm being factual.

As we passed the signs pointing us to the landmark,

I was acting like a child.

I was squealing and jumping up & down in my seat as I drove...

it was awkward and weird all at the same time.

As we reached the long drive up to the famous abbey,

the sun was setting and it seemed like a perfect moment in time.

I was flooded with the reminder that this world has SO many great things in it.

In every corners of the earth,

there are stunning things.

Some that are natural (like the Canary Islands),

some that are manmade (like Norway's Ice Hotel),

some that are iconic (like the Taj Mahal),

some that are overlooked (like Civita Di Bagnoregio)...

How lucky are we

to live in a world with this many treasures!

*ps. we returned the next morning for a second look. hence, the second set of daylight pictures.

**all images original to Aspiring Kennedy. Please source accordingly.

Posted on April 10, 2012 and filed under "France", "French Day Trips", "Normandy", "travel", normandy.

Monday Moods: I feel... blurry.

As I mentioned on Saturday,

we went to Normandy this weekend.

The first stop on our trip was Claude Monet's house in Giverny.

We were rushed to catch the next train,

so we only had one hour there.

It really should be at least three...

but it was sunny, our guide was amazing

& it lived up to all I had thought it would be,

As we rushed around the estate

from the famous water garden...

{where I could happily spend hours 

sitting by the water garden

being bored & picking petals off the tiny flowers}

On through through the main garden

in front of his colorful house,

I was absolutely giddy.

When I was four or five, 

I became a bit obsessed with Monet's Water Lilies.

In my delusional mind, it felt like they were made especially for my enjoyment.

My parents bought me a replica (obviously) 

and hung it on the wall across from my bath tub.

This silent presence during my bath time

ultimately resulted in countless attempts 

of me 

trying to float like one of  Monet's lilies

on top of the water of my bath tub.

I never could stay a float for more than a few seconds

and it always left me wishing that I had stem 

that could, to my young self, given me the support needed

 to allow me to rest above the water.

As we sat on the train 

that chugged us deeper towards the French coast,

I couldn't help but find our moment in Giverny 

to be anything short of a beautiful, albeit blurry, place.

Just like Monet painted it.

***

If you want to visit Monet's house in Giverny...

Take a train from Paris St. Lazare to Vernon, it's approximately 50 minutes.

Take the bus outside the station. It will drive you to Monet's house for €4 round trip, per person.

If you would like to prebook a guide, I recommend Ariane. She is lovely.

The gardens close during winter on November 1, but reopen April 1

.

Give yourself 2.5 hours to walk the property.

Posted on April 9, 2012 and filed under "France", "French Day Trips", "Normandy", "art", normandy.

La {Cote} Gauche: A Tasty Side of France

This weekend is the last full weekend I work in Paris.

I'll still be around for a bit longer, 

but this is the last weekend with my spring students...

and it somehow resulted in an impromptu trip to Normandy with 16 people.

Starting with Giverny 

to visit Monet's house...

... spending a night 

at a completely charming country house

in the outskirts of Mont St. Michel...

... and filling a full day to explore the WWII Normandy Beaches.

Every stop along the way checks off lifetime dreams of mine.

One thing I need to say:

Normandy is a really well-kept secret.

It's got absolutely everything you could want out of a French town.

Amazing churches,

quiet squares decorated with fountains,

the smell of butter wafting through the streets...

and the food is amazing.

 SABLES BRETON | CAMEMBERT CHEESE | CIDRE BRETON

What Tuscany is to Italian cuisine,

so Normandy is to French cuisine.

Hearty dishes made from pure local ingredients.

Sitting down to a plate full of pork & cider stew

piled by a mound of gratin potatoes....

Or waking up to a fresh cake 

with homemade apple & cinnamon jam 

made from the apple tree outside...

Well friends, I have to say,

it doesn't get much better than that.

Don't worry...

this post isn't the only one you'll see about our trip.

You'll see pretty places & find out cool things to do.

This is just to whet your appetite...

*artwork original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 7, 2012 and filed under "France", "French Day Trips", "Normandy", "travel", normandy.