French Photo Diary #12: Early Autumn in Brittany and Normandy
Before really setting back into the routines of autumn in my kitchen in London, the four of us decided to spend a week at the French house. Most days I went for walks in the forest, read in the sunshine out on the patio and cooked lazy, wine fuelled lunches. However, we felt it would be a shame to drive all that way not to have any adventures, so after lots of deliberating over the map (to be honest, we’ve been to most places in the local area over the past 10+ years we’ve had the house) we settled on two day trips, one further down into Brittany than we’ve been before, and another, taking the coastal road back up into Normandy.
Researching places we had not been in Brittany led us to have lunch in the pretty little town of Josselin. We walked through the lovely old streets, walked down the canal looking up at the chateau, had the best plat du jour of the trip and explored the beautiful church. However, while usually I recommend only visiting somewhere outside peak tourist season, if you want to go in the chateau and there are members of your group who don’t speak French, you’re only allowed in on a guided tour which is only in English when there are enough tourists to make it worth their while, so we skipped it. We wished we’d known this before we arrived!
After sharing a carafe of the house white and some French bread while the boys tucked into the starter of the day – deliciously ripe and floral slices of melon wrapped in a cured ham which must have been good as neither of them let me try any – one of my all time favourite dishes, a steaming plate of moules mariner arrived. I may be bias, but I think Brittany is one of the best places in France to eat their version of fish and chips, and they’re at their best in the autumn, their season running from July to February.
Another of my main food picks in Brittany for lunch if you’re not going to go for moules or a traditional Breton galette is the steak. I don’t think I have ever had a set menu steak in Brittany that has been anything less than delicious, and if it is an entrecôte, the most popular cut that we just don’t have in the UK, you’re on to a winner.
Another French classic that is popular on plat du jour menus is the Îles flottantes, literally ‘floating islands’ made from (sometimes toasted) soft meringue-like whipped and sweetened egg whites, floating in a cool bowl of chilled creme anglaise, usually topped off with almonds and in Brittany, the local salted caramel. Very unusual outside of France and French restaurants, and very delicious – worth it if you’ve never had it before.
For our Normandy day trip we headed to Granville, a little port town that we mainly chose as a lunch destination (though, sadly lunch was not great – why on earth would you put together a fruit de mer out of the beautiful, sparklingly fresh local seafood if you’re going to cook the fish in herb water first, masking all the fresh flavours? However, the local oysters here are bloody outstanding, so just order your body weight in those with a carafe of nice cold wine instead!) – a sort of poor mans St. Malo across the other side of the bay.
However, we were not too disappointed by Gravnille itself as the main reason we’d headed there in the first place was to enjoy the stunning views across the bay to Le Mont St. Michel, and of the rugged Brittany / Normandy coastline. It was a brilliantly blue, sunny, clear day, and I really do think the pictures speak for themselves.
One thing that can always be relied on, however, along the Brittany / Normandy coast (as well as the fantastic oysters) is the salted caramel (caramel sel) ice cream. Skip the branded jointed and choose somewhere independent who make their own flavours and wander the streets with a cone, perhaps instead of dessert on the way back to the car (one massive plus for Granville is that parking is both copious and free!)
If you’re planning an adventure, do check out my new improved travel section (if you hover over ‘Travel‘ in the menu at the top of the page you’ll get a drop down so you can filter by destination). I’m also going to be working hard on expanding this section, so it would be great to hear more about the sorts of guides you’d like to see. I arrived back from Birmingham yesterday, so there will be a few more details on that coming soon!