Sunday, 1 July 2012

Dorset & Normandy - Day 8

We woke up the next day to a wonderful breakfast with Carole - two kinds of bread, homemade yogurts and jams, plenty of tea and coffee. We had a good chat and then I went back to the gîte for a rest before Patrick and Peggy arrived to take us for a car tour around the Calvados département

Our first stop was Château de Crèvecœur, a medieval farm and tower part of which has been transformed into an oil museum (no, it didn't make much sense to me either). It was actually a pretty large site, which a huge dove cote (enough room for 3,000 birds), a barn, chapel, 2 houses for workers and the main tower within fortified walls. Set around a little river (probably a moat previously), we spent a very pleasant few hours walking around and exploring the site. We only got rained on a little, which, unfortunately, wasn't really enough to clear the air so it stayed quite humid. Fortunately, the sun also came out, which made for another nice (if a bit sticky day.

After a picnic lunch outside the château,  we headed through the countryside to the picturesque little town of Beuvron-en-Auge (more information available on the French wikipedia site). Stephen and I took a walk through town to the local church and cemetery. What was remarkable was that many seemed to enjoy good long lives, living well into their 80s seemed to be the norm and nearing 100 not unusual, even for those born in the 19th century! The church itself was rather cute, but there wasn't an organ which seemed odd. Then we rejoined the group for a mid-afternoon drink. Many had coffee, but I had a glass of menthe et d'eau (water with mint syrop), which was wonderfully refreshing on a hot day. We got up to head to our next stop just as busloads of other tourists arrived. Well timed!

Then it was time for the day's highlight (as if the others hadn't been wonderful!), a visit to a Calvados distillery - Brunel. Calvados is a type of apple brandy made predominantly in and around this region of France. We even had our own private guided tour, but sadly her accent was so strong and pronunciation so muddled that I didn't really understand much of what she said. Still, it was a pretty comprehensive tour, including not only all the steps of the spirit making process, but also visits to the distillation room (all of which was done in an alembic pot still) and the aging warehouses (amazing smell!). The video at the end was pretty terrible (more propaganda than actual information), but that was quickly forgotten when we moved on to the tasting! We tasted 2 kinds of Calvados made there (a 10 year and a 12 year), but the real stars were the Calvados derived spirits - Pommeau, a "Calvados exotique" and Creme de Calvados - and also a cider jelly that I had to have a bottle of. 

Patrick was fantastic trouper, forgoing the tasting in order to get us all back safe and sound to the gîte. We took another little rest and some blogging before another fantastic dinner where we were joined by Carole's daughter, Juliette. We laughed and talked in 2 languages well into the dark of the night, during which a thunderstorm helped clear the air and lower the humidity somewhat. By the time we all went off to bed, it was calm cool with nothing but the croaking of the frogs to disturb us.

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