We’ve been lucky enough to see a good amount of Southern France. Everything from the Mediterranean coasts of Sete, the college towns of Montpellier, a little bit north into the wine country of Bordeaux and even the rural countryside east of Toulouse, but northern France has remained unseen territory. Lucky enough, these past couple days we’ve gotten to head north, outside of Southern France to what feels like a whole other country, Normandy.
Getting off the flight in Normandy one could immediately feel a very big difference. This distinct, foreign feeling came to us through hats, big coats and a desire for gloves, the cold. We had left the currently perfect mix of morning chills and afternoon sun to a cloudy, rainy and cold farming district. Taking the Uber from the tiny airport outside of Caen to our place in Bayeux treated us with the understanding that this was farmland, with a few tiny European cities sprinkled around. Our Uber driver explained that most of this farmland was grain, used to feed cows and other dairy animals. It felt a lot less foreign than southern France did, in fact it reminded me a lot of the countryside in the Midwest. There is even certain type of cow that only lives in Normandy and Wisconsin.
Arriving in Bayeux was beautiful. The architecture was much different than in Toulouse or the other southern French cities we’ve seen. Mostly white stone with black balconies. It was also very clear that this area received a lot more tourists than what we were used to. Lots of signs hung outside restaurants that said « English spoken » and we also met lots more tourists than we had in Toulouse. Definitely more Americans but also more English, French and other nationalities. They were most likely there to see the World war 2 sites and Mont saint Michel.
Getting back to the cold, it was clear that the weather plays a huge part of the culture in this region, just like everywhere else in the world. This was felt mostly when dining. At one of the restaurants we ate at in Bayeux, I had a traditional Norman chicken dish. This « Norman chicken » was covered in a thick cheesy cream sauce, next to hot carrots and bread, the kind of meal that makes you want to curl up next to a fire, wrap yourself in a blanket and never move again. Perfect cold weather comfort food. The traditional drink in Normandy is a sort of hard apple cider. The sugary apple juice mixed with the low amounts of alcohol has a similar effect, cozy, lazy, warm and relaxed.
It’s really amazing reading about, hearing about and finally seeing all the history that has happened on these lands. Riding the train through these historic grounds makes you wonder if there really is an amazing cathedral and castle lying about every couple miles. Looking at tourist attraction maps of the region confirms that there is indeed. The history of medieval times, with castles, knights and battles combined with the history of WW2 that took place in this region really makes this land unbelievably interesting and important.