Tag Archives: Normandy

Chateau de Fleury La Foret: Worth a night’s stay!

by Ian Blackshaw

My wife and I have just returned from a few days in Chartres, where, naturally, we visited its fine Cathedral with its magnificent medieval stained glass windows. We were fortunate to be there on the first evening of their ‘son et lumiere’ season and it was most impressive and well worth seeing!

On our way back, we visited the beautiful ‘Pays de Lyons Foret’ in Haute Normandie (Departement de l’Eure), at the centre of which is the finely-preserved medieval village of Lyons la Foret, which claims to be one of the most beautiful villages of France, a claim that is well justified, with its typical colombage houses and fine timber market hall, which dominates its main square. It is a relaxed place, where time seems to have stood still!

Our trusty Guide Michelin pointed us for our overnight stay in the direction of the Chateau de Fleury la Foret, about 3 miles from Lyons la Foret situated in verdant countryside, typical of Continue reading “Chateau de Fleury La Foret: Worth a night’s stay!” »

Chateau Du Landel: A restful rural retreat with refined cooking

The Chateau du Landel

By Ian Blackshaw

If you are looking to escape to a delightful place for a weekend, I can certainly recommend the Chateau du Landel, which is a three star hotel and restaurant in the heart of the Normandy countryside, just a couple of hours’ drive from our region.

Situated in the Lyons’ forest, just outside the delightful village of Bezancourt, this eighteenth century chateau at one time was a staging post on the pilgrim’s route to Santiago da Compostella in North Western Spain. Until 1870, the chateau was owned by the Master Glassblowers (Maître Verriers), and since then has been in private hands. In fact, it is the family home of the Cardon’s and the hotel and restaurant are run by Monsieur Yves Cardon and his wife, Annick, who gave us a warm and friendly welcome on our arrival. We had a small but very nice room on the second floor, complete with exposed beams, overlooking the parkland at the back of the chateau, and we were struck by the peace and tranquillity of the place. It is, in fact, a ‘Relais du Silence’.

In the grounds, there is a very nice swimming pool, complete with showers and changing rooms and also a tennis court for the use of guests. In a vaulted cellar in the chateau, there is a billiards room, and the chateau also boats a large seminar room for private meetings. The public rooms of the chateau are furnished with period furniture, and the beamed restaurant has a large fireplace. In fact, we had a table near the fireplace, which was lit and added a certain warmth and ambiance to the dining room.

The “Bird Room”, one of the Chateau's two comfortable dining rooms

We enjoyed a refined three-course dinner, based on local fresh produce, which was well cooked and presented, and the service was attentive and friendly. The wine list was small, with a representative selection of French regional wines of good vintages, but quite pricey. Unfortunately, there was a distinct lack of half bottles on offer, which rather spiked our guns.

Next morning, a delightful continental buffet breakfast was served in a small dining room, overlooking the garden, accompanied by bird song, including the cuckoo – a sure sign that Spring had sprung and Summer was on the way!

There are some delightful country walks and bike rides to be enjoyed, as well as golf and horse riding on offer nearby. In fact, mountain bikes can be hired from the chateau. The historic city of Rouen is about twenty miles away, with its fine cathedral and other places of interest to visit.

WiFi Internet access is available gratis in each of the bedrooms, which also have satellite TV, including BBC World, and, although we no longer have a dog, we noticed that dogs are welcome at the chateau.

The chateau has 17 bedrooms, which range in price from 98 – 205€; dinner costs between 31.50 and 50€; and breakfast is €12.

More information is available from the chateau’s website at www.chateau-du-landel.fr.

Calvados: a complex and versatile Eau De Vie

by Ian Blackshaw

A bottle of fine Calvados Pays d'Auge

Regular readers of my wine articles will know that I am not into spirits – at least, generally speaking. Some friends of ours do enjoy their spirits and particularly enjoy Calvados, which they regularly offer as an after dinner drink (digestif). I usually refuse. But the other day, I accepted and enjoyed the experience, especially as the Calavados was a good quality one. Apparently, as I suppose one might expect, there is Calvados and Calvados! It was, in fact, a Boulard from the Pays d’Auge, one of the three appellations contrôlées of Calvados – and probably the best one!

Calvados is an apple brandy from the Lower Normandy Region (Basse-Normandie) of North Western France.

The area called “Calvados” – well-known for its apple orchards – was created after the French Revolution, but an ‘eau de vie de cidre’ was already called Calvados in common usage; the first known Norman distillation of cider brandy was carried out by ‘Lord’ de Gouberville in 1554. So, it has been around for a respectable period of time!

Calvados is distilled from specially grown and selected apples, of which apparently there are over 200 varieties. It is not uncommon for a Calvados producer to use over 100 specific varieties of apples, which are either sweet (such as the Rouge Duret); tart (such as the Rambault); or bitter (such as the Mettais, Saint Martin, Frequin, and Binet Rouge varieties), with the latter variety being quite inedible!

The fruit is picked (usually by hand) and pressed into a juice that is fermented into a dry cider. It is then distilled into an eau de vie.

An Alembic Pot Still used in producing Calvados

After two years of aging in oak casks, it can be sold as Calvados. The longer it is aged, the smoother the drink becomes. Usually the maturation goes on for several years. The VSOP Calvados is at least four years’ old. A bottle of a twenty-year-old Calvados, for example, can easily command twice the price of a bottle of a ten-year-old Calvados.

The longer the Calvados is aged, the more its taste resembles that of any other aged brandy. As Calvados ages, it becomes golden or darker brown with orange elements and red mahogany. According to Calvados connoisseurs, the nose and palate are quite delicate, with a concentration of aged apples and dried apricots, balanced with butterscotch, nut and chocolate aromas. So, it is quite complex!
Calvados can be made from a single generally exceptionally good year for the fruit and, in such cases, the label on the bottle mentions that year.

In other words, vintage Calvados.

Incidentally, Calvados is the regimental drink of The Royal Canadian Hussars and Le Régiment de Maisonneuve, having been taken up as the units passed through Normandy following the D-Day Landings of 6 June, 1944.

Calvados can be drunk as an aperitif or a digestif, or as part of a sorbet in the middle of a meal (as a palate cleanser and a very fine one too!), when it forms an essential ingredient of the famous and very popular ‘Le Trou Normand’ served at French gourmet dinners! So, it is quite a versatile drink! But watch out: Calvados has a 40% by volume alcohol content. So, drink in moderation and enjoy every drop!