Les Insolites – Some Ideas Out of the Ordinary
For a small group of horse mad kids (and/or grown-ups!) you can arrange a two day horse trek with a local stables.
Promenades avec ânes. A day or a half day walk with a lovely calm, pack saddle donkey to carry your picnic. Kids love this – they can ride if they get tired of walking! Hire two or more donkeys – it’s more fun if everyone has their own! More info
Chaumont (73km, 45 miles, 47 minutes)
A visit to an open air snail farm l’escargotière. The mollusc livestock are pampered with frequent showers and a natural diet of grasses, clover and nettles – the necessary conditions apparently, to obtain a snail of ‘high quality – firm and tender – with the taste of Normandy pastures’. Farmers M and Mme Marty invite you to ‘discover the life of the snail, initiate yourself in the habits of these mysterious creatures – and how to eat them.
Hunt or shoot
A day’s field sport in season – boar hunting, shooting etc. We can help arrange this for you.
Very popular in France for pampering and revitalising yourself using the therapeutic qualities of seawater. Spend a whole day at the luxurious Thalasso Caboug with heated sea pool and various individual treatments involving marine mud and seaweed. Expensive but…
You can have a day or half day’s spa treatments which combine the ‘alchemy of the virtues of the cider apple and the unique properties of the famous local mineral water’. Some of the treatments defy translation but sound intriguing, for example, a hydrating massage with apple extract is followed by a treatment called Enveloppement aux secrets de pommes.
Beauty treatment for the girls
Go home with a new look – make an appointment for a chic French haircut at a local salon (Arts et Couleurs in Falaise is terrific) and/or French manicure and make-up lesson at local beautician.
(137km, 85 miles, 1hr32)
Anyone less than 90 kg can sign up for a tandem (accompanied) parachute dive over Utah beach – apparently a moment of supreme joy. And buy a video of the event for posterity.
Le Moutiers-en-Cinglais (43km, 26 miles, 38 minutes)
Hire a horse drawn carriage for an hour, half or whole day to discover the Suisse Normande at a measured walk or if you are game, at a more sportif pace! Start from Le Moutiers-en-Cinglais and explore the leafy nature trails in the Forêt Grimbosq. Give our regards to Princesse the impeccably trained Percheron mare!
(51kms, 32 miles, 45 minutes)
The friendly, fluent in English staff at Le PtitChef Academy in Caen will be happy to offer you a private cooking lesson on the subject of your choice for a minimum of two people. They also offer group lessons (in French – with some English translation) throughout the year on various themes. Even lessons for kids (aged 7-12) on Saturdays and Wednesdays.
(92km, 57 miles, 1 hr)
Book a session to drive a Caterham Seven, and/or a Nissan 370Z and/ or a Lotus Exige 240S at EIA Speedway Pont L’Eveque.English speaking instructors, site of BMW driving school. Open every day all year. More info
Picnics par excellence
How about going to a morning market up by the coast and buying some picnic foods with some nice dry cider to enjoy on the beach. Or have it all done for you and buy a hamper at Le Manoir d’Apreval near Honfleur – they even provide a checked tablecloth and an orchard where you can lunch in the shade of the apple trees, like the famous painting by Manet Déjeuner sur l’herbe. (For comfort, however, and decency’s sake – and unlike the ladies in the picture – perhaps keep your clothes on!)
at La Ferme de la Michaudière – Juvigny sous Andaine (46km, 28 miles, 51 minutes)
An impressive and surprisingly fast tempo display of up to 30 heavy horses flying through their paces with a build-up to the grand parade at the end of the hour long afternoon show.
Sound and light at Sees cathedral
(46km, 29 miles, 30 mins)
Amazing spectacle of Les Musilumières on summer evenings – June to September. The beautiful 12th-14th century Norman Gothic architecture comes to life in a 45 minute show explaining the history and the people who built the cathedral all those hundreds of years ago.
Exceptional natural acoustics combined with 21st century technology of the sparkling multi-coloured light projection. Unforgettable. Simultaneous English translation.
(38 km, 24 miles, 39minutes)
Ramble on rails! Venez-vous balader sur les rails en Suisse-Normande! A fun way to travel on a sort of tandem bike running on former railway tracks through scenic countryside. Mum and Dad can do the peddling! A 13km circuit from Pont Erambourg takes about 1hr 45. Annoyingly, you can only book by phone. We can do this for you if you prefer. More info
(90km, 56 miles, 1 hr)
Take the strain out out cycling and go for these motorised bikes – described as ‘fun et retro, super original et sympa’ you can hire them for a an hour or half day (if you are over 20 and have a driving licence) and do a tour up to the coast starting from Pont L’Évêque. More info
(90km, 56 miles, 1 hr)
Why not hire a couple of legendary Citroen 2CVs for the day and follow the recommendations of Les Deudeuches à Eugene who suggest your itinerary around the scenic Pays d’Auge in these iconic French classics. Start off at Pont-L’Évêque. More info
Hot air ballooning
(14km, 8 miles, 15 minutes)
At dawn or two hours before sunset, you can take a flight in a hot air balloon, floating through the air, silently observing the beautiful Normandy countryside. Montgolfières in Falaise offer 40-90 minute flights for three people maximum. Open all year and everyone over 1.3 m in height (with the exception of expectant mothers) can fly. Weather conditions have to be favourable.
Visit a Trappist monastery
(74km, 46 miles, 1hr 5mins)
Buy monk-made items from the shop to support the abbey and take your own containers to fill up with the special spring water from the abbey fountain – Fontaine Saint-Bernard. More info
A guided tour of…
Join a guided tour (in French usually) of a pigeon farm, a milking donkey farm, an oyster farm, angora rabbit farm, goat cheese farm, mohair goat farm. We can give you all the details.
(95kms , 59 miles,1 hour)
A visit to the famous Normand cheese maker Maître Pennec at Saint-Benoit-d’Hebertot specialities include coup de pied au cul (kick up the backside – a cheese with calvados), cul terreux (country bumpkin cheese) vierge folle (mad virgin cheese), vache en feu (cow on fire) and pièce de resistance – puant normande (a cheese called ‘stinky Normande’). Hopefully there is something lost in my translations?
See Mont St Michel (again)
…but this time from the water – or the air – or on horseback.
Representing the pinnacle of European medieval culture, Mont St Michel is justifiably famous – so much so, that unless out of season, think of avoiding the crowds and seeing it from a different viewpoint.
Ask us for the latest schedule of 1.5 hour boat trips with commentary (only in French) that depart daily from Granville port in June and July.
Fly over the bay in an Ultralight aircraft with Didier Hulin. Set off from Aerodrome d’Arromanches (169km, 105 miles, 1hr 41). Possibility of taking two aircraft up at the same time. Weather dependent. You need to book well in advance for weekends. More info
La Taniére (169km, 105 miles, 1hr 41) offer various options for horseback riding across and around the Bay of Mt St Michel, from half hour pony rides for the very little ones to the 5-hour Traversée de la baie. Think of going over the night before if it is an early start (tide dependent).
Bird Watching on the Chausey Islands
This group of several hundred scattered granite islets are a nature reserve for marine birds. Only 17km from the coast at Granville. You can take the direct train from Argentan to arrive at the coast in 1hr 18. Maybe read up on your field guide to the birds of Britain and Europe on the way. Then a stroll down to the port and connect with the ferry. Bring your binoculars.
Check out the ferry timetable because the cruises are tide-dependent. More info
Channel Island stopover
Take your time and return to the UK via a day or two on the Channel Islands which are temptingly close (14 miles) to the Normandy coast.
Leaving the Haras, drive west over to the walled city of St Mâlo in Brittany (215km, 133 miles 2hrs 14) then it’s only an hour and 20 minutes on the car ferry to St Helier in Jersey. You gain an hour going back to British time – so it seems to take no time at all! Spend a few days there; enjoying the beaches, natural beauty and the unique atmosphere of the mix of English and French culture. You can then travel back with your car direct to Weymouth, Poole or Portsmouth in the UK.