Culture

How To Spend the Day in Normandy From Anywhere In The World

Immerse yourself in culture by spending a virtual day in Normandy

Before I moved to Normandy, I didn’t know much about it. I knew about the D-Day beaches from my history lessons, and Le Mont-Saint-Michel from my French lessons, but besides that I didn’t really know that much about Norman culture. After living in Normandy’s capital, Rouen, for the last two years, I’ve come to learn all about Norman culture and food, and I love to share what I know with everyone I meet. If I could, I would take you all with me on a journey across the Atlantic to my favorite places in Normandy, but since I can’t I’m going to show you how to spend a day in Normandy right from the comfort of your own home.

I’ll take you on a guided tour of what to eat, do, and learn during your day in Normandy. I’ll share locally-inspired recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (plus a bonus mid-afternoon snack), some movies to watch that are inspired by Normandy’s history, and even some arts and crafts activities inspired by Monet, the famous impressionist artist who painted a lot of Norman landscapes. This tour has a little something for everyone, but is definitely going to please any foodie or history-buff out there. Enjoy your day!

What to Eat

Breakfast:

Une tartine avec de la confiture aux pommes
The French eat small, sweet breakfasts. The most common breakfast is une tartine (toast) with coffee, tea or juice. Children often drink hot chocolate with their toast and usually put butter, jelly, or nutella on top of their toast. Cereal is also common. On special occasions they might eat croissants or cookies. Since breakfast is pretty much the same everywhere in France, if you want to make your breakfast more Norman you can spread apple butter on your toast. Normandy is known for its apple production, specifically for making ciders, but apple butter is definitely a local product.

Lunch: 

Une omelette de la mère Poulard
At Le Mont-Saint-Michel there is a restaurant called La Mère Poulard that is famous for their omelettes. These omelettes are apparently so divine that they go for up to 38€ a pop. The real recipe is guarded safely, and will most likely never be revealed to the public. But, there are a few chefs who have recreated the omelettes, and they claimed to have gotten it pretty close to the real deal. You can check them out here and here. This omelette pairs nicely with a green salad. 

P.S. If you’re wondering why you’re eating an omelette for lunch and not breakfast it’s because the French don’t consider eggs to be a breakfast food. 

Goûter

Les sablées
The French have a fourth meal that is tucked between lunch and dinner, and is usually served between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. This meal is more like a snack, and is usually reserved for children. Though, I usually indulge in a goûter almost every afternoon! Since Normandy is in the north it gets a lot of rain. This is bad for hair days, but it’s great for cows who like to munch on grassy green pastures. Normandy’s wide open spaces, fields of buttercups, and tall, healthy grass, make the region famous for its dairy products—which they use to make some incredibly buttery shortbread cookies called sablées. Sablées, which literally means “sandy,” were actually invented in Sarthe, which isn’t in Normandy, but one of the most famous sablée recipes comes from La Mère Poulard, the inventor of our famously fluffy (and pricey) omelette. Here and here are two delicious sablée recipes you can take a look at! 

P.S. If you’re wondering why you’re eating an omelette for lunch and not breakfast it’s because the French don’t consider eggs to be a breakfast food.

Dinner: 

Poulet à la Normande
Apples are back in this famous chicken dish that hails from Normandy. Otherwise known as “Chicken Normandy,” this recipe is filled with flavor. The apple flavor comes from using cider, Calvados (a type of brandy made with apples), and chunks of honeycrisp apples. This NYT recipe has 173 5-star reviews, so it’s definitely worth checking out. 

Cheese:

Camembert
The French finish almost every meal with a hunk of cheese and bread. If you really want to spend the day like the French, you’ll have to do the same. As you know already, Normandy is known for producing creamy dairy products, and their cheese is no exception. Camembert is a soft, creamy cheese made from cow’s milk, and pairs well with a crusty baguette, fruits, crackers, pecans, and hazelnuts. Or you can just drink it down with a glass of bubbly cider (see next)!

Drink: 

Cidre/Calvados
Apple-based drinks are really famous in Normandy due to their numerous apple orchards. My family and I have taken a tour through cider country, and it was pretty incredible. We tried cidre (cider), Calvados, and Pommeau, a drink made with apple juice and brandy. If you’re feeling really gourmand, you can try a little Calvados on top of some vanilla ice cream for dessert.

What to Do in Normandy

  1. Take a 1-minute tour through Rouen, the capital of Normandy. 
  2. Take a virtual tour through Rouen’s Musée de Beaux Arts, and check out some of Monet’s famous paintings of Rouen’s cathedral. 
  3. Visit Monet’s house and gardens right from your computer! (This is one of my favorite places to visit in France.)
  4. Check out this photo tour of Étretat, one of the most famous landmarks in Normandy!
  5. Watch a movie based on the historic D-Day, like The Longest Day, Saving Private Ryan, or Overlord
  6. Take a tour of Le Mont-Saint-Michel while you’re eating your omelette or sablées!
  7. Try painting your own impressionist painting, a painting-style inspired by a lot of Norman landscapes. Here’s a how-to video that’s less than 10 minutes! 
  8. If painting your own impressionist painting seems a little overwhelming, here are 10 Monet-inspired crafts for kids. 
  9. Check out this virtual tour of the International Kite Festival in Dieppe. If you feel inspired, try to make a kite of your own!

What to Know about Normandy

  1. The Tapisserie de Bayeux is one of the most incredible works of art in Normandy. It is a 229ft tapestry that displays the story of the events surrounding the conquest of England in 1066 by the Duke of Normandy. You can head to the museum’s website to learn more, or watch this 5-minute video that animates the story on the tapestry.
  2. Jeanne d’Arc, or Joan of Arc, is one of the most famous female figures in French history, and while she was born in Orléans, she was imprisoned and burned at the stake in Rouen. There are multiple movies about Jeanne d’Arc, but one of the most famous is The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.
  3. If you’re interested in learning more about D-Day, here are 5 book suggestions from a renowned WWII historian. 

I hope you had a wonderful (virtual) day in Normandy!

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