People often ask me where they should stay when they travel to Normandy.
First, I highly recommend renting a guest house or ‘gite’ if you plan on staying a week or more. The cost per night is generally far lower and you also have all the amenities of home. We typically shop at the local markets and enjoy cooking for ourselves, though even if you ate out most of the time, it would still be far less expensive than staying in a hotel.
To be honest, we’ve only rented one gite in Normandy, but we’ve rented it every time we’ve gone (other than the first trip) so I can’t provide comparisons. Based on the web page, I thought I was picking the nicest and most interesting gite near Bayeux. When we arrived for the first time, even my wife was shocked at how beautiful it is. Florence and Dominique took a 19th-century farmhouse and created both a Bed & Breakfast in the main house and a pair of gites to rent. Les Chaufourniers is gorgeous. Dominique had a landscaping business on one of the islands off the Atlantic coast of France and Florence was managing a hotel out there. So, when they decided to move to Normandy and refurbish this simple farmhouse, they already had many of the talents they needed.
Unfortunately, the prior owner had used the back of the property as a moto-cross course (which must have thrilled the neighbors) and had let both sides of the barn (horse and cow) fall nearly into ruin. I’ve seen the “before” and “during” renovation photos, as well as having spent weeks in the “after”. There are still touches of the former purpose of the two gites (L’ecurie & L’etable), such as the stone feeding bin for the horses, but both have been made into modern, comfortable rental homes. Dominique used his talents to transform mot0-cross into pastoral beauty.
We’ve not stayed in the B&B, but have eaten at their table. You can make a dinner reservation with them in advance and I would highly recommend that as well. Florence is a magnificent chef and her kitchen is a marvel as well.
Since Les Chaurfourniers is only 9km west of Bayeux, we’ve done our shopping at a variety of places. Since we’re simple Americans, we enjoy shopping at the Le Clerc on Bayeux’s ring road to get the majority of our groceries and supplies for the week. However, you should not miss the opportunity to shop during one of the local market days. We particularly enjoyed the Sunday market in Port-en-Bessin (don’t miss the gentleman selling Calvados if it’s a cool day!) and have also been into Bayeux for the Wednesday market. You’re only yards from the nearest bread shop and visiting the butcher in Bayeux is glorious. I also heartily suggest that whether you rent a gite or stay in a hotel that you must visit my favorite wine shop – Le Cave d’Abondance along Rue Saint-Jean.
If you need a hotel and luxury is the most important, stay at La Cheneviere up the road from Bayeux on the way to Port-en-Bessin. I felt as though we were either nobility or had stepped into a 1930s movie set. Even if you don’t stay there, I would recommend one gourmet dinner be enjoyed. The cheese cart alone would have me fighting for a seat.
If you’ve never been to Normandy, you might be best staying in a hotel, but if you do rent one of the gites at Les Chaufourniers, Florence can provide a lot of assistance, as she is completely fluent in English. The people in Normandy are fabulously friendly and many of them do speak or understand some English. If you have studied French a bit on your own and don’t fluster easily, their English and your French gets you through almost anything.
Since we knew some of the area from our first trip, searching the internet and devouring guide books allowed me to draw up a good set of plans. I’m not much of a planner, but my wife is and… it really pays off – knowing the restuarants, sights, market dates, and store hours. It also helps that I always know I’ll be back, so if I miss one thing on a trip, I can always see it the next time.
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