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France – Tuesday: Falaise

August 15, 2012

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There was a bit of rain in the air when I woke. We’ve developed a pattern whereby I, who always wakes early, settle down with my iPad and a cup of tea to write my blog post about the previous day while the others go on sleeping. I like this quiet time when only the bleating of the goats and call of the birds sweetly breaks the peace. I can’t pick up the wifi in the house but just outside. But as a bench in the rain wasn’t a good option I took my iPad up to the barn where the router sits on a table and that, with its view back to the gites, became my new desk.

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My presence gave Jean-Michel a big of a surprise when he came in to let out the two goats but then we had a nice chat and he came back a little later with a carton. Did we like eggs? he asked. Then gave me just-laid eggs for our breakfast, still warm to hold. Mine was soon an omelette; the freshest possible eggs and very delicious.

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After breakfast I headed into Falaise again with Jonathan and Lyndsey as they hadn’t seen it yet. They too we impressed by its majestic architecture. We went back to the butcher I’d used on Sunday for a chicken and more sausages, which required asking them to remove the chicken’s head for us …we also checked its insides had been removed. As Nicola noted when we were eating sausages the other night, we’re not great sausage eaters but these are so meaty and delicious they’re something quite different to the English sausage. Before heading home we sat at a cafe for a late coffee with a nice view of the church. Jonathan had Coke though and when they brought it and he asked for ice and lemon we had a good laugh over our surprise at being charged 20 centimes for ice and a slice of lemon!

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Back at Le Pressoir, Nicola had started getting lunch ready. With our wonderful Normandy cheeses, fresh crunchy baguette and local cider we pondered that lunch really couldn’t get much better than this. Later, after a bit of a siesta I went for a walk to the nearest hamlet, Bray en Cinglais. The road gently undulates up and down and round, opening from a stretch of wooded land into glorious vistas of fields covered with hay bales, cows grazing and lovely stone farmhouses nestling in sheltered pockets.

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The road sides are full of wild flowers – even on motorways we’d noticed – and apart from the delight of bright red poppies springing from the ground, it’s good to know not a lot of weed killers are used here. There were also dense bramble bushes, their blossom starting to turn to blackberries, along the road as I walked.

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In the evening we went out to eat. We’d booked a table at Relais de la Poste in Thury-Harcourt, about 15km away. Lonely Planet were very enthusiastic about it.

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The restaurant was a converted barn with high beamed ceilings.

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And oh gosh – Nicola took a photo of me! We chose a 4-course menu at €38, which included a cheese course. And no, we hadn’t had enough cheese already for the day; how can you have too much cheese in Normandy?! Three of us went for foie gras to start while Nicola chose house-smoked salmon with corn blini.

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The foie gras was very good; I wasn’t so sure about the over-spiced chutney that went with it, nor being offered toasted rolls rather than brioche. Next the same three went for roast beef with truffle sauce and Nicola had fish of the day with lobster sauce.

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The beef was excellent: beautifully rare and very tender but not much evidence of truffle and the vegetables weren’t great; I left my mushrooms as they were horrid and the potato was too salty. Then the cheese trolley came and there was a good choice.

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We finished with very good desserts: apple flan, apple and calvados ice cream and Lyndsey had a selection.

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With wine and water, the bill came to €180 for the 4 of us. It was an OK meal but not as good as one would expect for the price and not somewhere to go out of your way for. The service was also irritatingly slow and the ambience – even given we’re in France – was too stiffly formal. However, we had a very enjoyable evening and it was only about a 20 minutes drive back along country roads to Le Pressoir for some mint tea and bed.

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