Exploring the not-so-touristy but magnificent French countryside with a car lover

Let’s go to France for half term! This was October 2018 and in a few weeks it was all booked, the farmhouse by Khilna and all we had to do was book the ferry. There were many phone calls and texts to get it all co-ordinated so we were all travelling on the same boat and go in convoy.

It was a family affair with Chinu and Kishore, Shyam and Awan, Bhigu and Sunita. Not forgetting the children and organiser Khilna. We rendezvoused on the ferry had something to eat and soon we were in France on our way. Now if you organised any Assamese event you would know that getting everyone to do something together is a bit like trying to heard cats and the journey to Perruel was no exception.

Getting off the ferry got everyone split up and as Shyam had not driven in France before he stuck close to me and Gita. Where Kishore and Bhigu were I had no idea. Our little sports car, a Burton, was not very fast as it is a kit car based on a Citroen 2CV but goes quick enough for us. The farmhouse was not easy to find.

The French postcode is not as accurate as the British ones and Google maps and Tomtom left us somewhere near. Kishore was first to arrive at the farmhouse while we struggled until we had some directions from people just down the road. We went by the entrance a couple of times as is was just a gap in the hedge on a bend and not evidently a drive way to the house.

It was late afternoon when Bhigu and family arrived and we had got ourselves into the house selected rooms and made a decision to go to the local supermarket for provisions, beer, wine and some of the local “cidre” as we were in Normandy.

Normandy has some really picturesque places to visit, one of them is Honfleur and this was first on our agenda and also to pick up the Cidre Trail. Walking around a small harbour town, exploring the side streets and small shops is a shoppers paradise. We have these shoppers with us. It was a bit of a buying spree until the thought of lunch came to the fore.

Not a big meal, but just a snack to keep us all going until the evening meal. Gita and I had gone with Shyam to assist in navigation leaving the Burton at the farmhouse. We found a fuel station for Shyam on the way back and had another visit to the supermarket for more cidre. It was a pleasant evening and the children were lining up for a photo shoot of them in the little sports car.

The next day we were on the Cidre Trail. We walked around the village in the morning and after lunch off to a village some 20km away Lyon la Forest. It was Sunday and we were looking for somewhere to eat in the evening. France has a Sunday etiquette in that most restaurants close on a Sunday evening, only hotels remaining open, so finding a suitable restaurants was proving difficult.

Sunday lunch was fine but after 4pm nothing would be open. We would have to eat at the farmhouse. Khilna had found a Cidre Trail orchard where the cidre is made. It was easier to find than the farmhouse and after wandering around the facilities we settled down to tasting their different types of cidre. I have drunk some appalling stuff from farms in the past and was pleasantly surprised at the flavours and clarity of what they had made. We should have bought more.

Monday was a brighter day and we all headed off to Rouen to find a place to eat again. Foiled again by the French restaurant opening times, not all day anywhere except special tourist areas in high season the shopaholics were lost in the splendour of Rouen retailers as us fellas headed for a bar to enjoy some of the local beer.

By the time the ladies had surfaced we had missed the restaurant opening times and were left with MacDonalds as the only option other than a long wait until seven in the evening before the restaurants opened again. We tracked along, up and down and criss crossed near the fabulous clock on the Rue De Horologists looking for places to shop and possibly eat. The decision was finally made that we would get some fish at a fishmongers and head back to the farmhouse to eat later.

I came back on my own leaving Gita with the ladies for more intense shopping. I quite enjoyed the drive in the Burton on my own breezing through the villages back to the farmhouse. I did fill up with fuel at the supermarket before parking up for the evening. Another visit to the supermarket with Shyam a bit was required to get even more food for the evening. Shyam being a big foodie loves to cook and he was getting some special stuff for our last evening together.

It was a slow start this morning, packing up everything and cleaning up. It seemed to take ages. We had plenty of time as the ferry was not until 5 in the afternoon. There was a plan to travel in convoy and meet up at a restaurant I knew of in Calais. It was the Detroit and I had eaten there a few times before. It a good place to stop at and not far from the ferry terminal. We had planned to be there by 1pm.

As with plans a level of mis-communication and differing GPS directions meant we soon lost touch and left us leading with no followers. I enjoyed our cross country route but it put us some twenty minutes behind everyone who carried on joyfully to Calais and were already in the restaurant by the time we arrived.

The owner was very kind to let us give the children a Mac while we had some proper French Cuisine. We all managed to get to the ferry in convoy and off the other side where we parted company and went our separate ways. The journey home was uneventful and our little car purred all the way.

Jerry Cox

I love riding motorcycles and driving cars. I belong to a number of Motorcycle and Car clubs. I build and renovate cars and motorcycles. I am a volunteer at the London motorcycle Museum and write the Museum Blog. I am retired.