France: Cider & Calvados


Driving up to Domaine Dupont

When we decided our trip to France would largely take place in Normandy, we knew we had to spend at least a little time on the Route du Cidre! In general France is most famous for its wine, but in Normandy it’s too cold to grow grapes – so they grow apples! That’s why when visiting the region you drink cider and calvados (an apple brandy). Yum!

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France: Courseulles-sur-Mer/Juno Beach


Walking through town

While in Normandy, we used Courseulles-sur-Mer as our base for traveling. It’s a small town on the coast famous for its oysters (25% of oysters in France come from Courseulles-sur-Mer) and June Beach (one of the 5 D-Day beaches).

The town is very lovely and relaxing. When I researched Courseulles-sur-Mer before booking, I read it’s mostly a resort town with the houses owned by Parisians. I wish we had planned more time to enjoy the city – so beautiful and the seafood and fish are outstanding!

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France: Mont Saint Michel


Arrived at Mont Saint Michel

Every since I studied in France in 2008, Mont Saint Michel has been on my mother’s and my wishlist to visit. Even though I’ve seen many photos, Mont Saint Michel still took my breath away when I saw it in person.

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France: Giverny (Visiting Monet’s House)


Walking through Giverny

Because Versailles is closed on Mondays and I already booked the French Open for Tuesday,  we needed to find something to do inbetween. We’re lucky enough to have all been to Paris before, so I did some research for possible day trips and found out that Giverny is not too far away (1 hour).

Giverny is a beautiful town in Normandy most famous for being home to the impressionist painter Claude Monet. I was so excited about seeing the water lilies and green bridge in person! May was such a perfect month to visit because all of the flowers were in blossom. I cannot recommend enough!

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France: Château de Versailles


Arrived at Château de Versailles

I don’t get to see my parents so often – only once or twice a year, so when they planned their trip to Belgium in May, Koen and I wanted to take them on a special trip to France. Specifically the highlight is the French Open in Paris! But first things first, the Château de Versailles. Everyone in my family has visited Versailles with the exception of my mother, so of course we set out to change this!

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Reims, France

The Vranken Pommery Estate

The Vranken Pommery Estate

On our way back to the Netherlands, we planned for one more day trip – to Reims located in the heart of the Champagne region of France. After a big brunch, we packed up the car and headed north. Arriving at the Vranken Pommery Estate was a bit like arriving at Disneyland. I love the Neo-Elizabethean architecture and the powder blue buildings!

The tour was really great – I definitely would recommend visiting if you’re in Reims. The story of Madame Pommery is inspiring. In 1860 her husband passed away and she took control of the champagne house and turned it into what we know today! Can you imagine being a widowed mother of 2 in the late 1800s growing and managing the Pommery Estate?!

After our tour and champagne tasting, Koen’s sisters headed home, while Koen and I explored the city and had dinner with his parents in the city center.

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Burgundy Day Two

Driving to Beaune

Burgundy countryside on our way to Beaune

Because we spent the first day at the house relaxing, for Saturday we planned a day trip to Beaune, known as the “Capital of Burgundy Wines”. Where better to take a walk through the vineyards, visit a chateau, and taste a few wines?

We began our day in Beaune with fuel for the rest of the day – aka coffee! After our caffeine boost, we headed to the Parc de la Bouzaize for a family picnic. We already packed the necessities – French cheese and fresh vegetables – and picked up fresh baked baguettes while walking through the city.

After lunch, we took a walk through the park which ultimately led us to the vineyards. What a breathtaking view. This was the first time I’d seen a vineyard. In Beaune, there are many routes you can walk through, and we took the one up a hill and were able to overlook not only the vineyards, but also the city of Beaune. The sun was shining, the sky was clear and blue, I had to keep pinching myself to know it was all real.

This was the perfect precursor to our tasting. We visited Bouchard Père et Fils, one of the oldest wine estates in Burgundy (founded in 1731!). Taken from their site, here is a description of the Château de Beaune:

In 1820 Bernard Bouchard purchased the Château de Beaune, a former royal fortress built in the 15th century by King Louis XI.

Four of the five original towers of the fortress, as well as parts of the ramparts, still stand today, and have featured on the list of historic monuments since 1937.

The cellars run deep underground beneath the property providing ideal natural storage conditions for Bouchard Père & Fils’ fine wines. 

Up to 10 metres deep, the wines develop and age undisturbed. These include a unique collection of over 2,000 bottles from the 19th century. A priceless historical legacy with, as its icon, the oldest wine – a Meursault Charmes 1846 which still retains its luster.

After our tour of the Château, we were able to sample 6 wines – 3 red and 3 white. Koen and I couldn’t leave without buying a few bottles!

A trip to Burgundy wouldn’t be complete without a typical Burgundy meal – boeuf bourguignon, a meat stew made with red wine (from Burgundy, of course). For dinner we made reservations at 21 Boulevard, a restaurant specializing in the food of the region, located in a 15th century cellar. It was a great way to end our day in Beaune!

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Burgundy Day One

Our beautiful house for the weekend in Burgundy, France

Our beautiful house for the weekend in Burgundy, France

May 2015 marks the 35 year wedding anniversary of Koen’s parents Dook and Els. All of the children wanted to do something special, so we planned a weekend getaway to Burgundy, France for all 8 of us. The date was made known, but the destination remained a suprise until the day we departed!

We chose a beautiful house in Saint-Germain-Des-Bois, in the countryside to stay for the weekend. Koen and I drove down with his parents. To break up the trip, we made a quick stop in Péronne for lunch and to stretch our legs. Péronne is in Picardy, France and boasts a big history for such a small country town. The Museum of the Great War is located in the old chateau, and the whole city has statues and monuments dedicated to the Australians and WWI. Why Australia? I had the same question and looked it up once I was back home in Antwerp. At the Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin, Australian troops stormed, seized and held the key height of Mont Saint-Quentin (overlooking Péronne), a pivotal German defensive position on the line of the Somme.

The four of us arrived in Saint-Germain-Des-Bois at Moulin du Merle, at exactly the same time as Koen’s sisters. We had already done groceries and enjoyed the evening cooking together, drinking wine, and playing games all night!

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