I may have said this before but a holiday is not just for summer. Winter breaks, and I am not talking skiing, can be just as fun and give you a real boost in the darker time of year. If you are wondering where to go, then might I suggest Normandy?
8 Reasons to Visit Normandy in Winter
Wrap up warm, done your wellies or walking boots and head out for a winter walk. A huge network of paths start right from the gite's back gate taking you through stunning countryside whatever the season. With no leaves on the trees the wildlife can be easier to spot and you may be lucky to catch sight of red squirrels, deer, hares as well as birds a plenty.
We are also only an hour from the beach if you fancy a seaside stroll to blow away the cobwebs ... maybe you'd even be as brave as the boys and go for a winter dip. Would you?
Less crowded tourist sites
Many of Normandy's main tourist sites are open virtually all year including Mont St Michel, The Bayeux Tapestry, Falaise Castle (closed Jan) and towns such as Honfleur, Deauville and Caen will all be much quieter with fewer tourists around. I have been to the Tapestry in Bayeux in summer when I queued for a hour to get in and was pushed round at quite a speed by the crowds and then in winter when I walked straight in and could admire the Tapestry at my leisure. I know which visit I preferred.
Do always check opening times, though, as a few places close for winter maintenance and many have shorter opening hours.
Why not visit Normandy for a pre-Christmas break and stock up on French Christmas presents? You will find delightful markets where you can buy from local artisans and in towns the shops windows are beautifully decorated. You could take home local cider or Calvados, French cheeses to adorn your festive cheese board and any number of other local food delicacies.
After Christmas you have the winter sales (soldes d’hiver). In France shops are legally obliged to runs sales from certain dates and in 2016 they commence at 8am on Wednesday 6th January and last for 6 weeks. You'll find some fabulous bargains with much stock reduced by 30-50% and often as much as 70%. Stores are not allowed to bring specific stock on for the sales and so the reductions will be on merchandise that was already for sale in the preceding weeks/months. It really can be a fabulous tome to pick up some fantastic bargains on everything from clothes to DIY supplies.
Just because it is winter most restaurants* will still be open and you will have no difficulties getting a reservation at your favourite. You can also treat yourself a typically French January dessert of a galette des rois. Traditionally this desert is served on January 6th but it is available to buy all through January and consists of a double payer of buttery puff pastry with a almond paste sandwiched between the two.
The reason it is even more special is on account of the small fève hidden inside. A fève is a broad bean seed which used to be hidden in the galette buthas been replaced by a small figurine nestled in the paste. Who-ever gets the slice with the fève inside becomes King or Queen for the day and gets to wear the crown that is always supplied with the galette. Whilst all supermarkets sell these desserts I would recommend paying a bit more and getting one from a local bakery as the quality will be infinitely better. Our local bakers in the next village (Aux Delices De Saint Pierre) has recently come under new management and their bread and cakes are superb. I know where I will be buying my galettes des rois this January coming! Oh and if you are not keen on almonds most places also sell fruit versions.
*Our local pizzeria in Lenault (yes, we now have a pizzeria in the village called La Table des 2Ifs) is not open in the winter but book yourself a trip here from April onwards and it will be for Saturday evening and Sunday lunchtime pizzas.
Normandy does not close down for winter and there are still lots of events, exhibitions and festivals taking place. How about an evening tour of the villages and town taking part in the Christmas illuminations or The Granville Festival in February? Many towns like Falaise also have pre-Christmas firework displays.
If you are travelling to France from the UK then ferry and train prices will be less than in peak summer period. Don't forget that we have a code to give you 10% off with Brittany Ferries and if you are bring a dog then some of their ferries into Le Havre have dog friendly cabins. The roads will also be very quiet so you will have no queues going through the tolls.
Warming wood burner
With night falling early and after your walk, you have the perfect excuse to curl up in front of the wood burner with your favourite drink. You can watch a film, play a board game, read a good book (or a really trashy one!) and totally relax .... remember too that with the hour difference between France and the UK if you are used to it falling dark at 4pm, here in Normandy that won't happen until 5pm so you can make that walk a bit longer if you want.
Yes, you did read that correctly: Piglets. Our sow, Coco Chanel had piglets on Dec 1st. They are now up and about and great fun to watch as they play.
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