Admittedly my French is bad. Very bad. So when J and I left Paris to head for Normandy, I was a little uncomfortable. I really enjoy having conversations with people, and the thought of not being able to ask questions kind of worried me. My French was going to be put to the test. And to make it just a little worse, we were headed for the Cider Route to taste Calvados, pommeau and cider. It was challenging enough just being conversational, so I was a bit intimidated at the thought of getting hit with technical vocabulary.
No need to worry.
The Cider Route is so welcoming and inviting that many people at the Calvados and cider tasting rooms speak English. Don’t get me wrong—the idea isn’t to avoid being challenged or not trying to speak French.
What it did was reinforce how warm and open the French can be. And even if they don’t speak much English, like our wonderful hosts, Martine and Patrick at La Villa des Tilleuls, you’ll still feel like part of the family.
La Villa des Tilleuls is a five-room bed and breakfast in Cambremer , where words are transcended by smiles, a twinkle in the eye, and homemade bread, pastries and jam. Patrick has a plethora of information and is super passionate and enthusiastic about Calvados. He told us the four types of apples it takes to make cider: sweet, bitter-sweet, acid and bitter. He recommended producers to visit, then he recommended somewhere I didn’t expect. A winery. After learning that I worked in the wine industry, he told me about Arpents du Soleil.
Grapes need a lot of sun to make good wine, so Normandy isn’t the ideal situation. Thus, it’s a pretty gutsy move to do what the folks at Arpents du Soleil are doing. However, as Thomas Jefferson said, “With great risk comes great reward.” I hope to visit this winery the next time I’m in Normandy to learn more about them.
For those ready to explore the Cider Route, who want to experience French hospitality and one of the best petits déjeuners on the Route, I highly recommend staying at La Villa des Tilleuls. You are assured to learn a thing or two from Patrick, and best of all, you can listen contently while indulging on warm madeleines accompanied by a selection of fruit jams such as fraise, mirabelle, abricot and kiwi all handmade by Martine. There are other regional delights you’ll enjoy, such as the local caramel and confiture du lait.
Patrick taught me a couple more things before we left. One was “Ça c’est top!”, which was said with a big smile and a couple flicks of the wrist. I took this to mean that whatever he was talking about must be really amazing.
And as we parted ways, the last thing he taught me was to remember that “When there is no sun in Normandy, the sun is in our hearts.”
Thank you, J, for the translation. Without you, I would have totally missed that.