Yes, it’s two thousand and ten oysters! No, it’s actually deux mille dix huit. 2018. Can you believe it? Me neither. Already we’re booked out for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day next year (and this year) – time’s flying!
So far, 2018 has brought howling winds, sideways rain, bouncy hail and really really cold weather. Until yesterday. For a few short hours the sun was shining, the wind was bearable, and we put on every imaginable piece of clothing to head out for a drive. So we escaped the compound and headed for our nearest “plus beau village de France”, Barfleur.
I know I’ve banged on about the prettiest villages in France before, but really, its such a winning system and so useful for guiding our little jaunts. If you ask the Google Gods for “les plus beaux villages de France” you’ll be rewarded with a list of 153 guaranteed pretty places to visit in France. There’s a whole set of criteria a village needs to make the list (27 of them to be precise), with the most important of them being that the village must have no more than 2000 inhabitants and must have at least two listed historical monuments. Of those we’ve visited, we’re yet to be less than impressed.
So, Barfleur. Any sensible sat-nav system would lead you from Arromanches straight up the freeway towards Cherbourg and a little detour to the right. Ours just lead us astray. But astray in a good way in that we found the amazing Tour Vauban de Tatihou. If you guessed its a tower – well done you. The tower has had many lifetimes including as a defensive port (its original purpose in 1692), a quarantine station from the plague, and much later as reform centre for wayward children. There’s no doubt it the German armies found it useful for a while too. For all purposes, being built of dark grey stone with slots for guns to poke out, it is suitably scary looking.
So, on to Barfleur… having learned about the tower and in the next 15km where a lot of leeks/cabbages/cauliflowers are grown (seriously, you cannot imagine how any country could eat so many as there are growing around here), we hit Barfleur. Small but perfectly formed. Neat, ornately trimmed stone houses. Narrow streets and footpaths sneaking higgledy piggledly between buildings. Appropriately weathered seamen and fishing boats. Gulls the size of pterodactyls. Again, the pretty village committee nailed it. Chapeaux. Oddly, there is a round plaque on the harbour rocks commemorating the fleet leaving for the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Although all the history books tell us that William the Conqueror left from the mouth of the Dives river which is further along the coast towards Deauville from us. [Insert gallic harrumph here].
So, if you’ve covered the D-Day beaches as far as Utah Beach and have a little time up your sleeve, or likewise if you’re on your way to the boat in Cherbourg and fancy one last Frenchie seafood fiesta, Barfleur is well worth a little detour.
For all the other ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’, head to your nearest lovely local bookshop and ask them for the Official Guide book. Or, failing the clever folk at Book Depository will send you one. Its a bucket list in a book.