Double the Les Plus Beaux Villages visitations today, which might have been a wee bit ambitious. Particularly combined with lunch in between. Oops. It’s very hard to resist a traditional French lunch when the rest of the village downs tools to partake. When in Rome etc…
Our first stop is Lyons-la-Foret, another exquisite half timbered cottage village, this one set in a circle, surrounded by one of Normandy’s largest beech forests.
Typical of Normandy architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries, it’s utterly charming. Centred in the concentric design, are the remains of Henry I’s (son of William the Conqueror) castle.
France has stilled my mind: I’m really starting to feel like I’m on holiday, despite occasionally catching myself making lists, ticking things off, preparing for busy season. Eventually I remember: hang on a minute, I don’t work there any more. That’s going to take a while to get used to.
We lap the village, hike up to the beech forest, say hi to the local cows, marvel over the ancient central market hall,
then go about the very serious business of selecting the perfect spot for lunch. Roast pork plat d’jour sways Chris. I have my much loved perfected lunch of salade de cherve. I’ve worked this out from watching many French girls: it’s the perfect light lunch and no two are alike.
Post lunch sees a patisserie stop, then we’re off, a little closer to Paris, to visit La Roche-Guyon.
Despite being in the Isle de France region, La Roche-Guyon is a blend of Normandy and Ilse de France architecture.
It’s centred around a castle and grand chateau below. It’s too late in the day to tour the chateau, but it’s gardens are open.
Restored from the original planting layout, the gardens are a geometrical gem, set in triangles along central meridians. Dominated by endless varieties of heirloom apples and pears, the gardens also feature herbs, vegetables and flowers. Set on the river Seine, framed by limestone cliffs, it’s a beautiful spot.
La Roche-Guyon’s history dates back to troglodyte times, when man and beast alike lived in caves here. The caves are still here, now used as outhouses and for storage.
The Seine runs wild here, enormously wide. It’s so very different to the tamed Seine of Paris. Reed banked vs concrete. As much as I love the country, I can’t wait to be in Paris tomorrow.
After lunch, a light dinner calls: a burrata, prosciutto, tomato, basil platter works a treat.