Explore Normandy and northwest France

Le Choisel is a spacious holiday home ideal for a myriad of different holiday adventures. Pick the theme
 Food and drink in France
and use Le Choisel as the central base for your Normandy holiday exploration:    

Mouth-watering regional delights from ​​​cheeses, biscuits and ice cream to a unique blend of Calvados and traditional cider are waiting to tempt the palate of the discerning holiday-maker.

Learn about food and wine matching on a 
wine-tasting holiday

Ca​​​​​​​​​​membert – created 
by farmer’s wife and a rebellious priest

Our resident wine educator offers bespoke food and wine matching and tutored wine-tasting sessions for our guests.
    Drawing on knowledge gained from more than 30 years working and lecturing in the wine industry, Caroline Murphy - who also holds the Wine and Spirit Education Trust Diploma -  will guide you through ​the maze of myths and mysteries surrounding this fascinating topic.
Normandy, home to its own
breed of cows, is renowned for
its ​​fine cheeses, and none more
so than Camembert. 
    Its popularity led to it being  
copied around the world, so to
protect both the product's
market and quality,  the EU has
given cheeses made here in
Normandy using traditional
methods including using
unpasteurized milk the AOP
(Appellation d’Origine Protégée).     Camembert's story is said to date back to the 1790s when farmer and cheese-maker Marie Harel worked alongside a priest, Abbot Charles-Jean Bonvoust, who was in hiding for refusing to swear an oath of loyalty during the French Revolution. Coming from Brie, he taught Marie how to make that cheese with its soft edible rind, and together they created Camembert.
   Dificulties in transporting cheese wrapped in sheets of paper limited its popularity to northern France, until 1890 when French engineer Ridel created little wooden boxes for them. Transportation issues resolved, Camembert's fame spread far and wide. Today, there are even collectors of Camembert boxes.

 ​​Typical tutored tasting
Using sweet, medium
and dry whites
alongside light, 
medium and full-
bodied reds,we match
them with foods that
challenge the palate.
    It's about finding
out what suits the
individual taste buds 
and being able to experiment in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.
​     The three-hour session looks
at what and how we taste both food and wine, and how that, in turn, influences what we experience when we pair different styles together.
     No previous knowledge is needed, so it appeals to both the novice and the 
connoisseur.

One of the ​​​​finest Camembert cheeses we have tasted is made a few miles from Le Choisel in the area of Champsecret, and not only can you pop in to buy their divine cheese (along with butter and cream) direct from the farmshop, you can even go on tours of the farm and ‘fromagerieand see the famous cheeses being produced.
​Tutored tastings
are arranged prior to arrival and paid locally.
Contact Caroline at Le Choisel to enquire about prices and available dates. 

In the market for fine, fresh French produce

   ​​​​
Every day is market day in Normandy! Most of them only run in the mornings, but from Monday to Sunday somewhere in the region you can browse stalls offering a mouth-watering selection of local produce as well as a range of goods and handcrafts. 
     Some of the markets are specialist ones such as fish, or organic or craft markets, but the majority are the traditional markets with their lively, colourful and welcoming special atmosphere.
     Specialist individual producers who only attend a single market and offer unique traditional delicacies also give the different markets their own unique character.
     Many of the bigger towns, such as Bagnoles-de-l’Orne, have more than one market a week but even the smallest of the quaint, flower-filled villages in the region boast a weekly gathering where farmers and producers gather to sell their wares and catch-up with friends and regular customers.
     Larger Normandy markets, such as Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouet (more than 200 stalls) and Conde-sur-Noireau, attract customers from far and wide as they offer a full range of goods from fresh farm produce to handcrafts, household goods and clothing.
     At different times of the year, there are also special markets from Christmas markets to annual cattle and horse fairs.

Normandy’s ​​​​​300 weekly markets sell local produce which, in turn, features on restaurant menus from bistros to a Michelin Star establishment.    

In addition to weekly Normandy markets,​​ fairs and fetes - like Domfront's medieval festival - feature markets where artisans, craftsmen, food and drink producers all gather to sell their special wares. 

Discover Domfront's own version of world-famous Normandy liqueur: Calvados 

Biscuits - still made in the same way by the same family -
now sold around the world 

Drive through Lonlay l’Abbaye and you are frequently met with the sweet smell of success; visit the town’s biggest employer, and you can even taste that success!
     The Biscuiterie de l’Abbaye has only been opened for around 50 years, but it owes its origins to an 18th century Normandy biscuit called the Sablé. This was defined as ‘a much sought after type of confectionary which crumbles like a biscuit when eaten’.
      When local baker Georges Lautour returned home after WWII, he and his wife Hélène, decided to start making their own sablé and thus the Abbey Sablé was born.
     It’s popularity spread rapidly and soon their son Michel and son-in-law Michel Lebaudy decided to join forces and start the biscuit factory that thrives today.
     They now employ more than 220 people producing biscuits to more than 230 recipes, which are sold as far afield as New York! The range includes traditional sablé biscuits 
Calvados is more than just a name of a department in Normandy – it is the drink of the region that is known the world over.
    A long-standing tradition in these parts is the “trou normand” or “Normandy hole” where, during a meal of many courses, a small glass of Calvados is swallowed at one go to aid digestion. It is also enjoyed at the end of the meal after coffee.
    Typical Calvados is a cider brandy that is made from a mash of apples that are fermented with yeast, distilled twice and matured in oak for years – usually the longer 
the period sat in oak casks, the finer the product.
    Around Domfront, where pear cider, or Perry, is made, the Calvados takes 
on a ​distinctive character with the addition of a high proportion of pears being blended in with the cider apples.
    Records show that pears have been used in Calvados brewing here since the 14th century, and in 1942 it was given its due recognition with the appellation “Calvados du Domfrontais”. When the regulated appellations were reformed in 1984, no case was made for a specific one for Domfrontais. It took 13 years and long campaigns by local producers before the situation was rectified and, on December 31 1997,  AOC “Calvados du Domfrontais” was officially recognised. It is now widely sold in shops and on markets throughout the region, and many distilleries are open to the public for guided tours, including the Calvados Comte Louis de Lauriston cellars in Domfront. 

and mouthwatering gourmet biscuits and they have used their expertise to enter into areas like dietetics and organics. 
     Despite the success and growth of the factory, it is still a family business run by the children of Georges Lautour. Being justly proud of their achievements, the Biscuiterie de l’Abbaye runs free guided tours of the factory, with a selection to sample afterwards, along with a shop on site to purchase your favourite biscuits. 

History sparkles in Pear Museum

The Pear Museum is on the "Route du Poire" where many cider producers offer tours and tastings. The 70km route includes Domfront, Barenton, Fosse Arthour, Saint Fraimbault and Passais-la-Conception
   
Many years ago, it is said, a European called Malus Sylvestris had an encounter with an Asian called Malus Sieversii. We have been enjoying the fruits of that encounter ever since for the “offspring” are known today as cider apples!
    It is all part of a story that is told conveniently in both French and English) as you wander round the Pear Museum – the only one of its kind in France! Although we begin with an apple anecdote, as the name suggests, the main focus of attention at the museum is on the pear trees for which this region is justly famous.
    Pear trees have been grown in Normandy for ten centuries although traditional orchard style cultivation only started in the mid-19th century.
    This specific area of “Mortainais-Domfrontais” is said to have a near perfect match between geology and climate for perry pear production, and the statistics underline that: some 100,000 trees of more than 100 different varieties.
   
Pear Museum displays show presses for crushing the fruit, cider and perry casks, drums, carafes and bottles.
    
   ​​​The pear museum was completely renovated in 2016, and takes visitors on a tour tracing the history of growing pears and making the pear cider that is emblematic of Normandy. The trail begins outside and meanders through orchards of apples and pears where bi-lingual information plaques tell the story of growing the fruit crops. The trail then moves into the various farm outbuildings where displays illustrate the historical and current process of turning fruit into the golden liquid that is on sale in the museum shop. The tour is free and the museum is open each day from 10am-1pm and 2-6pm. There are also special events staged during the year.
 
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THEMED HOLIDAYS IN NORMANDY:
 
 
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