Last summer during a trip in Portugal, I very randomly met a handsome French man named Robin. I'll keep the love story for another post but about a month & several dates after, he invited me for a weeklong trip to Normandy. This post has been a long time coming but now that our one-year anniversary is around the corner, I figured there's no better time than now. ;)
Was it crazy to go? Maybe. But that's what life is all about. It's about the moments when your butterflies are going crazy in your stomach, when everything randomly falls into place, and when you go into things without thinking of the outcome but with simply trusting your gut. This is the result of all of those things combined & the true beauty of life when you're open to all kinds of possibilities..
Now, this trip wasn't your average pre-planned one where you know where you're going. The only thing I was told was that we would be exploring Normandy. Yep, that's it. Everything else was kept as a surprise to discover as we went along.
Our first stop: Cancale.
It all started with two days with Robin's niece, Lilou. She is by far one of the most cute children I've ever met and definitely stole my heart from the moment I met her. We stayed in the most charming vintage mansion that overlooked the bay of Mont Saint Michel. It immediately felt as if I was in a fairytale surrounded by beautiful views, French architecture, and of course, the best company.
While in Cancale, a visit to Mont Saint-Michel was a must. This is a small island with a town that looks more like a medieval fortress. Luckily the tide was low enough on this particular day, giving us the freedom to explore it.
After Cancale, it was time to bring Lilou back home and then it was just the two of us. Robin took me to explore one of the most romantic regions of Normandy: Étretat. It was filled with the breeze of the sea, scenic views, secluded hiking paths, cliffs, natural rock arches, and a magical sunset, which glistened over the mossy rocks. Let's just say the French sure know all about making romantic surprises.
The next stop was a cute, little village with a picture-perfect port called Honfleur.
After Honfleur, we took a few hours to discover a nearby, prestigious city called Deauville, where we enjoyed a a fresh seafood lunch, watched locals play pétanque, and took a stroll along the beach to admire some of the most mesmerizing seaside homes. And since it's also internationally known for the horse culture, we couldn't pass up going to watch and place bets on the races (neither of us won but it was close!).
As if the trip so far wasn't a complete dream, little did I know then what was planned next. We drove through the country side as the sun went down with the windows down and the warm air blowing against my hand as I swung it out the window. The fields were filled with endless hay barrels, blue skies, and the smell of nature. We passed by some of the most exquisite homes, which looked as if they were right out of a storybook. I was ready to move in right then and there but for now, just taking pictures of them will have to be enough. ;)
Finally we arrived in a little village located right on a beach that went on for miles. I was already in awe with the surroundings until I saw our stay for the night. It was Villa Louis: a villa that was originally built in 1868 for a famous French compositor Auber director of the Paris opera. Then in 1968 an artist family took is over and now it has turned into a beautiful antique villa filled with art pieces, treasures on every corner (literally), and endless vintage bikes. Every turn in the house had another visual story and charming character. I've never been (let alone stayed in) anywhere like it.
Now after all of the full days of French culture, we went to where my fellow Americans made history back in the day : Arromanches. This is the place where an artificial port was built to help bring in supplies and troops during the invasion of Normandy during World War II. I'm honestly usually not the biggest history fanatic but visiting these places where events like this occurred gives things a whole other meaning rather than when you just read about them in a book. We could still see remains of the port there, which put things even further into perspective.
And for the grand finale, we spent the last stop in Robin's home city: Rouen. It was so lively with locals happily enjoying their days and the buildings all looked as if they were straight out of a storybook. As usual, I especially loved hanging out at the market checking out all the local goods. ;)
Exploring Normandy like this felt like a complete fairytale and I found it so interesting to get completely immersed into another culture. Spending a weeklong trip together with someone you've only just started seeing can sound like a daunting experience at first. For some reason, my gut told me to go with it though and it has yet to steer me in the wrong direction. If you never try for something new, you'll never know what could happen. Plus, the best way to get to know someone is to travel with them so eff the rules & vivre la vie!