Cooking Vacations in France: Week in Normandy
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Discover Normandy
Benoitville (Basse-Normandie)

About the location: There is something for everyone in Normandy! Boasting 350 miles of rolling coastlines, everchanging, verdant landscapes, a rich culture and history, and world-class food and drink, Normandy is definitely a region worth discovering on this unique 4-night cooking vacation. You will find a blending of maritime traditons and a rural way of life during your stay, and your hosts will provide a unique insight into the art de vivre à la française, where socializing and mealtimes are an integral part of everyday life, whether you are in the kitchen, the garden, on the beach or in the school canteen. Your cooking courses will be at an 18th-century restored farmhouse, located in the breathtakingly beautiful Cotentin Peninsula in a tiny, typical Norman village. You will be just a few miles from the nearest sandy beaches and less than 15 miles from the lively port town of Cherbourg. The nearest market town, Les Pieux (literally meaning ‘the Sticks’), is just a couple of miles down the road.

For history fans, Normandy calls to mind D-Day, and you will be just a 45 minute-drive from the first village liberated on June 6, 1944, Sainte Mère Eglise and Utah beach, and just over an hour from Omaha Beach and the US military cemetary. And yet Normandy is more than just a war memorial: its culture extends to its gastronomy, its people, and its intimate, country way of life. Apple orchards dot the landscape, the fruits of which appear in many traditional Norman dishes; its fertile interior yields a cuisine famous for its simple, good, hearty dishes, its fresh local produce, exception seafood, dairy herds, and presalé lambs— the so-called “pre-salted” stock that grazes on sand dunes near Le Mont St. Michel. (To ensure that you get to visit all of Normandy's cemeteries and memorials, we recommend adding a day to your stay at the B&B in addition to the 4 or 6-night itinerary below).

The farmhouse recently underwent renovations, and it now features a charming ensuite bedroom (with a double and single bed); a studio apartment with twin beds, kitchenette, and ensuite bathroom; and an apartment with two bedrooms— a twin and a double, both ensuite—that overlooks the beautiful Normandy countryside.

About the cooking courses: Your hostess, Sinéad, is Irish by birth, but she and her husband Philippe, the local veterinarian, moved to Normandy over 20 years ago. Sinéad quickly realized that her culinary background transcended borders and she delved into the gatronomy and way of life of her new home: she learned to ride a horse, speak French fluently, raise chickens (and kids!), and embrace the simple yet delectable food traditions of Normandy. The results will be yours to enjoy, as she leads you on your culinary discovery of Normandy’s fresh ingredients and rich flavors. Sinéad and Philippe’s philosophy is simple: to share their experience of everyday life with their guests, to open their homes, hearts and kitchens so that you can get an taste of the local culture and the simple, authentic country life of rural Normandy. Their cooking classes and accommodations have been featured in numerous publications, including Lonely Planet, The Telegrah (UK), and Le Figaro magazine. Their culinary experience was also named as one of the most intriguing and delectable cooking classes around the world' in the 2011 Qantas magazine.

Your hands-on cooking classes will take place in Sinéad’s homey 18th-century farmhouse kitchen, except for one afternoon during which you prepare the food at Sinéad’s, but head to a local farm to cook the meal in a post-French Revolution boulangerie oven—the ulimate foodie experience! While the bread rises you will explore this slice of French rural life by visiting the village, mill, and gardens of this exceptional property. Classes last around 3 hours and generally include the hands-on preparation of a complete French meal: a starter, main course, and dessert…. with the emphasis on seasonal, locally-produced ingredients. Dishes might include: Kir Normand; black pudding and home made bread or roasted goat’s cheese with vegetable escabèche; roast pork stuffed with andouille (chitterling sausage) and camembert (Normandy’s most famous cheese), or beef on the bone cooked over the open fire, served with roasted seasonal vegetables; and teurgoule (Norman rice pudding) or apricot, honey and almond tart. Sinéad’s cooking courses usually focus on regional Norman specialties, but she is always open to requests!

Discover Normandy Itinerary

Day 1

Order of activities may change depending on the season and your start date.
For the 4-night itinerary, click here.

  • Arrival on your own at your accommodations. (The nearest rental car offices are in Cherbourg, about 15 miles away.)
  • Time to chill out, and explore the accommodations and surroundings. You might wander the grounds and have a look at the lavoir and 1789 boulangerie, or head into the village of Benoitville or our local town, Les Pieux.
  • Have a light dinner featuring a Normandy cheese board with wine, crusty bread, and dessert.
  • Overnight.

Day 2

  • Continental breakfast: freshly-squeezed juices, a range of home-made jams, croissants, pains au chocolat, sourdough bread, café au lait/tea, and sometimes an Irish touch in the form of buttermilk scones!
  • Morning excursion to the market. While you select the freshest local produce with the help of Sinead, you will sample items offered by the proud, enthusiastic stall holders.
  • At 10:30, head to Sinead’s kitchen for your first hands-on cooking class about all French cuisine.
  • Lunch to follow based on your efforts, drinks included.
  • At 3:30 p.m., depart for a visit of the local organic cider farm for a tasting. Weather permitting, walk up to the orchards through the sunken paths, which facilitated the battle of the hedgerows (for the American army in Normandy during WWII).
  • Dinner on your own. Sinead can provide recommendations as well as call and make you reservations.
  • Overnight.

Day 3

  • Continental breakfast.
  • Today will be all on your own, giving you a chance to explore the area. Sinead will provide you with maps and a lot of information to set off in the right direction.
  • Some of Sinead’s suggestions for the day include a trip around Le Cap de La Hague, famous for its breathtaking beauty and rugged coastline; it is also home to Millet, the impressionist painter, as well as the smallest fishing port in all of France. Or, visit Le Val de Saire, known for its fabulous coastline; Barfleur, which was voted France’s third prettiest village in recent years; or Saint Vaast La Hogue, famous for oysters, and the renowned grocery store Gosselins!
  • Lunch and dinner on your own.
  • Overnight.

Day 4

  • After breakfast, head to the kitchen at 10 a.m. for your second cooking class.
  • Lunch to follow, drinks included.
  • Afternoon on your own. Sinead suggests visiting La Maison du Biscuit, a fine grocery store and a foodie’s heaven; it is by far one of the most visited sites in the area.
  • Dinner on your own.
  • Overnight.

Day 5

  • Breakfast.
  • Today will be on your own to explore more of Normandy. Sinead can suggest a few visits/tours, such as a visit to Bayeux and its tapestry (which depicts the Battle of Hastings in 1066), Sainte mere Eglise (the first village liberated during WWII), the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, or the Normandy beaches.
  • Lunch and dinner on your own.
  • Overnight.

Day 6

  • Breakfast
  • In the morning, your third cooking class in which you’ll do some food prep for the afternoon activity.
  • Lunch on your own, with suggestions from Sinead.
  • At 2:30 p.m., head to La Ferme Auberge, a working farm to prepare a meal with Francois. You’ll use an 18th-century bread oven that once made bread for more than 100 locals who worked on the farm.
  • At 7:30 p.m., enjoy an apertif with Francois.
  • Dinner back at Sinead’s with the family.
  • Overnight.

Day 7

  • Breakfast followed by departure. You will leave rich with recipes, tips, an understanding of life in rural Normandy, and of course memories. You will be ready to dazzle your friends and family with your culinary talents on your return!