Adélaïde Chantilly is originally from Normandy in France. After living on a French Caribbean island called Martinique, she moved to NYC one year ago and she is now living in Brooklyn. Her philosophy: real moments, true love and good sense of humour. She is a photographer and very passionate about her job. She loves to capture big days and small moments for people. With her we will travel to France, in the region of her native Normandy, discovering the city of Caen and the surrounding area. Enjoy the trip to the French West Coast!
French Wink: When you think of the Normandy you were born in, what are your strongest memories?
Adélaïde Chantilly: When I think about Normandy, it is always because I miss my loved family and friends so much. Normandy reminds me of my childhood and the first memories in my mind are always the summer days at the beach with my family when we were kids. Our favorite was Omaha Beach.
Why is Normandy so charming?
Maybe it's cliché, but for me the charm of Normandy is the special colorful green of the grass there. Because it rains so much! Normandy is really attractive for the beaches, the coast, but also all of these small cities which are medieval and historic.
What walks along the coast do you enjoy in the region?
During my last years in Normandy I used to live in Caen so my favorite beach to go walking was Ouistreham Beach. I love the boardwalk there. When I was a kid I used to go on the coast next to Bayeux like Asnelles or Arromanches. My first boyfriend was living next to Cherbourg and during this time I used to walk on the west coast of Normandy in the Manche department. The coast is really wild -- nature especially -- in the Nez de Jobourg.
What are the local culinary specialities?
Normandy is well known for its cheese like camembert, pont-l’évêque or livarot. But it's also famous for weird meals like “les tripes à la mode de Caen” or “andouille de Vire”. Both are cooked with casing and stomach. One of my favorite meals is “escalope à la normande” with a lot of cream, of course. It's so good. The best dessert in my opinion is the “teurgoule”. It’s a speciality with rice and cinnamon. My mom is absolutely the best person to cook it.
What are the drinks one should try? And how to choose?
The cider is very famous in Normandy. It’s really fresh and matches perfectly when you eat crêpes. Calvados is a strong alcohol made in the department called the same thing. You can taste it alone or with coffee. During events in Normandy during the diner, between the starter and the entrée, they serve “le trou normand”: it is a glass of Calvados with Apple sorbet. Also an other drink famous in Normandy and maybe the one I drank the most when I used to live there is the “ambuscade”. It is a cocktail mixed with beer, white wine, calvados, pomegranate syrup and lemon.
What spots in the region should a visitor really not miss?
I would say that for a first time in Normandy, the essentials are: the Caen memorial and the numerous American cemeteries dedicated to the soldiers lost in World War II. Each year, commemorations for June 6 (D-Day) take place across the region. The D-Day beaches are a pilgrimage for many tourists. The Mont-Saint-Michel is one of the most visited places in the world. But it's truly a magnificent monument and the surrounding nature is breathtaking. Even if Normandy and Brittany fight over it, it's normand! On the coast, the cities Deauville and Honfleur are very popular for the luxurious beach life they provide.
Caen has a particular medieval history. Where should one go to take advantage of it fully?
Caen is the capital of its region. The center of town has the medieval castle built by William the Conqueror. Some streets have kept their medieval houses and paved streets. The town hall is in l'Abbaye aux Hommes, a monument that hosts William the Conqueror's tomb -- he was duke of Normandy and king of England. Saint-Sauveur Place and l'Abbaye aux Hommes are well-preserved and fabulous buildings in Caen!
What are your favorite neighborhoods in the city and its surroundings?
My favorite neighborhood is Vaugueux, right next to the castle. The paved pedestrian streets are spilling over with bars and restaurants in this tiny neighborhood. The outdoor terrasses are all over the place and the area is very lively. The port is also very agreable thanks to its large market on Sunday morning and its festive nightlife. Lastly, from Caen to Ouistreham, a greenway has been created so you can get to the coast on foot or by bike. I remember really nice bike outings with my father and brothers to get over there.
Have you been to the D-Day beaches? What do you recommend seeing once there?
Of course, every good normand has been to the D-Day beaches! Firstly, because a majority of the beaches in Normandy were used for D-Day. It's probably odd to imagine for you that many of my childhood memories of swimming in the Channel and building sand castles took place on beaches where many men died. We have great respect for the memory of the war in Normandy and try to preserve the history of World War II. My parents would take us every afternoon in summer to Omaha Beach -- it was my mother's favorite. The beaches are very big in Normandy and if the tide is low, you have to walk for a long time to be able to go for a dip.