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French Connections

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  • Activity holidays – added value for visitors and property owners in France

    Activity holidays have become very popular among visitors to France, not least because many take several breaks a year and are looking for a new experience each time. This is a great time of year for all sorts of activities in France from arts, crafts and photography to French language, from golf, fishing or cycling to therapies and relaxation. The weather is warming up, the countryside is fresh and beautiful and the evenings are long.

    An activity holiday is so easy at a gite or self-catering house, where all members of the group can mix and match the way they spend their days with flexibility. Many breaks are offered by owners who started with a desire to pass on their own passion or hobby. As an owner of  French holiday let, what could you do?

    That’s the question asked in the May-June issue of Britmag, the popular magazine aimed at British residents in North West France  and among the answers is advice from our own Glynis Shaw, joint MD of French Connections.

    Glynis gives her own five top tips for running successful activity holidays in the article, which also features French Connections auberge Le Mesnil at Creances, Normandy. Here, owners Jan and Dave Tarbuck offer B&B along with painting holidays. The tutor is Joe Cousin (shown in our photo), a well known local artist whose paintings have been purchased by the Beckhams, Caron Keating and members of the Arsenal and Chelsea football teams.

    Britmag is available at French supermarkets with a press section and at “Marchands de journaux” in towns with substantial British populations in Basse-Normandie, Brittany and the Pays de la Loire.

  • Beat the crowds, see the wedding and enjoy the long break at a holiday home in France

    Around one fifth of the British workforce will be looking to escape the UK for the long Easter and bank holiday break. But many will also want to avoid battling through the major airports or missing the big wedding.

  • Calvados, Normandy - a beautiful year-round destination

    Calvados in Normandy is our region of the month – and a very evocative one for me in several different ways. Firstly it brings back deliciously the flavour of the fruity apple brandy drink of the same name, especially when sipped in a country garden or at a chic pavement bar.

    Secondly it conjures up images of rolling fields, contented cows, impossibly pretty timbered farmhouses and country paths magical with abundant flowers and verdant leaves. The countryside of Calvados is beautiful for driving, walking, cycling and simply sitting beneath a tree listening to birdsong whilst enjoying fromage, baguette and a verre du vin.

    My next evocative memory is the stunning coastline, from beautiful harbours to tremendous sweeps of wild, sandy beaches where a salty breeze blows away the cobwebs. I’ve travelled by ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre and from Dover to Calais and there is always that thrill of the sense of voyaging from port to port.

    For both journeys, I managed to arrange a meal stop at a restaurant in gorgeous Honfleur. As you would expect with a coastal department, there is a huge variety of fresh fish and shellfish on the menu and market stalls groan with fruit and vegetables, mushrooms, herbs and flowers.

    Honfleur is one of France’s most beautiful and historic harbours and a happening town filled with art and history – which are definite themes of the whole of the Calvados region, from the poignant D -Day landing beaches to Caen and Bayeux with its famous tapestry.

    The climate is oceanic with mild winters, so this region is perfect for a short winter break, a spring week to enjoy the apple blossom and a fortnight’s summer holiday. We have an excellent range of accommodation in peaceful countryside, villages and towns – including Honfleur. You can also use our Travel pages to book ferries and Eurotunnel and find your travel needs.

  • French Connections in December's French Property News magazine

    French Connections properties are featured in an article by Glynis Shaw on repeat bookings and recommendations for French holiday lets

    Two French Connections properties and their owners are featured in an article by Glynis Shaw in the latest issue of French Property News. The article, entitled 'Many Happy Returns' appears on pages 36 to 38 of the December issue and gives advice to owners on how to attract repeat bookings and recommendations for French holiday lets.

    Two case studies are featured in the article - both French Connections owners who are pro-active in generating repeat bookings, one living on-site and the other managing remotely. Their success is due to the quality of their property and facilities, their attention to guest satisfaction and their email contact with guests during the year following their stay.

    The properties featured are a converted railway station near Uzes ID 103512 and a Normandy farmhouse, barn and cider press ID 962

  • French Connections in the Sunday Times

    A travel feature on the Best of France 2011 highlights a Normandy chateau offering family holidays through French Connections.The travel section in The Sunday Times on 6th February was a France special. In a major feature, The Best of France 2011, Stephen Bleach wrote about this year's reasons to fall in love with France 'whether you're cultured or wild, solitary or sociable'. For family holidays, just two destinations were featured - one of them Le Castel at Savigny, near Coutances, Normandy, available through French Connections. The luxury chateau has set up as a family haven this summer, with an all-inclusive package for parents of  children aged 2 to 12 who want to enjoy comfort and sophistication while the youngsters are having fun. Toys and books are provided in a stylish two-bedroom suite and in the four acre grounds there's a swimming pool, play marquee, woodland den and more. Kids can have a supervised breakfast and high tea, giving the adults time for a lie-in and leisurely dinner. The holiday cost includes accommodation, childcare, snacks and all meals and wine. The idea of an all-inclusive luxury break in France seems to appeal to many families as the feature has generated a wealth of enquiries. This may be a growing trend to watch! Read more about Le Castel
  • Last minute summer booking? Get smart to special offers

    Anyone who has held off booking a summer trip to France until now can still grab some great bargains for self-catering holiday accommodation. A browse of our special offers reveals that owners are offering anything from 10 to 50% discounts on their last remaining summer weeks.

    Why are these properties making such offers? Well, they may have availability due to last minute cancellations or bookings for stays of a fortnight may have left single weeks unfilled. Many are popular holiday properties, including desirable stone cottages with oodles of period charm, beautiful converted farmhouses with country views and attractive gîtes with heated swimming pool or close to good beaches.

  • New! Win a Normandy farmhouse weekend

    We’ve joined again with FrenchEntree magazine to offer you the chance to win a weekend in Normandy in early or late Summer 2015. The destination is Le Grand Pont, a restored farmhouse with comfortable bed & breakfast accommodation near Estry, in Calvados cider country.

  • New! Win a week’s stay at a luxurious Normandy Barn

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    We’ve teamed up again with FrenchEntree magazine for our latest competition. This time the prize is a week’s stay at a luxury 18th century granite stone barn renovation in Manche, Normandy.

    The barn renovation is in a small, rural hamlet close to the pretty market town of Sourdeval, ideally situated to explore Normandy and regions of Calvados and Brittany. Owner Suzanne Crown has created a spacious, light and airy space for adults only, featuring modern furniture with a French twist and a comfortable, eclectic style.

    Enjoy a King Size bed, an enormous bath and walk-in separate showers, a study nook for internet use and two terraces outside to catch the sun as it rises and sets. There’s a fully fitted and equipped kitchen, large open plan lounge-diner, wood burning stove and under-floor heating throughout.
    See full details here.

    Enjoy Normandy’s famous apple cider and brandy, green pastures, stone houses and delicious cheeses. Explore Mont St Michel, Caen Cathedral, the Bayeux Tapestry, Mortain Cascades and historic, scenic Avranche. Visit the D-Day beaches and local museums to learn more about the history of World War II, or go cycling or walking in the nearby National Park.

    The usual price for a week at the barn in autumn is £495 and the prize can be taken commencing between 5th September and 31st October 2016, subject to availability. Travel is not included. Enter the competition here.

  • Normandy Apple Pudding Flamed with Calvados

    September is one of my favourite times of year to visit France as the weather is still warm and there is plenty to see and do. The crowds are smaller at this time of year as most children are back in school both here in France, the United Kingdom and the USA. As a result, it is an ideal time to have a quieter holiday and you can save yourself some money too as fares and accommodation is also cheaper. 

    [caption id="attachment_2051" align="aligncenter" width="285" caption="Normandy Apple Pudding Flamed with Calvados"]Normandy Apple Pudding Flamed with Calvados[/caption]

    Summer is almost at an end but the foods continue to be wonderful and plentiful in the shops and market places. I especially like to buy food that is in season. It is full of flavour and goodness especially if it is locally produced as here in the French markets. September is the month for delicious home grown apples and France has two that are fantastic both as eating apples or to cook with. These are the French golden delicious and Royal Gala.

    Of course, the French have also developed a wonderful alcoholic drink from their apples - cider! Normandy is famous for its cider production and has over four hundred varieties. So if you are travelling through Normandy at this time of year you may well smell that familiar pungent perfume of the crabbed waxy fruits of the Normandy orchards. There will be gallons of cider made from the mashing of these wonderful little beauties and a taste of the brew is a welcome refreshment on your travels. Cider also forms the basis of another famous French drink - calvados which is often seen in many French recipes.

    Calvados is a beautiful golden apple brandy which they say is good for colds, influenza and many other ailments - but be careful; drink it with caution as it is very strong! The cider provides the basis for the apple brandy which goes through a distillation process before producing the golden calvados. The Calvados area of Normandy is well worth a visit as there are many things to see and do. It even has a cider route! This tourist route meanders through picturesque landscapes of manor houses, castles, black and white half timbered chaumières, many beautiful farmhouses with their soft pink brickwork and of course, many apple orchards.

    This area, famous for cider production is home to the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée des Cidres du Pays d'Auge. The different brews of cider are judged by local tastes and standards. The cider is made from pressed juice of the different varieties of apples and as it matures and becomes alcohol, it becomes sharper in taste. Calvados improves with age and becomes a beautifully golden spirit.

    When on a tour of this area you can visit these cider producers and have a look at their cellars together with a taste of the produce! Another drink called Pommeau is a lovely aperitif from Normandy which is a mix of cider and calvados.

    Calvados is also a beautiful area of Normandy and has one hundred and twenty kilometres of coastline so there is also a great deal of water sport if you enjoy this. It is very family friendly and has lots to please everyone.

    Deauvilleis a very beautiful seaside town and is the highlight of the Cote Fleurie with smart hotels and chic boutiques. The half timbered houses are so beautiful its well worth relaxing and taking a stroll around this very pretty town. The beach huts are named after Hollywood legends and if you are visiting this area in September you will be there for the American Film Festival, which this year is from 3rd – 12th of September.

    Cabourg - is a very family friendly town and has many attractions and in 2007 it was given the 'Family Plus' label by the French minister for tourism. You can enjoy horse riding, windsurfing, sand yachting, golf and it has a skating park.

    I particularly love HonFleurwith its pretty cafes along the harbour. Honfleur is on the southern bank of the river Seine opposite Le Havre. It has such a pretty harbour and indeed it has been painted by many famous artists, my favourite being Claude Monet. Just sitting at a café along the harbour and watching the local artists at work with their paints is so relaxing. Of course, the area is also well known for the famous D day landings and a visit to these beaches is a must if you are interested in the history of the place.

    Normandy has many good foods to offer as the quality of the grass in this rich land gives the livestock excellent nourishment. Just taste their butter and crème fraîche and you will see what I mean! The climate does not allow the growth of such vegetables as found in the south but there will be excellent cabbages, carrots, leeks, peas, beans and wonderful salad crops. Along the coastline shrimpers fish daily bringing crevette grise, and you will find plenty of sole, turbot, whiting, mackerel and herrings. These are all according to season and will be fresh and wonderful. The crab is small and sweet and so are the blue mussels and the pink langoustines. It is a wonderful area of France and especially so in late summer. You will find many holiday homes for your stay at French Connections to suit all budgets and you will find it most welcoming.

    My recipe this month has to include apples from Normandy but this one also includes the famous calvados! It is a simple apple pudding or clafoutis but the taste is truly remarkable.

    * * *

    Clafoutis Normand Flambé au Calvados (Normandy Apple Pudding Flamed with Calvados)

    Ingredients

    • 3 large eating apples such as French Gala or Golden Delicious
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • Pinch of salt
    • Juice of half a lemon
    • 1 egg
    • 2 tablespoons raisins
    • 4 fl oz fresh whipping cream (or crème fraîche)
    • 1 tablespoon flour
    • 2 oz butter plus a little for greasing the dish
    • 3 fl oz calvados

    Method

    • Preheat the oven to 190C (375F, Gas 5).
    • Grease a soufflé dish or 9in (23cm) cake tin with butter
    • Peel and thinly slice the apples.
    • Place the apples in a dish and pour the lemon juice over them. Mix well.
    • Mix together the egg, sugar and salt until creamy - use an electric mixer for speed if you have one.
    • Add the cream or crème fraîche and the flour.
    • Take 3 tablespoons of the mixture and keep this to one side for later.
    • Add the apples and raisins to the rest of the mixture and mix well.
    • Pour the apple mixture into the greased dish and place in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
    • In the meantime, melt the butter and mix it into the reserved batter mixture. When the pudding has been in the oven for 15 minutes, pour this mixture over the top of the apple pudding.
    • Increase the oven temperature to 220C (425F, Gas 7) and put the clafoutis back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
    • The clafoutis should be golden brown at this stage, remove and allow to cool a little.
    • Turn it out onto a warm serving plate. (To do this, place a plate over the dish and turn upside down. Then take your warm serving dish and place this over the clafoutis and tip upside down again.)
    • To flambé your apple pudding, bring the calvados to the boil, pour it over the pudding and ignite.

    Your Clafoutis Normand Flambé au Calvados is ready to serve!

    Bon Appétit!

  • Saint-Céneri-le-Gerei in Normandy - Photo Friday 29 Oct 2010

    Located in the River Sarth valley, the village of Saint-Céneri-le-Gerei in Normandy is a magnet for artists because of its picturesque setting