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Today we did an excursion – “A taste of Normandy”. This lasted five and a half hour excursion and included a visit to Honfleur with a guided walk and then some free time, and then a visit to a Calvados distillery, for a taste of Calvados, some other apple-based drinks, and some cheeses.

We left Rouen at just after 8 o’clock, still dark of course with France being an hour ahead of the UK – sunrise was just after 8:30. Unfortunately it wasn’t just the late sunrise that was making it dark; it was very cloudy and chucking it down with rain. We drove for about an hour and a quarter to Honfleur, passing through what appeared to be very soggy Norman countryside – we saw a lot of flooded fields. We arrived at Honfleur with the rain still falling, but Virginie, our guide, insisted that we were going to do a guided walk, so we did. To be fair, we saw parts of Honfleur that we hadn’t seen before; on our previous visit (on Braemar, a few years ago) we just had time for some lunch in a restaurant beside the Vieux Bassin, and didn’t explore the town at all. Today we did – in the rain. Then there was some free time, which we spent having a cappuccino inside a cafe by the harbour.

After that it was on to the Chateau du Breuil, which is a 17th century Norman chateau with a distillery attached; although today’s commercial imperatives probably mean that it’s actually a distillery with a chateau attached. We did a quick distillery tour – it’s still a working distillery – which involved visiting the still room and the “ageing store”. The latter was in an extraordinary 16th century wooden building, a bit like a barn, with the casks racked up along its length. Then came the highlight of the visit – the tasting. We tried some Pommeaux, which is an apple-based liqueur, and then some 15-year old Calados. Both were excellent, and we took full advantage of the buying opportunity that was put in our way. Then on to the cheeses. I was actually a little disappointed with these. We had three cheeses; unfortunately I never learned what they were. All were slightly creamy in texture and were actually very mild. They came with bread and local butter, and some local cider, and to be truthful it was these that was the highlight of this part of the excursion. The cider was very smooth – definitely several cuts above Strongbow. Then it was back to to the ship (an hour’s drive) which we returned to at about 1:45 or slightly after. By the time we’d dropped our wet jackets and purchases in the cabin, used the loo, etc, we were just in time to get some lunch in the Garden Cafe – the Glentannar restaurant had stopped serving at 2 o’clock.

By the end of lunch the sun had made a bit of an appearance, so I left the ship and walked up to the Pont Gustave Flaubert to take some pictures of Black Watch at her berth. Then we had a cup of tea in the cabin and read for a while before enjoying a couple of glasses of wine in the Observatory. Earlier in the afternoon that lounge had been used for “afternoon tea”, a paid-for treat, but by the time we got there just after 4:30 that was finished and the drinkers were beginning to arrive.

Then it was back to the cabin to pack a bag to put out; shower, change and prepare for the evening; and of course update the blog. Tonight is our last dinner, and tomorrow we disembark.

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