The perfect trip: Brittany and Normandy
Cyril stops and pulls a cork out of one of the casks. The musty air suddenly fills with fruity scents: sweet apples, aged wood and citrus tangs, blended with a heady undertone of 80 proof alcohol. “Ahhhh!” sighs Cyril, breathing in the aromas. “Now that’s the real smell of Normandy.” He heads out into the estate’s orchards, where the putter of a lawnmower mingles with the drone of bees at work amongst the wildflowers. “I love this time of year,” he says, casting an experienced eye over the rows of neatly trimmed trees. Above Cyril, bathed in buttery spring sunshine, the first of the year’s apples are beginning to bud. “Every year is a different adventure, and we never know what the new season will bring. But like all the best things in life, half the fun is in the anticipation.”
Where to eat
Expect hearty country cooking at Le Saint Melaine in Pont l’Evêque (00 33 23164 0164; closed Nov and some weekday evenings; menus from £12).
Where to stay
Parisian Patrick Kuchly left the capital and a career in banking to open Closerie des Millets near the village of Blangy-le-Château, in the heart of the Pays d’Auge, to guests. It has been renovated with impeccable taste: the rooms make a feature of the house’s rustic beams, wonky walls and brickwork, but the décor is all monochrome tones and minimal clutter while retaining that elegant château style. Evening meals are available on request (from £105).