British-born, Sharon has spent most of her life in France. Married to a Frenchman, she has four children who have now spread their own wings, leaving her in a bewitching old French house deep in the Normandy countryside in northern France, close to Monet’s gardens, with her beloved dogs. A maven of good taste, Sharon launched My French Country Home in 2010, and My French Country Home Magazine in 2019 which is for all of you who dream of living in France and knowing more about the French country lifestyle. So, read on for a taste of authentic French living that will make you want to instantly up and move over!
Start with the Sun
“I’ve always been an early riser and am usually up by 6am. I run a company with multiple components and platforms, so these early morning hours are my time, before the phone starts ringing and emails come flooding in.
When I’m at home, I take my coffee in the garden with my trusty sidekicks, Gibson and Ghetto, at foot. If I’m feeling ambitious, we’ll have a walk through the fields surrounding my house. Being in the quiet beauty of nature is the most peaceful and calming way to start the day.
I love the Normandy countryside and have lived and raised a large family in my house there for over two decades. The town of Giverny, which is 20 minutes away, is most well-known for being home to Monet and his famous gardens, which of course I must highly suggest paying a visit to if you’re ever in the area.
Another one of my favorite places to see the sun rise in Normandy is on the long, sandy beach at Deauville. At low tide, just after dawn, there is a good chance of walking in the company of race horses and polo ponies, who come down to the beach to exercise in the surf. They arrive via a small side road, walking in twos or threes, with their jockeys chatting and joking together. As the horses smell the sea and feel the sand beneath their hooves, you can see them tighten up, waiting for permission to trot and then gallop at full speed along the mile-long stretch. It’s truly an unforgettable sight.”
An Afternoon of Exploration and Eats
“If you only have one day in Normandy, then it’s best to make the most of it! After my morning beach walk, I like to head out of Deauville and make my way to the old town of Honfleur. By now I’m ready for breakfast, and perched on a hilltop on the way is one of the most luxurious hotels in Normandy – La Ferme St. Simeon. Its Michelin-ranked restaurant, Les Impressionnistes, has a delicious breakfast that can be enjoyed outside in their stunning gardens, if the weather permits (be sure to make a reservation!)
After eating, I would continue on the drive into Honfleur, which is one of my favorite places to stroll, admiring fabulous architecture and perusing little art galleries and stores.
On my perfect day, I would also make time to head over to Rouen, a beautiful city rich in history. I always give myself time to wander about before visiting the magnificent cathedral, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen. My favorite place to eat lunch in Rouen is ALBA. Their food is as pretty as it is delicious.
After lunch, I would drive out even further east to visit the beautiful Jardin Plume, a whimsical garden on the grounds of a traditional Norman manor house filled with billowing perennials, stretches of perfect lawn, and hedging trimmed in lines and waves. It has something to offer in every season, and the light is beautiful, especially at 6am just after it has rained.”
Dinner and an Overnight Stay in Lyons-la-Forêt
“Step inside the pretty, quiet town of Lyons-la-Forêt and you’ll see why it’s classed as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France.” As its name suggests, it’s nestled inside a lush forest that spans nearly 25,000 acres. Known for its pastel-colored, 17th-century architecture, it has open squares to wander and many trendy boutiques. There’s a little antiques shop there that I love called L’Empreinte Décoration, which is brimming with flea market finds, restored furniture, and brocante decor. It’s run by a duo called Julie and Cyrille, who could not be nicer or more attentive.
While in this charming town, I love to stay overnight at the boutique hotel La Licorne, which is the perfect mix of contemporary and authentic.It has three lovely restaurants offering very different (but equally pleasurable) dining experiences. For an elegant evening, choose the Michelin-starred La Licorne Royal, where you can dine among letters by Napoleon.”
Le Bistro du Grand Cerf has a cozier, “chalet de forêt” atmosphere with typical Norman timber and tasty dishes on offer. Last but not least, there’s Les Lions de Beauclerc, a traditional crêperie that also serves local meat and fish. It also has a gorgeous little Damman tea room. You really can’t go wrong with any choice!”
Sharon’s Perfect Normandy Itinerary
Monet’s Garden – 84 rue Claude Monet, 27620 Giverny
Deauville Beach – Promenade des Planches, 14800 Deauville
La Ferme St Simeon – 20 Route Adolphe Marais, 14600 Honfleur
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen – Place de la Cathédrale, 76000 Rouen
Alba Restaurant – 236 Rue Martainville, 76000 Rouen
Jardin Plume – 790 Rue de la Plaine, 76116 Auzouville-sur-Ry
L’Empreinte Décoration – 28 place Benserade, 27480 Lyons-la-Fôret
La Licorne – 27 Place Isaac Benserade, 27480 Lyons-la-Forêt
- Check out more from Sharon Santoni and her life in Normandy!
- And, her books – My French Country Home, and My Stylish French Girlfriends.
- Receive Sharon’s curated box of French fare at My Stylish French Box
- Discover how to spend a weekend in Deauville and Trouville-Sur-Mer.
Written by Sharon Santoni for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates.