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.

A French home covered in green leafy plants and two dogs in the gardens with the sun set behind.
Sharon Santoni’s magical Normandy home and her two dogs.

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.”

Left, Sharon Santoni and her two dogs out in the garden. Right: a magical Normandy home draped in flowers and plants.
Sharon Santoni and her two dogs, out in the garden.

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!)

Left, the dining room with half-timbered walls at La Ferme Saint Simeon in Normany. Right: the bright and airy living area at the hotel.
La Ferme Saint Simeon five-star hotel in Normandy, close to Honfleur.

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.

Beautiful gardens at sunrise in Normandy.
Whimsical gardens, Jardin Plume in Normandy.

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.” 

Left, afternoon tea with cakes. Right, beautiful flowery gardens in Normandy.
Afternoon tea served out in Sharon’s garden is what dreams are made of.

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.

Left, a table set up for dinner in the garden in Normandy. Right, a beautifully laid table ready for dinner in a garden in Normandy.
Sharon is a maven of good taste and French country living, and her beautifully laid table, out in the garden, is further proof!

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.”

A table set for lunch in a Normandy garden.
Sharon’s dining table set up for lunch in the garden.

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!”

A handwritten invitation lying amidst flowers.
My Stylish French Box authentic French gifts curated by Sharon

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

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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. 


Sharon Santoni

Sharon Santoni is a British expat that has lived and raised a family in France for over 30 years. In 2010, she began her blog – My French Country Home – to share the charms and comforts of authentic French country living. To her surprise, she gained a sizable and loyal following, and now, a decade later, she runs an international, multi-faceted company that includes a luxury subscription box service, an elevated French touring business and a bimonthly magazine. Sharon also regularly appears as a public speaker and has penned two popular books – My Stylish French Girlfriends and My French Country Home: Entertaining Through the Seasons.


  1. We are living near Ry and the Château Vascoeuil, not far from Lyons la Forêt, my French husband and I. Our daughter, an artist and professor of Kundalini yoga teaches professional English at Neoma, Business School in Paris and comes here to the Normandy countryside to get new inspiration. We know Jardin Plume,, Giverny, the charms and restaurants of Rouen and we would love to meet you. When I found your comments, I instantly thought we were kindred spirits. I am American, from Cleveland (Bratenahl,Ohio, USA) and grew with an art critic mother and a father who was a science journalists . My husband and I are also teachers , love concerts and art exhibits and lived and worked in Japan for almost 20 years. We would love to meet you.

  2. Just browsing and came across this website!! The Normandy part caught my attention.
    I lived in Dreux and Evreux France in the 60’s!
    Loved every moment!! I so enjoyed the pictures of your home etc. Took me back to my happy place!, Thank you!!

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