I’ve never driven a car onto a train before. It feels odd, and yet strangely exciting. As the wheels roll up the ramp and down the long, narrow corridor, I feel like I’m about to traverse into another world. And in a sense, I am. I’m traveling from England to France, leaving the cliffs of Dover for the ports of Seine-Maritime as I embark on a trip to discover the best seafood festivals in Normandy.
Departing Folkestone on Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, the sponsor of my trip to Normandy along with the Normandy Tourist Board, I travel under the English Channel and arrive in Calais ready to discover the culinary highlights of northern France. My boyfriend is driving, I’m navigating, and we’re both excited for a weekend of exploration.
The drive from Calais to our first stop in Port-en-Bessin is several hours long, so we turn on the radio and enjoy the pastoral scenery along the way. When we arrive, we check into Chateau La Cheneviere, a lovely hotel off a country road near the town. They put us up in a spacious room and welcome us with their signature cocktail by the fire.
They also prepare us for our seafood festival odyssey with a scallop cooking class. The chef shows us how to take scallops out of their shells (it’s harder than it looks!) and prepare them by poaching, deep frying, and serving them raw with Asian-inspired flavors. Afterwards we retire to the dining room for a lovely meal that sets the tone for our trip.
The next morning we walk into Port-en-Bessin for the first of our seafood festivals in Normandy. It’s the annual Port-en-Bessin scallop festival, called Le Goût du Large. The festival revolves around the port, where waterfront stalls sell fresh scallops and all kinds of dishes that can be made with them.
We walk through, sampling veloute in little cups as we watch the boats come in with fresh seafood. Along the harbor wall, Newfoundland dogs do water rescue demos as onlookers watch.
We stop for lunch on a boat, enjoying fresh seafood before walking through a large market hall filled with vendors selling scallops by the crate.
There’s a festive atmosphere in the air, and the fact that we’re the only non-French speakers around makes us feel like we’ve discovered something special.
Our next seafood festival in Normandy is the annual scallop and herring festival in Dieppe, called the Foire aux Harengs et à la Coquille Saint Jacques. Much larger than its neighbor down the coast in Port-en-Bessin, this festival attracts people from all over France to sample its two main products and enjoy the ambiance.
We walk along the port, taking in the many vendors selling red-orange shells and glistening grey herring. The prices are so good that we wish we had brought a cooler to take some home with us.
We pass by grills full of fish, the smoky scent of seafood filling the air above the water. Eventually we reach a carnival by the far end of the port, its colors and sounds engulfing the area in festive fun. The lights lead to a waterfront restaurant, where we enjoy a meal of scallops and herring to the sounds of a live guitar player.
After lunch we leave Dieppe, but we don’t leave France. There’s still a lot left to explore here, and now that we’ve eaten our fill at two of the best seafood festivals in Normandy, we’re ready to discover what else the region has to offer.
To be continued…