La Vie en Normandie

I know that some people see France simply as French—as in one big country full of French people doing French things. That's definitely what I thought before I started traveling here extensively. Everyone drinks wine, eats cheese, wears black, etcetera. With me it wasn't so much naiveté as it was just a complete lack of awareness. I had never spent much time in France, I didn't speak French, and I certainly didn't know anything about its various cultures. However, like in any country France has its regional differences and specialties. Normandy for example has it's own very specific character that I've come to appreciate over the years. It might be the half-timbered farmhouses that draw me in.

Or the rolling green hills, lush with long grass and orchards.

Or the fact that people drink cider instead of Champagne. It's too cold to grow grapes in Normandy, so apples and pears rule the day.

I love all the regionally-specific shops where you can buy Camembert, apple preserves, cider, and pommeau.

And I especially love being here during December to experience the holiday cheer.

How wonderful is it that I can still order duck fillet with fried potatoes, but the Norman version that comes with fried apples as well, smothered in a reduction of pommeau? I think Americans become obsessed with French culture because it makes such an effort to exist. Each region carries on its own historic traditions with such pride and importance in a way that we've yet to establish at home (we're still new at this whole tradition thing in America). There is a certain amount of jealousy I think. Look at my two friends Thad Vogler and Eric Johnson who created an entire San Francisco bar dedicated to Normandy after visiting here. It can be quite contagious, this whole French eating and drinking thing. Beyond simple affectation, I mean.

-David Driscoll


The Domaine de Semainville

Since I've already covered Camut on the spirits blog a number of times before, I'm going to just plaster a pretty picture on the screen and take the easy road here. However, if you're dying for more information you can read about my visit today at the new On the Trail site.

-David Driscoll


Le Repas à la Camut

I was telling Oscar, one of the guys I'm here with shooting this documentary series, that this was going to be a very special night. He was going to have a down-to-earth, no frills, old school French dinner with one of the most incredible producers of any type of alcohol anywhere on the face of this earth. Oscar is about ten years younger than me, does CGI for a living, just finished a huge gig working on the new Star Wars film (he's already seen it about fifteen times), and has never before had Calvados. He's here on the job, rather than as a spirits fan, so this is all new to him. I told him he was going to be spoiled from this point forward. He was starting at the very tip-top of the ladder.

Break out the cheese.

Get the fire ready. It's about to have a huge slab of meat placed over it.

-David Driscoll


Follow the Seine

We landed in Paris, watched the cavalcade of chaos unfold with the G8 summit in town this week, and proceeded to get the hell out of Dodge. We took the backroads and followed the Seine north to the Calvados department of France, up to the town of Honfleur and the Pont de Normandie. 

Honfleur is a harbor town with plenty of fishing boats and other seafaring decor. Its proximity to the English Channel gives it a rather British feel. It could be in France, or Denmark, or even Germany. But it's in Normandy and it's right in the middle of Calvados country.

The Christmas gift sets are on display in each window.

There are signs everywhere.

-David Driscoll


On the Trail 

Many thanks to those of you who took the time to check out the new site and send in feedback. Together we found about fifty typos and your responses have been taken to heart. I spent about four hours last night going over the emails, taking the suggestions into account, and reworking some of the content based on what many of you wrote. I've also got our other buyers into the fold. Ryan Woodhouse's amazing visit to Wiston Estate in Sussex, England will hit the new blog December 1st. It's like Downton Abbey, but with sparkling wine!

I'm outta here after today. I'll be reporting from the road thereafter.

-David Driscoll