I spent my birthday on the Cider Trail.
This is a 40-kilometre route
through the area around Cambremer, the Cider Capital of Cider Country. It's really meant for cycling and was a rather quick tour on motorbikes, but we enjoyed the dusty little roads as they jogged along through apple orchards and quaintly-named villages like Bonnebosq and St. Ouen-Le-Pin. Acting on a tip from cider-loving friends, we chose the criminally pretty Beuvron-en-Auge
for a lunch of galettes
A leaflet from the tourist information centre lists cider makers along the route. Wherever you see the 'Cru de Cambremer' sign (the appellation d'origine contrôlée
which guarantees quality), you are encouraged to stop off, sample the cider, Calvados and pommeau
(an aperitif made by blending Calvados and apple juice), and, at certain farms, inspect the manufacturing equipment.
We rode past several of these establishments, spotting the signs too late, so when we spied one directing us up a farm track we seized upon it. At the top we found a perfectly ordinary-looking house and waited in the garage looking at a display of cider bottles until the owner shuffled in to check us out.
I'm going to assume for the sake of my ego that he was deaf, because he couldn't understand a word I said. We could taste, he told us, but we couldn't visit; in our excitement we had forgotten to check whether his place was one of those offering a tour.
Attempts to communicate became more and more awkward until we bought a bottle of cider out of shame, and fled.
," I said as we left.
We made certain that the next stop on the trail was visitable, and followed the sign with some trepidation. We came to a half-timbered farmhouse with a gleaming pond, a riot of flowers scrambling over an old cider press, and a cream Labrador who wheezed cheerfully at us around the bone he refused to put down.
The owner was a brisk lady who didn't speak English but whose French was very clear and who - hurrah! - understood mine too. I asked several pointless questions for the sheer joy of interaction. Along with a Swedish couple, we examined the old machinery, inspected the Calvados distillery, sampled everything in the shop and walked away with drinkable souvenirs.
I somehow forgot to take any photos, but the first picture on this page
is the one.