Everywhere you go, you see Mont St Michel rising from the sea

Sue Gaisford spends a weekend in Normandy

They probably save Room 25 of the Hotel des Bains for the English. It is on the first floor of the annexe which forms an island between two streets - and it has windows on to both. This offers an unexpected sense of familiarity. As the village of St Jean le Thomas comes to life, and its motorbikes and lorries shatter the approach of dawn, you start from your dreams, convinced that you are stuck somewhere near the central reservation of the M25.

Opposite the bed, on a magenta wall, a smallish photograph hangs racily askew in a large clip-frame. It depicts a gloomy day in a field enclosed by rusty wire and brambles: a single - clearly mad - cow is crazily rubbing its poor head on a large stone.

You can't really grumble though. It's the kind of thing you expect from the Guide des Logis. This precious little green book lists hundreds of French establishments guaranteed to provide first-class food at reasonable prices. Though you can rely on adequate, or at least clean bedrooms, comfort comes second. The meal we had eaten the night before had been delicious, particularly enjoyable after we had persuaded them that a third replay of a tape of Elvis's Gloomiest Hits would be unwise. It was just a pity that one of us had foolishly rejected the idea of earplugs at bed-time. When morning really came, incidentally, Elvis was re-instated in the breakfast- room.

Our daughter is doing an exchange with a French girl and we had decided to deliver her personally to her Norman family, and to take advantage of the current bargains in ferry prices to snatch a weekend away. By the second night, we had got as far as the bay of Avranches, a dazzlingly beautiful stretch of peaceful, rural coastline from which, wherever you are, you can see the island of Mont St Michel, topped by the spire of its abbey, rising from the sea like a rocky scoop of ice-cream.

Gazing at it, the previous evening, from the scruffy little bar on the beach at St Jean le Thomas, we had been surprised to hear a siren howl out over the sands. The barman, wiping his counter philosophically after pulling the beer, explained that they sound it twice every day, as the tide turns and the sea begins its dangerous return to the land. The water sweeps up behind the unwary, ready to cut them off: the currents are strong and deadly. Every year, oh, three or four people drown. Chastened, we asked how fast it travels. The man replied, as locals have replied for centuries, that it comes in at the speed of a galloping horse. The Hotel des Bains has a little swimming pool in its car park: though less scenic, it is a safer place to cool off than in that glorious, treacherous bay.

The Logis we had picked for the first night had been better. Right on the coast at Barneville, roughly half an hour from Cherbourg, the Hotel des Isles provided a bright and peaceful family room overlooking a less dramatic, less perilous beach. Out there, children were playing on the sand as the sun went down and little sailing boats tacked lazily home. Bats swooped, hunting over the neat gardens of the residents and, up in the village, elderly couples and teenage girls danced sedately, enjoying an impromptu street-party.

We could just still hear the accordion in the restaurant as they brought my husband some pliers, a wrench, several sharp knives and some needles: he sighed happily, knowing he was in for a treat. To our daughter and me, his plateau de fruits de mer looked like something scraped from the bottom of Grimsby dock: to him it was gastronomic paradise.

Normandy is so close, so accessible and so cheap to reach at the moment that it is tempting to nip across whenever you get the chance. We reckon there are still another 15 Logis within reach of a weekend. And there is a little village called Portbail which we scarcely had time to explore: it looked gorgeous, and the utterly charming woman who runs the Rendezvous des Pecheurs seemed flatteringly delighted at the idea that we might come back. Perhaps we'll go and fetch the daughter in a fortnight. Such caring parents we are.

Getting there

The three competitors on routes from the UK to Normandy and Brittany are P&O European Ferries (0990 980980), Stena Line (0990 707070) and Brittany Ferries (0990 900800). Lower prices may be available through specialist agencies.

Accommodation

The Guide des Logis is available, price pounds 12.95, from the French Government Tourist Office, 178 Piccadilly, London W1V 0AL; the public enquiry number is 0891 244123 (premium-rate).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'