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Paul Hitchcock

St. Vaast la Hougue

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St. Vaast is a little further away from Cherbourg than Barfleur and is, perhaps, marginally less pretty. However, for me, it more than makes up for this by being livelier with its fishing, oyster growing, wooden boat repairing and yachting industries. A trip across to the island of Tatihou in the amphibious vehicle is a good idea if you have time.

 

There are several restaurants, a couple of which are particularly good and a smart tea shop attached to a patisserie on the quayside (good value for such of its kind).

 

However the star attractions are the food retailers. The Saturday market has some outstanding stalls including one which sells the definitive Normandy farmhouse butter. Open all week is the celebrated Gosselin grocer's shop in Rue Verrue (Wart Street!) It is a sort of cross between Fortnum and Mason and Londis! The wine promotions are really genuine bargains. No off vintages from indifferent growers here. (One promotion was for Charles Heidsiek the year their non-vintage was a trophy winner) It is rather cheaper than Majestic wine warehouse in Cherbourg and infinitely more memorable

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Re: St. Vaast la Hougue

 

St. Vaast is a little further away from Cherbourg than Barfleur and is, perhaps, marginally less pretty. However, for me, it more than makes up for this by being livelier with its fishing, oyster growing, wooden boat repairing and yachting industries. A trip across to the island of Tatihou in the amphibious vehicle is a good idea if you have time.

There are several restaurants, a couple of which are particularly good and a smart tea shop attached to a patisserie on the quayside (good value for such of its kind).

However the star attractions are the food retailers. The Saturday market has some outstanding stalls including one which sells the definitive Normandy farmhouse butter. Open all week is the celebrated Gosselin grocer's shop in Rue Verrue (Wart Street!) It is a sort of cross between Fortnum and Mason and Londis! The wine promotions are really genuine bargains. No off vintages from indifferent growers here. (One promotion was for Charles Heidsiek the year their non-vintage was a trophy winner) It is rather cheaper than Majestic wine warehouse in Cherbourg and infinitely more memorable

 

I don't know how I missed this post ~ maybe because it's a year old and I wasn’t a BFE member until six months ago. However I'd like to add, for any member interested enough to read this before a visit..........

A few pointers. St Vaast La Hougue is only 5 miles from Barfleur, a lovely drive down the coast road, and in my opinion, just as pretty ~ but more welcoming! You can get there quicker by taking a more direct route via Théville (east of Cherbourg) and Quettehou, about 20 miles.

I thoroughly agree and recommend a visit to Gosselin's store. You’d better not let your wife lose in there with a credit card for too long though, our cupboards are stuffed full of his delicacies!

St. Vaast is 'Twinned' with my home town. "She who will be obeyed" and yours truly visit at least three times every year, in fact our next visit is April 4th then again toward the end of May and again in September. The St. Vaastais come here 'en bloque' for a 'twinning' visit in June this year (thank goodness Barfleur is back in service).

We have many friends there. Including the Mayor, (is name-dropping allowed ?), Jean Lepetit and his family. Such a popular man in the town that he's about to start his ninth year in office. His deputy, Philippe Le Borgne (& his family) are great friends. We eat and drink with them every visit, which brings me round to eating houses.

When the new St. Vaast marina was built some years back, the town decide to add "The Marina" restaurant, overlooking the harbour & marina. One of the best places I've ever eaten in France ~ without braking the bank! Absolutely superb sea food, their 'platter' is one to die for, prawns the size of your fore-finger, oysters picked from the farm a few hours before you eat them (see pics attached) and steaks, oh, the steaks! Just as we English like them, thick and succulent, beautifully cooked as you'd like it. One of the only French eating houses where you don't have to ask for "bien cuit" as you would (normally) in France only to get a piece of shoe leather!!! Served with sautéed or chipped potatoes and a salad, melt in the mouth! A great wine list too. Madame Heléne will give you the best of French welcomes. Most of the staff speak pretty good English, (some of them are English) so there's never too much of a problem with your order.

Then there's "La Bisquine", right alongside the harbour, another eaterie we frequent, a smaller venue, not as expensive but serves desserts to die for. I'm hungry now, can't wait until the 4th. Something for the kids? Try "Le Debarcadere", great thin crust pizza’s served with mountains of typical French fries.

Finally, I can second Paul’s suggestion of a visit to "Ile de Tatihou", as he say’s, "If you have the time!" but a must is a visit to the island’s museum if you do.

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Re: St. Vaast la Hougue

 

It's a while since we have been to St Vaast so I'm glad to hear it hasn't changed much. We have stayed (and eaten) in the France en Fuschias a couple of times and one one memorable occasion the fast ferry timings and a special offer enabled us to take the car over just for Sunday lunch at the Fuschias (and we live in Surrey!).

 

The Gosselin shop is an absolute must!

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Last summer (18 July) they held "La Fête de la Mer" at which all the fishing vessels, and many pleasure craft, were festooned with (paper) flowers. They lined up outside the harbour and were blessed by a Bishop as they entered. Many of the town's streets were also decorated with flowers. It was a beautifully sunny day and a truly spectacular event, with throngs of very happy people attending. The only gendarmes to be seen were shepherding passers-by away from a swarm of bees which had taken up residence in on of the floral displays on the quayside!

 

A highly-recommended event, but I'm sorry to say it's only held every 10 years, so you'll have to wait until 2020 for the next one. :$ At least everyone's eyesight should be good that year? ;)

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Re: St. Vaast la Hougue

 

I take it that as you have photo's to upload Alan, you were there? So was I, for the third time! Where were you hiding? Shame we hadn't had this opportunity (via BFE) to be in contact before.

To pick up on a couple of points you make. Those paper flowers were made by the ladies of St. Vaast during the previous year, millions of them. They even decorated the shops, eateries and hotels and made flower replica’s of local historical buildings, (see pics attached). By the way, the seagull hanging from the boat hoist was eight feet across and yes, made out of flowers.

St. Vaast has a population of about 6,000. That weekend it was swollen to over 16,500, I was reliably informed! :o

I had a real problem getting into my favourite bar but with the help of one of those gendarmes directing ‘traffic’, I managed it! (L)

Shame we have to wait ten years for the next "Blessing of the Boats", as we 'Brits' would like to call it. A weekend not to be missed. See you in 2020 then Alan, eh?

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Re: St. Vaast la Hougue

 

Yes indeed Greg, we were there, but on only our first visit to the celebration - we had seen it publicised in 'Manche Mag' and were very pleased we went. We, too, loved the seagull, but our favourite was the small pleasure craft with the prawn and the penguin. Sorry we had not met via BFE by then but, God willing, we'll certainly be there in July 2020 when we will share a pression or three in your favourite bar :D! with perhaps more BFEs who will, of course, have sailed to Cherbourg on board the Barfleur, by which time she will be 30!!

 

At the end of the day, it seemed to be de rigeur to take home a souvenir baton of flowers; ours now augments the decorations in our granddaughter's room, as below.

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Just returned to the forum after a long absence due to family issues preventing me from travelling abroad. I went back to St. Vaast last September and it was good to find it as delightful as ever. Stayed at la Granitiere as usual and ate at le Chasse Maree ditto (both recommended.)

 

Over the thirty years I have known it, Cherbourg has come on from a town with no Michelin recommended restaurants to one with five or six including one starred and one "Bib Gourmand" establishment. The latter (Cafe de Paris) was certainly on cracking form and, conscience permitting, is the place for foie gras without breaking the bank.

 

P.H.

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I should have added that a trip out to Le vast is recommended to sample an omelette in the cafe attached to the woodfired bakery at the head of the village. It looks like the set from "Allo Allo"! The bread is made from flour ground at the watermill upstream. Eat your omelette, readi the local paper and relax.

 

Le Vast reminds me of villages along the Meon valley in Hampshire but not gussied up like they tend to be. One half expects to find an NN type Renault parked outside or a Panhard "Sans Soupapes" at the chateau but there are limits to "retro" in the real world!

 

P.H.

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Re: St. Vaast la Hougue

 

Ditto elC, there is also a substantial article in the August edition of "Dorset Life" magazine.

Must have been written just after 40+ St. Vaast residents visited here, their 'twinned' town, a month ago, and boy did we ever have a superb weekend? 8-)

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Re: St. Vaast la Hougue

 

Forgot to mention that self and other half are there in a months time and we know we'll be shown a great weekend.

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I am going to be going to Gosselin on Saturday we are going to St Vaast, just popped into this part of the forum to read up and interesting to read up on Gosselin. Been suggested to me by the guy driving me. Sounds great, also going to Valognes as he has a business meeting so I can poke around at no extra charge while I wait!!

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Re: St. Vaast la Hougue

 

Brilliant Brigitte, I'm very pleased for you. If you have the time, you'll meet a lot of VERY friendly people. Try the Marina Restaurant on the other side of St Vaast's marina. Ask for Heléne (the owner) or Karen, tell them Greg & Linda said hello and we'll see them on the 12th! You'll be made very welcome, have a cidre on my tab! ~ and thanks. (K)

Are you 'window shopping' at Gosselin's emporium? If you're going to do a little real shopping make sure you take a fistful of euros!!! 8-) It ain't cheap, for instance, a small bag of chocolate delicacies ~ €6.00-ish!

Enjoy your trip! (Couple of pics. to get you "in the mood"!)

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