A June 2005 trip
to Houlgate by Krys T
Quote: I'm chairman of our newly formed Town Twinning committee, and it was decided that we should go and visit our counterparts in our twin town, Houlgate. The aim? To get to know the place, them, and more importantly, each other.
Houlgate is an elegant seaside town from another era that has neither become faded and tatty, nor been tarted up for the modern market, and as such, is very picturesque.
It's hard to pick the best bits: The long fabulous lunches in the sunshine? The long sandy beach and promenade, great for that after dinner walk? The friendly welcome we received everywhere? Mainly, I think it's the fact that it is a lovely place to have a quiet, relaxing, and very French weekend.
Reception is in the restaurant side of the ground floor. Our friendly hostess welcomed us, explained the security door-code system to us, and showed us to our rooms.
Our party of six shared two rooms a couple of floors up - the married couple had a room with a double bed (and also a bunk bed), and the four of us shared a room with two rooms with two twins in each. Our windows opened onto the courtyard side, which gave us a nice view. Both bedrooms were large, nicely decorated, and light and airy. The bathroom was done in a more modern style and huge, with plenty of towels. Only the shower was a little below par. Everything was clean and well presented throughout. Having a variety of bed arrangements available means that several of the rooms would be perfect for families, which is worth noting.
The beds were comfortable, and even on a festival weekend, it was a in quiet location, so we all slept well. The room facing the street was a little disturbed by the neon lighting out there, so it's probably best to ask for a room on the courtyard if such things bother you.
Breakfast is served in the restaurant at the most civilised hours, between 9 and 11am, and is continental, plus they have a lovely buffet of varied meats, cheeses, fruit, yoghurt, etc. The coffee was very welcomed, too - and re-filled when we asked.
The restaurant has rooms inside and tables in the courtyard, some in a little marquee. We didn't have time to try it, but the menu was varied and looked attractive, and a large number of people were eating outside at Sunday lunchtime as we left.
We only stayed 1 night, but it was a good night, and I'm currently trying to figure out when I can take my family back and stay there ourselves, which is a recommendation in itself.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 15, 2005
11 rue Emile Deschanel
(0)2 31 24 85 50
The staff, all in festival costume, was very helpful and friendly. There were various menus on offer, as well as the á la carte. Though I chose one of the fixed menus, the others all chose to eat from the special 1900 festival menu of local traditional food. So, that meant I started with salmon tartare, whereas they had a lovely poached salmon - both well presented and very tasty. I had moules mariniere and they had Poule au Cidre. We had generous portions sizes throughout and juicy, tasty mussels, and apparently the chicken was good, too.
The restaurant had filled up by now, the sun burning my shoulders. They put the awning out farther, which helped. Service had also slowed down - our main courses took ages. Still, we sat, chatted, and drank Sancerre (as the Muscadet was out). The staff was cheerfully apologetic for the delays, which took the edge off any impatience we might have had, and we just sat back and relaxed.
My mixed sorbet dessert arrived, as did their targoule, which is a traditional rice pudding dish flavoured with caramel and orange and beautifully served in three quenelles. Somehow, their cheese-and-salad course had never materialized, so, at the end, after our coffees and chocolates, we were all given a little free calvados. Always helps!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 16, 2005
40, rue du General Leclerc
(0)2 31 24 81 81
Restaurant | "Hotel Restaurant 1900"
The restaurant is on the main shopping street and is decorated a la Art Nouveau - all mirrors, marble, swags and swirls, etc. - which makes it quite an atmospheric place to eat. It's medium-sized, divided into two halves by a sort of banquette in the middle that provides seating, as well making the place feel more intimate.
All the staff were efficent, very professional, and very proper, with two French Dames firmly in charge. We had warned them that we had to be away for a ferry later, so we were paid extra attention.
We started with the "cocktail de la maison", a concoction of calvados, apple juice, fizz, bits of apple, and cinnamon which was very moreish. After that, we moved on to a nice bottle of dry white (or two) from the varied wine menu.
There was a wide range of fixed menus, enough to please everyone. As it happens one of the cheaper ones, it seemed to cater to everyone. I, on the other hand, went for the seafood platter that I'd promised myself. I can't speak for their food, but I'm told it was very good, and the portion sizes were just right too. My platter was generous, very fresh, and very tasty. Usually on these things, one person gets half a crab - I had a whole one all to myself.
There was a large dessert menu too, ranging from the traditional to ice cream concoctions, but I kept it simple and had blackcurrant sorbet with cassis liqueur on.
The meal was all done in time for us to leave, without anything having been rushed. Mind you, we'd all cheerfully have stayed longer!
All in all, this is definitely somewhere I would go back to.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 23, 2005
17 rue des Bains
02 31 28 77 77
We all sat at one long table. Being a catered event, the only choices to make were what to have for dessert and what colour wine to drink.
To start with, we had seafood en croute, like a large vol-au-vent filled with cooked seafood in a sauce. Very tasty, but a little large.
Then onto veal in a mushroom sauce with a griddled potato cake. The sauce was nice, particularly the porcini on top, but the veal was a little dry, and the potato cake was a little greasy. Again, it was a little large portion-wise.
Then we had a little local cheese on green salad with a lovely dressing.
Desserts were fab. I had a gratinee of fruits - strawberries and raspberries in a sort of light, bubbly creamy sauce with a grilled top. The moelleux au chocolate came served in mugs and was apparently delectable.
Overall, it was okay and probably would have been better if they weren't catering for such a large group all at once - the rest of the restaurant was full, and they were turning people away, so it's obviously popular.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on June 23, 2005
7 rue Henri Fouchard
02 31 24 84 37
Houlgate was formed in 1905 by the merging of two smaller villages. In order to celebrate their centenary, they had a "1900" weekend.
And what a weekend! All - well, it seemed like all - of the residents spent the entire weekend dressed in 1900s costumes. The whole place was bustling and busy, and there was traditional music piped through the streets between the occasional commentary about what was going on.
There were various events ranging from traditional bathing on the beach to a demonstration of how to put out a fire in 1900 with a handpump. There were processions through the streets, with marching bands, horse drawn caleches, old fashioned fire engines, as well as the adults and children in costumes.
Various shop windows were dressed appropriately also. There were stalls for local craftsmen, often with demonstrations, as well as for local farmers and merchants. On top of that, the majority of restaurants in the town were providing a traditional "1900" menu, with poached salmon, poule in cider, cheese, and targoule - the local rice pudding. Very tasty, I am told!
It all made for a very pleasant weekend, and it was lovely to see how the whole community joined in and were involved.
Somerset, United Kingdom