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What to do when it rains in Normandy – 2

You have scraped the bottom of the museum barrel (the last one was mostly polystyrene cheese displays), cannot face another croque monsieur in a steaming café and if you pop into any more Calvados producers to ‘test’ their wares you will be drying out in a clinic and not your gite.

Yet still it is raining in Normandy.

What to do?

Penguin feeding time!

Biotropica, south of Rouen

Rain or shine there is one thing that never fails to cheer a damp Normandy visitor; penguin feeding time at Biotropica. The Humbolt penguins enthusiastically swim right to visitors to say hello and put on a spectacular show once their fishy dinner arrives.

Penguins at Biotropica
Posing penguin at Biotropica

Then after a walk with the wallabies, giggle with the baby goats and some sympathy from the Red Pandas (who don’t really do rain either) you can go inside. Most of Biotropica is an indoor semi rainforest.  Every corner has a new marvel from tiny yellow tree frogs and giant fluffy bats to huge lazy crocodiles.  We were amused by the tiny Tamarin’s with their hipster beards and very happy to meet our first Axolotls. There are a couple nice café’s onsite and a tempting gift shop.

Not just for kids, Biotropica is just south of Rouen and open every day except Christmas and New Year.  Have a look at the Biotropica website here.

Feeding times are listed here.

Be warned there is a small one-off charge for parking and another entry fee for Biotropica, but the site is lovely with a huge lake and there is no rush to finish your visit.

Holding hands at Biotropica, Normandy
Holding hands at Biotropica, Normandy

Comfortable escapism, with popcorn

English language cinema, everywhere

The cottage satellite telly only shows International CNN, sometimes a German language channel with cheerful types in Lederhosen playing Oom-Pah music, and always French shopping channels. When you start to the think a trouser steamer would be a wise purchase and wondering if they could deliver before the end of your holiday, you need to get out. Even if there is a force 10 gale and the picturesque cottage has developed a moat.  You fancy something reassuringly homely without being MacDonalds. Where?

There are loads of cinemas in Normandy showing films in English.  We know! Brilliant!

Go online (in Chrome if you need an instant translation) and look out for films marked VO which means in the original language. Do double check as some VO films with French subtitles can be Czech, Colombian, Greek – world cinema is alive and popular in Normandy.

Smaller cinemas sometimes show old favourite English language films that are off the top 10 radar.

Check out AngloInfo (who know everything about Normandy) for daily English Language cinema listings here!

Place de Morny, Deauville, in the rain
Place de Morny, Deauville, in the rain.

Pootle around a pottery

Poterie du Mesnil de Bavent, nr Caen

Not just any pottery, Poterie du Mesnil de Bavent.  Here a skilful team of passionate potters produce the weird and wonderful finials you may have noticed on the grandest mansions around Deauville.  The pottery specialises in tough creations that can withstand all weathers; tiles, animal sculptures and more. You are welcome to visit Monday to Saturday and with a bit of planning can enjoy a factory tour and some time learning how to create with clay in one of their mini workshops. There are also a few brocante shops on site and specialist doll museum and hospital.

We talk about the pottery and posted lots of pics in this match.

Sweet and slimey - snail from Poterie du Mesnil de Bavent
Sweet and slimey – snail from Poterie du Mesnil de Bavent

Creepy but fascinating

Musée Flaubert et d’Histoire de la Médecine, Rouen

Yes a museum but we didn’t discover it for years so chances are you have not been to the Flaubert & History of Medicine Museum. A gruesome visit awaits.

The museum combines memorabilia about the writer Gustave Flaubert, who was born in one of the smaller rooms, with some truly surprising bits of dead people and an eye opening ‘history of maternity’.  Flaubert’s parrot, death masks from guillotined criminals and early models to train midwives are some of the highlights.

Death masks of guillotine'd family of criminals
Death masks of a guillotined family of criminals

Don’t miss a small but very important glass topped cabinet of curious objects with hand written notes.  Normandy was apparently a popular choice for depositing unwanted babies from Paris.

These items were left by clearly broken hearted mothers, to be kept with their child, so in some impossible future they could be recognised.  Half a playing card waits endlessly for the abandoning parent who treasures the other half.  Pieces of embroidered ribbon leave a blessing, a note written in careful script is cut into the shape of a heart.

The museum has English language audio guides (just ask at the desk).  It is closed Sunday, Monday, holidays and has some half days.  Check opening times here.

Items left with abandoned babies, in Rouen Normandy
Items left with abandoned babies by their mothers, in Rouen Normandy

Give your inner child a moment in fluttery heaven

Naturospace, Honfleur

Butterflies from across the world; some diminutive and dainty to some as big as birds, flap languidly about only stopping to pose theatrically for photographers.  They share an indoor space with the sort of exotic birds that don’t like the taste of Papillon; colourful parrot finches and tiny partridges who scoot around the leafy undergrowth with their even tinier offspring.

There are butterfly nurseries and English language notices.  Charming.

Naturospace website (EngLang)

BIG butterflies at Naturospace, nr Honfleur
BIG butterflies at Naturospace, nr Honfleur

Still raining? Perhaps you can help us!

If you have any favourite places that make the most of a wet day in Normandy, please get in touch, we would love to hear from you.

Did you miss our first ‘What to do when it rains in Normandy?’ Have a look here.

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