Our 250-year-old farmhouse near the village of Bourgeville is straight out of Madame Bovary, except life is anything but boring and I haven't, as of yet, taken any lovers. We play petanque in the yard, swing from the willow tree, feed Neddy the Contentin Donkey with table scraps and wake up with the roosters. We have pastoral Normandy all around and feel perfectly situated to explore the region.

When we started planning our trip, I asked James Beard-nominated chef Renee Erickson (of Seattle's The Walrus and the Carpenter, Barnacle, The Narwhal, The Whale Wins and The Boat Street Cafe) for recommendations because she hosts a Normandy Dinner every year. Her excellent new cookbook A Boat, A Whale and A Walrus features a full page photograph of her friend Stephane Lebozec, an oysterman from the town of Dives-sur-Mer on the coast of Normandy. He wears a blue and white striped fisherman sweater and a mischievous smile. Renee suggested I contact him and when I did, he invited us to Sunday lunch at his home the day after we arrived in France.

We drove 15 minutes to Dives-sur-Mer, the pretty little harbor town from which William the Conqueror set off for the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. We arrived at Stephane and Martine's home at noon to find a table set under the white apple blossoms in their yard, which is really more of a mini-orchard. Venetian-masks adorned the trees. We were welcomed warmly with kisses and a glass of cider. Two more friends, Gerard and Marie, arrived to make a party of six adults. Out came the oysters. Next, in a leisurely pace: Sancerre, salade, roast chicken with frites, a cheese plate with Pont L'Eveque, Camembert and cheve, apple Tarte Normande and coffee. It was the holiday weekend of Pentecost, but I get the feeling they eat like this everyday.

We then donned masks and strolled one block into the historic town center to watch the annual parade celebrating Les Mascarades. Below, Martine, Stephane and me.

After the parade, we went back to the house for more oysters with champagne, spider crab, another cheese plate and Martine's perfect apricot clafoutis. And then, incredibly, a tasting of four Calvados around the fire. Stephane poured us four different bottles of Calvados to try: moonshine, 2-year, 8-year and a 50-year. We kissed our new friends goodbyes near midnight.

Thank you for the introduction, Renee. What a lovely welcome to Normandy. Mille fois merci, Stephane and Martine!

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