Among Normandy’s constellation of terrific new inns is the Auberge de la Source, just outside Honfleur. Driving from Deauville, I caught glimpses of the steel-gray English Channel through the hedgerows and wondered at the fine white confetti fluttering on a strong breeze. Was it ash? Paper scraps? Then I turned down a farm lane into a gentle blizzard of blossoms being swept from the boughs of an apple orchard. The Auberge de la Source came as a similarly delightful surprise.
“I decided to take a chance on the wisdom of being simple,” said the auberge’s friendly proprietor Jean-Marie Boelen, explaining why he had left the nearby Ferme Saint-Siméon, the renowned hotel run by his family, dramatically changing his game. With his wife Christine, Boelen converted this half-timbered 17th- and 18th-century farm into a 15-room inn, naming it after the gurgling spring and the brook that courses through the gardens.
“A certain post-war French idea of luxury as an ever-fattening goose is over, and what people dream about has changed,” he explained. “They don’t want to pretend they’re royalty anymore. Instead, they’re looking for a quiet, ecologically preserved environment, a strong sense of place, cooking that’s seasonal and regional and uses excellent produce, and simple, stylish comfort. That’s what the new auberge movement is all about.”
For less than $200—just the starting price at La Ferme Saint-Siméon-my room, number 17, was one of the nicest at the auberge, occupying part of the dormer attic of an old half-timbered barn, with bleached oak floors, taupe walls, cherry-and-cream checked curtains. A big fluffy duvet covered a very comfortable bed, with excellent reading lights-a welcome rarity.
Dinner that night in front of a sweet-smelling apple-wood fire in the original farmhouse was delicious, too. Chef Yannick Bernouin’s €38 menu began with generous hors d’oeuvres of pink and gray shrimp, radishes and a ramekin of zucchini cream soup. They were followed by superb duck foie gras with fig compote; tomato risotto garnished with langoustines, scallops and chunks of crabmeat; camembert baked in phyllo pastry; and pear-and-pineapple clafoutis.
Auberge de la Source Chemin du Moulin, Barneville-la-Bertran, Honfleur, 02.31.89.25.02. Doubles from €100. website
Originally published in the June 2010 issue of France Today; updated in March 2012
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