The small town of Sainte Mere Eglise in Normandy is generally where D Day beach tours stop for lunch. It is famous for being the first town in France to be liberated by the Allies in June ,1944. During our tour of the D Day beaches with Overlord tours , we stopped here too. In this nondescript place , we found Un Monde sans Faim and what followed was a wonderful vegetarian meal and some great conversation with Mark the owner.
The town itself is very small , with an estimated population of 1585 only. Its main claim to fame is the American paratroopers’ invasion during the Second World War.The 82 nd Airborne division and the 101 st Airborne divisions of the US Army descended on Sainte Mere Eglise in the early hours of 6 June, 1944. Unfortunately , what was to be a surprise attack turned into disaster , at least initially. A house was on fire that night in the village and the descending paratroopers were clearly illuminated , making them easy targets. One of them , John Steele , got stuck on the church steeple and survived by pretending to be dead. Later , he was captured and taken prisoner. Today , a dummy paratrooper hangs from the steeple, commemorating his story.
Despite this initial setback , the American flag was flying proudly over Sainte Mere Eglise by 04:30 am , 6th June , 1944.
There is also a small Airborne museum here, which made for interesting viewing in our lunch break.
The town square also has a small church. The church has 2 stained glass windows – one depicting Virgin Mary surrounded by descending paratroopers and the other shows St Michael , who is the patron saint of paratroopers. It is a small but pretty church and we spent sometime walking around it.
The town was teeming with American soldiers when we visited on the 2nd of June this year. They were planning a recreation of the paratroopers invasion of 1944 on the 6th of June. Every year , the town comes alive around this time and veterans of the war are celebrated.
However , what made our visit to this place memorable was Un Monde sans Faim – translated , it means ‘ A world without hunger’. Mark and his girlfriend run the place – doubling up as chef , waiter and manager. He is an Englishman , who left England to travel the world. Years later , he decided to settle in St Mere Eglise and open a restaurant – in his own words “combining his love for food , art and jazz ” !
The restaurant is a small , cozy place decorated with jazz posters and interesting trinkets. The menu is very small and changes every day. The food is all freshly made with local ingredients. We had an Italian salad , which was yummy. We also had Thai pad noodles ( in Normandy!) , which Mark made for us specially as we requested a vegetarian version. The dish was full of flavor , with a strong taste of ginger and lemongrass. After days of eating bland European food , it was heaven!We were too stuffed to have dessert but the Eton Mess they had on offer looked delicious.
We got into conversation with Mark and learnt about his love for Asian food. He shared anecdotes on his travels through India in the 1980s and we spent a pleasant hour , eating and talking. We were the only customers at that time , since the restaurant was officially closed when we walked in. Seeing the disappointed look on our faces , Mark offered to rustle up lunch for us. It was a great meal and I am glad we could eat there.
So , we found that it is quite possible to have vegetarian food , even in a small village in Normandy! If you ever find yourself in St Mere Eglise , do yourself a favour and eat here. You will not regret it!