It’s 11am and I’ve just polished off my third helping of Calvados, an apple brandy with an alcohol content usually reserved until after dark – or at least after lunch.
In my defence, this is a tutored tasting under the expert eye of Marie-Anne Saloux, one of the brains behind the Calvados Experience, a new attraction in Normandy dedicated to their signature spirit.
Alongside richly salted butter, caramelised apple tarts and meltingly soft cheeses, Calvados is a beloved part of the region’s traditional cuisine.
As we sip our butterscotch-coloured drinks, Marie-Anne explains the meticulous process that goes into the distilling.
What’s more, she explains, Calvados is coming back into vogue, with top mixologists and bartenders building concoctions around the rich, apply flavour.
The Calvados Experience is a quirky mixture of museum and theme park, explaining the history and cultural significance of Calvados, and our first stop on a three-day trip to the seaside resorts of Deauville and Trouville, complete with jaunts into the surrounding countryside.
And there’s another traditional we simply have to take part in before heading to the coast, this time on four wheels.
The Citreon 2CV is about as French as it gets, and a rocket around the country lanes circling the village of Beaumont-en-Auge with La Normandie en 2CV is a must-do in this part of the country.
Drivers confident enough to wrestle with the distinctly non-powering steering and unwieldy gearsticks can get behind the wheel for a bomb-around. Anyone used to a manual gearbox – or feeling the post-Calvados fuzz – can stick to the back seats as a guide whizzes you around.
After indulging our inner boy racers we head to the coast.
The twin towns of Deauville and Trouville, divided by the River Toques, are both known for their Belle Epoque seafronts, glamorous casinos and long stretches of sandy beach.
But these neighbours have clearly distinct personalities. Where Deauville is all dressed-to-the-nines elegance, with designer boutiques and chic cafes, Trouville is the laid-back sibling, with a charming tangle of streets snaking up from the sea.
And Deauville is now home to Presqu’Ile de la Touques, a new premium residence from holiday pros Pierre et Vacances, made up of roomy apartments and a brisk walk from the beach and the harbour.
It’s easy to while away the hours strolling through the pristine streets of half-timbered houses, popping into the boutiques or pausing for an aperitif.
But it’s the beach that draws the crowds to Deauville: a vast expanse of talcum powder sand punctuated with bright parasols and deckchairs.
This being France, the food is certainly another of the town’s draws. A feast at Michelin-starred L’Essentiel was a clear highlight. The menu is a Franco-Asian mash-up that results in big flavours packed into dainty dishes.
A three-minute ferry ride takes you across to Trouville, with its easy-going atmosphere and no less beguiling Belle Epoque buildings.
The busy fish market is a must-visit. Rickety tables set up on the pavements are packed with people tipping back fresh oysters, shelling chubby prawns and making their way through chilled bottles of white wine.
The beach is then a gentle wander away, or the muddle of streets packed with brightly painted shops makes for enjoyable exploring.
We stocked up on the obligatory trinkets and Gallic delicacies, popping a bottle of Calvados in for good measure. Though back home I have no plans to drink it in the morning.
Brittany Ferries sails three times a day from Portsmouth to Caen/Ouistreham (45 minutes’ drive to Deauville) and once per day from Portsmouth to Le Havre (60 minutes’ drive to Deauville).
Mid-season fares start from £119 each way for a car-plus-two, or £39 for a foot passenger.
Presqu’île de la Touques is Pierre & Vacances’ first 5* residence by the sea.
A seven-night self-catered stay in a one-bedroom apartment that sleeps up to four people starts from £501.
Pierre & Vacances (0870 0267 145, www.pierreetvacances.co.uk)
The Calvados Experience costs €12.50 per adult and €8 per child aged 6-17. Under 6s go free.
The 2CV tour was run by Normandie en 2CV.
Packages are available for mornings (9am-1pm), afternoon (2pm-6pm) or the whole day (9pm-6pm).
The price is from €1,500 for a 2CV or €2,000 for a camper van
The ferry from Deauville to Trouville costs €1.20