A Travellerspoint blog

Normandy

Battle Museum pics

Just uploaded the photos from the Arromanches Museum and Omaha beaches. This I think is about it.
The X-Trail is very put out that have given it little credit for the effort it put into our trip. Having been driven 8500 miles over very very varied roads and tracks, been hurtled down mountains, stretching its technology to bits, poured buckets of diesel into it, sometimes the quality was not up to scratch,
the poor thing says that the suspension has had great demands put on it, not only the terrain, but the extra weight of our goodies bought en route.
Despite being totally neglected, few washes and certainly no polishing (the X-Trail is very vain)!, it did its best and returned us a very good mileage per gallon of diesel. It never grumbled at being left toasting in the sun while we sauntered about, but it did object strongly to the vagabonds who smashed the window and robbed us of a nice trip to the Plitivice Lakes . Certainly now it is back, nicely spruced up, it feels it needs a holiday!

Hope to see you all in the next few weeks.

Posted by Combes Caper 04:38 Comments (0)

BAYEUX TO LANGOURLA

31ST JULY TO 4TH AUGUST

semi-overcast 24 °C
View Grandfolks Grand Tour on Combes Caper's travel map.

31ST JULY
Set off from Bayeux about 10.30, said goodbye to the horses, taking the D road to St. Lo. This town was competely obliterated during the liberation battle, so we wondered how it looked 70 years on. Sadly there are precious few stone buildings around, whether they chose not to use stone to rebuild the central part of the town, or whether the stones themselves were pulverised by tanks and blasts or maybe the stones were "recycled" elsewhere in the district? The modern St. Lo is concrete post war, very neat and tidy, but not a lot of character, which can only develop over centuries. Couldn't find a parking spot other than the locals blue ones, so we continued on our way.

The motorway took us swiftly down to Dinan, sorry Will, didn't go in for your lemon tart! Maybe another day?
From Dinan it was back to country lanes and got to Langourla ok, for once on the target time. Very little traffic around except agricultural wagons bringing in the harvest. Took a walk into the village to explore the little place, and had a cider in the bar before returning for supper.
The converted bakery is an interesting it house, because it was a bakery, with a staircase up to the staff quarters and had a cottage attached with another staircase, now it is one building and the two old wooden spiral staircases sit side by side and both start from the entrance lounge. Great fun getting cases up them! The house is furnished in the old style, old furniture and creaky floorboards. There are 3 letting rooms and they cater for evening meal if you would like. Philip is a great chef, had a gorgeous piece of fish, which he said was Black "?" a fish cross between cod and pollack, which they sourced from Erquy, up on the north coast near st. Malo, where we saw the showjumping setting up last year. This year the World Equestrian Games are in Normandy at the end of September. Quinoa we had in place of potatoes, must say it is the first time we encountered it, and it was great. Looks similar to couscous but has more bite and flavour.
Now put in forward order for lamb on Sunday. Saturday night is French Fish and Chips and Jazz at the bar up the road.

1st AUGUST
Feeling that we ought to do something to work off this food, we took a walk down to the village lake. The track round it has various points where timber frames have been set up with exercises to do at each one. Oh, got so feeble, trying to bend and twist between and under the poles! Still no one around to laugh at us and it was fun to do. Lots of fish in the lake which you can fish for between 8 and 8 until October 1st, but no swimming allowed , shall have to go to the pool for that.

Nice climb back up to the village passing 4 horses in fields along the way.

Langourla, during the war, had the Gestapo billeted in one of the large buildings of the village and at the other end of the village the SS had taken over another. They said they don't see many Germans here normally and this year none have been seen in the village. On D-Day Anniversary and Remembrance Day we are told that there is a huge crowd, young as well as old who come to the monument in the centre. Our host reads a memorial poem, which now he had been here some years, he translates into French, and there is a blessing from the priest at this village commemoration. He says he is always taken aback at how many turn up, because on a daily basis, the village seems to be populated by about 50 people.
Visited Moncontour, medieval village which has had a great deal of restoration work carried out to its buildings. Compact and difficult to find parking, but once you are in it is well worth a walk around. Found a tea shop run by an English woman - what a surprise! Hiked up and around the battlements or what is left of them, so walked off the ice cream. No scones though.

A couple arrived at B&B from Germany, he is English, but has lived in Germany for 20 years and his wife is German. They have family here locally, but the son's house is still undergoing major upgrading so they needed to have B&B close by. Delicious meal again by Phiip, he was a chef in UK then worked in the hospitality arrangement offices in Hiltons there before coming out here 7 years ago.
2ND AUGUST

JOSSELIN

Hadn't been to Josselin for years, it was really busy and the years have been kind, lots of Brits seem to have bought places and done them up. Saturday is market day there and it was HUGE, spent ages wandering round the stalls and was so tempted to buy fresh stuff but it is too soon. They do a terrific trade there, on our way down into the thick of it, we passed a stall with two enormous pans, one a paella and one a tagine, must have been a metre diameter and the sides about 9" high. On our way back up, both pans were empty! Mostly it was a practical market, not many gift or craft stalls, but interesting all the same. The fish counter was marvelllous with a great choice of fish and shell fish. Got a bit of a watering during our stay there as the forecast, though it had said storms, turned out just to be showers, one of which was pretty heavy.

Drove back through deserted lanes to chill out for the afternoon and look forward to the jazz tonight. Philip's cat Misty escorted us part way down the road to the bar, whether it was our company or the smell of the fish and chip van, am not sure. The fish and chips were a novelty, pieces of fish caught off Erquy, chopped into small pieces, then dipped in a herbed crumb mixture instead of batter and deep fried. There was a queue waiting by the van, we placed our order and sauntered inside to get a drink and listen to the music. Very mellow mood music by 3 teachers from England, two of whom have a house in the village and spend all their school holidays here - very nice. The fish and chips were served in triangular cups, chips at the bottom, fish pieces on top and a flap to take the tomato sauce or mayonnaise at the top. Delicious it was. The music was on for a couple of hours, finishing with blues numbers by the guitarist. He was really good. The bar was pretty full and the tables outside too. This next weekend is the jazz festival. Gathered that the village will be very busy for 4 days.

In conversation last night with the expats, we were admiring all the old stone houses and how well they have been done up, but it seems that, unlike UK, with land being so cheap, it is more cost effective to buy a piece of land and build from scratch. Most of them have taken up solar energy, underfloor heating, heat recover systems and so on. Obviously, with all the woodland around, they also go for wood burning stoves. Planning is quite different too. If you build within the town or village boundary then you need to run it past the mayor, that is all. If you build more than 500 metres from the town you don't need any permission! Building plots around here are priced at between 27 and 40 euros per square metre for the land. Out of town around 4 to 9 euros per square metre. Not found out what building costs are though.

SUNDAY 2ND AUGUST

Sunny Sunday, greeted at 7 a.m. by the church bells. Very insistent they were, so glad didn't have a hangover! So far we intend to get out early to go places, but the couple at breakfast have been interesting and we sit chatting about all sorts for over an hour each morning. Apparently at their son's place, not only is it a work in progress, but it hasn't even got the loo in commission yet. So the couple reappear here as and when during the day.... Today it has been hard for them, working in the garden, trimming hedges with the sun blazing down. But at least, as they said, they won't need to go to the gym for a week or two.

We went up to Lamballe to a market, trying to track down the oilcloth man, but he wasn't there at that one. Found a big gifty shop along the road at a place called St. Alban. It was along the lines of Kingsley Village, not surfing gear though, but some sailing stuff, some speciality foods and pottery with Breton and local themes, as well as the usual cards and so on, we took a browse around and put a few more euros into the local economy. Decided we would go the beach, then the cloud bubbled up and the water didn't look so tempting.so we just drove along the coast road and looked at a few places . Finally turned inland and settled at Jugon les Lacs,where there are plenty of water sports available, a pool, mini golf and water park (small). Bernie declined to take me for a spin in a pedalo, shame as it looked really tempting and at least I felt if I got shipwrecked I could swim to the side quite easily! The lake was about 750m long by about 500m wide, Trenance Lake would have fitted in it a few times over!

Tried to find out if it was ok to swim in the lake, but either the people I spoke to were English or were French people from another part of France. Our hosts had said that they thought that it was not permissible to swim there, but could see no signs, so in the end decided not to go in.
Along the routes we took today we passed through more villages which looked so good. Jugon Les Lacs itself is charming, with mostly stone built houses and shops and stone paved streets and square. Lots of stone houses looking for new owners too. Also, being Sunday, lots of cyclists out, and we had a couple of diversions which the satnav did NOT like, as they towns and villages were closed to motorists of any sort, as well a the usual lorry ban on Sundays.

Another couple arrived today from Gloucester, the ferry was so overbooked that they ended up sleeping on the floor, even the couches were full. They have bought a cottage in the village here and are over to check on progress. The other couple are spending their days working on the son's house, so everyone is working but us, HOORAY!
Philip did a super beef bourguignon tonight and a handsome Bordeaux wine to go with it. Followed by cheese and meringue with home made icecream. Slept soundly....

MONDAY 3RD AUGUST

At breakfast the German guest told us that they found the prices in France much dearer than Germany. She said it took her by surprise, as always before the reverse had been the case. She also said that she was really impressed with the American Military Cemetery at Omaha, how well it was laid out, but she said she found it difficult to find a German War Dead Cemetery, they found one, but she said it was nothing like on the scale of the Allies ones. Surely there must have been many German casualties in that onslaught too?

Being our last full day we decided to spend the day visiting Dinan in order to see if we could find that custard tart for William, lovely day and the town was busy but we managed to park right in the centre. Went down to the river and up, wandered the streets and bought a belt in the belt maker's shop like last time. However, the patisserie was shut on Mondays, not just the morning but all day. However, most of the other shops were open in the town.

On the way back we have stocked up the old wine lake to set us up for the winter. Also tracked down other bits in the supermarkets and now the poor old car needs its tyres pumping up. At Dinan there was a trotting race meeting, so we pulled up on the verge and cheated by looking on over the fence!

Looking forward to our final treat here tonight, then it is off home tomorrow. So dear all, this will be my last blog post, cannot believe the day is finally dawning. Will take a lot of getting used to being back at home, we will have such memories of all the folk we have met, the places we have seen, which, if we can bring them all to the surface, will keep us going for years. Am especially looking forward to catching up on all your news over the last couple of months.

Posted by Combes Caper 07:48 Archived in France Comments (0)

CHATEAUDUN AND BAYEUX

26TH JULY TO 29TH JULY

all seasons in one day
View Grandfolks Grand Tour on Combes Caper's travel map.

CHATEAUDUN AND BAYEUX

26TH JULY

We had another good run up to Bayeux, Villeneuve sur Yonne was one of the most interesting towns along the way. We arrived too early for entry into the Grand Caugy, at Vigorous le Grand, which is part of an old estate, huge 18th century buildings now being converted into holiday lets. Somewhat eccentric scene, the surrounding fields are a stud farm of show jumpers stock, the hostess seems very overwhelmed and the "office" is a mountain of files and paperwork. The room itself is great, beautiful shower room and view out over the paddocks. First time have ever seen fly masks on horses in France.

So, arriving too early we set off into town to wander round. Good move as being the tail end of Sunday most of the other tourists had left. We went into the Cathedral Notre Dame, so impressive. Pristine stonework and some of the choir stalls still in existence from 1300's. The stone structure, though massive, gives an air of delicacy due to the skills of the stonemasons who make their work look delicate, and on the tower and roof it almost gives an impression of lacework. MUCH to our amazement, there was no fee to enter the cathedral, nor were there pressure sales people wandering around. Just 2 or 3 collection boxes discreetly placed on the walls. So refreshing!

Also in the Cathedral was a display dedicated to the life of Franz Stock, born in 1904, who became an abbot and when WWII broke out he transferred to ministry for German soldiers, he also ministered to captured British, USA and other soldiers in the prison of war camps. Then when D day came he himself was interned with the German soldiers. A commander ordered for 3 men in the prisoner group to be selected for execution, the soldier, who had himself been a prisoner of the Germans, was delegated to select the 3 came. Going through the encampment he came across Franz Stock amongst the prisoners. He remembered how generous and supportive, even at the risk of his (Franz's) life, Franz Stock had been and he made the decision to refuse the order. Franz Stock survived as a pow, but not for long, he died in poverty in 1947 at the age of 43. Right up until his untimely demise he was working for the welfare of POW's of all nations in Paris and France. The description of his life's work is enlightening, and portrays a real Christian's mission which is in stark contrast to the fat cats and miscreants we hear so much of lately within the religious communities?
Bayeux we discovered has much to offer, ancient buildings, must find out how much damage the onslaught of the battle for Normandy inflicted on the town 70 years ago. Great little streets full of shops and cafes. River flowing through with new promenade along the banks. After we had done a fair walk around we went back to take up our lodgings.

Later we went to Arromanches on the coast. The 70th Anniversary of WWII is given full sway. Many exhibitions, banners, books and so on are all over the place. What is moving are the little things, e.g. on a shop window a brief message, "thank you to our rescuers". Arromanches is a holiday resort and it was a bit like being at home, with cafes all along the street and shops with gifts, but sprucer. Strange hearing so many English voices, but Bayeux is very near to Caen and a couple we met say they come over quite often from Portsmouth. There are events being staged for the commemoration all summer long, so well worth a visit.

Ended up in one of the cafes with a nice big bowl of moules marinieres for supper.

28th JULY

Breakfast, what a revelation, such gorgeous French bread, ate toooo much, but what the heck!
Breakfast room, is a walk across the courtyard, round the back of the facing building and then up a flight of steps. Here you find two small tables for two, laid up with all the bits. Delicious coffee and tea to go with the bread and croissants. We realised that the reason we had to wait until gone 9 for breakfast is that they only have room for 4 people at a time! Wonder how they will manage if they have all the rooms let now, let alone when the conversions are finished? We learned that in this part of France they adhere to Mondays being a day off, which in recent years had tended to decline somewhat. So we spent a lazy morning and then went into town to visit the Bayeux Tapestry.

Never having seen it before, we were both totally taken with it. Imagine a piece of linen, beautifully embroidered nearly 60cm wide and 68 metres long! The colours are superb and the soldiers, horses, boats, animals, weapons all so impressive. The audio guide spells out the whole history of the Norman conflict while you stroll past. Riveting experience as you just had to pinch yourself that here was the history of real events being displayed from 1000 years ago. Heard one mother say to her son "how old are you?" "4" he answered, "and this tapestry is 250 times older than you" she responded, he was suitably impressed too. "That is very very old" he said. Long may the tapestry survive. The museum was packed and it took 20 minutes from walking in to reach the start of the display, they must have 1000 or more go past every day in the summer time.

Our intention of doing a bit of shopping came to an abrupt end when we discovered, yes indeed, they shops were shut. All those folk wandering around and not many places to spend money in, apart from cafes of course. This evening we visited the artisans market, along the lines of a farmers market but mainly crafts on sale. A free range chicken I looked at was 19E, which made me blanch. We tried some of the cheese on offer, but no free sips of cider were available.

TUESDAY 29TH JULY

English sort of morning, so after brekky we set out to go to the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy 1944. Just as we entered there was a film starting on the battles, so we scooted in quickly to watch. The cinema was totally full, the film covering the battles, the conditions, the casualties, the bravery, the devastation of the tows, was very moving. After that we went back to the beginning of the museum presentation. It took 2 hours and more to walk round, reading, looking and understanding the enormity of it all. Then we drove along that coast and we saw that with that open countryside what an enormous battlefield it was. The many memorials we now felt had more meaning for us. We found out why Bayeux seemed so untouched, and that is exactly what it was, although just a stone's throw from Arromanches and Caen, it escaped totally unscathed. St. Lo was the most severely affected town and we plan to go through there to see how it has been reconstructed. Caen is now an enormous city and port, but its reconstruction must have taken many years. What amused us was that the bypass which the forces laid around Bayeux, (because the medieval streets could not take the military traffic), was laid down in just THREE WEEKS. Not tarmac, but steel sheets, and after the war it was the basis for the modern day road system. It is a daunting thought, when you realise how close the Allies were to being routed at various points, as to how long the war may have continued if they had failed.

In the afternoon we took a trip to Suisse Normande, very simiar to the Vendee in Western France, winding lanes up and down the hills and pretty villages along the way. Stopped in one village for lunch and found the local cider and wine purveyor with his shop open, so we called in to sample his wares! Not that he had tasting going on, just as well. Routing our trip back to base via the coast we returned in better weather and now enjoying the evening sun.

Now, in the evening, we sauntered into town to L'Assiette Normande for our munchies. Good job had booked as place was humming. Fortunately it took a long time to serve and eat our meal as we needed to stay put until dusk. It was a delicious meal. Watching the 4 waitresses deal with all the customers and their needs Owas fascinating, have not seen such speed and skill for many a year. There were four different dining areas, one of which was upstairs! The girls zipped around nimbly, and despite stacking high, one girl carried 9 glasses in one hand when resetting a table, no collisions with themselves or customers!

The reason we waited for dusk was the son et lumiere show which radiated over the cathedral and the huge tree in the cloister. The photos only give you a brief glimpse, and unfortunately my videos of it are too dark, but suffice it to say that it was spectacular, and moving. There were hundreds of spectators, the weather had turned fine in the evening which encouraged everyone to stay in town. The spectacle is run every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday during the summer, so we struck lucky. Noticed that the Cathedral doors are open for everyone until dusk which am sure is not the same in UK is it?
Gotta dash, horse is being lunged, client coming back to ride it in an hour.

30th JULY

JULY 30TH
Last day in Bayeux, we set off for Arromanches again to go to the Museum of the Invasion Operation. The Museum is right on the beach where it all happened, complete with the remains of the caissons, a landing craft and big gun, so you really could get a bit of a feeling of the situation. If not the noise, terror and trauma of ithe landings. The displays concentrated on the building of the Mulberry harbour components in UK, how the concrete caissons and Mulberry tracks were towed across the channel. About 40% of which got lost en route due to - BAD WEATHER! Within days the engineers sunk the 15 old ships to form the breakwater, flooded the concrete caissons and laid the Mulberry bridges. Just got it all going and the supplies of lorries, diesel and equipment flowing into the port when a fierce 3 day storm blew in on 19th June. This disrupted the operation, which was of great concern as the battle was then in full swing and ammunitions began to dry up. However once the storm abated, business resumed with all speed.
In the Museum there were two small cinemas, one of the liberation battle on Omaha, Utah, Gold and other beach heads, the other was a recollection of how it bore down on the residents, especially in Caen. Although the French had been told to leave, many, like those today in Syria, they were loath to leave. The ensuing 6 weeks were a constant helter skelter of emotions, the downs, as when the Americans were slaughtered on the beachhead in the early days, and the ups when the breakthroughs came in winning back Caen. Although poor Caen was wrecked.

Looking at the map of actions in Normandy that summer, the whole department was a war zone, yet there were still pictures of normal life going on, the fishing, and the harvesting.

We spent over 2 hours again looking around the exhibits. We then drove up to Port Bessin and Omaha Beach. At Porte Bessin, which is still a fishing port, there shops along the quay and restaurants, reminiscent of Padstow, but no Rick Stein equivalent! The fish market was still functioning and wandering in I espied brown shrimps. Was over the moon, cannot say have seen them at all in Cornwall for eons, a bag quickly went down the hatch.
On to Omaha, like all the other Invasion sites there was a good crowd. We decided not to go in the museum, but looked for t-shirts and caps, however they were really sticking the prices up, so that was that.
Later we returned to Port Bessin to eat, the whole place was buzzing, so different from the laidback sunny afternoon there. Just the job to set us up for the next stage of our homeward run. This time to Brittany.

Posted by Combes Caper 02:18 Archived in France Comments (0)

CHATEAUDUN AND BAYEUX

26TH JULY TO 29TH JULY

all seasons in one day
View Grandfolks Grand Tour on Combes Caper's travel map.

CHATEAUDUN AND BAYEUX

26TH JULY

We had another good run up to Bayeux, Villeneuve sur Yonne was one of the most interesting towns along the way. We arrived too early for entry into the Grand Caugy, which is part of an old estate, huge 18th century buildings now being converted into holiday lets. Somewhat eccentric scene, the surrounding fields are a stud farm of show jumpers stock, the hostess seems very overwhelmed and the "office" is a mountain of files and paperwork. The room itself is great, beautiful shower room and view out over the paddocks. First time have ever seen fly masks on horses in France.

So, arriving too early we set off into town to wander round. Good move as being the tail end of Sunday most of the other tourists had left. We went into the Cathedral Notre Dame, so impressive. Pristine stonework and some of the choir stalls still in existence from 1300's. The stone structure, though massive, gives an air of delicacy due to the skills of the stonemasons who make their work look delicate, and on the tower and roof it almost gives an impression of lacework. MUCH to our amazement, there was no fee to enter the cathedral, nor were there pressure sales people wandering around. Just 2 or 3 collection boxes discreetly placed on the walls. So refreshing!

Also in the Cathedral was a display dedicated to the life of Franz Stock, born in 1904, who became an abbot and when WWII broke out he transferred to ministry for German soldiers, he also ministered to captured British, USA and other soldiers in the prison of war camps. Then when D day came he himself was interned with the German soldiers. A commander ordered for 3 men in the prisoner group to be selected for execution, the soldier, who had himself been a prisoner of the Germans, was delegated to select the 3 came. Going through the encampment he came across Franz Stock amongst the prisoners. He remembered how generous and supportive, even at the risk of his (Franz's) life, Franz Stock had been and he made the decision to refuse the order. Franz Stock survived as a pow, but not for long, he died in poverty in 1947 at the age of 43. Right up until his untimely demise he was working for the welfare of POW's of all nations in Paris and France. The description of his life's work is enlightening, and portrays a real Christian's mission which is in stark contrast to the fat cats and miscreants we hear so much of lately within the religious communities?
Bayeux we discovered has much to offer, ancient buildings, must find out how much damage the onslaught of the battle for Normandy inflicted on the town 70 years ago. Great little streets full of shops and cafes. River flowing through with new promenade along the banks. After we had done a fair walk around we went back to take up our lodgings.

Later we went to Arromanches on the coast. The 70th Anniversary of WWII is given full sway. Many exhibitions, banners, books and so on are all over the place. What is moving are the little things, e.g. on a shop window a brief message, "thank you to our rescuers". Arromanches is a holiday resort and it was a bit like being at home, with cafes all along the street and shops with gifts, but sprucer. Strange hearing so many English voices, but Bayeux is very near to Caen and a couple we met say they come over quite often from Portsmouth. There are events being staged for the commemoration all summer long, so well worth a visit.

Ended up in one of the cafes with a nice big bowl of moules marinieres for supper.

28th JULY

Breakfast, what a revelation, such gorgeous French bread, ate toooo much, but what the heck!
Breakfast room, is a walk across the courtyard, round the back of the facing building and then up a flight of steps. Here you find two small tables for two, laid up with all the bits. Delicious coffee and tea to go with the bread and croissants. We realised that the reason we had to wait until gone 9 for breakfast is that they only have room for 4 people at a time! Wonder how they will manage if they have all the rooms let now, let alone when the conversions are finished? We learned that in this part of France they adhere to Mondays being a day off, which in recent years had tended to decline somewhat. So we spent a lazy morning and then went into town to visit the Bayeux Tapestry.

Never having seen it before, we were both totally taken with it. Imagine a piece of linen, beautifully embroidered nearly 60cm wide and 68 metres long! The colours are superb and the soldiers, horses, boats, animals, weapons all so impressive. The audio guide spells out the whole history of the Norman conflict while you stroll past. Riveting experience as you just had to pinch yourself that here was the history of real events being displayed from 1000 years ago. Heard one mother say to her son "how old are you?" "4" he answered, "and this tapestry is 250 times older than you" she responded, he was suitably impressed too. "That is very very old" he said. Long may the tapestry survive. The museum was packed and it took 20 minutes from walking in to reach the start of the display, they must have 1000 or more go past every day in the summer time.

Our intention of doing a bit of shopping came to an abrupt end when we discovered, yes indeed, they shops were shut. All those folk wandering around and not many places to spend money in, apart from cafes of course. This evening we visited the artisans market, along the lines of a farmers market but mainly crafts on sale. A free range chicken I looked at was 19E, which made me blanch. We tried some of the cheese on offer, but no free sips of cider were available.

TUESDAY 29TH JULY

English sort of morning, so after brekky we set out to go to the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy 1944. Just as we entered there was a film starting on the battles, so we scooted in quickly to watch. The cinema was totally full, the film covering the battles, the conditions, the casualties, the bravery, the devastation of the tows, was very moving. After that we went back to the beginning of the museum presentation. It took 2 hours and more to walk round, reading, looking and understanding the enormity of it all. Then we drove along that coast and we saw that with that open countryside what an enormous battlefield it was. The many memorials we now felt had more meaning for us. We found out why Bayeux seemed so untouched, and that is exactly what it was, although just a stone's throw from Arromanches and Caen, it escaped totally unscathed. St. Lo was the most severely affected town and we plan to go through there to see how it has been reconstructed. Caen is now an enormous city and port, but its reconstruction must have taken many years. What amused us was that the bypass which the forces laid around Bayeux, (because the medieval streets could not take the military traffic), was laid down in just THREE WEEKS. Not tarmac, but steel sheets, and after the war it was the basis for the modern day road system. It is a daunting thought, when you realise how close the Allies were to being routed at various points, as to how long the war may have continued if they had failed.

In the afternoon we took a trip to Suisse Normande, very simiar to the Vendee in Western France, winding lanes up and down the hills and pretty villages along the way. Stopped in one village for lunch and found the local cider and wine purveyor with his shop open, so we called in to sample his wares! Not that he had tasting going on, just as well. Routing our trip back to base via the coast we returned in better weather and now enjoying the evening sun.

Now, in the evening, we sauntered into town to L'Assiette Normande for our munchies. Good job had booked as place was humming. Fortunately it took a long time to serve and eat our meal as we needed to stay put until dusk. It was a delicious meal. Watching the 4 waitresses deal with all the customers and their needs Owas fascinating, have not seen such speed and skill for many a year. There were four different dining areas, one of which was upstairs! The girls zipped around nimbly, and despite stacking high, one girl carried 9 glasses in one hand when resetting a table, no collisions with themselves or customers!

The reason we waited for dusk was the son et lumiere show which radiated over the cathedral and the huge tree in the cloister. The photos only give you a brief glimpse, and unfortunately my videos of it are too dark, but suffice it to say that it was spectacular, and moving. There were hundreds of spectators, the weather had turned fine in the evening which encouraged everyone to stay in town. The spectacle is run every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday during the summer, so we struck lucky. Noticed that the Cathedral doors are open for everyone until dusk which am sure is not the same in UK is it?
Gotta dash, horse is being lunged, client coming back to ride it in an hour.

Posted by Combes Caper 02:18 Archived in France Comments (0)

IS-EN-BISSIGNY

HAUTE MARNE

o BON COEUR

FRIDAY 26TH JULY

Another lazyish day, took advantage of the pool again and read some pages, then after a quick snack we went back to Langres. First though we visited a fascinating park La Truifiere which has a very large area of moss cultures from -6000 bc upwards. Good thing to do on a hot afternoon as with the water and the trees it was nice and cool inside. Not knowing much about mosses and some of the rarer plants it was probably a bit wasted on us, but would recommend a visit to anyone in the area. No entrance fees either!

Langres we decided to go back and get on the land train. Unlike the other day, there was plenty of space on the train so we got on the first one available. A British couple were on the same section, they had actually been camping in the walled city where there is quite a large area for tents and campers. The trip round the town and the incredible manoeuvres round in and out of the narrow streets was great. The audio transcribed the talk through so we followed most of the historical titbits. One bishop apparently met a gruesome end at the hands of vandals in the middle ages and the story goes that his body and horse returned with him carrying his head and he still haunts the ramparts. Poor horse! Whilst we were on the train a big storm started brewing and each time we got a glimpse of the sky we could see it getting nearer. Luckily it passed by, but had doused our swimming things which we had left out to dry. Never seen so many storms for years. Reminded me of the Tarn where there used to be spectacular displays nearly every evening.

Returning to O Bon Coeur, we found that the rooms had all been taken and there were 12 of us for dinner, including owner's mother and a friend. An international table, Belgians, Germans, French and ourselves. The conversation was mostly in French, and the particular vein was the ineptitude of the EU. Complaints on all sides about the H&S regulations, one of the Belgians said that the garage where he took his business's vehicles was now deemed a "motor hospital". There was universal condemnation of the ridiculous rules which are introduced, allegedly for own good, but which cause nothing but delays and expense for no good reason. They all thought the education systems did not prepare the young for work. Vis, one guest's daughter, who had a small grant for her student accommodation, was not taking a summer job (they have 14 weeks off) because she was scared she would lose the grant. Therefore she had little money and no chance of gaining "hands on" experience. Another complained about the difficulty of getting and retaining staff, as he found that they came out of college with the idea that they could get high salaries but they still needed training in the particular field of work. A young woman, with two children, was repeating the same story we hear at home, the cost of creches and childcare is so high that it takes practically all her wages just to try and keep her step on the work ladder. With each additional child

The cost of the bureaucrats at Brussels and the farcical moving from Strasbourg to Brussels were also thorns in the flesh. Immigration, foreign policy and so on were way down the list of things they were concerned with.
It was a very interesting evening, especially to know that all the generations, as well as nationalities were all on the same wavelength!

JULY 26TH
Saturday and off to Chateaudun in the sun. It made it so much easier travelling along, we steered clear of motorways and managed to see quite a lot of different towns en route. Villeneuve sur Yonne was an interesting town, cobbled streets, fortress town, but quite spacious and also buoyant. The most attractive towns were Migennes and Bar sur Aube, and of course we travelled through Champagne country, which looked wonderful in the sunshine. The drive took us 4 hours in total and the Logis at Chateaudun was really good find. Along the lines of Travelodge and Premier Inn, but better! The place was spotless, the staff very good and the breakfast buffet too. We explored the town which has a really huge chateau, sitting 60m above the Loir below. Lots of medieval houses and cobbled streets, and a huge square in which we parked. Another square was totally reserved for locals. I do like that amenity, the French look after their own first! Must save a lot of grouches in the season. We ate at a Steak House as we left it too late for the town's restaurants! Not a patch on the steak house in the Black Forest

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