Monday, 31 August 2015

The lull - Sunday 30th August 2015

The fish had been fed and the water level was high but sometime along the last fortnight the greenery in the pool had taken to multiplying to the point that the fish must have been lost in an underwater forest. So that was job number one and I got on with it. I spent longer than usual on pond maintenance, and even thought about mowing the back lawn, but Pauline hung out two lines of washing, so that put paid to that.

I checked my in-box and all the mail that had come in, then put it all on one side. Today, I decided, would be the day I finished the book I've been reading and put all of the photos from France onto my computer. September will be a very hectic month so one more day of relaxation should stand me in good stead.

I had taken about 240 pictures whilst away and one day I'll have the time to do something with them, especially after Wednesday when I learn how to handle Photoshop a bit better. However, Pauline fetched Rita round for the day, we sat and chatted or pithered, enjoyed a really nice roast chicken, got an early night and thought that tomorrow probably would be another day.

a walk at Delettes

Hotel Normandie

Arromanches les Bains sunset

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Traffic - Saturday 29th August 2015

There was no rush and because we were going to be travelling for much of the day, the sun shone. We had a reasonable breakfast, settled our bill and set off at 9am. Our crossing wasn't due until 12.30 but we decided to see if that could be improved. The sign said that because of the number of bookings being handled today there could be no changes to schedules. I checked in at the automatic reception and it offered us a crossing 90 minutes early!

The journey seemed over before it had started. We got on to the M20 and it was moving. That was a novel experience for us. However, when we got to the Dartford Crossing it all went haywire. We crawled the last three miles and then simply stopped. Eventually the lights all turned green and we could see no reason for the delay.

The next problem was the M1. That was also stationary for quite a time so when we got the chance we came off at Dunstable and came home using the A5. That was helpful because we found an Aldi just outside Hinckley and bought fruit and vegetables for the weekend.

The 220 mile journey took a total of six hours in all and we were happy to get home, especially to find the lawn had been mowed and the fish had been fed. What it is to have good neighbours.The post box was crammed full but with nothing exciting. Pauline did the unpacking, I cooked a prawn risotto and that was it. One more day of relaxing ahead and then I really have to start to motor.

Dartford Crossing. Southbound uses the bridge,
northbound uses the tunnel.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Wimereux - Friday 28th August 2015

Our crossing on Saturday is at 12.30pm. The journey from Arromanches takes four full hours. The bridge at Hornfleur was a nightmare on the way down, so we decided to play safe and book out this morning and travel up to Calais under no pressure.

Of course, the sun was shining. Doesn't it always on the last day?

We had breakfast, packed (mostly Pauline, but I did do my camera case) and we were off at 10am. We stopped on the way for fuel, then a fifteen minute break and then side tracked into Wimereux. Here we parked up and wandered up and down the promenade, but it wasn't what we were remembering.

The sky was blue, the sea was animated, but the wind off it had an edge and the promenade now sports bathing huts all along the front, but not pretty or bright as we get in Britain. These were dowdy and monotonous and took the edge off what we think is a lovely French town.

From Wimereux we carried on to Calais, stopping at Franglais to fill the boot to capacity. We won't need to buy bubbles or wine until well into next year. Then it was down into the town to the local Camponile. I have no problem with this chain because you know exactly what you are going to get. The rooms are always clean, there is a bath (first in a fortnight - though 14 showers in case you think otherwise) and the food is reliable.

And the pressure was off.


Thursday, 27 August 2015

Pointe du Hoc - Thursday 27th August 2015

There was a good five minutes of hope that the forecasters had got it wrong, then down came the rain. We had breakfast and watched the coaches arrive and the passengers disembark and race for the shops.

We decided to go for a drive until it settled. We headed back east but you could see nothing out to sea so I followed some minor roads into the countryside. We passed through La Guerre, Asnelles, Graye-sur-Mer, Crépon, Ryes, Sommervieu and finally on to Bayeux, just to find Carrefour.

All week, when it has rained, Pauline has suggested a supermarket and when we came out each time the sun was shining. We went in with drizzle and came out to find it hammering down. But it wasn't a waste, especially with gin and rum so favourable priced, as well as some special wine. We spent a fair bit, but if you take out the drink we spent almost nothing.

I have missed the sunshine on this holiday but on return home I will miss this countryside. I will be 74 later this year and am aware that I will not live forever and that there are large parts of the world I have never seen, so it is unlikely we will return to Normandy, but I would say to anyone that this is a beautiful place - when the sun shines!


St Medard & St Gildred - Crépon


After a while the rain eased to a bearable drizzle and we decided on a last walk on this beautiful beach, but not before we visited the Disembarkment Museum. This turned out to be a real eye opener.

I found my knowledge of the D Day landings was incomplete, and quite awry. I knew that 165,000 troops landed on Day One and I hadn't been able to understand why the Americans lost so many tanks at Omaha during that exercise. Today I found out.

The Mulberry Harbour and the incredible landing 'roads' couldn't be built until the Germans had been driven back from the sea and the cliff edges. That took 3 days. The landings at Sword, Juno and Gold went quite well but Omaha and Utah took quite a pounding.

The Germans lost 1,000 troops that day but the Allies lost 4,400 killed and 6,000 wounded. By the third day another 160,000 troops were landed and these reinforcements were enough to turn the tide. By the end of June some 850,000 troops were in Normandy and by the end of August the Germans had been driven back to Germany.

The harbour was an unimaginable feat. Over 5,000 ships brought all the men, equipment, and the harbour over 100 miles of rough sea, and it took about 8 days to properly construct it all, after some was badly damaged by a 3 day storm that almost ruined everything.

What intrigued me, however, was what went on at Pointe du Hoc.

Here a large emplacement of big guns was situated on the cliff tops. The guns had to be destroyed for the harbour to be built. The American Rangers, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder, landed with just 225 men who had orders to climb both sides of the cliff and take the emplacement. Some 90 died on the first assault, but they succeeded in driving German soldiers away from the guns, which gave them time to start destroying them. However, reinforcements were two days late in arriving and the venture was almost a disaster. They did prevail, blowing up the ammunition dump and finishing the three days of solid fighting with just 90 men left standing.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Omaha Beach landings remembered - Wednesday 26th August 2015

Today we went west, keeping as close to the coast line as we could. We called in at every little village and remarked on every little church. I stopped to take one photo which left Pauline bemused. The landscape was quite flat at that point, though it had been hilly and varied for the most part. What I wanted to record was just how flat it was at that point and that tucked in the corner of the picture behind the village church are the three spires of Notre Dames de Bayeau.

The landings at Arromanches were mainly by the British and the artificial Mulberry Harbours no doubt eased their way considerably, but today was all about Omaha and the different experience endured by the Americans.

Where the beach was flat it was littered with bombs, booby traps and obstacles. There were also big guns trained on the area. The first tanks that were supposed to land all ended up stuck in the sea, but eventually some got through and diminished the resistance dramatically.

However, further along to the west is Pointe du Hoc and here were steep cliffs with dozens of big gun encampments all trained on the sea below. This was the area tackled by the American Rangers and first they had to scale the cliffs and then come sideways at the enemy. This they did, successfully, but lost two thirds of the original assault crew in the process.

There is a large memorial presentation at Pointe du Hoc with a marker rising above a gun emplacement, but down on the flat there is a triple memorial entitled Les Braves. The three sections are labelled The Wings of Hope, Rise Freedom, and the Wings of Fraternity.

From there we drove along to Grandcamp Maisie, but the time spent at Omaha filled the mind, so we made our way back for lunch, thankful that the rain that had been forecast didn't dampen our day.

spot the cathedral

Les Braves

Sea Horses!


not forgotten

Eventually the forecasters were proved right, and a few more buckets full came down, hopefully meaning Robert was dry to the east and Daniel still soaking up the sun in the south west. Only Helen is back in England, keeping everything tidy.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Château de Balleroy - Tuesday 25th August 2015

The forecast said rain this afternoon, so we decided to go to the Château Bolleroy this morning. We got breakfast out of the way and made an early start. Two things went wrong. First the rain didn’t know what time it was, so a visit to a garden was out of the question, and secondly the château was shut, despite the advertisements suggesting otherwise.

The rain didn't spoil much, and it did ease off around noon. Driving through unspoiled French countryside is always a treat to me. Mile after mile of pristine farmland and never a hint of litter. That’s what makes it so sad when we go home, there’s just no national pride in tidiness anymore.

Pauline said that the trick was to find a supermarket, by which time the rain would stop. We went into Leclerk, and she was right! We drove back to Arromanche, but continued along the coast road, passed Juno Beach, up to the fishing and yachting port of Courseulles sur Mer. Here we found another fish market, straight from the boats.

Courseulles sur Mer

Considering that the weather might well be like this for the rest of the week, I decided to become a virtual tourist. So, the Château de Balleroy is situated just below Bayeau.(We did get there - twice) Work on the château began in 1626 and it took ten years to complete. The château is famous for its extremely ornate garden, in the French style and the building itself houses many fine paintings, especially some of Louis XIII and his family by Pierre Mignard.
Château de Balleroy

We had some lunch, the weather improved and so we went for a long walk on the beach, given that the tide was out. There were some lovely, unusual sea shells a few dismembered crabs, and very poignant meassage scrawled in the sand, and a large sea bird that I can only think is a fulmar. It was at least twice as big as the common gulls that abound.

any ideas?

A heartfelt thank you

my sentiments too

D Day remembered - Monday 24th August 2015

Arromanches les Bains is a seafront village with golden sands. It saw the day in with heavy rain, which doesn't help the tourist industry. However, from quite early and right through the day a stream of coaches arrive, discharging 40 tourists each regardless of the weather, and all the shops and attractions can do is hope they want to come out of the rain.

By the time we had breakfast the sun was back and we went for a walk. To the west are the higher cliffs and we walked to the top to get the views that German troops would have had when the Allies came calling (a little unexpectedly) on 6th June 1944. Some 25,000 troops landed on the beach right in front of our hotel, and many of them never got past the surf.

As we walked back, now along the sand, the tide was out and around 44 of the Mulberry Dock relics were exposed. We heard a lot of American accents but one tourist who asked if we would take his picture in front of a rusting hulk turned out to be from Calgary in Canada. He was on a 12 day cruise around Britain and this was the last day. He had heard that 5,000 Canadian troops died on this beach but I was fresh from getting the numbers and told him I think that's how many died in the 100 days of the Battle of Normandy.

Of the 156,000 who landed on Day One, 4,400 died (if the dates on the graves all around this area are anything to go by). Of that number 2,500 were American, 1,300 British and 600 Canadian.

We stopped for a coffee than walked up the steep hill on the eastern side of town to the Cinema in the Round where you can watch 360 degrees of D Day action. It is only €5 to go in and is well worth it. We carried on from there back down the side streets that lead to the centre of the village and the pretty Eglise Saint Pierre.

We were able to go in and soak up the peace. We could barely see when we walked in but as our eyes adjusted we could make out the spectacular stained glass windows. Sadly my photos of them don't do them justice. There was a church near the site from the 13th century but as the village grew it bacame far too small and so start on this new church began in 1857.

The stained glass windows weren't put in until after the German occupation had been repelled and peace returned to this hard pressed region. The three main windows in the east feature Saint André and Saint Nicolas, with the Virgin Mary in the centre. All are looking down on Allied troops and two soldiers presenting the Virgin Mary with a sail boat.

We wound our way back to the sea front, had a snack for lunch, kept well out of the next rain storm (with a bit of thunder) and write this blog and processed a few pictures. During all this time the coaches still kept coming.

the western cliff

Arromanches from the west

and from the east

Eglise Saint Pierre

We went to the same restaurant for tonight's meal. Maybe it was because it's Monday, certainly the rain hammering down didn't help, but this was not to the standard of last night. But I'm a butcher's boy. I'm particular about how you should cook meat. I don't believe in rare, it's not good for your stomach.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Bayeux - Sunday 23rd August 2015

I woke to see the sea on fire, then a great storm broke right over us, thunder rumbling immediately after the lightning flashes. That kept people off the beach!

We didn't race, there was no point, but we were nowhere near last to go down to breakfast. The lady wanted to clean our room so we decided to take a trip inland.

I knew Bayeux was close but hadn't realised just how near it is. As the crow (or sea gull) flies it is only 4 miles inland. By road it was 7 miles. We made our way there in steady drizzle and found a hypermarket that helped us kill an hour. By the time we came out it had stopped raining and when we parked in the Rue St Martin in the centre of Bayeux the sun was out.

Bayeux is where William the Conquerer was born. It is also old and wears it beautifully. I don't know what damage was done during the war but this is a beautiful town to visit. The first time we were there was to see the Bayeux Tapestry (woven in England - which rankles a few) but this time it was to roam the charming streets and visit the Cathedral de Notre Dame Bayeux.

When we got into the cathedral there was a multiple christening service going on, so we stayed long enough to feel the calm and peace of the place, appreciate the architecture, and then it was back to roaming the streets.

From there we went to Port-en-Bessin Hupprain, a lively fishing village which this morning was staging a local market packed with vegetables, chicken off the rotiseries, a few Calvados-based drinks and the inevitable fish stalls. The harbour was stacked with large, working fishing boats, an industry that had been barred during the German occupation.

Rain came back briefly so went went back to the hotel and had a light lunch. Then, in lovely sunshine, we explored the full length of the beach and what every restaurant has to offer. Eat an ice cream whilst sat on the harbour wall, people watching, and an hour is soon behind you.

We miss the company of our family but this is calming and restful.


Notre Dame de Bayeux

River Aure

Port-en-Bessin harbour

We ate at the hotel last night. It wasn't bad, but adequate more suited the description of the food. Tonight we went a little further down the road to La Brasserie 6 Juin and we had an excellent meal. We chose a set menu, only €15.80 a head. When the starter came Pauline announced that alone would be enough.

The service was attentive but unhurried. The food was really good and even the house red turned out to be a decent Corbierre. This was a place for more than one visit.

Arromanches les Bains

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Arromanches les Bains - Saturday 22nd August 2015

We woke to cloudless skies. We got up earlier than of late, had breakfast with every one, packed the car and then said our goodbyes. As we moved out, Fran & Alan were due to move in.

At least the beds are warm.

The first part of the journey was a dream. Sixty miles of beautiful countryside, with tractors everywhere and every field receiving attention. Pauline drove the next 70 miles. It was OK for the most part, then we reached the Normandie Bridge over the a River Seine and it took 40 minutes to go three miles.

I'd estimated 4 hours for the 208 mile journey, but it took nearer five.

Finally we got to Arromanches les Bains and the Hotel Normandy. We've stayed in worse. There was no wifi (they said there was but it was fractious) which made things difficult, but the town itself made up for any shortfalls at the hotel.

I hadn't realised how important this beach had been in the D Day landings. Thirty four pontoons just off the beach. This was Gold Beach and even the road we are on is named 6th June 1944.

We had some lunch, walked around in a lively, hustling crowd, went for an early, but long, dinner, walked a little more, then got to bed as the town went quiet, at 10pm.

part of the beach at Arromanches

Eglise Saint-Pierre

Hotel Normandie

Mulberry Harbours

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Keep walking - Friday 21st August 2015

At last, the blue skies were there from the outset. That doesn't mean we rushed to get up!

We shared breakfast, Robert went for a run. I persuaded Pauline to come for a walk with me, just around the village. I took her part of the walk I did yesterday but we turned right at the main road instead of left. This brought us down by the church. We then crossed the bridge and explored where the lane went if we turned left. I reckon it goes all the way to the next village, but Pauline was wearing flip flops!

We had a hearty lunch and the temperature was still climbing, so Robert and I went for a walk. We explored a bit and came unstuck when we came to a bridge that said "Danger of death!!", or at least "Watch it."

We doubled back and found a lane we'd never ventured up before. We followed it for about a mile and a half, rising all the time. By the time we got to the top we were over two miles away and looking down on Delettes. We hit a downward section (blessed relief) and then turned right at Coyecques and made our way home.Two hours and five and a half miles.

I felt fairly pleased with myself (not the speed, the company, the chat, the weather, and the fact I made it).

Back at the farm house we found Harper had conquered his fears and was swimming admirably. The ladies were calling on the powers that be for a gin and tonic, and we were ready to celebrate our last night together for a while. As we move out, Fran, Alan and Charlotte will move in.

Delettes church

Starting out

half way

a downhill bit

missing you already

Friday, 21 August 2015

Coyecques - Thursday 20th August 2015

The primary reason for coming to Delettes was to be with Robert, Sheri, Daisy and Harper. Living so far away and seeing them less often than we would hope for means, sometimes, that it takes time to reestablish ourselves with the children. Not this time, seemingly, and they have been great company.

The secondary reason - on my part - is the walks, and we haven't managed much so far.

Whatever, we woke to rain and it took till mid morning to clear. Pauline said we were going for a drive and everyone one said we'd go together. The planned destination was Hazebrouck. Well, we got there and immediately turned around. We made one more effort at finding a tourist attraction, gave up and came back for lunch.

Everyone wanted to watch a film but time for walks was running out, so I left on my own. I drifted down a side street I hadn't explored before. I immediately came across a goat that reared up on its hind legs and boxed at me. I got my camera out, asked for a repeat performance and got complete indifference.

I found a small park running alongside the La Lys river and followed it over a bridge and found myself at the very quiet main road. I headed to Coyecques, passed the signs that said the road was closed. Some traffic obviously didn't believe the signs, but I waved when they came back. It was weird, the town was cut off, some of the houses having heaps of roadworks across their drives so they couldn't get out.

There was some rain but I sheltered under trees. The drift back down a single track lane was warm work. I saw what must have been a buzzard. It was certainly larger than the heron flying below it. We had seen grey wagtails this afternoon, alongside pied wagtails. These birds are rare at home but were frisky around the garden. I didn't see much else on my walk, apart from a dead shrew. I rather have seen a live one.

The walk was just four miles but my exploring meant it took two hours. This is me returned to my absolute element. If the sun would shine I'd stay another month.

Another lovely meal, a game of Mexican Train and another drubbing, this time from Robert.

a bridge to nowhere


you can't see the poppies

wheels within wheels


the home stretch