Tuesday 27 October 2009

Impressions Francaises

I know that I have not posted for a few days and I suppose that you think that I am off on my travels again. Sorry you are wrong! I have been making the most of the mild weather, that we have been having, to get on with the Autumn jobs in the garden. By the time that I came in, late yesterday afternoon, our outside lights were on. We are making progress with our garden but we have along way to go before we reach the holy grail of a garden that we visited whilst in France earlier this month. It was a garden that I had never expected to see. It was cloudy most of the drive from Trouville to Giverny but as we approached Giverny the clouds disappeared and the sun shone out of a clear blue sky.

Monet's garden at Giverny is stunning, but at two weeks before it was due to close for the end of the season, it was past its' best. The garden has been restored to its' original planting scheme, using the notebooks of Monet's gardeners and the gardens do look like a Monet painting.

All the plants were big and tall. Far bigger than we manage to grow in the UK. In Monet's day the house garden was separated from the Water Lily Pond by a railway line and a path. Today an underground passage links the garden to the Water Lily Pond with its Japanese Bridge. Autumn is not the season for wisteria and water lilies but the pond and the bridge are just like the painting - perfect.

Giverny is a hamlet. There is more to it than I expected and I suppose that we should not be surprised that the whole area has been commercialised. We only had time to look at the garden. So the church, the museum, the art gallery, the restaurant and the hotel were all wasted on us with our whistle stop tour.

The previous day after walking around Trouville then Deauville in the morning we drove to the picturesque old harbour town of Honfleur in the afternoon. Here we bought a bottle of Calvados - a liqueur made from locally grown apples and wrote postcards while having a coffee at one of the harbour side cafes.

The following morning, on our way to the ferry, we managed to squeeze in a visit to the Bayeux tapestry. Bayeaux is a very old town with a lot of history to it, but we only had time to see the tapestry. Cameras are not allowed in the tapestry visitor centre. The tapestry which is 70metres long and 50 cm wide is stored behind glass in a darkened room with the tapestry illuminated for viewing.

It is not actually a tapestry - it is brown, green, khaki and black wool stitched on linen and is composed of 50 scenes depicting the story of the Norman invasion of England in 1066. It is thought to have been stitched by English nuns from 1070 to 1080. Entry to see the tapestry included a personal audio commentary in a variety of languages from a small hand held machine similar to a mobile phone. It was a very impressive experience.

Then in the afternoon we made our way to the ferry terminal, at Caen, making sure that we had time to stop off at the wine warehouse, so that we could stock up on our favourite French wines.

Monday 19 October 2009

Life's a beach

I know that I have now been away ten times this year. However, those of you that follow my blog will know that we have had several trips away this year that have were not really for the purpose of enjoying ourselves. Holidaywise we had a four night break in Kent and the New Forest in May, one week in Ireland last month and then three days in France last week. Our other seven trips have been to three family birthdays, two funerals, one trip down to Sussex to bring my mother up to Cheshire and another trip down to Sussex, to do some sorting out and cleaning at my Mother's bungalow, in preparation for selling it.

Our days of lying on a Mediterranean or even a Caribbean beach have gone, but we have visited several beaches over the last few weeks. The only beach that we saw whilst in County Clare, Ireland last month was Lahinch.

Last Sunday we stayed the night in the Southsea area of Portsmouth, and we managed to go for a walk along the sea front at Southsea, before going out for a meal in the evening.

On Monday morning we travelled by ferry to Cherbourg in France. That afternoon, on our way from Cherbourg to Trouville-sur-Mer, we stopped off at some of the D Day beaches. Omaha with its American memorial was the most impressive of the three that we saw.

Then we went on to see the British beaches - Gold, where the remains of the Mulberry Harbour can still be seen if you enlarge the photograph below

and Juno, which was actually the Canadian beach.

All the D Day beaches were wide, empty and golden with the waves rolling in and it was not difficult to imagine the scene on D Day, 6 June 1944. We missed the American beach, Utah and the British beach, Sword. However, the next day we walked along the promenade at Trouville

and then walked over the bridge to Deauville, where we also walked along the beach.

Friday 9 October 2009

French leave

I know that we have only just got back from Ireland but we are going away again this weekend to France. Husband has become partial to French wine and we need to restock the wine cellar or rather the wine rack that I bought for his birthday last year, which has languished unassembled in the box for the last thirteen months. With the nights drawing in and becoming chilly, last weekend I suggested that we might use it for fire wood if he was not going to assemble it and this week he has, at last, assembled it. This year's holiday arrangements have not been ideal, but we were asked not to go away while SIL was away, so that either husband or SIL would be around for MIL. However, SIL gave us the wrong dates and we were away, in September, at the same time as SIL!

When we return from this little break, which will be the tenth and final bag packing event of the year, the suitcases will be going up in the loft and the loft door will stay firmly closed until the Christmas decorations need to come down. We have got this bag packing routine down to a fine art now, but I would just like to stay at home for a few weeks and get on top of things instead of permanently trying to catch up with myself. So we shall be battening down the hatches and raising the draw bridge in preparation for winter. By the way we don't have moat - just a flooded path!

Back in about a week.

Saturday 3 October 2009

A white knuckle ride

Some of you may recognise the bridge in this photograph. For those that do not it is the bridge at Dolgellau, in Wales. A few weeks ago husband, when he was having a week off work, which became a month and is now two months, took me off to the archives in Dolgellau, to help with some more research into his family tree. This time it was the paternal, Welsh branch of the family that he was pursuing. Husband had previously been to the archives in Dolgellau, on his own back in April. He thought that I might enjoy he trip into Wales and that two pairs of eyes might be better than one when viewing the microfiches of the old parish records.

Our journey to Dolgellau was slow and we only managed about an hour in the archive before they shut for lunch. We ventured into the centre of Dolgellau for a pub lunch then it was back to the archives for more research into the ancestors. Security is tight at the archives. We had to sign in and sign for the microfiches that we looked at. Only pencils can be use for writing, not pens and eating and drinking is not permitted. We were looking at the parish records for births, marriages and deaths for the village of Mallwyd and the parish of Llanymaddwy for the 1770s. The quality of the microfiches varies and depends on the hand writing of the recorder, the condition of the paper and the binding of the pages. We were fortunate in that we managed to find the recording of the births that husband was looking for, amongst the pauper burials, illegitimate births and the issue born to concubines. Although he was surprised to find that the particular ancestor that he was interested in was born out of wedlock. Having spent a total of two and a half hours in the archive husband then wanted to visit the graveyard in the church at Llanymaddwy. There amongst the graves of the Thomases, Lloyds and Williams we were unable to find the graves that he was looking for.

The sat. nav. was given the honour of guiding us home and chose to take us via the scenic route of a single track road. If husband ever tries to take me via that route again I shall be walking home. Not only was the road single track but on one side the was a sheer drop down the mountain side which happened to be on the passenger side (i.e. my side) of the car. At times I was nearly in the driving seat with husband! My heart was in my mouth and I did not dare close my eyes. It was quite frightening and I thought that we might never make it home especially when we met two cars coming the other way. Luckily there was a passing bay.

The scenery is beautiful in a peculiar grey/green sort of way. On this particular day the sky was grey. The hills looked very green and the landscape was only relieved by the occasional traditional grey stone or white pebble dash houses with slate roofs. It is incredible to think that, hundreds of years ago, husband ancestors would have looked out on a countryside not too different from what we still see today.

For those of you who are wondering where this fits into a blog about renovation and relocation. This is relocation, which has allowed us to make day trips into Wales.