Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Brittany and Normandy, 21 February

Today we finally reached Brittany, driving from Le Mans to Angers and then on to Nantes.

Or first port of call was an enormous Auchan on the outskirts of Le Mans; I don't believe I've ever seen such a huge hypermarket!  It took several minutes to walk the length of the associated mall before you got there, too!  The SW, meanwhile, got diesel and made himself coffee while I was doing that, and then we set off properly.

We took the motorway to Angers, but asked the Sat-nav to take us to the town centre, just because, which it duly did. Then we drove cross-country to Nantes, with the sun shining and generally lovely. We stopped in a picnic area for lunch - I had bought some rillettes du Mans (well, you have to, don't you!), and some strawberry tartlets as a treat.  And some French lime juice squash, which is incredibly tart by UK standards, but refreshing if you don't make it too strong.

Our first port of call in Nantes was to a mechanical museum where there was a large elephant the SW wanted to see. We might have gone into the museum but there was a massive queue, and to be honest, it's not really the sort of thing I find interesting!  So we walked around until we found the elephant, who was just loading up for his next trip, but he was a bit of a fraud, as he moved on wheels and, although his legs moved, they were not used for locomotion.  He was huge though!

After that, we came away and drove through the city to the camp site, which is very nice, and the SW went for a walk while I knitted and got rather chilled, add then he went out for pizza, which we have just finished, and very good it was, too.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Brittany and Normandy, 20 February

The Swan Whisperer went out for a run this morning, while I got up, and then we had breakfast, but what with one thing and another it was almost 10:00 am before we got away. We had hoped to cross the Seine on a ferry, but the operator said we were too long, so we had to reverse sadly up the ramp. But it was nice, as we had to go to the Pont de Brotonne, and to get back to the motorway meant a lovely drive through rural Normandy. Not at its prettiest this time of year, of course, but there were primroses!

We stopped twice en route to Let Man's - the first a planned stop for coffee and a leg-stretch for the SW, and then again because I noticed that motorhome services were advertised at the Dentelles d'Alençon service area. These turned out to be working, clean and free, so we made good use of them!  I was very glad we had, as when we arrived in Le Mans, we discovered the service area we'd stayed at before was now closed. There is a very nice free car park, though, where we have stopped, but no services.

Lunch was the first order of the day, and then I stupidly went to sleep, which meant is was after 4:00 before we got out. We walked up the hill to the Cathedral, and then down toward the Cité Plantagenet.  We saw the the Queen Berengaria museum, which had been closed last time we were here, was now open, so we went in and oh, the disappointment. Nothing to do wth her, or the crusades, or Richard the Lionheart, but an exhibition of local paintings and pottery from the 18th and 19th centuries, depicting local life then, mostly mediocre. So to be avoided!

Then we called in at a supermarket to get stuff for supper and breakfast, and then a very pleasant walk back between the river and the city walls to our car park.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Brittany and Normandy, 19 February

The weather, which had been so lovely all weekend, broke overnight and we woke up to a wet day.  However, we have macs, so we drove over to Arques, and to the former boat lift at Fontinettes. The visitor centre was closed, as we knew it would be, but we were still able to have a good walk all round, and to see the former line of the canal before the modern lock was installed in the 1970s. (photos here after I get home!)

Sadly, we couldn't see the modern lock, as the footpath came to and end and it said No Admittance, so we had to come away. But it was a most enjoyable walk, despite the rain!

After this, we went to a supermarket so I could stock up on this and that, and a pair of slippers, as the pair I keep in the van have unaccountably disappeared. Then we drove as far as the Aire du Baie de la Somme, where we had lunch, and then on down here, to Jumièges, on the banks of the Seine. The journey was very wet and foggy, and one of our windscreen wipers decided to part company from its moorings - luckily it stuck in the ventilation trough - don't know what else to call it - on the bonnet, and we were just by an emergency pull-off, so we stopped and the Swan Whisperer fixed it.  It behaved itself all the rest of the way!

Now the SW has gone out for a walk, and I am knitting and reading.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Brittany and Normandy, 18 February

So we are parked up in Saint-Omer for the night, having had a rather slow journey to the coast, but then we were able to go straight through to the holding pens, and it wasn't long before boarding commenced.  The Satnav was slightly playing sillybuggers, but that turned out to be because it hadn't really found the satellites - I'd used my phone on the way down - and it brought us here with no problems.

The only thing was, why St-Omer?  I knew there was something we wanted to see, but couldn't remember what. Some detective work ensued, and we realised we wanted to look at the old boat lift at Fontinettes. The museum won't be open, alas, but we think we'll be able to see it.

Then it was time to make a sausage hash for supper, and soon I shall go to bed, at least 4 hours earlier than I ever go at home!

Normandy and Brittany, 18 February

This is a preliminary post, to "goose" network blogs into checking for new and updated posts. I will remove it on my return, but we are off this afternoon to Normandy and Brittany for ten days, and I am really, really, looking forward to it. We've been stuck in London since Christmas, and neither of us has been terribly well, and we just need to get away!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

A day at the races!

Today, 21 January, is my mother's 90th birthday, and to celebrate my brother organised a family party at Fontwell races.  Originally the plan had been to take a hospitality suite, with lunch and drinks, and to enjoy the racing from the balcony.  However, a few days ago one of the principal sponsors pulled out, and my brother was offered the opportunity to sponsor a race at half price, which he chose to do, so the 3rd race of the day was designated "Marigold Somerset at 90".

It was an early start for us all, and London early on a Sunday morning has little traffic, so we arrived at Clapham Junction in good time, and joined my nephew and his partner - who had caught the train at Victoria by the skin of their teeth - on the train.  Soon the Daughter and the Boys arrived - they, too, had only just caught the train, and had based themselves a couple of carriages further up, so there was much visiting. The Boys were resplendent in new ties - Boy Two had never worn one before, and was very proud of it.

We eventually arrived at Barnham and had to wait about 15 minutes - and a long, chilly 15 minutes it was, too - for the shuttle bus to the racecourse.  The rest of the family had already arrived, and waved vigorously from the hospitality suite on the 2nd floor.  We joined them in time for a cup of coffee before lunch, and gave my mother her presents - just oddments; I've ordered flowers but no point in having them delivered before tomorrow. 

Lunch was good - paté, followed by rather wonderful fish with new potatoes and (undercooked, but not as badly as at Christmas) carrots.  Then there was poached pears with white chocolate cheesecake, but I was able to swap mine for Boy Two's brownie, as he likes white chocolate and I don't.

Then the racing began.  I don't bet, but it was fun picking the winners, and seeing whether they matched the tipster's selections - mostly, they didn't!  The Boy is obviously too young to bet himself, but his father placed bets for him, and he was delighted to win in the first race - but, alas, lost all his winnings during the rest of the afternoon!  The Daughter, with her usual luck, ended the day £3 ahead!

The third race, of course, was the main event so far as we were concerned, and we went down to the paddock as my mother had to pick the best turned-out horse (with helpful hints from the niece who is in the business and told her what to look for), and then we went to the grandstand to watch the race.  I watched it from the railings, which was rather fun.

My mother then presented the trophy to the winning owners, and then we all went into the winners' room to watch a rerun of the race and drink complimentary champagne.  And then we went up to the hospitality suite again and it was time to cut the cake, which my sister had made:
There were still four more races, although I watched most of them on the screen, from the comfort of the hospitality suite!  It was definitely an unpleasant day.  I did go out to watch the last race on the balcony, though - it was very nearly dark by then. 

Then back to the shuttle bus, and a wait for the train (there was a waiting-room, so we were not too cold.  And the train back to London, and for us, a quick bus home from Clapham Junction - noticeably more traffic than there had been 10 hours earlier!

Thanks particularly to my brother for a lovely day!

Monday, 1 January 2018

Dulwich Park.

New Year's Day, after lunch.  "Would you," asked the Swan Whisperer, "like to go for a walk?"  Now, had he been speaking Latin, he would undoubtedly have prefaced his question with the particle "Num", which "notoriously expects the answer 'No'", but I had just been thinking that I wanted a walk, so I said "Yes please," slightly to his horror.....

So we went to Dulwich Park, as the SW runs in Brockwell Park at least twice a week and is tired of it.  I hadn't been there for many years - probably at least 30 - and have little or no memory of it except that it's a nice place.  It's one of the Victorian parks laid out by the Metropolitan Board of Works, like Battersea Park and Southwark Park.  I vaguely remember, when I was last there, that there was an aviary that still had birds in it, but that, of course, has long gone.  There is the obligatory lake
which had tufted duck, moorhen and coot as well as the inevitable mallard; boards said there were shoveler duck, but we saw none.  There was a children's playground - rammed, of course - and a café, ditto.  We thought about stopping for a coffee, but decided not to. 
Right from when I was a child I have loved these benches built around growing trees.  I think there must have been one in Abingdon Park when I was very small!  There were at least two in Dulwich Park, although really, I imagine they are pretty anti-social.  Fine if you want to eat your lunch without watching your neighbour's every bite, though....

Next to the café was what was called a "Dry Garden"; we didn't know what made it dry, as the beds looked as though they had recently been mulched, and some of the plants obviously longed for a drink.  But there was a lovely mosaic in the middle of it:

We still weren't quite sure what the point was, so made our way back to the car.  I'm sure the SW would have liked to have walked for twice as long and at twice the speed, but as it was probably the furthest I've managed to walk since July, and the first time in a very long time I've really wanted a walk, I was very pleased!  And now home and a well-deserved cup of tea.  Happy New Year to you all!