Liz and Sue came to stay for a week. They arrived on a fine Sunday and we ate lunch outside. During their stay we did our regular walk round the perimeter wall of La Hougue. In places it’s narrow and requires a bit of concentration but it makes a neat circuit and you end up in the town, if you are lucky, before Gosselin shuts for lunch. On Tuesday they spent a long day visiting the tapestry at Bayeux and a tour of the D-Day sites and museums. After lunch on Wednesday we took the amphibious boat over to Tatihou to climb the Vauban tower, walk round the gardens and visit the museum which is half through mounting its next exhibition.
A drive across the Cotentin peninsula to the west coast to see the gardens at Vauville is almost mandatory for our visitors. The intermittent sprinkles held off and we were able to walk round enjoying the plants in flower and wonder at some of the more unusual ones. Such an excursion is a brilliant exercise for the memory as you try to recall the Latin names before reading the markers. The rhododendrons were in flower, shockingly gorgeous, but my camera battery exhausted itself before I could capture many of them.
The three of us went to Caen. Francois had told us exactly where to park. We emerged from underground and found ourselves at the foot of the castle ramparts within which precincts are housed various places of interest. We visited the Abbaye des Femmes and the Abbaye des Hommes, utterly different buildings in form and atmosphere at either end of the city centre, and spent a short while looking around. But we found the Museum de Normandie, by the castle, fascinating and absorbing.
For 50 years, the Museum has been assembling the results of archaeological excavations carried out in Normandy. These excavations of castles, abbeys as well as more modest residences or rural churches, have yielded a variety of “finds” which illuminate aspects of daily life. Inevitably these objects give a partial view of the past, as in the main all that is preserved is what remains over time (metal, bone, ceramics…) while less persistent organic materials (leather, fabric, wood…) have generally disappeared. But not always. There are larger objects such as agricultural implements, a full-size loom, a beautiful lace-maker’s pillow from more recent times, complete with needles, threads and bobbins, in excellent condition. There are also displays of coinage, and a number of scarce items saved in extremis from churches and the cathedral as well as a series of sculptures and architectural pieces.
On Friday night our male neighbours come in for pool, accompanied by Oncle Ives who is visiting his nephew Francois. Liz, Sue and I join them in the rafters complete with pre-cut sections of coloured crepe paper and reels of fine wire. We are making simple flowers to be strung in garlands throughout St Vaast for the Festival of the Sea on July 18th. There are thousands to be made for 4 houses in our ‘coin’ and 2 boats, Aroona and La Marante, alone. I had wondered how on earth I would find the time to make my share. Generously Liz and Sue have had a flower-making session each day to help me get through the box of paper. We are on the home stretch and they think they can finish them all before they leave on Sunday.
Saturday is market day and we are also racing for the finishing line on the flowers. Liz and Sue put in hours whilst I start to ready the house and garden for our absence. Sue takes us out to supper in the evening at La Marina and before we go we enjoy aperitif with Daniel who brings some of his amazing cuttlefish strips on sticks to enjoy with his homemade mayonnaise. He tells me how he prepares this and I’ll have to blog the recipe another time, although I remember that the first part of the process involves a tenderising session before the pressure cooker is brought into service.
After the girls go on Sunday I put in as much time as I can outside. Watering, weeding and ferrying the pots to sheltered places. As always I am sorry to leave the plants which are just starting to perform, notably the delphiniums. There are also globe artichokes to pick and the strawberries are waiting in the wings. Fortunately our neighbours will not let them go to waste.