Return of Cybs and Eamonn

Originally pitched for March, delayed until June then shifted back even further because of an unavoidable conflict of dates, Cybs and Eamonn finally arrive in St Vaast for their long weekend of fishing and jam-making.  And very much more.

On Saturday morning Cybs and I go to market to shop for the cheese platter we will be taking to dinner chez Dupont in the evening.  I have already told Cybs that we will only be able to make Victoria plum jam using our own plums, as the cheap apricots are over.  So imagine my surprise when she spots a stall selling cardboard trays of apricots at a very good price.  Back at the house we knuckle down with fruit preparation and set up our cottage industry and produce a very large number of pots.

That evening the four of us sit down to dinner with Martine and Alain, Bri and Georgy, Anne and Francois.  With courses produced by all of us it is a splendid meal and Cybs once again gets a chance to demonstrate her skill with a pool cue playing table petanque.

We manage a walk into the port and round La Hougue and Eamonn captures the spirit with his camera


It is a weekend of special skies and spectacular watery vistas

And on Sunday when our visitors must return to our shared Dorset village ready for business on Monday morning we try out the Sunday brunch on offer at Le Goeland.  It is a meal with a French twist and does us very nicely.



Enter Joy, Trisha, Tony

Nick’s cousins Joy and Trisha and Tony came to spend a couple of nights with us during mid-July.  They are en route to a Breton gite which they have booked to share with a wider family group.  Joy has 3 sons and Trisha has 3 daughters.  These latter and Trisha live in Pretoria but Trisha has been in England for an extended visit.  Nick was happy to plan their visit chez nous and our associated activities and he made a very good job of it.  We ate Plat du Jour in the Debarcadere on the day of their arrival and a short boat trip during which we tried to catch a few mackerel whilst enjoying a view of our stretch of coast.  On the way back from the marina we had a good view of the oyster park at low tide and Trisha mentioned that she loved oysters.  Thus we bought some to add to our other seafood and had a very marine feast on our terrace in the evening.

On Tuesday we again ate lunch out, at the Café de France in Barfleur.  We had a brief look at this famous port from which William the Conqueror’s fleet set sail, walked around inside the cool, still church and then filled the afternoon with visits to the Gatteville lighthouse and to Neville sur Mer where the bunker art project (Memoires en Couleurs) can be seen.  We finished the day at Chateau des Ravalet in Tourlaville on the outskirts of Cherbourg, where you can walk round the gardens and if inclined, look at the macabre exhibition in the four rooms of the chateau which are open to the public.  There is also a smaller exhibition, L’Estivale des Ravalet running through the summer where 4 different artists have an interval to show their work.  We took liquid refreshment in the small Salon de The then drove home to eat again, on the terrace.  After, we played several games of Pool, Trisha displaying a long-standing talent for the game!

On Wednesday our guests took the road to south to find the B&B we had managed to book for them near Granville.  Nick and I started to ready the house for the next visitors.

Et Maintenant La Vie Francaise

Mum and I arrive at the house to a warm welcome and a light supper.  It is good to be back after a longer than usual interlude.  The garden is looking verdant, the grass is cut and lush.  Yes there are far too many weeds but on the plus side there are lots of raspberries to pick.  A stand of Nicandra has set itself underneath the Yucca which I now acknowledge has rooted and looks set to thrive.  The seedling Echium I transplanted from the narrow bed by the gravels is huge and threatening to overwhelm the Dietes bicolor.  It looks as if it is the second species that grows on Tatihou; with luck I will have one plant of each.

Early days are spent making raspberry jam, and working on the curtains for the salon-sejour.  We arrange for Francois, Anne and Daniel to come and eat with us on Friday evening.  I’m going to give them a classic fish pie, make it with cod for a treat, and hope that Daniel, the fisherman who does not eat fish (there are a lot of his like), will at least try some and will be able to get the mash down if nothing else.  He agrees to give it a whirl.

In the event the pie is much enjoyed by the Poulets and Daniel nibbles at the edges but eats the puree (mash).  I serve roast parsnips (because I want them to try them; you never see parsnips in France) and peas with mint.  The latter causes merriment, apparently Francois thinks peas cooked with mint are VERY ENGLISH.  Daniel has brought a rhubarb tarte and I have made a damson crumble.  These are preceded by a large salade dressed with Anne’s ‘secret’ recipe vinaigrette (the secret is the addition of a teaspoon of good soya sauce to the usual ingredients) and cheeses including a piece of Partridge – a Devon blue I bought when chez Ingram.  In France they eat the cheese course before the pudding.

After we play Pool.  The men play a couple of games then Anne and I are encouraged to a match.  We make such another meal out of this game that at 1.30 there is considered no more time for Pool and it is time for bed.  Mum has truly entered into the spirit of  the whole evening.

On Saturday it is wet an’ ‘orrid so we skip the market as it is just the day to take Mum out for the lunch.  Originally it was going to be a Sunday event but we have been given another proposition for the weekend, which requires a fine day so juggling fixtures is good.  We are shown to a table in the main dining room of Hotel Fuchsias.

We are offered dainty crostini with tapenade with our aperitifs, and the amuse-bouche is a very small glass pot containing seafood soup with a rouille topped mini-toast and a tiny pot of grated Emmental and miniscule croutons.   I start with baby scallops floating in a watercress soup, followed by a small piece of pork filet mignon with assorted vegetable confections.  For pudding I have exotic fruits in a brandy-snap-like almond basket.  We get home, and the afternoon and evening are spent quietly.  We don’t want to eat again.

On Sunday we have an early lunch and by 1.30 we are ready for Anne to pick us up for our outing.  She is taking us to the Chateau de Crosville sur Douve, a privately-owned 16th century manor house with substantial gardens.  The current owners acquired the property in 1980 and in order to raise funds for upkeep they let the reception rooms of the Chateau as a venue for events.  They also host a few antiques fairs, and garden sales when plantsmen and nurseries (pepinieres) bring plants and garden tools, ornaments etc to sell.  This is the first year they have run one for autumn-flowering plants.

The circular lawn area in the front of the chateau is skirted by stalls which include a hydrangea specialist, a bulb-seller and other traders selling both familiar and unusual plants.  I spot some flashy Lewisia in flower.  I have tried these in the walls at Godalming in the past without success.  I discover that they like partial shade which is probably why mine failed in the full sun of the south-facing dry stone walls.

At Chateau de Crosville you can get through to the rear of the property up and over a wide flight of stone steps which passes through the body of the house (escalier de reception).  There are doors off either side of this covered passageway giving access to rooms which have been pressed into service for the day to serve as gift shop, tea-rooms.

Anne buys some unusual shrubs and climbers for her large garden; I restrict myself to two Lewisia (which I set in some of Nick’s latest ‘crop’ of compost in the chunky, beach-worn, hollow concrete blocks which I use as planters for geraniums and the like) and an additional variety each of Salvia and Echinacea.  We also buy Allium bulbs.  By the end of the afternoon Mum has been on her feet a long time but is still buoyant.  We eat simply in the evening and are not too late to bed.  Tomorrow we will have to have a grand tidying before we board our ferry for Poole.

Winding down

Rosemary and Bas went home on Sunday night.  They caught the overnight ferry from Ouistreham so they could sleep through the journey and get the best out of the daylight hours they had set aside for their visit to St V.  Much of the weekend was spent on the shore, and eating!

We went back to the Fuchsias on Saturday night for a treat.  I chose the same things to eat because I didn’t want to risk choosing something I would not like as much!  Once again my duck main course looked like a work by Mir.  In fact it bore a very close resemblance to her ‘Mother and Bird by Moonlight’!

During the weekend we made two lunches out of our clam harvests, the first a risotto, the second a passable Pasta al Vongole.  We also had a small tasting ceremony for the whelks we had collected from the shore at St Vaast.  I boiled these for 7 minutes with a bay leaf and some thyme and we ate them with a splodge of mayonnaise.  Rosemary and Liz found them ok.  Bas was happy to leave the tasting to the rest of us.

On Monday Nick went fishing with Gerard and took him to a wreck recommended by Daniel where they had a decent haul of pollack.  Liz and I took the car off in the afternoon to look at the various houses Nick and I had considered three years ago.  Both the houses at Grandcamp Maisy and La Cambe appeared to be unsold.

We drove into Carentan in search of a shop I had heard about which sells traditional kitchen equipment.  Such shops are called Quincailleries.  I’d like to get my own cast iron skillets instead of borrowing Daniel’s.  We found one that was too expensive.  I will look out for some at Vides Greniers (Car Boot Sales).

Liz wished to take us out for lunch before she leaves St V.  We chose a restaurant at Cosqueville, close to the north coast where we could walk a stretch.  Nick dropped us near the shore and drove back to St V to get a few things done, agreeing to come to Pointe de Neville in 90 minutes, giving us that time to walk the 5.5 klix of sand and gravelly beach.

It was a clear, sunny afternoon if a bit chilly.  The beach was amazingly clear of rubbish, with just a few thin strandlines of seaweed and not much else.  We picked up some pebbles, some seaglass and some small pieces of driftwood.  As we arrived at Pointe de Neville, Nick pulled up in the car.

Supper was one of those very easy affairs when you bring all the plates and pots of leftovers out of the fridge and lay up an array of goodies.  I made a crumble with our first pullings of forced rhubarb.  It is tender, fleshy and the most delicate pink.  Afterwards Nick played pool with Francois and Daniel.  They don’t get any quieter!  So Liz and I joined them and played some doubles.