Monday, 31 August 2009

A trip to France

n August I spent a week in Normandy staying with friends who have a house there. It was many years since I had been to Normandy. France amazed me. There is so much of it with so few people in sharp contrast to even this quiet and rural corner of England. The new fast rail routes in northern France cut through stretches of country with apparently few buildings or roads.

I know that it was the August vacation season but Normandy is the sort of place to which people go rather than leave. However there were quite a few shops shut and labelled ‘fermeture annuelle’ (no accents available I regret) but not of course those catering for tourists. The roads were good and the dual carriageways agreeably empty.

Here is a picture of my friends' house in a little hamlet where some four houses out of ten belonged to English people resident either permanently or occasionally.

Two periods of history dominate Normandy – 1066 when William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy became King of England and 1944 when the Allied D-Day invasion saw battles all over the area. There are many cemeteries and memorials of these battles.

Here is William's castle in Falaise, with gunports added in 1944 to the mediaeval archery slits.

Here are pictures of an isolated memorial north of Falaise where the Canadians took and held the high ground to the north commanding the town and its roads. This carefully tended isolated memorial is very moving.

I saw of course with a slowly moving queue of tourists the Bayeux Tapestry telling the story of the Norman invasion of England in 1066. That impressed me first because there is a lot of it – some 20 metres of individual tableaux on a continuous strip of fine linen about 2 feet or60cm. high. Secondly because it all looked so fresh and new though one suspects the colours were brighter originally.

Not far away from my friends' house was the charming Spa of Bagnoles de l’Orne a charming Edwardian resort where once a direct rain from Paris brought the elegant visitors. Some pretty architecture:

Some frivolity – this vehicle belonged to Brit neighbours and the occasion a party.

So home to very long grass to cut – before I left it had been too wet to cut and after almost too long.

I have been reading other people’s Blogs and note they do not necessarily write at length but offer their ideas often briefly when they are fresh in the writers’ minds. I note also they tend to leave pictures in accessible albums like Picasa or Flickr – must try one. So I hope more later.

J. A. B.