09/17/2010, St-Agnan-le-Malherbe and Bayeux
(Photo: "Decisions, decisions...." Marine in sweet and sticky heaven in Bayeux)
After an enjoyable morning picking blackberries with Pierre (which will soon be coverted into jam), we headed into Bayeux to view the famous Bayeux Tapestry, a 68-metre embroidered cloth that depicts the events leading up to and culminating with the Battle of Hastings in 1066 in which William the Conqueror became King of England. My mother's family is french in origin, and apparently crossed the Channel with William. The tapistry was commissioned in 1077, and while there is debate as to whether it was fabricated in England or France and to what extent it served as Norman propaganda, what is remarkable is that it has survived largely intact. The detail in the tapestry is such that we did the self-guided audio tour twice; first to appreciate the story, and the second time to appreciate the details of the embroidery and the accuracy (physical, if not political) of many of the episodes portrayed. Marine compared it to the battle scenes depicted on the walls of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. After a walkabout through Bayeux, we drove back to St-Agnan-le-Malherbe for dinner with the Katzs, followed by a very welcome swim at a nearby municipal pool. Upon our return, we were struck by the brilliance of the moon and the starry night sky, something we don't usually get to enjoy as much at home as the city night lights of Halifax usually wash it out. La vie en compagne est belle!
(Photo: Marine at Pegasus Bridge)
Yesterday we took our leave of Pierre and Marianne, picked up our rental car, and headed west towards Caen. We passed over the famous "Pegasus Bridge", where 180 British commandos landed in six gliders and captured the bridge over the River l'Orne in the early hours of 6 June, 1944. A sign over a café next to the bridge proudly proclaims it as the first house liberated in France by the Allies. Five miles to the north at Ouistreham is Gold Beach, and we plan to return to the D-Day beaches to visit Juno Beach and the Canadian memorial there.
Today finds us at the house of Joseé and François Katz, whom we met in Mayaguana, the Bahamas, sailing their boat Kama. They have since sold their boat and moved back to France in the Norman countryside south-east of Caen, which is dotted with small villages with names like Maisoncelles-sur-Ajon, Ste-Honorine-du-Fay, Aunay-sur-Odon, and le-Mesnil-au-Grain. It is beautiful rolling farmland here, lined with hedgerows, and the narrow roads winding their way up and down the hills pose the occasional challenge when a large piece of farm machinery forces us as far over as the trees/ditches/cornfields permit.
Marine is thrilled to be at the Katz's, as they have a backyard flock of chickens, ducks and quail. Marine is anxiously awaiting the outcome of the debate in Halifax over backyard flocks, as she wants chickens of her own in the backyard(!). Later we will head out to pick blackberries with the Katzs, as they have a small business selling jams and jellies.
We have a fifth rider in the car, whom we have dubbed "Gypse", our navigatrice. "She" is our newly-acquired Garmin GPS unit, who gives us direction in a very french accent, and has the habit of interrupting our converstaions in the car with advice such as "Au rond point, prenez la seconde sortie et tournez gauche sur la D635 ver xxxx..." We decided to name our new "presence" in the car, and since we are living a bit of a gypsy life going from place to place, we settled on "Gypse", as the name also incorporates the letters G, P and S in the name. "Gypse's" most oft-used word yesterday was "recalcule," owing to a few wrong turns on our part, and I imagine we'll be hearing more of it; still, Gypse has already proven her worth navigating the labyrinthe-like small roads here in France.
09/15/2010, Heuqueville, FR
(Photo: Steph et Steve - Falaises de Normandie - 14 sep 10)
Finally, we are underway on our European adventure! Stephanie arrived in Heuqueville at our friends Pierre's and Marianne's house several days ago , having bounced around France for the better part of three weeks from friend to friend, this after a three-and-a-half week summer camp in Munich, Germany. I arrived in France the day before yesterday, and Judy and Marine followed yesterday to complete the family reunion.
Yesterday, Pierre and Marianne took Steph and me on a hike along the cliffs between Le Havre and Etretat. These are spectacular limestone cliffs, some with arches carved out by the ocean, punctuated here and there by small towns such as Etretat and Fécamp that are nestled in the ravines that descend to the English Cannel.
We can finally relax a bit now that the panic of pre-trip preparations are over. Our house is rented out until the end of December, turnover of work files is complete, Semper Vivens is now out of the water and covered for the winter, Judy bought another rental property the day before she left Halifax, and hopefully we can deal with any loose ends from over here.
Our hosts are Pierre and Marianne, good friends whom we met when Pierre brought his sailboat Morgengrey into Hlaifax some years ago, returning from his adventures at Cape Horn and points north. Pierre and Marianne are living in a beautifully rebuilt manoir, complete with a colombier that was originally built in the 1600s when the property was owned by nobility.
This morning finds us all getting our feet under us, and getting some homework done. While I work on the first blog entry, Steph and Marine are doing schoolwork ("Already?!?") and Judy is finishing her Royal Yachting Association offshore cruising instructor assignments, having completed the at sea practical phase in Semper Vivens last week, which already seems like last year.
Tomorrow we will pick up a rental car and spend the next few days exploring Normandie and Bretagne, visiting more sailing friends, afterwhich we will head east to Belgium and then to Lille, where we will turn in the rental car and take the train to Amsterdam to visit our Dutch sailing friends and then to pick up a rental campervan which will serve as our mobile home away from home for the next couple of months or so, until we figure out what the plan will be. The only timing we have to make is Riga, Latvia before the end of October to visit our Armdale neighbour Ieva, who has a commercial/residential building in Riga, and who will be in Riga when we arrive! Other than that, the plan is quite rough and flexible!