This morning was going to be our last chance to hit the beach as a group since the Millichamp family were leaving on Friday midday. We loaded all the beach gear up after enjoying yet another breakfast of fresh croissants and pan au chocolate and headed for what was touted as the best beach nearby at St Germain sur Ay. the weather was partly sunny/partly cloudy (depending on your mood) and windy. And the beach was infected with loads of seaweed and these baby hopping crustaceans. But it didn't matter, Darn it, we were at the beach!
As we were setting up the wind block and the beach blankets I looked up to the vision of Abigail stark naked streaking down the beach towards the waves. I had to chase her down and explain to her that's not how it's done. Man, was she disappointed.
We built some sand castles and flew some kites and read some magazines and just generally relaxed.
After a few hours of this we set off to get lunch in Periers, a small village not far from our gite. We found a real gem at the hotel de Normandie. A very local place with a very small menu served us the best lunch EVER. Simple and inexpensive and delicious. The children had homemade (from scratch) turkey cordon blue.
We returned to the direction of the beach and went for play at a playground that we found near the beach. The most amusing bit was watching the French children trying to speak to the English children and not being entirely sure why they couldn't understand each other.
That evening Sean treated us to dinner and made Coq au Vin (chicken baked in red wine with mushrooms, onions, and red peppers). We complimented his gourmet efforts with green beans, roasted potatoes and carrots. We stayed up playing Rummikub which at last Helen did NOT win. Sean did!
The next day saw the Millichamp family off back to England by midday as Sean & Helen were going to the V Music Festival on Saturday afternoon. The Clare-Panton family set off north this time towards Cherbourg.
Cherbourg is a very large and busy port. And it is dirty and rundown. We had the worst and most expensive meal ever. And it was a restaurant recommended the Normandy Lonely Planet Guide. Man, was I cross?
We continued our exploring by driving along the Rout de Saire (which is the coastal road of the Cherbourg peninsula). Once you got away from Cherbourg it was beautiful. We drove across the peninsula to Barfleur and enjoyed a cafe au lait and ice lollies at a lovely cafe. The children ordered for themselves all in French. I was so proud!
We then continued our drive round the peninsula and headed for Utah Beach. Omaha Beach has been cleared of all the artifacts of war, like the German Bunkers. Utah Beach has left these in place and you can go and walk through many of them. You can see the scars left by the Allied bombings has they fought to wrest control away from the Germans. Utah Beach is somehow not as beautiful as Omaha but no less poignant. The cliffs of Utah Beach are not as steep as the cliffs of Omaha but the fortifications left behind give the visitor a sense of what the troops faced once they came up over the cliffs.
All this war memorabilia made me want to go back and watch Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers all over again.
The family returned to Periers and the Hotel de Normandie (the same place we went to for lunch the day before) for dinner. We got there at 20 minutes to 7 and waited for them to open at 7. By the time we got in, the place was jammed full of French people. We only just got a table and enjoyed yet another delicious meal. The dessert of creme caramel is to die for and I wouldn't even share that with my children! I made them get their own!
I had some oysters (which I LOVED!!!!!). I offered some to Sebastian and Abigail who didn't seem to keen. After a few minutes Sebastian replied back to me, "When I am 11, I will be old enough to eat oysters, so we must came back then and I will have one of your oysters." Sounds like a plan!
We returned to our gite and began the packing for our long journey home the next day. It was a long never ending drive. We set off around 10 am and swung by Hambye to visit our friend, Peter, who has a beautiful old house that is set against the walls of the fortified city and castle that used to be there. It is amazing at the amount of history just hanging out in his garden.
There were queues at every toll booth (again) and at one point we were fearful we weren't going to make it to the ferry on time. As we pulled in we were one of the last cars to join the queue. There was an emergency situation on the ferry docked next to ours and an ambulance as well as numerous police cars did board that ferry. However they must have disembarked after we were loaded as that ferry left port just immediately before us. Not sure what happened there.
We enjoyed the relaxing ride back (despite a packed ferry) and marveled at the White Cliffs of Dover. Home was a quick journey round the M25. Murphy, our cat, greeted us at the bottom of the driveway. He had obviously missed us loads! We unloaded the suitcases, started some laundry and hit the comfort of our own beds.
Stay tuned for camping adventures!
PS One fatality of our France trip was our goldfish, Toby. It seems that our neighbour, Richard, fed the fish on Sunday (after we left) but forgot to tell Lucy, his wife, about feeding the fish. So whilst Richard was working up in Edinburgh all week Lucy happily fed Murphy but knew nothing about the existence or requirements of our beloved goldfish. Hence, Toby was belly up on Sunday night when we returned home.
We kept this all a secret from the children and whilst we were camping, Toby 2 miraculously arrived in the tank. He looks remarkably similar to the original Toby and the children haven't noticed a thing!