Wednesday 29 August 2007

France - Episode 4

The Millichamp family takes quite a different approach to holidays than the Clare-Panton family. They love to go somewhere and relax. I tend to take a more go go go approach. These 2 different approaches actually compliment each other rather well. We found this out a few years ago when we all went on holiday together to the Dordogne in France. One day of relaxing, sitting by the pool and doing a whole lot of nothing was balanced by the next day of tourist activity to the nearest sight (like going to St Emillion for wine tassting) or seeing the ancient cave paintings at Grotte de Font-de-Gaume (which, by the way, if you haven't seen, you must).

This was easy to do when we had 2 weeks to fit everything in. However, we had booked just a 7 days of holiday and 2 of those were to be spent travelling so we knew we would have to take a different approach. Plus Lottie has been born since then (Helen was pregnant with her during our last holiday) and the children are older. How does that happen?

Also, last time we stayed in one huge villa whereas this time (due to our late booking) we were staying in 2 villas across from each other. Not a million miles but still not the same as in the same house. Sean found the 2 differnt kitchens really uncomfortable and irritating. Of course, Helen and I just coped. I hadn't really scoped out what we were going to do which day but I knew there were a couple of must see things.

Also, the weather wasn't brilliant. Every single minute of every single day we were in France, the skies threatened to open up and dump on us. It was nippy in the air. I had packed for HOT summer August in France weather. I had one cardigan. Abigail had one cardigan. Seb had a sweatshirt. Marc had none, nada, sip, zilch! I had one pair of trousers. Abigail had one pair of cropped trousers. We were cold the entire trip.

After a leisurely breakfast of fresh croissants and pain au chocolat picked up at the local bakery and eaten at the table outside our gite that very morning, Helen and I spent the first morning in the supermarket planning our meals for the week. There are few things I enjoy more than a leaisurely stroll through a French supermarket. Oh, I just swoon over the cheeses and the fish and the wine and the breads and the vegetables and everything else! Whilst in the Dordogne I had taught everyone had to make and eat artichokes. You can get the best artichokes in France and this trip didn't let us down either!

Once we returned home and unpacked our shopping we decided that since this was the first day and we were all tired from all the travelling we would keep the day's activities simple. We packed ourselves all up ready for the Beach and headed off to the plage (beach) at St Germain-sur-Ay which we had been assured by our host was the closest and best local beach.

Just as we arrived after a short 10 minute journey, the rains began to fall. Heavily. So we headed back home and decided to regroup.

Helen spotted a Chateau on the map that was near our gite so off we went. We pulled up in Pirou to where the sat nav had led us and looked at each other a bit bemused and perplexed. What we could see looked more like an old church rather than a Chateau.

We followed the path around the side of the church and the Chateau ruins appeared before us. Chateau de Gratot in Pirou was built in 1250 and had been modified over the following 500 years. It belonged to the D'Argonge family. In the 19th century it fell into disrepair and the French histroical society is working hard to restore it. the hcildren particulary enjoyed the Fairy Tower and all that implies. It was an enchanting experience.

We then headed off to Coutances to visit the magnificent Cathedral. I am now going to link to the Wikipedia article about the Coutances cathedral because I actaully wrote this Wikipedia article and it would be pointless to write it all again here and I want to show off just a little bit my burgeoining Wikipedia skills. (Please Note: this is my first Wikipedia contribution).

All the children race around the cathedral and departed quickly to head for some promised drinks at the cafe in the square. Except for Sebastian. Who painstakingly hauled Marc and I down every Nave into every Chapel, looking at every stained glass window. We even stopped and lit a candle in remembrance of Nanny. He solemnly stood and said his own private prayer. he noticed so many details I would have missed.

Before heading home we stopped at the local cafe in the square for a cup of cafe au lait (for the adults) and jus de pomme (apple juice) for the children.
Dinner was a BBQ in the courtyard of our gite! Perfect!

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