La Foire de Lessay

Just had a very busy weekend – school’s back, the season’s over, but still things happening. The Fair at Lessay happens each year on the second weekend of September; and for the past few years we’ve tried unsuccessfuly to get there. Established in the 12th Century by the Benedictines of the Abbey of Lessay for the Feast of the Holy Cross, but also ‘pour favoriser le developpement du commerce’ (!), the fair has a long history, and every year has in the region of 400,000 visitors.

busy

Always busy, the fair today is a mixture of traditional elements, from the trading of animals to the reconstruction of the past, to modern farm machinery, and of course the foire forain (funfair) of modern celebrations.

agriculture

foire foraine

There were recruitment campaigns for the armed forces, and the gendarmes; but the highlight of the fair for me was the “Battous du Cotentin”, a reconstruction of traditional flailing of the wheat – using ancient forms of wheat

tradition2

from the separation of the grain from the chaff

tradition 1

to the grinding to make the flour

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and then serving up the proceeds as crepes for lunch.  A busy, but very rewarding day. Too much to see and do, so we’ll definitely be going back, all things being equal, next year.

Sunday we spent with the “Association Attelage en Cote des Isles”, in a cariole for 4 hours between Pierreville and Le Vretot.

 

attelage

 

In company with a dozen horse riders and a similar number of  chariots, carts, and other horse-drawn vehicles, we travelled a circuit of lanes

 

Lanes

and bridal paths

bridal paths

around Le Vretot, finishing with lunch, which in the usual Norman fashion took most of the afternoon. A busy and enjoyable weekend; and more to come next weekend with the “Journee de Patrimoine”.

More next week

Bob & Marjory

“Le Mois des Parcs”

In September we are invited to discover the “regional natural parks”  of the Basse-Normandie Region. The nearest one to here is the Park of the Marais – based around Carentan and stretching out to St. Saveur-le-Vicomte, north to St. Mere Eglise, and south to Perrier and Lessay. The salt marshes of this low-lying area of land are home to many species of birds and animals.

heron

seal

From the centre at Les Ponts d’Ouve

marais centre

you can explore the Marais in many different ways, including by boat

marais

either by yourself, or as part of a guided tour.

More information is available on the site

www.parc-cotentin-bessin-fr

as also about the ongoing exhibition of building, using natural materials in the region

terre cru

building

builders

Well worth a visit, if not in this month of parks, than at any other time, to discover more of this region’s fascinating ecology and history.

Bob and Marjory

“Carnaval” – is spring finally here?

This evening we’ve been invited next door for crepes – just a day late – it’s Cendres (Ash Wednesday) today; yesterday was Mardi-gras, Carnaval, or Pancake Day.

crepes

Strange the names and customs for the start of lent. Carnival goes back to the latin – “farewell to meat” – but means so much more these days. There have been  carnival clothes available in the shops for weeks now, and many “carnivals” particularly involving children at the end of their spring holiday locally. And of course, the great “carnivals” in Venice and other Italian towns and cities.

mardi-gras-mask-3

Then again the Spanish and South American traditions of Mardi-gras or “fat tuesday” as seen in the Carnival celebrations in Rio and other places.

27jour3951 

The English affair is a little tame – Pancake Tuesday compares poorly with Carnival and Mardi-gras, and perhaps reflects the Puritan influence of “Shrove Tuesday”, the traditional English name which refers to being ‘shriven’ or confessed and forgiven one’s sins.

One could be forgiven for thinking that these are a reflection of pagan spring festivals rather than the approach of the penitential season of Lent. Especially on such a day as today when the sun is shining, the spring flowers in bloom, the catkins on the trees, the birds are singing (we are of course well past St. Valentine now!). Such a contrast from our last few postings of just a fortnight ago. Is spring here at last? Do we have a good summer to look forward to? 

“Hope springs eternal…” !!!

primula

Bob

Update on the snow!

It’s continued all day – and now we have a really thick blanket of snow –

from thissnow-feb1

to this –021

And this –

snow-feb2

to this –

012

027

013

Already the icicles are starting to form, and more snow (flurries!) forecast overnight and tomorrow.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens: in the meantime we’ve stoked the fire and the central heating, brought in a pile of wood and knocked the snow off; and helped the neighbours clear their stairs, and get some wood in. Time to batten down for the night I think.

Bob

Yet more snow!!

Just look at what we awoke to today –

snow-feb4 

 

After strong, and bitterly cold winds yesterday, it went quiet overnight, and this morning there was an eerie silence, without the usual traffic noise – the sound of the few cars on the road muffled by a couple of inches of snow. 

The house itself, and all the trees in the garden are blanketed with the snow –

snow-feb1

The meteo had forecast some snow flurries overnight, and continuing through the day – I’d say this was more than a few flurries. The 40-year old Christmas tree, planted out after their first Christmas by the people who built the house, and which now has pride of place in the garden looks even more magnificent than ever – pity it’s the last day of Christmas (Candlemas, The Presentation of Christ in the Temple) today.

snow-feb2

Do French children not play in the snow, or have snow-ball fights?!?  Last weekend, talking with a French neighbour about the possibility of snow this week, she asked “Is it really true that children in Scotland play out in the snow?” Marjory, born in Scotland, assured her that this was the case!!

On a different, but related, note, last weekend was the annual count of garden birds, organised by the Normandy Ornithological Group (GON). Very important this year after the coldest winter in these parts for over 50 years. I used to take part in a similar exercise with the RSPB in England, and really do need to get myself organised to join GON next year. If you’re interested in ornithology in these parts (just a few years ago we had English guests thrilled to have seen Hoopoes at Surtainville), you can find out more from Gon’s website – www.gonm.org

Bob

Another nuclear reactor (and another)!!

The Government of France has recently announced the construction of a second (new, or third, generation) nuclear reactor in the region of Seine-Maritime, following the one already under construction near here at Flamanville.

epr_reactor

News that was denounced by Greenpeace France, who claimed that France was renageing on a promise to use at least 20% renewable energy resources!. But with this news, accompanied by the announcement of the possibility of a third EPR (European Pressurised (water) Reactor), came the announcement of a fourth generation reactor which would use the same radioactive materials to infinity!! More power, at less cost, and with less nuclear waste.

The new reactor at Flamanville should be online by 2012, delayed by some months. The first EPR built in Sweden, though now some three years late in construction, should also be on line by 2012. Perhaps we need to wait to see what environmental effect these will have?

flamanville1

At the moment France’s power source is 80% nuclear. Not only this, but France exports power thoughout Europe. Do we really need more wind-turbines (eoliannes), with their environmental and aesthetic blight on the landscape? Or will the nuclear option prove to be more, or at least as eco-friendly?

I know where my vote lies!!?!

Bob

Is Christmas good for the environment?

The Christmas lights are going on in every town and village. Christmas markets (Marche de Noel) are being advertised in every commune. We are being encouraged by every shop and supermarket chain to buy more and more lights.

christmaslights

In contrast, the town council of Tourlaville have announced that, in the interests of being more ecologically aware, and environmently friendly, they will not be putting up quite so many lights this year – some streets will not have any, unless the local businesses want to do them. Do I note a slight shift in meaning here? Is it really about the environment? or about saving money? Interestingly, the article in the Presse reporting this did mention a few times how much the town will save by its efforts!

Is there a real environmentally-friendly alternative? We think we might have found one – solar-powered christmas tree lights, spotted in Jardiland some weeks ago. We’ve since looked around the masses of lights for sale in other places; but no solar-powered ones anywhere else. Will they work? it is the darkest time of the year in this hemisphere, though not in the antipodes, and we’ve not seen much sun for a good few weeks now; but solar cells are improving in leaps and bounds.

Perhaps a return trip to Jardiland. We have a 2 metre “christmas tree” in the garden that might look good lit up. We’ll let you know; and maybe also begin to answer the question that is our title today!

Bob and Marjory