Bon Anniversaire Normandie – Happy Birthday Normandie

This year is the 11th centenary of the founding of Normandie.

In the autumn of 911 the Treaty of Sainte-Claire-sur-Epte was signed by Charles the Simple, King of France, effectively signing over a vast part of the north-east corner of France to Rrolf Gongu (“toutes les terres de l’Epte jusqu’a la mer”), a viking leader. After years of viking raids and pillaging along this coast, there came a time of peace and rebuilding by the descendants of those raiders, and the “Kingdom”(actually a duchy – self-governing, but owing allegiance to France) of Normandie was founded.

This year there are major celebrations of the 1100th anniversary. For details why not visit http://www.happybirthdaynormandie.com/

For the summer, the vikings make a welcome return to Surtainville – see our posting last summer; and there are many events within the regions listed on the website above.

Happy Birthday Normandie

Bob & Marjory

New Year, Galette des Rois and on to Chandeleur . . .

31st January already, and the winter celebrations almost over. Today is the last day for wishing people a happy new year – so  “Bonne Annee; et bonne sante a tous”

Christmas came and went – bitterly cold, but no snow. New Year we celebrated here with french friends

A great time was had by all – including this little character

Made by one of our guests out of a slab of butter (and perhaps after a little too much to drink!), it’s supposed to be a statue of me. Now I know I’ve put on half a stone over the holiday season, but if that’s what I look like, then the New Year’s diet had better be undertaken in earnest.

We finished the evening – or morning – after celebrating both French and English New Years, with a little champagne

And so on to Epiphany and the galette des rois. Epiphany is celebrated the first Sunday after Christmas, as is also the patronal festival of Piereville – St. Genevieve – in the church. But the galette can happen anytime in January. So the 19th the hall was set for the club celebration

the galettes were brought in

the crowns set up

and the galettes shared and enjoyed (love the taste of the frangipane!)

3 people – Marjory being one – were crowned king (or queen) for the day having found the figurines

And so to Chandeleur (Candlemas) on the 2nd February. Last weekend was the Candlemas Fair at Montebourg – unfortunately we weren’t able to get there – perhaps another year. Traditional food for Chandeleur seems to be pancakes !! always thought they were for Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras or Carnival – but that’s something else to follow in about a month.

So Happy Candlemas, however you celebrate it, and best wishes for this year.

Bob & Marjory

Will it? Won’t it??

… be a White Christmas, that is.

The snow of a fortnight ago vanished almost as quickly. Christmas lights are going up in the local communes.  “Christmas” events, like the “Marche de Noel” at Pierreville that had been cancelled have been programmed in again –

As the snow melted, there were some surprising survivors

Not sure of their name; but I’m told that they’re not edible. Quite striking as they emerged from the melting snow. Also emerging, though showing some signs of frost damage were the chrysanthemums

Even some of our vegetable garden came through virtually unscathed

Last Sunday we were at the Surtainville’s “Marche de Noel”; and then Tuesday was the Pierreville Club “Buche de Noel”, so Christmas began for us this week, in quite balmy daytime temperatures of getting on for 8 degrees.

The tables were set

 

 … the room laid out, and the tree decorated

… and even Santa put in an appearance

… the buche, amongst other things, was eaten

… there was drinking, and singing

… and so the first celebration of Christmas is done.

Within the last 24 hours the cold air that has brought snow to England has also reached here; at present with just a smattering of snow this morning. The local forecast is for it to hang about for a couple of days before warmer, wetter weather establishes for next weekend.

We’re keeping an eye out to see whether we do get to spend Christmas with family in England. Whatever your plans, and whatever the weather, we wish you a very enjoyable holiday season.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
 
from
 
Bob & Marjory
 
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Vacances en Espagne …

or was it Germany? –

If you look carefully you will see that even the signs are in German; but it was actually Mallorca! (Then again when we told French friends that we were going to Spain on holiday and they found we were going to Mallorca, they said “not Spain; the Balearics”; so not quite sure where we were!!)

Except it was Mallorca, but very definitely the German sector. As we arrived at the hotel we were greeted in German; in all the shops we were greeted in German. From the centre of the town you couldn’t see across the terrace to the beach for a huge marquee, where they were busy setting up for “Oktoberfest”.

And so the holiday went; a mixture of good and  not so good. The Hotel was lovely

though meal times were strictly regimented – we were told off for remaining too long (just an hour was allowed for meals) at the dinner table.  The setting of the town was beautiful;

though I don’t think I’d fancy the beach at the height of the season

The view from our balcony wasn’t too bad – after we’d insisted on a change of room from the smelly basement with no view that they wanted to give us

though it did have the disadvantage of looking out to the side over the kitchen and its extractor ducts

And there were some quite quirky aspects – like the fairground “Hall of Mirrors”; Can you recognise what it really was?

The first few days the weather was good – a walk on the beach and through the town in the morning. Relaxing in the sunshine with a drink by the pool in the afternoon

Then the thunderstorms arrived, and it rained

and it rained

and it rained

Hoping for a little better weather when we head off for Dublin shortly; though an Irish friend has given us a warning about the weather, as well as some useful advice on things to do.

Bob & Marjory

Vikings invade Surtainville!!

 

The Viking flag was hoisted over the Mare des Laguettes last weekend. Camp was set up, and the invasion began –

They’d brought with them their weapons –

but also their household items, as if for a long stay –

Not only that; they were accompanied by their workers in wood and bone –

and in metal –

They set up home in Surtainville; but of course, it was just for the weekend. For these Vikings were members of a re-enactment society, of which a search of the web reveals many in Normandy. They brought with them traditional artefacts, games, and music, many of which are still to be found in derivative form in the region.

The Viking kingdom of Normandy was established in 911 A.D. by permission of the King of France, in order to try to curb the power of the invaders from the North, but also in recognition of their advanced state of civilization, under Rollon (Hrolf Gongu). 100 years later it had become a Dukedom within France, but was to blossom again under William, Duke of Normandy who in 1066 established the Kingdom of Britain and Normandy.

Many Normans revel in their Viking origins, and for the 1100th anniversary of the Kingdom of Normandie are planning on linking with countries of Viking origin throughout the world, and organising events and spectacles in celebration.

More information can be found on the website –

www.911-2011.fr

and the links to Viking and Norman heritage given there. ( www.Normandie-heritage.com is one example)

Bob & Marjory

Midsummer’s Day – Fete de la Musique

No need to travel far to celebrate Midsummer’s day and the start of the holiday season here in France. Every major town and city, and many, many smaller towns, villages and communes celebrate the summer with the Fete de la Musique. From the spectacular celebrations of Paris, Toulouse, Marseille, Bordeaux and the like; to Caen, to Cherbourg and other smaller cities; it will be a night of celebration of all kinds of music – medieval, folk, classical, pop, rock, indie, techno; you name it, it will be there somewhere.

Not to be outdone, smaller towns and villages started the celebrations early. Last Friday saw the choice of three local villages – Surtainville, Le Rozel and Benoistville. As I was singing with “Dynamique” of Pierreville it was to Benoistville that I went.

The village centre was packed by 2030hrs

Entertainment included choirs; small groups with guitars; a large group of musicians who came together for a jamming session; a group of singers who concentrated on songs in the local language – patois; a group of musicians and dancers with traditional instruments.

One highlight of evening was “La Chanson de Rue” – a mass sing-in of “Les Copains D’Abord” by the assembled visitors led by most of the musicians and the choir “les Marins de Cotentin”.

For me, a real find  was the group Ars Nova performing medieval songs accompanied by medieval instruments in the church. If you’re interested you can find out more on their website – www.arsnova-consort.com

I missed the “Danse Country” at Surtainville on Friday, but managed to catch some of it on Sunday in Les Pieux; part of their Fete de la Musique – not that I’m enamoured of American line dancing, but it does seem to go down well over here. No the reason I wanted to go to Les Pieux was that Mask Ha Gazh were once again playing outside the Hotel Les Pieux

– always a pleasure to watch, and join in with the singing (and dancing – you can’t keep still to their brand of “Rock Celtique”). Their website – www.maskhagazh.com

Once again the town was packed and people were entertained by a wide variety of acts –

And yet another “find” for me. Playing beside the Mairie was the (locally based) Folk group Eridan

Once again you can find out more, and listen to their music on their website – www.eridan.folk.free.fr

So the season begins – after a long time without blogging  I hope to get organised and bring you up to date on events in the area for the summer season; and just to tantalise a bit  – ‘what are the Vikings doing in Surtainville this August?’

Best wishes for a great season

Bob

Burns night celebration

Spent last weekend in England; and part of the experience was the (Scottish) celebration of their most famous poet – Rabbie Burns.

Went with friends to a Burns Night Supper in Shropshire. Wonderful experience, with the piping in of the Haggis

the address to the haggis, and the toast to the haggis

and then singing, poetry and dancing.

Had our own Burns Night on the day itself – 25th January, with haggis

neeps (turnip, or swede) and tatties ( mashed potatoes)

A fitting tribute to Scotland’s national poet.

Now it’s back home and on with the work – plenty to be done in preparation for the season. Have you checked out our latest property for let this summer?  or our special spring offers?

Hope to hear from you soon

Bob and Marjory

“Dreaming of a White Christmas”??

The snow arrived here, after some days of bitterly cold weather, on Friday morning. We’d been following the discussion in the media, which seemed to say nothing more certain than “possibly, but probably not”; so it was quite a surprise to waken to the snow in the garden

Just after midday we set off, somewhat warily as it was still snowing, towards Benoistville for lunch. The roads were covered, with only tyre-tracks each way, and the snow continued to fall . At Les Pieux we joined the back of queue of traffic which then ground to a halt. Fortunately, we managed to turn and make our way home, very slowly; passing various queues, and the gendarmerie on duty redirecting traffic. No pre-Christmas lunch for us on Friday.

Saturday we checked the gites, in the snow; but a glorious, if bitterly cold day

 – and the views over the dunes were wonderful

So, snow for Christmas ?? Posibly, but probably not. Today is grey and wet, though still bitterly cold; certainly not the stuff of Christmas cards.

One Christmas meal missed. But one occasion “The Buche de Noel” started off our Christmas celebrations last Tuesday

not only the cake, but an afternoon of eating and drinking -with fruit salad, biscuits, chocolate, clementines, and of course wine, coffee and calva and rhum!! 

Sunday we had our own Christmas dinner, as Christmas Eve we eat out at friends’ in the village, and Christmas Day with the neighbours. The diet starts after that, or maybe in the New Year.

Hope to see you next year; watch out for our special offers for the Spring, and news of another, larger gite for holidays next year.

“Bonnes Fetes” to all our readers.

Bob and Marjory

La Foire Internationale de Caen

Managed to get there on Friday afternoon. Expo this year was  “The India of the Maharajas”

India of the maharajas

a history of Rajasthan, that told us of the importance of the elephant in Indian society

elephant

of the importance of the tiger in the life of the maharajas 

tiger

and of the religion of hinduism in the life and culture of India

ganesha

And at the end of the expo a chance to buy spices from India

spices

and to visit the bazaar

bazaar

Of course, the fair is more than just the expo. 1000 exhibits, 50 countries, 30 restaurants; and much, much more.

Well worth a visit, even if just to the websites –

www.caen-expo-congress.com

www.indedesmaharajas.com

Had to visit Friday, because last weekend was the “journees de patrimoine” and this weekend is of course, the first day of the Chasse. Our friends are involved in the Chasse, and today were doing the meal for the chasseurs! We ourselves were awakened at 0900hrs by the noise of the guns around us. Next week is the Foire de Brix (St. Denis). We will not be here, as we are setting off on conges (annual holiday). Summer’s over, but still lots of things happening locally.

Bob & Marjory

Les Journees de Patrimoine

Didn’t get to the Expo at Caen this last weekend. Instead on Sunday we went for a “walk down memory lane” with our neighbours, visiting the chateau at Briqueboscq, and then the water mill at Belle Fontaine – in process of  being restored.

chateau

Francis spent his childhood around the chateau, but had never been inside. Unfortunately this was not possible on Sunday either. But the exterior was well worth a look, and the history of the place as told by the present owner, though somewhat repetitive and dry at times, was interesting.

chateau2

 More interesting was Francis’s memories of the German occupation of the chateau; and the factory in the grounds producing rocket bombs to be aimed at London. 

(On the way back through Les Pieux Francis pointed out the foundations of the Post Office, saying that in the war it had been a German block-house (the foundations still visible) with guns trained onto the road coming south from Cherbourg.)

gite

We were allowed a look inside the gite that now takes up one section of the house. It has many of the original features – the fireplace, the doorways, the beams – plus some items of historical interest reworked as furniture, or simply for decoration, placed there by the owners. Will take up to eight people, but we didn’t get the price – probably much more expensive than ours! 

mill expo

The mill at Belle Fontaine is under process of restoration – with a long way to go yet. So far, one of two water-wheels has been restored and is in working order.

waterwheel

 The millstones are in place, but the cog mechanisms are in need of much work, as is the whole of the interior of the buildng. An enthusiastic band of volunteers, sponsored by, amongst others, EDF – have done the research, and begun the process of restoration.

mill workings

For the journee de patrimoine they were there to explain the workings of the mill, and raising money by selling craft works, and crepes cooked on the open fire of the mill. It appears to be part of a whole movement of restoration and revival of old traditions, alongside the windmill at Fierville, and groups like the Battous de Cotentin, and the folklore group St. Ergouffe at Surtainville.

EDF is involved in researching alternative, renewable energy sources. Is its sponsorship of groups such as these part of looking for these renewable sources?

Bob