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

A long, hot summer

After the longest and coldest winter for many years, indications are that the summer is equally likely to be the longest and hottest for many years.

From the blossom on the trees

to the hedgerows full of flowers

it appears that Spring has finally sprung. And is it my imagination, or are the primulas stronger

and more profuse this year ?

Even the gorse looks “jolie” in full bloom

The blossom and flowers indicate warmer weather. The swallows also have returned – I saw a lone one over Surtainville a week ago Monday, four over the port at Portbail last Thursday, and then again four over Surtainville the same day; and today a lone one over Pierreville. The cuckoo has been heard at Surtainville and at Pierreville; and there are even some reports of the Hoopoe in the area. Flies, butterflies, honey bees and bumble bees have also been in evidence over the past two weeks; and today this little chap decided to take a walk along the road

Will it last? local folklore says yes – for the first time for years we have only twelve moons (spring tides have been very high, but this is also supposed to be an indication of a good summer). And … the magpies are nesting right at the top of the tree, not in the middle

Let’s hope the summer turns out to be the best for years

Bob & Marjory

New for this New Year

Happy New Year from a very snowy and cold Pierreville.

It seems that most of Europe and Britain is very similar, so hardly surprising that peoples’ thoughts turn to the warmer days of summer, and summer holidays.

So we can announce a new gite for holidays this year; sleeping up to 7, and willing to take dogs, HT30 is now available.

Larger than our other gites at Hameau Tranquille, it has three bedrooms

plus a large seating/dining area with a kitchen off to the side.

With one of the bedrooms on the ground floor, with a seperate small sitting room and bathroom

it would be ideal for several generations of a family holidaying together; with space to be all together, but private spaces also.

Other features include washing machine, dishwasher and possibly also wi-fi connection.

We haven’t managed to get it onto our website yet, but already it’s booking up for the summer, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you might be interested.

Mieullers voeux 2010

Bob & 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 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

tradition3

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

Summer in Surtainville

 

 

surtainville

It’s official then – summer’s here; and Surtainville began it’s celebration of summer last weekend with “Surtainville en fete”. Saturday was the summer Loto (Bingo); followed on Sunday by a Vide Grenier in the morning, afternoon INTER-JEUX (Surtainville/Pierreville), and various other events, including a display of country (line) dancing. The evening saw the annual Souper Normand followed by a Bal Populaire and Feu d’artifice. A good way to kick off a whole range of summer events publicised by the Mairie. And don’t forget the weekly summer market –

marche_estival

Talking of the Mayor (in a roundabout sort of way) – saw her on Saturday afternoon directing traffic!! Huge wedding in Surtainville, and after the church ceremony, the taking of pictures of the bride and groom blocked the main way through the village as friends and relations crowded round the church door. There was the mayor in the middle of the road, helping traffic through the village. Then again sunday evening, she was amongst the group of women serving up the souper normand. Real hands on stuff this being  mayor of a commune in rural France.

For details of summer events in the area visit the local commune and tourist office websites.

All the best for the summer holidays,

Bob and Marjory

Celebrating the start of summer

Last weekend saw the start of some traditional summer festivities with the local commune of St Germain-le-Gaillard celebrating its Foire Saint-Urbain. Traditionally a livestock fair, it began with a concours de mouton; and then through the day an animation inter-commune; including courses en sac, tir a la corde, lancer de charentaise, course a l’oeuf – recognise these from English village fairs?

 priddy_sheep_fair_2003_150_150x180[1] 

 

 foire-aux-moutons2-250x185

There was , of course, the modern aspects to the fair, with a soiree couscous, a vide-grenier (literally an empty attic) or car boot sale, and a moto-cross.  All-in-all a good time was had by all; and the weather, though not as sunny as the previous few weeks was good. Not like now as we have traditional English Bank Holiday weather!!

But then there was the more modern start to summer. Last year it was the fishermen protesting at the price of fuel and blockading the ports. This year the farmers blockaded the supermarket carparks. In an on-going protest at the supermarkets’ lowering the price paid to the farmers for milk, old tires, fumeur (mucking-out from the cowsheds) and agricultural vehicles are used to block entry to supermarket carparks. To do our weekly shop last Friday we had to park in a nearby street, and walk to the supermarket. Super-U was quieter than we have ever seen it! The protest continues, and there are rumours of a shortage of milk and dairy produce. We wait for further news.

IMG_0001

Meanwhile however, the summer season slowly begins – watch this space for upcoming events and new, or refurbished summer attractions.

Hoping the weather continues to improve after this Bank Holiday setback. (We have our fourth bank holiday within a month next Monday – Lundi de Pentecote (Whit Monday, the [religious] forerunner of Spring Bank Holiday).

Bob and Marjory