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

English invade Surtainville !!

After the vikings last weekend – and perhaps previously –

it was the turn of the english at the Mare des Laguettes –

Jaguar, MG, Morgan, Triumph – all English makes – even (for fans of the original “Prisoner” series) two Caterham “Super 7” –

All english cars, but look again at the registration plates.

All owned locally by members of the “Roadsters Owners Club” of Normandy. Preserved in excellent condition and driven with pride –

We visited with French friends, who asked if there are similar clubs in England for French cars !!  but then went on to admit that the French have never built cars like these – but we did remember the pheneomenon of the “2CV” clubs in England.

Has any nation other than England, or Italy, built cars like these? Not only stylish and sleek, but winners of races like Le Mans year on year, as many of these cars boasted –

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

Plants and Flavours of Autumn

This coming weekend at Omonville-la-Rogue, an expo organised by the Hague tourist board

PSA2009_mini

Expos in the garden and courtyard include ornamental plants, fruit trees, ancient and forgotten vegetables, garden furniture, and food and other products derived from gardens and plants.

hague expo

Also in the Manoir du Tourp and its grounds are the on-going exhibition dedicated to Alexandre Trauner, cinema set designer who worked with Jacques Prevert (his house in Omonville-la-Petite well worth a visit );

trauner

the photographic works “Regard sur La Hague” of Philippe Mauger; photographs of gardens; books about gardens, and particularly in the Cotentin; and photographic books of local history and culture, such as “Paul and les Autres”.

Also a bonsai exhibition, and a chance for youngsters to create and play their own musical games.

Plenty of fun and things to do for all the family. Visit www.lahague.org or www.letourp.com for more details.

Bob

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

“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