Le Poulailler

Interesting place to visit – called in by chance last week on our little camping tour – “le Poulailler”, a small, but very interesting bar close to the cathedral in Coutance. It changed it’s name in 2002 to

with artwork inside and out by Paul Martineau

In 2008 it was extended, and the interior made to look even more like a chicken shed, and with further artwork by Paul Martineau

Even the sign for the toilet continues the farmyard/chicken shed theme

A couple of “1664”s and a very palatable rose wine made for a very enjoyable apero. Well worth a visit.

Bob and 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

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

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

“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

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