24 August 2010

Summer Holidays - Part 1

At last the summer has arrived and we've just had our summer holiday. It was a long time coming, as we booked the accomodation in January, but due to my wifes' change of role we now have to go during school holidays.
That's where the problems started. We woke in good time and made the journey down to Folkstone. In the past, we have taken an earlier train, and gone in June so it wasn't too bad. This time, the muppets were out. Everyone seemed to be in holiday mood so they'd left any brains that had at home. The car park was the only bit of 'road rage' I had when someone decided they were going to reverse out of a space next to me and then tried to get in front of me - no hope muppet.

I must say that the operation provided by EuroTunnel is brilliant. We pulled up at the barrier and the system greeted us automatically by name and printed our boarding ticket. Once our letter was called we made our way to the entry lanes and then boarded. Once in France we drove off and made our way to the first cottage.

Details of this first cottage can be seen in my post - here.

The nearest large town is Vimoutiers. Here were found a small supermarket that was able to supply us with all our needs, however due to the generosity of Paul and Chris, we didn't have a lot of space available in the fridge.

Our first trip out was to the local zoo in Lisieux called Cerza. Once again we found the majority of animals were well looked after, and had lots of enclosure space, along with plenty to do. The only animals that we felt some concern for were the African Hunting Dogs. They were pacing up and down their enclosure constantly. This may have been out of boredom, but may well have been because they were sited beside some Red River Hogs, so may have felt dinner was rather close.

Our next trip out was to one of the many memorials in Normandy to events of World War II. This memorial was in Mont Ormel, is listed as 'The Last Battle of Normandy'. Quick breakdown on the facts were that the allies were trying to trap the Germans in the 'Falaise Pocket'. The Germans tried to escape. The Polish army captured and held the hill at Mont Ormel in an attempt to stop this happening. That in a nutshell was the situation in this part of Normandy. Obviously there was a lot of death and destruction and I don't want to forget the part that these brave men had in the events that happened during that period.

Following the information from the guide, we he mentioned that more bones were discovered in 2009, I became rather emotional. My own great-grandfather lost his life in World War I and his body has never been found. The finding of the body brought this home once more.

Our next visit out was to the local cheese factory in Livarot. My wife and I had previously visited the Cheddar Cheese Company facility in Cheddar (funnily enough) and wanted to see how the process was different. Maybe amazingly enough considering Cheddar is hard, and Livarot/Camembert/Neufchatel are soft, the process is exactly the same. There may be slight differences, but as the tour was in French we couldn't see what these were. It was funny to see the role of a man in the Somerset factory, being taken over by machines in the Normandy factory. It was heartening to see a number of workers around the building but I must say I wouldn't want to spend all day turning cheese over !!!

At the end of the tour, we arrived in the shop area. We were aware that you could taste the cheese so when we saw some plates with the different varieties on, I tried a piece. At that point I was loudly told that they were for a party - if that was the case, why not leave a label to say so. We weren't the first people to try some, but we were spotted - sods law. However, we did managed to try some pieces in the correct place and bought a Camembert and Livarot. Word of warning on the Livarot - it is strong smelling so eat it quick before it stinks out the fridge.

Our last trip out was to Honfleur. What can you say about this place that hasn't already been written. We originially visited the town many years ago before the Pont Normandie had been built. Maybe we were lucky at the time, but it wasn't that full of people. This year it was packed however we managed to find a resturant on the quay side so had lunch. We hadn't bought the French/English dictionary with us so it was guess and hope. Unfortunately I choose sea snails (whelks). I've eat Escargote before and enjoyed them - it wasn't the same with the sea snails. Won't be trying them again.

We spent a lot of time doing nothing at this cottage, however the point of a holiday is to relax. What we did do, and the places we did saw, brought home to us how lovely the area was. It meant that we have to visit again, so we've already booked a return visit.