I was delighted to be asked to report on the darts and quiz event at Jaques and Catherine’s beautiful house. The day was perfect, considering we are at the mid-point of February! What could be more British than sharing a few drinks, a sumptuous feed and a game of darts with good friends, to say nothing of Dave’s excellent quiz.
That was exactly what we all enjoyed this Sunday. The spread, provided by all of those present, was varied, plentiful and superbly judged, old favourites combined with exciting dishes, new to many of us. It was then on to a gut-busting selection of puddings.
I think, like many others, that our committee had chosen a perfect event in the ideal setting, providing a much-needed respite from the dreariness of winter. The joyous assembly was sadly marred by Catherine’s illness, which had forced her to remain in bed. She was most sadly missed as our “hostess with the mostest” although the redoubtable Jaques did a fine job in filling the void. We all wish her a rapid and complete recovery, but also pass our thanks to the committee who enabled the event to be another roaring success.
Thank you all, and a special thank you to Alan for his guidance through the mysteries of darts, a sport clearly new to many, but one that they will not now forget.
It may, initially, seem a little incongruous for a group of English speaking people to assemble on Robbie Burns’ birthday to celebrate him and his poetry but, as you can imagine, the opportunity to use the occasion to share a haggis and a wee dram was too inviting for most of us to miss.
Needless to say it was a sharp frost that January morning but the welcome at Les Unelles was warm and the committee members had been hard at work preparing the tables which were beautifully prepared in blue and tartan, decorated with votives and sprays of heather.
Tartan drapes also festooned the rails. A portrait of a young, confident and debonair Robert Burns was displayed at the entrance, leaving no ambiguity as to why we were there. It was a pleasant opportunity to mingle and chat with a welcome drink in our hand and, with interesting aromas escaping from the distant kitchen where the haggis luncheon was being prepared, a treat was anticipated.
The presentation of the haggis was wonderfully orchestrated and, with distant bagpipes echoing around, the ceremony began. Kerry, dressed in a wonderful kilt, brought some haggis up from the kitchen on a ceremonial platter to be admired by all and then Jock gave us a real treat by addressing the haggis, reciting Burns’ Ode to a Haggis, all from memory, and in the original version too.
The haggis were then taken back to the kitchen for serving and were shortly returned to the table accompanied by tatties and neeps as well as that wee dram. The flavours were superb. A vegetarian option had been prepared which most people needed to sample out of curiosity. It was all a very successful arrangement of flavours, beautifully cooked by Polly. I am reliably informed that no haggis suffered unnecessarily in the making of this meal, other than the indignity of being cooked and eaten by Sassenachs. Second helpings were available, in fact I think I had a third. A beautifully creamy, oats and raspberry Cranachan desert followed.
After the meal we had the pleasure of hearing John McA (note the Mc) talk about the life, issue and poetry of Robert Burns. John had done some considerable research into the subject and had produced a leaflet for us all. It was most informative. I got a little confused by the complexity of the numerous issue of Robbie Burns, and so too did Mr Burns, it would appear. John also recited a Burns poem — To a Mouse – on Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November 1785:
Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie, O what a pannic’s in thy breastie!
John, of course, got a very appreciative round of applause for his research and entertaining presentation. Now a few more English speaking men and women know more than they ever did about Robert Burns. The event was very nicely themed and brought to something of an exhaustive conclusion with first a demonstration of some Scottish Country dancing by the Dance Group, and then some energetic wheeling and slipping by several other members who were invited to join in.
Great fun was had by all. A final “Thank You” was given to all responsible for this very enjoyable entertainment and feast — the members of our committee, Kerry, Jock, John and the chef. Several people remarked how nice it had been and were particularly appreciative of the themed nature of the afternoon – “ It would be nice to do another themed event in the future.” Suggestions, on a postcard please, to the committee, complete with offers of contributions.
Despite having only been a local resident for 18 months, I’ve learned 2 very important things about the Association Anglophone’s annual Christmas lunch.
First, it’s advisable to wrap up very well for the occasion, as winter seems to feel that it has a standing invitation and always greets the day with an icy blast. Second, it’s probably the most important social event of the Association’s year from the point of view of both attendance and cumulative merriment. Indeed, it’s so important that it really deserves 2 reviewers.
The first was provided by our friend – let’s call her Mrs S – when we delivered her back from the event to her home and hubby, Ebeneezer, who’d preferred to stay at home listening to Brexit news and was in dire need of seasonal cheer.
Her responses to him went as follows. How was the restaurant? – Beautiful – and the food? – Delicious – Lots of people there? – about 80, so I need a rest! – and with that she disappeared upstairs, having said all that needed to be said.Even so, I feel the event deserves a little extra description. The venue and meal were indeed as described by Mrs S, but it should be stressed that the restaurant was especially warm, light and spacious, whilst service was efficient and friendly.
The general consensus seemed to be that the Committee had done well to find a venue, which added to the pleasures of the occasion. In particular, its lay-out facilitated mingling and mingling is an essential aspect of this event as everyone wants to take every opportunity to greet old friends, swap news not to mention gossip and extend festive invitations. In fact, so extensive and noisy was the mingling, that it led to Mrs S’s sole factual error, because by my count there were just under 50 guests present, not the 80 or so that she and others understandably believed.
Suffice it to say that chatter and hilarity prevailed for over 4 hours and a good time was had by all. We benefited from the stentorian tones of Jacques, who alone could call the assembly to order and establish the silence necessary for such essentials as thanks being given to the Committee and the restaurant staff and most important of all, the auction of table settings and the raffle, which was ably and impartially conducted by Jean-Christian.
Finally, I understand that the resplendent Christmas crackers, which adorned the tables, were donated by Cheryl and Sean even though they couldn’t attend. Very generous indeed, though personally it would be appreciated if in future crackers without jokes could be provided, as I’m worried that my reply to a request, from the non-English speaking lady who was sat next to me, to explain the pun involving an elephant’s trunk, which had fallen into her starter, may have irreparably set back Anglo-French relations.
A goodly group of walkers gathered on a cold but bright morning for our last walk of the season. With 3 eager dogs, we set off on a fairly gentle perambulation around Regneville. The sky was blue and the scenery was well worth taking time to appreciate.
During the walk we passed a trio of friendly donkeys, who enjoyed our attention, and a lone horse who also wanted to say ” Bonjour”. The area certainly provided an enjoyable finish to our walking season.
Walk over, most of the group made our way to the restaurant Sans Sous Ci in
Montchaton. This restaurant has a friendly atmosphere and delivered tasty food at a reasonable price. Time passed very quickly as people chatted and ate happily.
Now, I for one, look forward to more of these explorations, that Louise and Dave organise so thoughtfully, next year.
Odds on that when Catherine and Jacques originally planned and proposed a date for their‘Belgian Lunch’, they never dreamt that it would coincide with the first day of mass ‘Gilets Jaunes’protests throughout France where main roads were blocked. Nevertheless with members of theAnglophone Association having booked their places, with our ‘Gilets Jaunes’ on the dashboard, all made it to the event!
The other thing that this date coincided with was that it was the first day of extremely cold weather to hit Normandy, but a warm welcome met us as we arrived at Catherine and Jacques’ home, LeBretonnière. They not only have a lovely house but also have a huge barn that has been converted into a ‘Salle de Fetes’! Wine, canapés and nibbles were offered on arrival and this got everyone in party mood!
The meal was excellent starting with Chicory wrapped in Ham, followed by a Beef and Kidney or just Beef Stew with Mash Potatoes AND Braised Apples all washed down with wine, water or what ever anyone fancied. The dessert ‘Dame Blanche’ was well prepared and went down a treat with everyone,the chocolate sauce was excellent and we have to presume that it was Belgian Chocolate that Catherine had prepared to pour over the ice cream that was then topped with Chantilly.
During the meal the sun came out and many guests took a stroll in the land that surrounds LeBretonnière – the sun always adds the ‘well being’ factor and coupled with a most convivial afternoon,this date gets added to the list of memorable functions planned and held by the AnglophoneAssociation and its members. A BIG thank you to Catherine and Jacques for taking the time and putting in all the effort to prepare the lovely lunch AND for inviting members of the Association to their home.
On a rather cold and cloudy morning, a merry band of well wrapped up walkers, plus an eager dog, met in Hambye abbey car park before setting off on the first, rather steep, part of our promenade
Very soon, the weather improved, the sun appeared, and clothing layers peeled off. It is always an enjoyable circuit, with some beautiful views along the way.
There was plenty of conversation and some group photos taken to remember the event.
The hour and a half went by very swiftly and we worked up an appetite for the forthcoming lunch in Gavray.
Lunch at The Hotel de Gare was our reward for the mornings exercise and we were all ready for their menu de jour. As on previous occasions, the food was good and the service efficient, during what was a busy lunchtime session.
Thanks to Louise and Dave for continuing to organise these walks so well.
The morning of the much heralded “ first Anglophone walk of the 2018-19 season” arrived with blue skies and bright sunshine. Only the slightest nip in the air warned that our Indian summer was coming to an end.
About a dozen members of the walking group ,fresh from strenuous pre-season training, warmed up and did stretches in the Nicorps village car-park, before setting off at a frantic pace to face a gruelling test of their stamina – – – MAIS NON! Rather this was a typical Anglophone walk – a not too brisk circular ramble through the beautiful Norman countryside, with much time devoted to swapping news and views with each other as we strolled along. And if some members were not as fast as others, then there was much encouragement available and the advance guard were always happy to take a break to check maps and appreciate the sights, while “stragglers” caught up. In all the walk took just over 90 minutes and everyone finished in good spirits and ready for lunch, having enjoyed the fresh air, scenery and exercise. Basically less tiring than a major shop at Leclerc and much better for your health!
The walk itself was a circuit around Nicorps in three parts. Firstly, we walked down a fairly narrow sunken lane along the ridge on the northern side of the village, which should have offered great views over the countryside stretched out below, if only the maize in the neighbouring fields had not grown above head height to form a very effective screen. Next there came a country road, which was happily completely free of traffic, going past charming stone-built houses and then between open fields with wide views. Finally we traversed broad farm lanes shaded by trees and perfectly quiet, except for the noisy munching of grass by calves and horses fattening themselves up for winter in the surrounding pastures, until we miraculously emerged onto the road opposite L’Auberge de Brothelande, where wine, cider and good food awaited.
The very welcoming proprietors had even provided an alternative English menu including Bakewell tart, courtesy of our very own Kay and Sam which was much appreciated.
Wednesday September 12th was unusually chilly and damp for this summer, but that did not spoil a very interesting Anglophone day out in the Val de Saire, in north-eastern Manche.
Le Moulin de Marie Ravenel, Réthouville
The day began at this 18th century watermill, which is still in working order, and we were treated to a view of its machinery in action
The excellent guide took us through the complex mechanism that converts water power into milled flour.
She also explained the background to the mill’s name – Marie Ravenel was the daughter of the miller and became a noted poet in later life.
The drizzle let off long enough for us to have a wander around the grounds and admire the beautifully thatched roof of the buildings.
Everyone was very impressed with the painstaking restoration of the mill,
which has been carried out by the local Communauté de Communes.
We then moved on to have lunch at the Auberge du
Grand Moulin in Fermanville, where a convivial time was had by all.
Château de Carneville
Next it was to the Château de Carneville.
This is one of the small number of sites in France to have been allocated funds from the new Loto du Patrimoine. We were shown round by the owner, Guillaume – for whom this really is a labour of love – assisted by a member of the friends of the chateau who translated into English. The chateau requires full restoration, especially
as it has a serious problem with dry rot. The lottery funds of €390,000 will simply enable Guillaume to fix the roof. We were all astounded at someone having the vision, energy and enthusiasm to take on such a mammoth project.
He took us on a tour of the gardens, which combine English, Italian and French influences; explained how there were, in fact, three chateaux on the site from different eras and finally treated us to a glass of apple juice and some bread baked in the chateau’s own bakery – with the added treat of some of his
grandmother’s pear jam.
Food and something crazy, the ingredients for a good day out, were what we could look forward to in August, as lunch and mini-golf at La Baleine had been organised for the 10th.
We met up at midday at Le Krill, one of my favourite restaurants in the area, located in a pretty setting and serving typical Normandy food with delicious sauces at a reasonable price. There were about twenty of us to enjoy a good meal and lively conversation.
Then, full of enthusiasm for burning off the calories, we went to the mini-golf park nearby.
The weather, after the recent heatwave and storms, was perfect for a game, keeping dry but not too hot. We were divided into groups of four to proceed around the course with varying degrees of skill.
Our balls flew along the straight, round corners, across diagonals, up levels, through tunnels, over bridges, through a windmill, into a bucket, round spirals, and finally, if we were lucky, into the whale’s mouth! Whether you could or couldn’t succeed in getting fewer than the upper limit of seven strokes per hole, it was fun trying. And might I say that Kay managed to get a hole in one at hole eight, no mean feat on crutches!
We finished up with drinks and crêpes while scores were tallied.
The winners were declared as Alan overall winner) for the men and Christine for the women. They received a nice box of chocolates each. But we were all winners and received, appropriately, a box of mini Smarties!
Another beautiful walk, on a perfect sunny day, not too strenuous, which was good for this time of year as it can get pretty hot. We strolled down some lovely country lanes and ended our walk by having a picnic overlooking the lake.
Dave and Louise always find the best walks and we are very grateful for all the research they do. If you enjoy walking, meeting and talking to people, we suggest you join us again in September.