Walk at Montmartin sur Mer Plage

On Tuesday 23 June we had our first walk of the 2020 season, after a long period on “restriction” as a consequence of the Pandemic. After being unable to see our friends in the recent past this walk was very popular. It was the first event the Anglophone Association held after the “lockdown” and was conducted in line with the “restrictions” that currently exist.

The walk culminated on Montmartin sur Mer Plage and was enjoyed by two groups of ten keen Anglophone Association members [twenty in total] accompanied by five dogs. Congratulations should be offered to Louise and Dave for organising very good weather; they must have a direct line with the weather gods! The walk made us aware of the beautiful area in which we live.

As Dave said “it was voted in 2019 by readers of The Guardian as one of the top five beaches in France”. A number of photographs taken during the walk are shown here to give you a taste of this walk.

After the walk we all had a very enjoyable picnic on the nearby picnic tables at Hauteville. One picnic table was very sophisticated with a table cloth, in fact one wit said that all that was missing was the candlestick! And whilst some people demonstrated their culinary skills the writer’s picnic was supplied by the local supermarket.

In these difficult times it was nice to get together with some of our friends. Away from the walk, congratulations must be given to the Association for the support and the supply of essential information to all members during these restrictions.

Charity Lunch

(This event was filmed before the introduction of mandatory social distancing. It contained some flash photography.)
Members of the Association met on 29 February with the aim of raising further funds for our chosen charity, Sauveteurs en Mer. The occasion was a lunch prepared by members of the committee and hosted by Louise and Dave.

We met in what felt like a strangely developing situation as the Chinese virus epidemic was gradually becoming a world pandemic. Most of us were learning new ways to greet people without actually shaking hands. It all felt un-usual and something almost comical. Two dozen of us congregated and shared a welcome drink. We noted that a further seven members had bought tickets but sadly were unable to attend on the day, for a variety of reasons.
Louise welcomed us all and invited us to make a further donation to the charity if we so wished. Some photographs of the Association’s visit to the Sauveteurs en Mer station at Le Passous were displayed on a board. Louise and Dave’s home had been transformed into an elegant diner for the day with two long tables in her salon and a third table for the servers in her dining annexe.

Members of the committee were busy preparing in the kitchen and soon our eagerly awaited food was delivered.

The entrée was a beautifully fresh basil, tomato and buffalo mozzarella drizzled with virgin olive oil. The main course was a richly sauced pork casserole with crushed potatoes. In case you are wondering, crushed potatoes are a bit like casually mashed potato with attitude, and pars-ley. The vegetarian option was similarly richly sauced but with aubergines. So good I forgot to take a photograph. And, of course, seconds were served. The dessert was a home-made chocolate and pear torte, served with ice-cream. The meal was finished off with a cup of coffee. All very enjoyable.

We stayed chatting for quite a while, exhibiting precious little social distancing, quite unaware that our social habits were about to be changed fundamentally.
411,90 euros were raised for the charity on this occasion.

Curry Lunch at Les Unelles – 24 January

Places were quickly filled for this popular event, with a good turnout on the day, despite the freezing temperatures.
Members were greeted by the enticing smell of curry as we approached Les Unelles and we were further welcomed with a glass of Kir Normande on entering the vaulted basement. There was plenty of time to chat and catch up with each other before taking our seats for the much-anticipated curry lunch.

The lunch was served by a pop-up restaurant company. This is a concept, which was new to many of us, whereby a host (in this case the Association) provides a venue and the pop-up chef then takes the strain out of entertaining by cooking the food on site, providing the ingredients, table settings and even doing the washing up afterwards! It seems to be a perfect solution for group meals such as this. There was an impressive three course menu – Bhajis to start, fol-lowed by meat and vegetable curries with accompaniments, finishing with a choice of sorbets for dessert, followed by tea or coffee. It’s difficult to cater for all tastes when serving food such as curry. The chef cleverly got around the po-tential issues by providing an explanatory label for each dish and making the dishes mild to medium hot, providing addi-tional condiments and spices for those who prefer a hotter curry. There was ample food – no one left the table hungry!

As always at an Anglophone event, the conversation flowed and an enjoyable time was had by all. Special thanks must go to those members who helped out, serving so many of us smoothly and with great charm.

CHRISTMAS LUNCH AT AUBERGE DE L’ABBAYE D’ HAMBYE

The 6th of December had a rather grey and uninspiring start as we headed off for the annual Association Christmas lunch. However, spirits were quickly raised as members gathered at the very warm and comfortable Auberge de l’Abbaye d’Hambye. Nestling on the banks of the river Sienne, in a wooded setting that serves as a backdrop to the romantic remains of the 12th century Hambye Abbey, you find the Auberge and restaurant located in an elegant stone building. The restaurant is perfect for such an important event in the associations calendar, it is elegant, light, airy and with ample space to comfortably seat the 45 members and guests who attended the lunch.

After a very warm welcome from our President, we took our seats for an aperitif before being served an excellent meal that was very much appreciated by all. The ambiance, food and extremely good service provided by the restaurant team certainly led to a very enjoyable time and this was clearly evident from the level of laughter and general merriment. The happy festive nature of the gathering continued after the meal as the raffle and sale of the table decorations was conducted. A total of 297 euros was raised for the Associations nominated charity Les Sauveteurs en Mer (SNSM.) The very well supported Christmas lunch provided the perfect opportunity for the announcement of the winner of the Associations’ recent photo competition and to give a detailed explanation of the ethos and aims of the competition. Unfortunately the winner was unable to be present but a framed photo of the deserving winner’s picture was displayed.
This was the second time that the association held its Christmas lunch at the Auberge de l’Abbaye and yet again it was a fantastic success and another truly memorable event organised by the committee.

Last walk of the year at St German sur Ay

The final walk of 2019 took place on November 18 on the dunes at St. German sur Ay, enjoyed by twelve people and a number of dogs, after which we all retired (not the dogs), for lunch at the hotel Le Normandy at Lessay. We benefited from very nice weather, blue skies and an absence of clouds, which was a great relief after the long period of overcast skies and rain which we have all endured. This walk was a last minute replacement for the planned walk between Lessay and Périers, which was flooded and impassable in a number of locations. A lot of thanks must go to Louise and Dave for rearranging this replacement walk at very short notice. The revised walk was fantastic and
should be recommended to all, with views over the sea and towards Jersey.

Subterranean Homesick Blues

It was Friday the 15th, but it felt like Friday the 13th as the rain became heavier and we drove down little country lanes looking for “la Igloo“, the restaurant where we were meeting for lunch, before going to our visit to Souterroscope Ardoisières. The water running down the road from the restaurant car park resembled a small river. However, once in-side and divested of waterproofs and umbrellas we were greeted by the owner and his wife and shown to the prepared table. The food was very good and, enjoyed with good company, cheered us up no end.

At Souterroscope Ardoisières, the weather continued to do its worst to dampen our spirits. We donned hard hats and set off, in small groups at 10 min-ute intervals. Every 100 metres, there were stopping points where, in better weather, you would stop to listen to informa-tion about the site and how, over millennia, it had become what it is now. Needless to say, after the first we abandoned the educational spiel to get down to the entrance to the tunnels, where we could get out of the rain.
The tunnel led to caverns, where the miners, starting at the top, had extracted the slate. As one level was removed, they carried on down forming vast caverns. These had been lit and water spouts installed to make a quite dramatic visualisation.

At other caverns, the story of the slate mining was shown in old black and white film, projected on to screens. This gave you the feeling of looking back in time to the same place in a different era.
The last cavern was devoted to exhibits of minerals and semi-precious stones found in the earth (not necessarily on this site).
Back outside, the rain was still falling. All in all, an enjoyable trip.

“You don’t need a weather man to know which way the rain falls”

Book Club goes International

Our book club members were very excited when we were approached with a proposal for a meeting between a book club in Jersey and ourselves.
After a deal of liaising and planning, our Jersey guests arrived on the Saturday afternoon. The evening was kindly hosted at the home of a member of the Coutances-Jersey twinning group.
The evening started with apéros. Then we sat down to a cornucopia of food, punctuated by much talk and laughter as we became acquainted.

Having eaten our fill, it was down to the serious business of dis-cussing the chosen book. This was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
As there were fifteen of us, we all had a turn to offer our thoughts on the book. A Feminist book? A book about power? Prophetic? These thoughts and many others were shared before breaking into smaller groups for further discussion. Something I think we all agreed on was that young people should read this as a warning as to their possible future if society is not vigilant. The evening came to a close and the hosts took their guests home with them for a well earned sleep.

Sunday saw us all in La Pergola, on the outskirts of Coutances, enjoying yet more food and conversation before saying “adieu” to our new friends. A provisional date for our visit to Jersey next year has already been suggested, so I think I can safely say that the event was a real success.

October Walk at La Baleine

Twelve intrepid walkers and two dogs set out for the walk at La Baleine. Fortunately the weather was good—it was damp, but didn’t rain! After the walk a good lunch was enjoyed at Hotel de la Gare at Gavray which is one of the Associa-tion’s favourite eating places. Lovely photographs thanks to Jean-Pierre Poullain.

Visit to Ecausseville and Valognes

A large group of members and friends met on a blustery and showery day to visit the gigantic airship Hangar à Dirigeables at Ecausseville. The hangar ‘cathedral’ is the only one of its kind remaining in the world and its size is overwhelming.
A lovely lunch was enjoyed at l’Armanville and in the afternoon we moved on to the Hôtel de Beaumont in the centre of Valognes. From the impressive stone staircase, unique to France, we were guided through the living rooms once completely empty and neglected after the Second World War and now restored and furnished beautifully in the eighteenth cen-tury style. The formal gardens with box parterres were a delight and luckily we managed to avoid the showers. An interesting day was enjoyed by all.

AN UNFORGETTABLE CHATEAU

September Walk at Coutainville

The weather forecast was not very good, so we took our raincoats and our waterproof shoes. After some searching we discovered the car park, but no other cars – we wondered if we were in the right place! However, we needn’t have worried because five minutes later more members arrived. Meanwhile though it was already 10.30, but there was no sign of our walk leader? Then suddenly, we discovered some 100 metres further on to where we were there were some other people standing next to their cars. A closer inspection informed us that it was our other walking friends!

Our walk took us past some very large holiday villas, but also some cosy houses surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers. We all enjoyed it….and it stayed dry!! Unbelievably the rain waited until we entered the restaurant!! We all took the starters-buffet and the lunch formule. There was a good ambiance present. Once again it was a success and thanks go to our organiser.