Our second guided walk of 2021 was with Simon Tasset, this time discovering the town of Saint Lô. We met in the large square in front of the Mairie and then, after accessing the north rampart walls, began our tour of the largest walled town in Manche which is built on a promontory dominating this stretch of the Vire valley. We followed the walls to the western end of the old town enjoying high vantage points over the town beneath the walls, the Vire river and views towards Agneaux.
Some 97% of Saint Lô was destroyed by bombing in 1944 and the architectural style of the town now reflects the overriding urgency and construction methods employed to rebuild the town as quickly as possible after the War.
Some 2000 years ago the area around Saint Lo was the home territory of the Unelles tribe prior to the Roman occupation. Moving on a few hundred years after the Romans leave we see Vikings appearing up the Vire river in about 898 AD and laying siege and razing the town. The Vire river became a route to the Channel and to England. Saint Lô was besieged by the English during the Hundred Years War following their landing at Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue in 1346. Saint Lô also suffered during the protestant catholic Religious Wars.
As Saint Lô developed in the Middle Ages the various trades and crafts settled along the banks of the two tributaries of the Vire which flowed to the north and south of the walled town. There was a 16th Century adage that said if you wanted a good knife then you must buy one at Saint Lô. Weaving was also a predominant industry.
Following the French Revolution, Napoleon chose Saint Lô to be the location for the Prefecture of the new Manche Departement. Napoleon also developed Cherbourg as a defended harbour which led to the decline in the trading influence of Saint Lô but later its prosperity and influence subsequently returned as a result of its new civil administration role.
This event rounded off the summer and it was a real pleasure to eat, drink, chat and laugh together, after so many months of Covid restrictions in the lovely garden our two of our members.
From their home we drove the short distance to the Mausoleum just outside Roncey, where we were met by our guide, the former Mayor of Roncey. We were struck by the sheer size of this monument, with its castle-like design and tall tower. It was amusing to note that the tower remained slightly unfinished, as apparently tax only becomes payable once a building is completed!
After recounting the life story of Auguste Letenneur, who had this monument built for himself and his family, we were taken on a tour of the building. We began in the crypt, which once held the bodies of Auguste Letenneur, his wife and two of their children, until these remains were moved to the graveyard in Roncey in 1972. We then climbed up to what was the dining-room on the first floor and two bedrooms above, used for entertaining and lodging family members from afar on the occasion of religious ceremonies. The views from the very top of the tower were breathtaking.
The final surprise was to be found in the grounds: The concrete fountain built by Auguste Letenneur himself and was of a striking design indeed and an unusual monument to the dead.
A small group of committee members met on 14 September to present a cheque to the SNSM, the Anglophone chosen charity for 2019/20. The sum of 1500 € represents the result of fund-raising since the 2019 AGM, principally at the Fete Nationale event on 14 July, the Christmas lunch and charity lunch in February.
The weather was beautiful and the views of the sea were fantastic as we met in the ‘vigie’, the lifeguards’ look-out point. The President of SNSM Agon-Coutainville explained that the money would go towards the new lifeboat, that was expected in 2021, and towards the extension of the premises. The new lifeboat will be the first example in France of a new model of boat.
It was then of course time for a vin d’honneur, and we spent an enjoyable half hour exchanging with the SNSM volunteers. They hope to be able to invite us to the launch of the new boat.
The meeting that was postponed from April 2020 was eventually convened on Friday, 9 October. Twenty-two members attended the meeting, which included eight committee members. Covid-19 restrictions were in force and preparations had been made prior to the meeting to enable the business of the day to be conducted as efficiently as possible. Reports from the President and Treasurer and minutes of the 2019 meeting had been previously circulated to members and these were approved at the meeting. The re-election of Editor and Treasurer respectively were also approved by the meeting, as well as the co-opting of a member to the committee. Unfortunately Covid-19 restrictions prevented much further socialising and unlike past years there was no post AGM luncheon.
The next Annual General Meeting will be in late summer 2021
This is a new mini golf course that we have not visited before, the course is well laid out and is quite challenging.
We had a picnic before playing and the weather was showing signs of rain, but being hardy golfers that did not stop us wanting to play!
Some of the players thought they were playing proper golf and hitting the balls quite a distance off the course.
It turned out to be quite a good day, looking forward to going again.
(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.
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.
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.
Several members of the Association attended this International Commemoration in Music on the 21 July in the cathedral at Coutances, which had survived the bombardments of June 1944 almost completely unscathed. This service and concert celebrated the Liberation of Coutances on 28 July 1944, acknowledged the sacrifice of all combatants of the Battle of Normandy and the civilian victims of the bombardment of Coutances and also celebrated the seventy-five years of ensuing peace and harmony between the peoples of Europe.
The service, which included bible readings, was led by le Père Jamelot, rector of the cathedral and Donna Derrick, minister of the Anglican church of La Manche. The concert music chosen included chamber pieces by Edward Elgar and Mendelssohn, arias by Purcell as well as pieces for organ by Jehan Alain and Kurt Weill played by Jean-François Detree. The musicians had been invited by Stewart Miller and included Shu-Wei Tseng, piano, Amélie Mabire, violincello, Anne Tupling, violin and Frances Hook, soprano. The service was concluded by the hauntingly beautiful adagio from the oboe concerto of Alessandro Marcello played by Julie Arnaud, standing in the organ loft.
After the service the portes-drapeaux and congregation proceeded to the memorial garden where the Mayor of Coutances, Monsieur Lamy, gave a speech, acknowledging the debt of gratitude that we all have to those who had made the ultimate sacrifice. Louise laid a wreath on behalf of the Anglophone Association and others paid simple, personal floral tributes some of which were handpicked flowers from individuals’ gardens.
C’est sous le soleil de Normandie et dans une atmosphère chaleureuse et conviviale que nous avons célébré le 14 juillet chez Louise et Dave en compagnie d’une cinquantaine d’adhérents et quelques invités.
L’apéritif et le cocktail non alcoolisé offerts à l’arrivée a permis à tout le monde de se retrouver ou de faire connaissance.
Le délicieux buffet préparé par les membres du comité était formidable et co-pieux, avec toute une variété de plats pour le plaisir des yeux et des papilles !!!
Bravo encore aux membres du comité pour avoir organisé diverses acti-vités permettant de collecter des fonds pour le SNSM- les Sauveteurs en Mer.
Celles ci étaient :
Pétanque, jeux de coquilles d’huîtres, lotto, ventes de livres/DVD/CD d’occasion, vente aux enchères de 2 T-shirt de la SNSM, carte au trésor et deviner le poids du gâteau fait maison.
Toutes ces activités ont permis de collecter la somme de 345,48€.
Tous nos remerciements et félicitations aux membres du comité pour avoir organisé cette belle journée et surtout nous remercions sincère-ment Dave et Louise pour nous avoir accueillis tous si chaleureusement et amicalement dans leur jardin pour célébrer cet événement dans la joie et la bonne humeur.
Les gagnants étaient :
Pétanque/boules : Sue et Salomé
Jeu des coquilles d’huîtres : Jerry
La carte au trésor : Andy
Poids du gâteau deviné : Roxanne
1er prix du panier garni : Alan et Sharon