Friday, 29 June 2012

Dorset & Normandy - Day 7

You know, there must be something particularly special about drinking French wine in France, because the next day dawned without a trace of a headache. After the previous evening's festivities, I was a little bit surprised! Another surprise was that I was actually hungry for breakfast after such a big meal.

So another meal and then we went for a walk around Lillebonne. Wednesday is market day for the city and so everyone was out and about, the city square filled with stalls for just about everything imaginable from fruit and veg to meats and cheese to clothes and cosmetics.  The biggest surprise for the Siards was running into one of Stephen's former teachers from when he was here for grade school - Madame Laplace. Having retired from teaching, she was now running a farm and had lots of her own goats cheeses for sale. She was so surprised to see Stephen grown up, but not at all surprised to learn that he makes his living with computers and mathematics. Some things never change I suppose! We also ambled by a really fantastic wine shop to pick up some host gifts, though I expect to go back and pick up a few rarities later in the week. Right next door to the wine shop was the (fairly well kept remains of) a Roman coliseum. Unfortunately the visitors entrance was closed, so we could only really peek our noses over the fence. Patrick was an excellent guide though, pointing out the various interesting parts and telling us much of the history they've uncovered from it to date. After nosing about the coliseum (or the best we could) we walked up the hill, through a lovely little garden, around the remains of a castle built by William the Conqueror (though only one round tower remains) and over to the Siard's old house on the Rue de  Château (so called because it is around the corner from the old castle).

After a lovely little lunch prepared again by Peggy (sandwiches, though not quite as most Americans would know it - freshly baked baguettes filled with locally sourced ham, gruyere cheese & an herbal dressing), we popped into the car and took the scenic route to the "gîte" run by old family friends of the Siards, where we would spend the next few days. Our route took us through the old city of Lisieux (but no stop alas!) and then on to the Château de Saint Germain de Livet. Fortunately, we arrived in time for a tour (en français!) that gave us a sense of the history and architecture of the place - even better was that I understood most of it!

Another little drive and we were at the gîte! Set deep in the countryside, I'd been told it was an old farm, but the Siards' friends Thierry and Carole have put a ton of man hours in renovating and the place is stunning. Very modern, but extremely comfortable. The main house has a room that they let on a bed & breakfast basis, but the real draw is the gîte - a two room split level 2 bedroom house that can be rented weekly. We are lucky that it's not let at the moment because it means we get to stay there! The whole place is surrounded by lovely gardens, several with wildflowers, a pond and a huge veg and fruit patch. In the pond though, there are quite literally hundreds of frogs. I remember early in my courtship with Stephen, we had a conversation about what animals "say" in different languages and I found it hilarious that the french sound for frogs was "croa croa" rather than "ribbit, ribbit". Now having heard a veritable chorus of french frogs I can attest they indeed croak! Yes, ladies and gents, even the frogs speak in a French accent.

We spent a lovely evening not only listening to the frogs, but enjoying Carole's fantastic cooking and the general conviviality of our group. We did more of the conversation in French since Carole's mother doesn't speak English, and it went much easier this time. But then again, everyone has been so indulgent with my mistakes and putting me right when I get confused. I feel so blessed to be here, and Gib & Cherrie's friends have really taken us all under their wing and have been amazing hosts. I hope to someday be able to return the favour for them!

But alas, these sorts of evenings never end early (nor without having emptied a few bottles of wine), so it was another late night, but a happy one.

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