Day 11 – It’s MON so it must be MONT ST MICHEL

We had all wanted to see this iconic island and weather forecast was favourable together with low tide in the middle of the day. It is about a hour’s drive from Juvigny-le-Tertre .  We set off in good time after B had made his appointment with the vet to get the required worming treatment before going home.
WhenDSC02360 we arrived at Mont we were guided  into the biggest car park ever seen. There were free shuttles across the causeway to the base of the buildings. Dogs were not allowed so P and B walked over the causeway.  Walking takes about the same time as queueing for the bus, so everyone arrived at about the same time. It is claimed that there are 900 steps to the top which is about 60 stories. Simon’s dad did not know how he would cope but took his time and made it all the way.

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Unaccountably dogs are not allowed in the abbey so Simon and P and B explored the town  while Simon’s mum and dad went round the abbey.  Simon bought a ham and cheese sandwich for Simon and P to share, a fanta for P and a bottle of water for Simon and B to share.  Simon carefully poured the water into his had for B to drink.  B carefully licked all of the rim of the bottle.  Simon decided he wasn’t thirsty and let B have the water to himself.

There were even more steps in the abbey but it was well  worth it. To be honest the main church was a little disappointing as there was little decoration but when you’ve seen all the rooms you get a sense of the splendour of the architecture. The cloisters were graceful with the thin staggered columns and the refectory with hidden windows and the crypt with its powerful supports . After meeting up we found a way down via the narrowest street only shoulder wide.

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Simon’s parents took the shuttle while Simon and P and B walked.  As it is holiday time Simon was after an ice cream and recommended Cancale but it was actually the centre for huitres and moules. There were only two ice cream shops selling sundaes so Simon settled for a crepe. B was able to practice his ball recovery skills on the beach leaping across small streams and valiantly killing the new ball.

P drove the scenic route home via the coast road seeing many converted windmills.

Pictures courtesy of Simon’s dad

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Day 10 – The Enchanted Village

As is the tradition on Sundays, Simon and B walked up the hill to the house.  Simon did a few jobs until P drove up with Simon’s parents to go to Mortain for 11 am mass.  B stayed to guard the house/sleep.  No sacramental programme this week and the delivery of the sermon was faster and harder to follow.  After a detour to pick up the guard dog (who may have been caught snoozing) it was home for lunch.

On the main road to Mortain there are brown signs to Le Village enchanté Bellefontaine.  That must be a charming Normandy village with picturesque buildings thought Simon.  He was wrong.  Fortunately the theme park was a bit like Southport – closed.

Where to next – well off to the Cascades in Mortain.  Should we go to the Grande Cascade or the Petite Cascade asked P.  The Petite Cascade first said Simon – you don’t want to peak to early and you’ve got to leave some room for “awe and wonder”.  After P had parked the car, everyone set off on the route with B leading the way.  The cascade was nice enough but not overly impressive.  P went to pick up the car and bought cakes for pudding on the way.

Day 9 – House work

Simon and P, with the help of B had a day of stripping wallpaper and plumbing.  Not too much else really.  Simon and P went to the bricolage place in Mortain and then had a mooch round Aldi.  Buster walked up the hill several times.  Simon and his parents went to Carrefour and Aldi in Mortain.  Simon and P did more work on the house until it was past time for tea.  Nothing really to report.

Day 8: The roofer came to call

We had arranged for the roofing chap to call on Friday morning so Simon and P set off for the house early and had breakfast there. A happy chap turned up a bit late, apologising that he wasn’t there on time and P made him a coffee – black with sugar. It was too hot for him to drink straight away so he set off with Simon upstairs to look at the job in hand.

We didn’t understand a lot of what he said, but he had put the roof on the garage, and the guttering at the back was fine – because he had put it on. He would come back on Tuesday or Wednesday to start the work; patch up the roof, sort out the chimney wall and quite possibly other stuff – no idea how much it is going to cost, but if the plumber is anything to go by, they are not out to cheat you over here and we would rather use local people to carry out repairs.

Now Simon was happy the roof is going to be sorted soon, P was given permission to start stripping wallpaper off upstairs – he didn’t see the point of starting that earlier if water was still going to be coming in. She decided to start with the bathroom, leaving the delightful tiles on for the moment until the room is tackled in full and by the time we packed up at lunchtime, a third of the room was stripped.

The afternoon was set for Saint-Lô – we were going to go on Thursday, but by the time we had lunch we wouldn’t have time to do it justice. We decided to have lunch out at Vire – at the bar we had stayed at when we had come in July to purchase the house. B was allowed to come into the restaurant – who could deny such a well behaved dog, and we had a filling three course meal with wine and a beer for Simon.

On the way to Saint-Lô we stopped at But to buy the gizmo so we could secure the dryer on the washing machine then off we set in the rain along another straight road. We arrived as the rain stopped and headed for the church Notre-Dame, which has a not to be missed external pulpit.

External pulpit at Notre Dame, Saint Lo Picture courtesy of Simon's Dad

External pulpit at Notre Dame, Saint Lo
Picture courtesy of Simon’s Dad

Saint Lo suffered terribly in June and July 1944 – 95% of buildings were damaged or destroyed and this church was no exception. Photographs show the extent of the damage resulting in one of its towers being destroyed and it was many years before some of the damage was repaired and in partly rebuilt in a more modern style as a monument to what had happened. Much of the glass had been removed to safety before the bombing took place and more modern glass has tastefully replaced what was destroyed resulting in a very calm place to sit and pray and give thanks that we hadn’t had to live through such a war.

After a short visit to a cafe, we then went to the Musee de Beaux Arts which had a collection of paintings by J B Jongkind, which P was particularly taken with. As always in art galleries, there were things that Simon liked and P didn’t or the other way round, but there was something for everyone and well worth the visit.

Mrs sat nav took us a very convoluted way home along roads we hadn’t traversed before, but farm machinery obviously had so our car now looks like a farmers in that it is filthy – we are slowly but surely integrating with the locals…….

Day 7 – Look at what you could have had

Simon and P got up early and went to La Maison Française in order to be there when the EDF man arrived.  Simon went to buy some local butter while P went to get a baguette for breakfast.  The simple pleasure of fresh baguette and proper butter was almost eclipsed by the joy that Simon and P had by realising it was bin day and managing to get their bag of rubbish outside the house a couple of minutes before the bin lorry drove down the road.  Note to selves – bin day is Thursday in Juvigny – but is it every Thursday?

The EDF man came around 9am and did all that he had to (read the meter) in about 1 minute, so Simon and P decided to take the opportunity to buy a tumble drier and attempt to buy the assorted plumbing supplies they still require.  This probably meant a trip to Caen but as they passed through Vire, they decided to look for a tumble drier there.  An hour and a half latter (still quicker than going to Caen and back) they’d bought a drier and some of the plumbing supplies, so it was back for lunch.

Simon’s mum had made soup (which was lovely) and after a lunch and a sit down it was suddenly 2:30 and a bit late for the planned trip to St Lo.  Instead they drove down to Ambières-Les-Vallées and had a quick walk round the town and even a look (from the outside) at a property that Simon and P had considered when they bought  La Maison Française.  Unfortunately, Ambières was a bit like Southport – Closed!  So it was off to Goron for a coffee (or hot chocolate) and home for a tea of mackerel bought by B and Simon’s mum from the fish van (so bin men and fish man on Thursdays) that morning

Day 6 Allons-nous á Avranches

What is this we see through the window? Can it be rain? Well, maybe, but we live in NW England and we know rain when we see it. Also, we have all been to Ireland, where they are known to have a better class of rain, sometimes described as “liquid shunshine” other times as “shocking”. But this is France, alors il pleut, but not for long.

After breakfast Simon and P head off for La Maison d’être’, determined today to speak to some of the people who have played hide and seek for the past couple of days. Success! appointments were made, but meeting EDF means that someone must be in Juvigny at 8 tomorrow morning.  There is usually a downside, but what has to be done has to be done.

Simon’s mum and B walked up the hill – this journey seems to be getting shorter. B certainly knows where to cross the road to make the trip safe and avoid as many of those prickly chestnut cases as possible. The cattle in the farm had their heads in their hay troughs, so that was good too. Further success came at the Mairie, open this morning, so Simon’s mum could buy stamps. She thought that finding postcards was a challenge till she tried to find stamps!

On their way across to La Maison Simon’s mum and B found Wednesday’s visiting mobile food vendor.  It was a crêperie. Don’t tell Simon’s dad who was back at the gîte. doing one of life’s really important tasks, today’s Sodoku! At the house, Simon and P had identified a need to make further plumbing associated purchases before work could progress further, so after lunch it was decided that after use had been made of the local tip being open all should go together to Avranches.

The Jardin was a little disappointing as it was rumoured that dogs could not enter.  We decided to act like frenchmen and ignore annoying notices that cramped our style so we all went in. Simon’s mum mistook a very realistic scarecrow for the real thing!  The view to Mont St Michel was great and we resolved to go there before this trip is over. This decision was reinforced by a visit to the Scriptorial museum which gave tantalising insights into the history of the Mont.

Sadly, the search for plumbing gubbins was less fruitful, although a laundry basket was purchased.  Outlets seem to sell dishwashers and washing machines, but not the plumbing bits needed to install them into older houses .

So, back to the lodge as B thought it was well past his teatime. Fortunately a lot of this evening’s meal had already been prepared, so not too long before the rest of us could have our tea too.  Where had the evening gone? Nearly 11, and Simon has to be at La Maison by 8 as EDF has threatened to call in morning for the annual meter reading, now 2 years overdue!! Ça va.

Day 5: No sign of a body!

There were some plumbing issues to be dealt with at La Maison so after the usual breakfast, S headed up to the house with B to tackle them (B acting in an advisory capacity and on face licking duty).

Tuesday is market day at Sourdeval with an excellent live stock market too (when we came in search of houses in April, the lady at the house we stayed at had spent a small fortune on ducks for her pond who kept flying away!) P had always had a hankering for chickens – indeed the family had gone as far as to name them Chick Norris (see what we did there!) and Penny Fluffy Feathers.  However, the sensible head knew that they weren’t really practical and we were not sure who would the rule the roost (!) once B met them; but S thought a sheep may help to keep the garden in check or a pig to fatten up and keep B company would be a super idea. We are sorry to say that by the time we got to the market, it was too late to buy any livestock (I wonder how that happened!)

We did however get some vegetables – they are a lot easier to look after and P a leather belt as her trousers keep falling down (not sure how given how much we are eating) and a scarf for S then back to the lodge for lunch and then back to the house to carry on with jobs.

When we bought the house some of the floor tiles in the kitchen were raised and on closer inspection in July some of the cement had had some sort of chemical reaction forcing the tiles up. S and P spent time carefully taking tiles up to re-use in the knowledge that there were some spares in the shed if needed and the tools found in the shed proved particularly handy as S whacked the concrete to break it up – a messy and dusty job. We speculated that the chemical reaction may have been caused by a dead body decomposing, but thankfully we haven’t found signs of anything yet. There are two bin fulls of detritus to take to the tip when it is open on Wednesday and the next task will be to fill the hole up with cement – without the obligatory body I think and then relay the tiles – not sure all that will be achieved this time.

B had a great time haring up and down the garden and trying to eat more of the peaches – he still isn’t showing much interest in the little dog next door, much to her chagrin, maybe they don’t speak the same language……