On a Schedule

(There’s an area for campers on the left of this car park, we’re on the extreme left)

We’ve moved on again, just an hour south to a pretty little town. The aire is in the market square and if we’re still here on Friday night we may turn into traders because the whole place becomes a market on Saturday morning. Which would be a nice thing to see… so long as we’re not accidentally parked in the middle of it! I suppose we could sell tea and coffee? And I have been making cards… although I might need more than eight… unless they’re not popular… ok stop, we’ll be gone by Friday.

(The church bell chimes every hour)

We’ve got into a bit of a routine this week which is very pleasant. Sometimes when I’m stuck in a rut I dream about having no routine at all but it turns out not to be as attractive as I thought. For the first week before I found one I was sleepy all the time and that’s no fun. Now I set the alarm for 7am, hop out of bed to turn it off (it’s on the table overnight so I am not tempted to turn it off and turn over for another snooze – I have been there…) get dressed and start my meditation.

(It might be autumn…)

Twenty minutes later (well, twenty if I’m very good, ten if I good-ish) it’s time for breakfast. As always I’ve brought two bags of Flahavans porridge from home and that’s what I have every morning with nuts and seeds. By that time it’s almost 8am and Denis is up so we lock all the cupboards, turn off the gas, roll in the step and drive off. Within the hour we are parking up for the day. There’s room then in the schedule to find a café and have a real French coffee or we make an Irish/ French one. After coffee I’m off to find pictures and Denis is off to work.

(Love French shutters)

There’s time for me to get some work done before it’s lunchtime, which we usually make ourselves. By 2pm it’s back to work for Denis and I start the blog. When that’s done it’s on to crafting. I’ve brought just enough supplies to keep me satisfied but not enough to confuse me. What I mean by that is if I have so many supplies I can’t decide which one to do I’ll hop from one to the other, not quite finishing anything. Lately I’m very interested in finishing.

(My ceramic white buttons are a work in progress, next step gluing on clasps)

So I’m concentrating on card-making (small enough to fit on a lap tray) and mixed media journaling (messy enough to get me out of my head) and pin-on ceramic buttons (to sell for a charity project.) After an hour I’m ready for reading and planning work projects which brings us up to dinnertime. Dinner’s usually around 7pm.

Right, it’s 3.30pm, time for crafts! Mairead.

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We’re in Thierry’s House!

(Cute house in Clères)

We’ve arrived at a town called Château Thierry, I don’t think it’s our Thierry… unless he’s keeping his Château in France a secret? We haven’t seen the actual Château yet, we don’t know what size it is or even if it’s still standing.

(Tiny library in Clères)

The aire on the other hand is great. There’s little hedges around the pitches (€7) and electricity (€2) and there’s even a toilet and shower. It’s located right beside the river (which might be where the biting insects live…)

(Bullrushes in a picnic park in Clères. Yes, there’s a park with picnic tables, some covered. Plus, very well kept and supplied toilets! Thank you, France!)

And there’s free WiFi! Well sort of. If you stand by the fence near the McDonalds you can have their WiFi for free! Yes it’s beside a very fancy McDonalds with colorful art on the walls, book shelves with books and comfy armchairs with sockets to charge your devices! We bought a coffee and even that was good. Denis has his eye on a blue cheese and bacon burger for dinner. Don’t judge us…

(Flowers everywhere in Clères)

There’s a cycle path beside the river so I may head in this afternoon if it gets a bit cooler. (Oh forgot to tell you, the weather had been magnificent since we started moving south. In fact a little too magnificent – we’re roasted in the middle of the day, but the up side of that is we’re making tonnes of electricity!) Unfortunately, the town itself doesn’t get a great score with reviewers so I’m not promising pictures, fortunately, I still have some left over from beautiful Clères.

Powered by the sun and McDonald’s WiFi from Thierry’s Château, Mairead.

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Galette, Butterfly and Bee

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(This crêpere has had a licence to trade since 1941 – that was during the second world war!)

It’s Sunday and a travel day for us. We are still on route to see Nancy and have arrived in another pretty aire. I tell you about it tomorrow but I have photos to share from yesterday for now. It was lunch time when we left the zoo so we decided to do what the French do – have lunch. By that I mean have our main meal in the middle of the day and since we had saved on the cost of entry to the zoo we were practically getting that for free too… does it show that I never did accountancy?

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(I love the blue)

The cafe I called into on the previous day was also a crepére so we stopped there and had a look at the menu. One of the galettes (which is a wholemeal flour savoury pancake) that caught my eye was called La Bray Normandie with apple, Neufchâtel, ham and mushrooms. I wondered aloud what Neufchâtel might be and a young girl sitting at the table beside us told me! I couldn’t help overhearing, it’s a cheese, local to Normandy and it’s produced in the shape of a heart! I love hearts!

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(Here’s the butterfly)

Our translator was from Bulgaria with perfect English and as far as I would recognise, perfect French. She has been living and working in Paris for the past five years. She and her boyfriend love this area of Normandy are were on a visit for the weekend. She described Neufchâtel cheese saying it was like camembert but not as strong and when her lunch came she offered a taste of her boyfriends cheese sauce because it was camembert… and it was good. Her boyfriend was French (and very generous with his chips and cheese sauce) and had visited Connemara. He loved it and of course we told them how much we loved France.

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(…and a bee)

And when my galette arrived it was the best I’ve ever had. The apple was slightly mushy and brown and it worked perfectly with the cheese and ham and mushrooms and the pancake itself wasn’t too dry or too thick, it was just right. I didn’t stop eating until there was nothing left on my plate.. so no picture. (Reminder to self: take a pause to savour your lunch.)

I’ll be looking out for that Neufchâtel in the shape of a heart, Mairead.

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The beautiful animal park in Cléres

(The pink Flamingos and some random ducks)

I mentioned yesterday that there is a zoo here in Cléres and today we went on a visit. As it’s France, of course this would not be an ordinary zoo, this is a beautiful compact bird and animal park in the grounds of a château with it’s own Gothic castle and the remains of a medieval keep. And one more thing to thank France for – there was no entry charge today! Don’t know why. The zoo was set up over 100 years ago by Monsieur Jean Delacour. Seemingly he was a famous ornithologist (had to look it up: interested in birds) who worked for zoos around Europe and the US. His family was rich so… he got a château and started taking care of birds and animals.

(Even without the animals this is a beautiful park)

The majority of the birds and animals run (or waddle or bounce) free in the unfenced paddocks and seem unafraid of the humans who are very well-behaved walking along the paths and staying off the grass. Well they were mostly unafraid but I got in the way of three young antelopes, called black bucks, who were trying to cross a bridge and they looked very worried. I stayed very still and eventually they bounced off on their way. It really looked like they bounced, you know like when sheep jump over fences in cartoons?

(I have no idea what this guy is called, but he was munching away at bugs on his tree trunk when I took this. He’s about the size of a hamster with a long tail)

My favourite animal was the Red Panda, which looks like a cross between a fox and a teddy bear. Like the black and white Panda the red one has an extra bone in it’s wrist that helps it grab bamboo shoots making it adorable… A close second favourite was the Emu, his feathers look like hair with a parting running down the center of his back while his feet are very prehistoric looking.

(Here’s the Red Panda, can you see how he holds the bamboo branch? Awww!)

Up at the château there’s a pretty garden filled with flowers that I love. As I was taking picture after picture of blooms, one nicer than the next a butterfly caught my eye. He was perched on a big flower head and didn’t notice me walk round and round getting shots of him. I must have been there for 10 minutes and he was still there when we left.

(This is a terrible shot but I wanted you to see how strange it looks… it’s part of the Emu’s foot – two of his three toes to be precise. His entire foot is about the size of my hand)

I’ll send you the flower and butterfly pictures tomorrow,  Mairead.

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A Leisure Battery for Time…

(Brighter in the afternoon at Veulette sur Mer)

The rain went away yesterday afternoon and the sun came out but when we woke up this morning we were freezing (not actually freezing…) it was 7 degrees outside. Time to rethink northern France. So we’re on our way south. We’ve never been down the eastern side of France so we thought we’d give that a go and head in the general direction of Nancy.

(Old church in Cléres)

We didn’t get very far, about an hour of travel and we are in the pretty little town of Cléres. You never know what you’re going to get when you pick an aire and today is a big surprise. It’s about an hour’s drive from Veulettes sur Mer. As it’s on the outskirts we didn’t see the town before we parked but I went for a walk while Denis went to work and it’s gorgeous. Another vibrant town with lots of little shops, a small supermarket, an old church, a train station and even a zoo! I’ll have a look at that tomorrow. There’s a stream running the length of the main street (not on the street…) and each little footbridge is covered in foliage and flowers.

(Conkers were falling off the tree in the churchyard)

The aire itself is free and you buy tokens (called jetons in France) for water and electricity at the little supermarket. We don’t need either at the moment because we loaded water on route yesterday and the solar panels are topping up in the sun as I write providing us with enough power for the day. I didn’t realise I would be so excited about the solar energy but I am constantly checking how much electricity we are making. I have discovered that the sun doesn’t have to be shining directly on the panels to make solar power, light makes power. Also, we have a battery (called a leisure battery) to store the power generated because the solar panels generate the power but they don’t save it and if you don’t use in that moment it’s gone! It’s a bit like time really… maybe we need a Time battery?

(The old covered market in Cléres)

So, a Time Battery would store up all the minutes in the day when we’re not using them the way we want to. Like when we’re having anxious thoughts or we’re complaining or we’re making a mountain out of a molehill or we’re irritated by someone or we’re in a mood. The Time Battery would automatically power up and grab all the wasted minutes for when we remember how we really want to spend time. For those who mostly used time the way they wanted to, enjoying nature, smiling at children, being wonderful (!) they could get a little pocket Time Battery. But there would also be a roll-along-suitcase sized Time Battery…

…for the rest of us and our anxious thoughts. Mairead.

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Grey Day by the Seaside

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(Misty rain between here and the chalk cliff)

It’s kinda grey here in Normandy today. We’ve moved along and are by the sea at a place called Veulettes Sur Mer and it started raining. It didn’t stop me from making my way across the road to the beach to get some pictures but even they are a bit grey. It’s a day for taking out the crafts and turning on the heater.

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(Here’s the sea front and on the right across the road you can see the parking area for camper vans. the red brick building on the extreme right is the toilet block)

Also took a picture of our aire for today, it isn’t as pretty as the last one but it does have toilets. No freebies though because of the location (see photo) the cost is €7 per night and on a sunny day it would be ideal. The rain is due to stop in the afternoon so maybe ideal is on the way.

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(That’s the town under the cliff)

To be fair the weather has been mainly warm and completely dry, I just checked in my pockets and found a receipt from Juno Beach so that’s the last time I wore heavy jeans – six days ago. I will stop noticing the grey and begin noticing the historic value of jeans pockets.

Oh brilliant I found a euro! Mairead.

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Practising the local customs…

(We’re just outside the town of St. Romain de Colbosc)

It’s about a kilometre to the nearest town and after breakfast off I went. We had cycled here yesterday but took a left turn and went to the big supermarket and in doing so missed a vibrant town. Full of shops. And people! Not always a given in French towns. But this place is different, it’s a bit of a Tardis. It seems small but one left turn and you are in a completely different space.

(The flower shop and just past it, my cafe)

This morning I was open to experiencing a different space and I found it. The main square. There was a bar/cafe so of course I ordered a cafe and on enquiring about a croissant was sent across the road to the Boulanger. When I got back my coffee was ready. Of course I sat outside and watched the world go by and there was plenty of the world going by here.

(My boulanger)

Sitting outside is lovely at the moment as the temperature is just right (about 20 degrees) to do so without shivering. While drinking and munching I checked out the other clientele and the vast array of shops. Here’s what I spotted: eight hairdressers, two Boulanger’s, two pharmacies, an estate agent, a shoe shop, a newsagent, at least three bars, the post office, the police station, at least 10 ATMs, a clothes shop and a wool/sewing/underwear shop! There’s also two big supermarkets on the outskirts of town and yet all this commerce continues to survive within the town. How do they do that?

(Small supermarket and organic shop)

While I have been sitting here I have been lucky enough to spot some French kissing – the polite kind. Some of you will know our friend Thierry from Greystones (and France) who makes great pâté (La Paysan, found in all good SuperValu stores!!!) anyway, I practice French kissing him whenever I can (again, the polite kind…) but sitting here I realize it’s way more complicated that I realised.

(There’s a barometer up high on the Ville de Reunion)

So, there’s a couple of women sitting out here having a coffee and a chat and beside them at a different table is a young man enjoying a coffee, with his baby in a buggy beside him. Then along comes a different woman who spots the sitting-down-having-a-coffee lady and without a word heads straight for her and in a very graceful silent move leans right in to kiss her cheek and follows up with her other cheek. In another swift graceful movement she bypasses the sitting lady’s companion and heads straight in to kiss the young man on both cheeks. My question: how does she choose who to kiss? And who to ignore? A how does she not frighten the life out of people with this sudden kissing?

I obviously need more practice, Mairead.

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