Saturday, 5 June 2010

64. Northern France

3rd June 2010. Back home again after a long weekend away. Last Friday we drove up to Rouen - some 840-odd kms away - in northern France for a reunion weekend with Madame's former colleagues from her old school in Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

The plan was for everyone to meet up outside the Tourist Office (below) at 10am on the Saturday so, as we'd arrived in good time on the Friday, we had plenty of time after breakfast to wander around the old half-timbered centre of Rouen:

We met up with our party at the appointed hour and of course the first item on the agenda was a spirited round of cheek-kissing (for the nanas) and hand-shaking (for the mecs!)..

As we saw it..

..& as Monet saw it.
We started off with a guided tour of the cathedral  - and I was pleased to find I was able to follow our guide's commentary without too much difficulty. While she was an enthusiastic fount of historical and architectural knowledge, I'm ashamed to admit that after a while I felt my eyes start to glaze over and my mind wander and, looking around, I'm happy to report that I wasn't the only one!

Lunch couldn't come soon enough and we found ourselves in a fifties retro restaurant - well chosen by the organisers.  

In the afternoon we visited the Church of St Jeanne d'Arc, who remains an extremely potent symbol in France. At moments of high domestic tension, Madame will occasionally remind me of the fact that Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake by the English (aka my cue to wind my neck in!). The brutal architecture of the church falls into the category of Love it or Hate it. Resembling nothing more than some vast grey slate-covered armadillo, it sprawls across the ancient market square in true shock-horror style (maybe that's the point) and to me it's a clumsy attempt to symbolise in stone the funeral pyre. I found the architecture of the building too intrusive, too self-conscious. This is the kindest photo I can find of it (others here):
Eglise Ste Jeanne d'Arc

In the evening we had dinner at an excellent restaurant in the market square and after that bed couldn't come soon enough!

On Sunday morning we visited a well restored old church before lunch beckoned.. Tiring all this culture! Finally we visited the Museum of Wrought Iron in Rouen which was truly fascinating.. The others all left at this point to return home while we stayed an extra night as we were heading down on the Monday to La Bernerie en Retz which lies on the coast to the south west of Nantes to stay with our friends A & J-C for a couple of nights.. We had some great walks along the sea shore and around Pornic which is just a few kms up the coast. By now we were missing our pooch and we were also missing home.
We set off for Bayonne on Wednesday. It's always a pleasure to be heading south when we're going home instead of that depressing drive up to Calais and beyond! We stopped off at the kennel to pick up Chibby (our cocker spaniel) who was beside himself to see us again.. No surprises there! 

4th June 2010. Our tame saxophonist is back in town.. He looks pretty cool as he stands there on a corner with his battered sax and his straw hat opposite the War Memorial playing the same little riff ad infinitum. I think if I lived in the flats above him I'd be going mental though as he doesn't seem to tire of endlessly playing his limited 15 second repertoire.. 

5th June 2010. Down to the rowing club this morning for an outing. I think we did about 10-12km on a pretty hot morning so I was glad to return to the pontoon. There's a new girl member at the club - from Brazil - and she offered us all a Brazilian cocktail known as a Caipirinha:

Her recipe calls for this fresh, exotic cocktail to be made with cachaça*, sugar cane syrup, a mint leaf and crushed limes, served over ice. It is always muddled (crushed with a masher or the blunt end of a wooden spoon). In this clip, they use sugar instead of sugar cane syrup but no mint leaf.. I liked it the way I had it - with the mint leaf - but I'm open to offers!
Intriguing taste - sweet, sour, bitter all at the same time and excellent for quenching the thirst on a hot day.. The second one tastes even better! It's a loong time since I've enjoyed a drink as much as this one. Note to self: remember to buy some cachaça when next in Spain..

* Brazilian rum made from sugar cane.

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