Pottering About in the Sea and Cemetary

Mid week, after an interesting morning discussion with Roisin as she walked to work in Dublin about ‘what is the new Irish identity,’ ‘how we achieve social cohesion in Irish society,’ and ‘Ireland’s positive engagement with Europe’, we set off adventuring again.

On the Map, we identified a P (parking) near a tiny place called Croquet in another part of the Foret Domaniale de Boulogne, (last time there we were fording rivers and climbing ravines) The P was full of disability vans, so we parked up beside them and set off for a walk through the forest. This time we kept to the main path and enjoyed a lovely 5km walk through the trees and along the lanes of very pretty, rolling French countryside. Some of the houses we passed were gated and warned of surveillance. It was clearly the home of the petit bourgeoisie. There were very few cars and in the valley below, horses and farms decorated the landscape. Very pastoral.

On our return to the car, we checked out the buildings close by. It was a school/sheltered accommodation for people with disabilities. I would love to see Irish facilities as good. The place was set in lovely grounds, with accessible, light, airy classes and rooms. The surrounding village homes were as prim and proper as you’d ever see in Ireland. Pretty shuttered homes, lovely flower filled gardens, a shut Mairie with boxes of geraniums everywhere. Everything seemed pitch perfect except there was not a soul to be seen.

We drove on looking for somewhere to eat and fortunately immediately came across an auberge with a few local cars parked outside. We pulled in and joined the electricians and other local workers for the day’s ‘entrée’. We had a choice of pizza and veal. Satisfied Husband had pizza and I had the veal which was came swimming in wine, creamy juices with lentils, pureed spinach and smashed potato (out of a packet, I think). I even had a dessert, fromage blanc avec jus de fraise. Delicious, and all washed down with a glass of wine.

A snooze was called for after lunch, so we returned home, dozed, painted, read until aperitif time when we strolled into Wimereux for un cuir cassis and un verre de vin rouge. Well, I strolled down to the beach and husband drove. Back home for bread, pate and cheese and bed. A pretty perfect day.

Recent mornings, the tide has been in, and out of the window we have seen a grey, green blanket of flat sea. The strip of peninsula between us and Boulogne has been a silvery shimmer and the five turbines have been clear white markers on our horizon. The sky has been a play of blue, white and grey and the heath a lovely variety of greens. It’s a view, and which constantly changes with the weather. In the evening we have glorious sun sets. The massive blowsy clouds curl up in pink, and the sky shoots pink rays over us. Sleeping in the pitched attic is like sleeping in a tent. When the rain pelts, it feels as if an army is marching over you, when the sun shines, it feels as if you are walking through vapour, and one night the wind howled through every piece of the  timber frame and red tiles.

I went to market in Wimereux this week which was exciting because the fridge was bare! I filled it with radishes, epoisse cheese which was gloriously soft and trying to escape its paper, reblochon, Pyrenean mountain cheese, olives farcie avec anchovies, artichoke tapenade, saladerie de tomato tapenade (a little disappointing), radishes, pate compagne (for me and Poppins). Then popped into Intermarche to get my daily bread and few bottles of Celliers de Dauphins, a cote de rhone I used to drink with my father, so now I am set up…for a few days.

I also meandered down to the French cimetaire one afternoon (this blog has a very strong current of death streaming through it). As mentioned before, the French do a good cemetery. They are always crowded, very pastiche, with very little space or green between one, just pockets of colour from the flowers arranged in tacky vases.

In this region, it seems, they often have a Commonwealth Grave cemetery attached for the commonwealth soldiers who died in the first world war (with a few unknown soldiers from the second thrown in). The majority of the three thousand graves I saw in Wimereux were named. They were fallen soldiers who had died in the hospitals hereabout. They came from Derby, Yorkshire, Enniskillen, Canada, Australia, India, London, Sussex, Dorset, Glasgow, the Borders…everywhere. They are beautifully maintained by the Commonwealth Graves Commission. It was very moving and I felt discombobulated, an emotion further stirred up afterwards when we did a petit tour of  the Prom. Our breath was stripped away by the wind, and the waves crashed wildly and smashed into white drops against the rocks. After that we needed profiteroles and wine in a café.

six tombstones of 3000 in Wimereux

On Saturday, we decided to visit Le Touquet, the Paris Plage. As we drove into the town, we remarked how similar it was to Hardelot: except the surrounding roads are red, and somehow everything is grander. Again, there are lots of roundabouts, even bigger detached  Hanzel and Gretel houses  hidden away in trees. You could describe it as  Hardelot Plage on steroids. The architecture is very much of the Belle Epoch period, timber frame houses with wooden turrets and towers, very startling. I love them, they are like fairy castles. The covered market was also fab, though it was shutting down as we arrived. We had lunch in the café Marche which was thronging with people (I had a delicious Fish Soup and Jerry had a welsh rarebit swimming in gooey yellow cheese). We then had a wander. There appeared to be four streets of shops and cafes (and the famous casino), rather like a noughts and crosses layout. All the shops were designer shops, and there were too many people, so we came home.

My dream fairy castle

Finally, for this week, we went to Lille for the day. As you progress further North and East, the French place names get more Flemish, like Wormout , Diksmould,and Randscoot. They have great guttural sounds. In Lille, we aimed for the Parc du Citadel to walk Poppins and la Veille Ville to walk ourselves. Fortunately they were side by side, because Jerry, having taken to his bed with a cold for two days, was not keen on walking!

I have decided, I want a Citadel Park in Cavan! The Farnham Estate is all very nice, but this has is surrounded by a canal with café barges (one, according to the blackboard, that is run by a co-operative of workers. Jerry tried to get a coffee but, it was closed because they were having a meeting!). There was a pretty little zoo with monkeys and ‘exotic animaux’, there were gorgeous avenues of grand old Oak trees, there was a fair and a swimming park, and, typically French, a military base, in the middle of it. Yes, if I can’t be by the beach in Cavan, I definitely want a citadel Park. And a few of the gorgeous old buildings from the Veille Ville!

Monkeys in the zoo!

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