Ending 2016 with Holiday Good Wishes

We’re feeling quite grateful this holiday season — grateful on several levels.

We are finally back in Europe and living in a country that we love — France. Mark’s health has returned, we are enjoying life again, and we are happily filling our days.

The past week was a bit chaotic, to be truthful — but we managed because we are both feeling more resilient once again — and now we’re having a quiet Christmas. Our household goods somehow managed to leave Australia at the same time that we did at the beginning of November and they arrived in the UK a mere 6 weeks from pick up at our house. That sort of time frame is a rarely-or-never kind of thing.

As a result, we’ve felt a bit roller-coaster-ish for the last 8 days. Last weekend we had the happy highs of the weekend wedding of dear friends — Polly and Vincent. Mark and I both took cameras with us to document the day (as requested by the bride!) — but gads — rather a lot of the photos ended up being either out of focus due to shifting light conditions or being constantly jostled by the phone-camera-clutching throngs who were packed into the Mairie (the mayor’s office) for the wedding. Those group shots where someone always managed to have their eyes shut were a bit of a challenge, too. (smirk!)

Polly Watt and Vincent Morel exchanging rings on their wedding day.

Polly Watt and Vincent Morel exchanging rings on their wedding day.

Mark with his camera inside the Mairie after the wedding as the crowd began to disperse.

Mark with his camera inside the Mairie after the wedding as the crowd began to disperse.

Deborah, camera in hand, leaving the Mairie after the wedding ceremony.

Deborah, camera in hand, leaving the Mairie after the wedding ceremony.

Two days later it was a leaving-long-before-dawn race back to the UK on Monday, meeting the movers in England on Tuesday, doing catch-up errands on Wednesday, then heading back to France on Thursday. Whew!!! Are we tired? YES! But Mark went straight back to work the next day and part of Saturday and I sat like a little pudding doing editing. Yes — we ARE taking all day Sunday and Monday off though and we’re hoping it won’t be too soggy for some gentle rambles through the lovely Calvados countryside.

Here’s a few more pictures from the last wildly busy week. More soon!

Up and down the stairs between decks on the Brittany Ferry.

Up and down the stairs between decks on the Brittany Ferry.

The Deck 9 wifi lounge on the Brittany Ferry.

The Deck 9 wifi lounge on the Brittany Ferry.

During an afternoon crossing between England and France, Mark is buying 2 expressos at the bar on one of the upper decks of the Brittany Ferry.

During an afternoon crossing between England and France, Mark is buying 2 expressos at the bar on one of the upper decks of the Brittany Ferry.

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Toys for Toddlers in France

These beautifully handcrafted wood and metal cars are just the right size for a toddler to enjoy. And they are displayed attractively right off the main street in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Lovely little things, eh?

Toddler sized toy cars outside shop in Normandy, France.

Toddler sized toy cars outside shop in Normandy, France.

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Black and White from Ballarat

Just a quick flashback to a walk around the lake in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia in the winter. With the exception of one bizarrely bright bird, absolutely nothing was colourful that day and the wind was icy cold and quite gusty.

I briefly glanced at these when I first took them, but since we were already up to our eyeballs in packing boxes and mess, I didn’t have the energy to devote any time or inspiration to them back in August.

Here I am back in France, happily and cozily parked in front of the fire in December, and now I’m glad I saved these for the right time. Some of these are potential book covers or perfect for doing a matte and frame treatment. I can tell when my heart is happy again because my productivity level just soars. That’s a lovely thing to be able to say at my age!

All of the images in this short photo essay are from Lake Wendouree in Ballarat. Enjoy!

Unidentified woman and child walk along the lakeside on a cold winter day.

Unidentified woman and child walk along the lakeside on a cold winter day.

Partially submerged tree and water grasses in a rain-swollen lake.

Partially submerged tree and water grasses in a rain-swollen lake.

A bench at the edge of a swollen lake.

A bench at the edge of a swollen lake.

Wind whipped dunegrass alongside the water's edge of a lake.

Wind whipped dunegrass alongside the water’s edge of a lake.

And finally — the ONE SPOT of colour…

An Australian bird with a bright red face and deep blue chest picks its way through the marsh grass of an inland lake.

An Australian bird with a bright red face and deep blue chest picks its way through the marsh grass of an inland lake.

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Marche de Noel (Christmas Fair) in Normandy, France

We have the most glorious place to hold the annual Christmas market here in our part of Normandy — the huge medieval market hall where the normal Monday market is held.

This past weekend — the 10th and 11th of December — was the annual Marche de Noel and we were quite lucky to have a relatively mild day with lots of sunshine for the two days of markets. Much nicer than a frigid and wet weekend, eh?

Enjoy!

The heart of the Marche de Noel (Christmas Fair) in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in the Calvados region of Normandy, France is the medieval market hall in the centre of town.

The heart of the Marche de Noel (Christmas Fair) in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in the Calvados region of Normandy, France is the medieval market hall in the centre of town.

Just inside the entry, I hadn’t expected to find a manger set up with LIVE animals (and very well behaved ones at that!).

Manger with live animals set up inside the Marche de Noel in the medieval market hall of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Manger with live animals set up inside the Marche de Noel in the medieval market hall of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

The twinkling lights inside the market hall added to the festive air whilst shopping.

The twinkling lights inside the market hall added to the festive air whilst shopping.

Yummy cheese for sale at the Christmas market.

Yummy cheese for sale at the Christmas market.

Each stall in the medieval market hall was doing a brisk business.

Each stall in the medieval market hall was doing a brisk business.

A variety of marinated olives on offer.

A variety of marinated olives on offer.

Personalised wine bottles for various events like birthdays and anniversaries.

Personalised wine bottles for various events like birthdays and anniversaries.

More small stalls outside under cover.

More small stalls outside under cover.

The balloon seller waiting for some customers.

The balloon seller waiting for some customers.

A surprising lunch option -- sausages and beer from Germany from the town that is 'twinned' with Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

A surprising lunch option — sausages and beer from Germany from the town that is ‘twinned’ with Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Inside stalls in the Salle des Fetes across from the Market Hall.

Inside stalls in the Salle des Fetes across from the Market Hall.

Lovely Christmas ornaments for sale.

Lovely Christmas ornaments for sale.

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The Medieval Abbey of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in Normandy

There is no way to miss this impressive abbey from anywhere within the small town of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives. And it is easily visible as you drive across the Calvados countryside, too. It’s quite wonderful to be living a mere ten minutes away from a place like this.

Founded in 1011 by Countess Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror — the abbey has undergone a variety of extensions and renovations over the subsequent centuries and those renovations continue right into the present day. Here’s a small photo essay of this truly gorgeous abbey.

A glimpse of the medieval abbey towers of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives can be seen all throughout the town and from several miles/kilometres away as you drive across the landscape of Calvados in Normandy, France. Founded in 1011 by Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror, the abbey has been enlarged, rebuilt, or renovated several times over the following centuries.

A glimpse of the medieval abbey towers of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives can be seen all throughout the town and from several miles/kilometres away as you drive across the landscape of Calvados in Normandy, France. Founded in 1011 by Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror, the abbey has been enlarged, rebuilt, or renovated several times over the following centuries.

Exterior view of stained glass-filled chapels at the Abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Exterior view of stained glass-filled chapels at the Abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Chapel containing the grave of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

Chapel containing the grave of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

The gravestone of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

The gravestone of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

The main altar area of the abbey.

The main altar area of the abbey.

A side aisle in the abbey.

A side aisle in the abbey.

A rather curious set of stairs to nowhere.

A rather curious set of stairs to nowhere.

Abbey interior.

Abbey interior.

Lovely angles and arches.

Lovely angles and arches.

A drawing of the original layout -- much of which on the outer perimeter facing the gardens is being restored at present.

A drawing of the original layout — much of which on the outer perimeter facing the gardens is being restored at present.

These are the buildings along the outer part of the Abbey complex -- the ones that are facing the gardens in the illustration above. The French government sold these buildings off after the Revolution and they have gradually been repurchased. Some of them are in perilous condition and are being properly renovated now.

These are the buildings along the outer part of the Abbey complex — the ones that are facing the gardens in the illustration above. The French government sold these buildings off after the Revolution and they have gradually been repurchased. Some of them are in perilous condition and are being properly renovated now.

Simple chairs against a lovely metalwork enclosure near the main altar.

Simple chairs against a lovely metalwork enclosure near the main altar.

The ever-present candles.

The ever-present candles.

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Photo Of The Day — The Carrot Carrying Man in Normandy

Just in case you wondered about those HUGE sacks of carrots in my Monday Market post, here’s a man hefting one of them across the square towards his car.

So when I wondered aloud if they’re for animals or people — Mark commented, ‘One would think that he’s a man with a horse or two!’

Carrot sack toting man at weekly market in rural Normandy.

Carrot sack toting man at weekly market in rural Normandy.

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Monday Market in Rural France

One of the joys in living in Europe is the quality of markets — no, not supermarkets (and those are frequently quite delightful, too!) — regional weekly markets where the products are straight from the fields or cheesemaker or butcher or fishmonger into your shopping basket. AND they are picturesque as well!

Here are a few scenes from our Monday market inside and outside the medieval market hall in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in Calvados, Normandy, France. Enjoy!

Fruit & veg at Monday Market.

Fruit & veg including HUGE sacks of carrots at the Monday Market.

Market vendors outside the medieval hall.

Market vendors outside the medieval hall.

Feathered friends and pretty plants.

Feathered friends and pretty plants.

Shopping baskets (yes -- I'm going to buy a new one!) and flowering plants.

Shopping baskets (yes — I’m going to buy a new one!) and flowering plants.

And finally — the clothing on offer may not be to our taste — but someone must want it!

A variety of clothing is sold at the Monday market.

A variety of clothing is sold at the Monday market.

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