Tag Archives: europe

Breathtaking Brittany — Multiple Posts Coming Up!

We’re on the road in Brittany right now — taking a much needed holiday. I’ll have a whole series of posts from Dinan and Morlaix and the Finistere and Quimper. From ancient towns filled with half-timbered or stone buildings to pre-historic standing stones to gothic cathedrals — this part of France is simply stunning.

Just a tease or two — so shhhh — come back soon!

Rooftop Jumble in the historic city of Quimper in the Finistere Brittany, France.

Side entry of the Cathedral in Quimper, Brittany, France.

Standing stones near Camaret-sur-Mer

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Photo Of The Day — The Woman In Red in Vimoutiers

Seriously — it’s moments like this that make you smile.

This tiny little woman in a red jacket wouldn’t have even been shoulder height on me. And there she was on a Saturday afternoon, dressed in her bright red wool jacket and making her way through the French town of Vimoutiers in Normandy. I hope I’m still getting around that well when I’m her esteemed age!

Old woman in a red coat walking in front of a historic church in Vimoutiers, Normandy, France.

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Refresh — Regroup — Relaunch

You may have noticed a significant absence of posts for the last three months — and that’s because Mark has been working away like a busy little bee over in the 1400s house. And I’ve been carefully building a base of clients for my writing and editing business.

We took a much-needed weekend escape at the end of February — over to the far western side of Normandy in beachside Brehal. We didn’t do a lot — ate, slept, read, watched movies, and had a few outings in the icy cold weather. But it was a good break and we came back feeling refreshed.

Mark looking out to sea in Brehal, Normandy, France

Mark looking out to sea in Brehal, Normandy, France

A moules (mussels) farm at the seaside in Normandy, France.

A moules (mussels) farm at the seaside in Normandy, France.

On an afternoon drive along the seacoast, we stumbled upon this medieval chateau ruin from the 14th Century in Regneville sur Mer and had a quick walk around. It’s a tiny but very pretty village facing the sea.

The corner of a 14th Century chateau ruin in the seaside village of Regneville sur Mer, Normandy, France.

The corner of a 14th Century chateau ruin in the seaside village of Regneville sur Mer, Normandy, France.

What was meant to be a short hop back over to England for Mark’s parents’ 40th anniversary party ended up being a two week visit instead. It’s always wonderful to visit with them and see all of the other assorted family and friends, but everyone in the house ended up sick as could be with whatever lurghi was hanging around England at the time and I ended up in A&E getting meds for a chest infection when our local GP couldn’t see me. Aarrgghh!

Margaret & Brian Harmes at 40th Anniversary Party

Margaret & Brian Harmes at 40th Anniversary Party

We arrived back in France exactly 4 weeks after our icy cold visit to the seaside in Brehal — and everything here at the farmhouse in Notre Dame de Fresnay had burst into bloom!

View of the Normandy countryside through the bedroom window in Notre Dame de Fresnay.

View of the Normandy countryside through the bedroom window in Notre Dame de Fresnay.

Daffodils beside the old well.

Daffodils beside the old well.

Down by the duck pond.

Down by the duck pond.

We’re preparing to move on from here in three very compressed weeks. But we’re headed to the OTHER large house belonging to the owners of this house — and we’ll be there for 6 weeks whilst Mark does renovation work on it. I’ll send pictures of that project as it progresses.

The REGROUP and RELAUNCH part of the title refers to us regrouping, going over to England for several weeks at the end of June, and trying to decide if we want to settle down or continue to work and travel for awhile longer. That’s a longer stand-alone post about the turbulent social and political factors at play here in Europe right now, so we’ll save that for another time.

I have to be truthful, it’s one of those things that sneaks up on you a bit as you get older — the mental cushion of a home base. And right now our ‘home base’ is a huge storage unit full of our possessions in England — one we refer to far too often when we reach for something and then realise that it’s in the $%^&£@! storage unit!

In the next couple of months, we will be relaunching ourselves away from here. And I have ALSO just relaunched my personal website — but I’ll leave that for a follow-up post.

Back soonish!

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Christmas Lights in Calvados, Normandy, France

It’s the first week of January in an icy cold winter and we had a short ramble around Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives on a Friday night after Christmas. It was only 8 PM and we were rather surprised at just how few people were out and about. The streets were practically empty — but that did allow me to get some good photos of the Christmas lights.

Enjoy!

Christmas lights in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in the Calvados region of Normandy, France.

Christmas lights in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in the Calvados region of Normandy, France.

Christmas lights in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Christmas lights in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Christmas lights on the town hall in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Christmas lights on the town hall in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

A cold and wintery night outside the medieval market hall in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in the Calvados region of Normandy, France at Christmas time.

A cold and wintery night outside the medieval market hall in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in the Calvados region of Normandy, France at Christmas time.

The only place in the village that was busy on a Friday night -- the kebab shop!

The only place in the village that was busy on a Friday night — the kebab shop!

And finally — my favourite image — Mark in silhouette as he walks down a narrow street near the market square.

A man walks down a darkened street in northern France in mid-winter.

A man walks down a darkened street in northern France in mid-winter.

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A Farmhouse Christmas in Normandy, France

Just a few quick pics today of our quiet just-us-two Christmas in France.

Back soon!

Festive touches in the French farmhouse.

Festive touches in the French farmhouse.

A bit of Christmas in the French farmhouse.

A bit of Christmas in the French farmhouse.

A tiny bit of candlelight for dinner.

A tiny bit of candlelight for dinner.

Pull that cork, Mark!

Pull that cork, Mark!

Prosecco on the way...

Prosecco on the way…

Bubbly in the farmhouse...

Bubbly in the farmhouse…

Selfies in the kitchen as we cook...

Selfies in the kitchen as we cook…

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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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