France: 26 May 1975

Woke to lovely sunshine, the grounds look beautiful and peaceful. Cooked a bacon breakfast much to Andrew’s relief, though Gareth, who was very tired, didn’t want any. Afterwards did a load of washing – lots of hot water, lovely clean loos etc. – and set off after a chat with le Marquis, very refined. Drove off to Caen through simply lovely country, gently undulating, wooded, orchards in full bloom and carpeted with buttercups. The farm buildings are very pretty, mostly brown and white half-timbered, some thatched, and sitting in the middle of these orchards. It all looks very prosperous – well-kept farms, healthy looking brown and white or all white cows grazing, and a heavenly smell of apple blossom in the air. Went along a busy road to Caen which was a bustling and enormous place, full of heavy industry.

Went through Bayeux, arriving at 12.00, a fatal time as of course the museums and everything else close then. After a chat with some friendly New Zealanders, adjourned to the Cathedral grounds for our picnic lunch, with the ubiquitous cider of course. Sun very warm, it was all very pleasant. Returned to the tapestries and waited till 2.00pm when they at last opened. They are housed in a long room where they form a continuous strip round the wall – about 230′ long altogether, and about 2′ deep. The amount of detail is amazing; as well as the actual story of the Conquest there are lots of pictures of farming, hunting, etc. It was all very impressive and definitely not to be missed. Chatted with a Venezuelan pair and then drove to Arromanches for a real contrast. First impressions were of the incredible size of the Mulberry Harbour, chunks of which were still in place – it was vast. The invasion took place at about this time of the year – June 6th, but how different it all looks now. Visited a very good museum with excellent models showing how complex it all was. Lots of things to fascinate us all – parachutes, uniforms, guns, etc. pictures and many other souvenirs. Saw a diorama explaining what happened, also a film, and we were all very impressed. The whole thing was inspired! The Germans must have been hopping mad when they discovered it all – a complete harbour brought over in about a fortnight.

Afterwards looked at the guns and tanks outside, then sat on the beach for a while. The children built a sand fortress, kept them very busy. Still couldn’t get over it all when the time came to leave, and kept talking about it. Drove back home through Caen – shops all open at 8.00pm! – and hair-raising traffic. Stopped at the Carrefour hypermarket in a big complex of hypermarkets, but very disappointed in the merchandise, much poorer quality than Strasbourg. Bought some sole fillets and cider, and came home. Cooked these and bought some veal escalopes cooked by Madame, and had a super tea! Andrew ate masses of sole, we retired replete.

Looking across the lake at le Brévedent


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