Vacances en France – 2018 – Disappointment


Our last day at the gite, before heading up through France to visit family in Achiete-le-Grande. Time to tie up a few loose ends.

On numerous occasions, when heading out to visit places of interest, we had passed a sign with the name “Calmejane”. We always referred to it as Call Me Jane. Never having been down that lane we decided to explore. Turns out that the sign post indicated the name of the family that lived at the end of the lane, a dead end or should I perhaps use the French cul-de-sac ?

Similarly, we had passed this field with donkeys. On this occasion we stopped to say hello. They were very friendly and curious. Sad to say they were expecting treats and we had none. They were quick to snort their disgust and soon lost interest in us. They were very cute.

Having disappointed the donkeys, by turning up without any treats, we decided to follow road past the donkey field. Just to see where it led. After a couple of kilometers, we found that it led to a small group of private houses. Another dead end, a cul-de-sac. There were some great views en-route though. Disappointed, we enjoyed the same views on the way back to the donkeys.

The Road To Nowhere

We then drove down to Vic-sur-Cere to get fuel and cash in preparation for our journey north, this being our last day at the gite.

We had cleaned and packed earlier, so we were basically killing time until we could go to a restaurant for an evening meal. Big mistake….

We should have found somewhere to eat at lunch time. Waiting until 19:00 before approaching our restaurant of choice was a huge fail. No only was the restaurant closed but the hotel, Hôtel Restaurant Beauséjour, seemed to be too !!! Our second choice, Casino de Vic Sur Cère, was open but there was a private function in full flow complete with live band. The restaurant itself was shut. Similarly, several other local restaurants were closed. The only viable choice seemed to be to travel into Aurillac, a thirty plus minute drive. Not far but neither of us really wanted to do that. So it was back to the gite.

In anticipation of our departure, we had run our food stocks down. We had bacon, eggs and cheese and bread. So our Sunday meal consisted of eggs and bacon on toasted french baguette. It was actually very good, but was the cheapest sunday meal and I didn’t even get a tip.

Vacances en France – 2018 – Murat, St Flour and Garabit


Headed out north today, to visit the town of Murat.

The following is from France-Voyage

A mid-mountain municipality at the foot of the Mounts of Cantal, in the Alagnon glacial valley, Murat is a Station Verte-certified “green resort” in the Massif Central. At the crossroads of Haute-Auvergne, this picturesque medieval town backs onto the basaltic rock of Bonnevie, which towers over the historic centre. In the Middle Ages, Murat was a fortified town and a major road hub, which encouraged trade. Many fairs and markets were held there. Two other volcanic mountains surround it, the Bredons Rock and the Chastel-sur-Murat Rock.

Many old houses, some of which are listed Historic Monuments, provide a reminder of the medieval and Renaissance period. Must-see sights on a walk along the streets of the old town: the consular house, one of Murat’s gems with its 15th-century façade; the old bailiwick house from the 16th century on Place de la Boucherie; the Collegiate Church of Our Lady of the Olive Trees (Notre-Dame-des-Oliviers), built between the 12th and the 14th centuries, with its statues and altarpieces from the 17th and 19th centuries; the Hurgon House on Rue du Bon-Secours. The old town with its grey roofs and Bonnevie Rock, with the statue of Our Lady of Haute-Auvergne towering over it, form a beautiful group, where the buildings are mainly made of natural materials from the region, such as wood, flagstone and volcanic stone.

The views from the road as we travelled along were very pretty ….

As described above, Murat is a pretty town, with lots of interesting buildings and meandering narrow streets. On our arrival we noted the bunting on all the streets including many conical decorations.

These, we discovered, were in honor of the cornets / cones for which the town is renowned.

I took a short dip into the Church of St. Martin ……

The following are a few photographs showing the variety of architectural and artistic sights around the town….

Whilst meandering our way around the town we found ourselves outside a nice cafe which we entered for a spot of lunch and, after loading up with calories, it only seemed right that we should burn some off. So we decided to climb up to rocher de Bonnevie, a monument mounted on a high, rocky outcrop, overlooking the town. 

Shortly after setting out toward the summit, I was puffing and blowing like an old steam train. However the stunning views were well worth the 15-20 minute of effort. Jane put my exertions to shame by sprinting up the last 100 meters or so to the summit at 984 metres.

Heading down always seems like it is going to be much easier, however the steepness of the slope and the uneven surface put quite a bit of strain on the knee joints.

From Murat, we travelled to St Flour. The satnag took us in through the higher town, thru the hectic traffic and down to lower town. Unfortunately, we were not impressed with the lower town. Subsequently we discovered that most of the interesting bits are up top.

Not wanting to wrestle with the traffic again, we took a few snaps of the lower town before heading out to see the Garabit Viaduct.

From Wikipedia ….

The Garabit Viaduct (Viaduc de Garabit in French) is a railway arch bridge spanning the Truyère, near Ruynes-en-Margeride, Cantal, France, in the mountainous Massif Central region.

The bridge was constructed between 1882 and 1884 by Gustave Eiffel, with structural engineering by Maurice Koechlin, and was opened in 1885. It is 565 m (1,854 ft) in length and has a principal arch of 165 m (541 ft) span.

The viaduct is quite impressive and well worth the visit…..

Vacances en France – 2018 – A Little Bit Of Gastro


Sorry to say that after the previous days trip out to Tournemire and Salers, two of our party were suffering from Ghandis Revenge. Since we ate and drank pretty much the same stuff, the fact that the gastro was only affecting two of us remained a mystery. So, it  was decided we would have a quiet day at the gite. The weather was, once again, really good, so no real hardship. While the sun worshippers reclined, just a short, easy, sprint to the loo. I grabbed my camera and took a walk up to the village.

 

The local cattle have a way of looking at you, as if to say …. “Do you really know what you are doing ?”, “Should you be out un-supervised?”

 

Badailhac is a French commune , located in the  department of Cantal  in  the  Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region. Up until about three years ago the village had a population of around 130 people. It has a church and town hall / school, a football ground but no shop or hostelries. It is the epitome of a sleepy french village.

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Local sign, telling me to go back to the gite.

Dominating the skyline over Badailhac is the local church, Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste

From the website of Fondation du Patrimoine (Heritage Foundation)

The church was built in the late sixteenth century as a modest chapel served by the clergy of Raulhac. It disappeared during the wars of religion, but was rebuilt under the reign of Henry IV and completed in 1625.

Became a parish church, and in very bad condition, it was rebuilt a second time in 1886, thanks to the generosity of Bishop Géraud Soubrier, Bishop of Oran.

Thanks to a donation made in 2007 by a family from the town, important work was done inside the church: plaster, jointing stones, plaster and whitewash on the vaults, heating and electrical circuits redone to nine, restoration of most joinery, furniture and central chandelier.

The decoration was favored with the creation of a rosette around the chandelier, friezes highlighting the stained glass and a magnificent fresco in the bottom of the church.

 

Badailhac is a very quiet village. On my walk, over the space of an hour and a half I didn’t see a single person, or vehicle. Other than the occasional bird or insect it is absolutely silent.

 

For my walking efforts I just got dehydrated and a blister on my foot. Shortly after I arrived back at the gite, we were visited by the French Air Force …

Much later we sat outside and stared at the sky. There is so little ambient light at the gite you can actually see the milky way. There was no  moon, but Venus was shining brightly. On this particular night we were also blessed with another light show, a thunderstorm. It was a long way off, so we couldn’t hear the thunder, but the colourful flashes were very bright.

Vacances en France – 2018 -Tournemire and Salers


Tuesday, the 12th day of our holiday. We were up, bright and breezy, and after a quick breakfast piled into the car and headed off to Tournemire. Gerry and I had visited before, but thought Dave and Jane would like a look too. We arrived after an hour or so drive.
Driving along the Doire valley, as you near Tournermire,  one is presented with a spectacular view of  the Château d’Anjony.

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Château d’Anjony at Tournermire

And then the village of Tournemire comes into view.

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Château d’Anjony with Tournermire Village

From France This Way ….

Tournemire village is situated 15 kilometres north of Aurillac, in the Massif Central (Auvergne region) of central France. The village is classed among the ‘most beautiful villages of France’, and is situated on a tree covered hill overlooking the valley of the River Doire and falls in the Cantal mountains at the southern edge of the Natural Park of the Auvergne volcanoes.

The history of the village is tied up with two families – the Tournemire and the Anjony, and their battles to control the village.

Public vehicles are not allowed in the village, however a substantial car park is provided, where you can park for the princely sum of  one whole euro. As with our previous visit, the tourist office was closed when we arrived, so we were unable to pay the parking charge.

The village is just a short walk from the car park.

Strolling through the village we decided to stop at small coffee shop. Unbeknown to us, we were stepping into an alternative universe.

We sat at a table that had just been vacated by a group of British motorcyclists. A lady came out, we assumed she wanted to know what we would like. As two of our group wanted milky coffee we asked for “Deux café au lait”. The lady didn’t seem to understand “café au lait”, neither did she understand “café avec lait”. This was proving to be really difficult so Dave said he would have an espresso. So we tried “un expresso”. Again we were met with a look of non-comprehension. Gerry wanted an Orangina so we asked for one. Again the lady just looked at us. I asked her to come with me to the front of the premises, where a menu was displayed in the window. I indicated that we wanted coffee, Orangina and tea, all of which were itemised on said menu. All this achieved was for her to squint at the menu, with her nose virtually pressed to the glass. She did say something when I pointed to where it said “thé / infusion”. She read the word infusion and I said yes that’s what I want. But she still didn’t seem to understand. Feeling really frustrated I tried to enlist the help of a couple of ladies who were walking by. I asked if they understood English hoping they could help with translation.

Apparently neither spoke English but one trotted off down into the village. I assumed she had gone to get someone who could help. She disappeared for quite a while, abandoning her friend who shrugged helplessly. As time was marching on we decided to give up on the drink. I walked down the street with the abandoned lady and her friend suddenly reappeared. I indicated to them that we were giving up and thanked them for their time.

This was one of the weirdest experiences. Never have we been unable to order drinks or food in France. It has, subsequently, been suggested that perhaps she didn’t want to serve us because we were British. If so, she is the first anglophobe that I have ever met.

Resigned to being thirsty, we carried on exploring the streets of Tournemire.

and the 12th century roman style church (L’Eglise de Tournemire en Auvergne).

Walking on through the village, eventually you come to Château d’Anjony. Per our previous visit it was closed until after 14:00.

We all agreed that it was time for a drink and headed back through the village and up to the Auberge de Tournemire we had passed earlier.

Tournemire – Auberge de Tournemire

We sat, enjoying our drinks and the view. While we were sat drinking we were approached by a guy asking if we owned a black VW, which of course we didn’t. There was no explanation as to why he was asking, then he was gone. As we sat there, totally relaxed, the decision was made that we would stop for lunch. Our host was a good sport, playfully teasing as I tried out my French, gently correcting my pronunciation. We all had one of the set menu lunches. Three of us had steak with truffade, while I had the charcuterie, also with truffade.

From Wikipedia ….

Truffade is a rural dish traditionally associated with Auvergne in France. It is a sort of thick pancake made with thinly sliced potatoes that are slowly cooked in goose fat until tender, then mixed with thin strips of tome fraiche (which is very different from actual tomme cheese: the recipe will fail if tomme cheese is used, since that melts in a very different way). This mixture is stirred until it sticks together in a sort of thick pastry, which is sometimes decorated with fresh parsley and may be served with a simple green salad.

We all followed the mains with a selection of local cheeses. Cantal, Bleu Auvergne and Saint Nazaire. Very tasty.

Needless to say, after a quite substantial meal, we were reluctant to move. But move we did, back to the car and on to Salers. As we were driving out of the car park, it became clear why we were asked, earlier, about the VW. Someone had parked their VW  Golf and not made sure the hand brake was sound. The car had rolled across the car park and into the  side of a motor home. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall for the upcoming conversation between the two drivers.

Salers is about a forty minute drive, north of Tournemire, the route taking us through beautiful countryside.

From France This Way ….

Salers, listed among the most beautiful villages of France, is 42 kilometres north of Aurillac in the Massif Central (Auvergne region) and is at the western edge of the Cantal volcanic region.

Salers has origins that can be traced back almost 1000 years ago, but it was during the boom years of the 15th century that much of the current town was constructed. Salers describes itself as ‘a black diamond on a green carpet’, a quite appropriate description, because of the dark grey volcanic stone used to build many of the beautiful buildings in the town.

 

So, arriving at Salers, we parked up on the edge of town. Our first destination was the souvenir shop Les Sagranier, where Gerry and I picked up a few small hand towels to match those that we had purchased on our previous visit. Then we began to explore the town.

One of the more colourful businesses, in Salers, is Maison Servans, a Patisserie / Confiserie. The exterior of the store is decorated with characters from the Hansel and Gretel fairy story.

While the others were being distracted by the local brocante (bric-a-brac / second-hand) shops, I ducked into the local church,  the 13th century Eglise Saint Mathieu …

 

There are many narrow streets in and around Salers, with many nooks and crannies….

Many of the side streets provide glimpses of the past lives, none more so than the various doors and archways…..

Some of the doors are so robust, one wonders what they are keeping secure. Or, are they an indication of violent times gone by.

The elevated location of Salers provides glorious views of the surrounding countryside ….

… volcanoes silhouetted against blue skies….

…and rolling hills carpeted with lush green forests.

If you ever in this region, Salers must be high on your list of places to visit.

Vacances en France – 2018 – La Calsade 2


 

Tuesday, the 5th day of our holiday, and we decided to have a slow day with absolutely no driving. Gerry laundered our four days worth of travel clothing and hung it out on the line. The fabulous, sunny weather and a gentle breeze made short work drying our stuff.

While the laundry was drying Gerry was making the most of the sun, soaking up the rays. Laying in the sun, sizzling, is not really my thing. I prefer to get my tan whilst on the move. So, I took myself off to wander the lanes around the gite and check out the views.

Immediately next door, is a building suitable for turning into another gite …

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A doer upper, perhaps a candidate for a second gite.

La Calsade, as well as being the home to a dairy herd, they are also producers of the very tasty Cantal and Salers cheeses.

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GAEC stands for Groupement Agricole d’Exploitation en Commun (Agricultural Farming Association). The fromagerie, next door to our gite, is on the regional cheese tour and there were several tour coaches during our stay. Given the steep and winding nature of the access roads to this place, I give the coach drivers top marks for negotiating the many hairpin bends.

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Another building ripe for development as a gite.

This building would have near 360 degree views and, in my opinion, was another contender for conversion to a gite.

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Another view of a building ripe for development as a gite.

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A typical Cantal view

La Calsade and the village of Badailhac are about 1000 metres above sea level, hence the spectacular views.

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Winter feed for the cattle

I came across stacks of these all around the farm. Being enclosed in black plastic one can only imagine the temperature inside. I can tell you that, based on the aroma emanating from them, they probably contain silage. Many of the fields close by were growing maize which I know is used to make silage.

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Nature vs Machine

I don’t know how long this machine had been standing but nature was making a good go at reclaiming the land on which it stood.

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Another Cantal View

My wanderings had taken me around behind the main part of the farm …

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The back-side of La Calsade

… the buildings look much larger from this angle. From our gite, seen end on, they appear smaller.

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The trail back to the gite and an ice cold beer

Eventually, my thirst got the better of me. I could hear the bottles of Leffe beer calling my name from the refrigerator.
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So I retraced my steps, rejoined Gerry, and we enjoyed a bottle or two of that ice-cold Nectar while we sat in the late afternoon sunshine and watched the evening parade of cattle heading in for milking.

Vacances en France – 2018 – La Calsade


On day four of our holiday in France, our stay at Maison Volière was completed by a very nice breakfast, supplemented with fresh fruit from Ian and Anthony’s own fruit trees. Packed and once again on the road, our journey south from La Souterraine was, trouble-free. Apparently, there were no other Brits on the road, leastways, none that we observed. And, after three hours or so, we arrived in Aurillac.

About Aurillac ….. from www.france-voyage.com

The former capital of Haute-Auvergne, Aurillac‘s origins date back to Gallo-Roman times and the town nestles at the foot of the Mounts of Cantal, on the banks of the Jordanne. This small Cantal river brings a very special charm to the town, especially in the Pont Rouge area, where you can enjoy a lovely view of the picturesque old houses by the water.

The thousand-year-old town of Aurillac boasts a rich architectural heritage. There is a historical circuit which you can follow to see the old town’s attractions: the Abbey Church of St. Gerald, the remains of an old Benedictine abbey, the Romanesque façade of the Abbey Hospital of St. Gerald with its arcades and small columns, the Renaissance-style Consuls’ Mansion, featuring mullioned windows and sculptures, Aurinques Chapel, built during the reign of Henry IV in the 16th century, or the famous Place du Square, an ideal place to take a stroll and unwind, can all be admired along the way.

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Aurillac – Looks like a student rag week attack on this statue.

Aurillac is the biggest town near to our gite and so it was here that we intended to have a spot of lunch, and also obtain some basic grocery supplies before heading on to the gite. After parking, in an underground car park, we strolled around the central area that is Place du Square. Eventually settling in at Le Milk, Bar / Brasserie, for a little liquid refreshment and a bite to eat.

It seems that it was the start of the college term and there seemed to be many students and their parents shuffling along the street, loaded down with books and bits of furniture. Presumably moving into their new lodgings for the duration. Hopefully a  stylish apartment and not some grotty garret.

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Aurillac – The French Capital of Umbrellas

From Wikipedia …..

Historic French capital of umbrellas with half of French production – 250,000 units in 1999 – and provides 100 jobs. After declining for several decades at the end of the 20th century, Aurillac umbrella producers decided to join their forces and created the Economic Interest Group, or GIE in 1997. They then launched their products under a single label, L’aurillac Parapluie (The Aurillac Umbrella).

We had a pleasant lunch at Le Milk and, suitably refueled, we headed out to forage for food. Locating a small eight till late style convenience store, we stocked up on the basics for the start of our three-week stay.

Supplies purchased we set of in search of Badailhac and our gite. The satnag did it’s stuff and we were soon climbing the steep serpentine roads up to Badailhac. Gerry came to consider this road, and several others, to be similar to a white knuckle ride at a theme park. Anyway the satnag directed us up, and ever upwards to and thru Badailhac, on to La Calsade.

Parking up on the driveway of our home for the next three weeks, our real adventure began.

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Gite – La Calsade, Badailhac, France

Firstly we had to locate our host. I rang her and determined that she was at the fromagerie, next door. I met her, introduced myself, and soon realised that communication was going to be a challenge. She had no English and my command of the French language is anything but conversational. I believe the correct term is “fractured and bastardised”.

Somehow we muddled along, as she showed us our new accommodations. Taking us to each room, showing us how the cooker worked, where the BBQ and sun loungers were kept and so forth. We went through the readings on the utility meter and then she was gone, and we were left to our own devices. The next hour or so was spent unpacking, finding homes for all of our gear and newly acquired groceries.

And then it was time to sit down with a nice cup of tea and relax in the sunshine and admire the near 180 degree view.

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La Calsade – The Long View

What really helped was the knowledge that we could truly relax, knowing that we didn’t have to get up in the morning and spend another day driving. Although our daily driving rate was quite light, we had covered around 900km (550 miles) over 4 days.

Gerry was a little down when we first arrived. She thought that the gite was a bit dark inside. This was in part due to the thickness of the walls and comparative small size of the windows. The interior lighting was also not brilliant. In addition we hadn’t spotted the washing machine. It did, however, put in an appearance. It was lurking in corner of  the bathroom (upstairs), not visible to us on our original tour. We should have guessed as this is not the first time we have encountered a washing machine in a bathroom.

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Still, sitting outside, relaxing, admiring the view we were treated to what was to become the daily ritual. The gite, being on a working dairy farm, was ideally placed to observe the grand parade of cattle. Walking pretty much single file, the herd of just under fifty, were followed by the farmer on his quad bike and escorted by his black dog.

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Sitting with our cup of tea, we came to the conclusion that life doesn’t get much better than this.

 

 

Vacances en France – 2018 – Wimereux


Just over a month ago we set off on holiday. And so it was that we found ourselves en-route to Badailhac in the Cantal region of France. We had rented a gite for three weeks and the intent was to spend our time exploring the countryside and sampling the local cuisine.

Although it is possible to drive down in one go, we prefer to take the leisurely route and were stopping over night at Wimereux, Chartres and La Souterraine.

Setting off, we had a trouble-free journey from home to the Eurotunnel Shuttle terminal at Folkestone. So good was our journey that we were offered a place on the 12:36 departure, almost an hour earlier than our original booking.

It was of course too good to be true. We headed towards the shuttle, arrived at the UK checkpoint and ground to a halt. The UK checkpoint was running four lanes but the French passport control were only running two.

We sat there twiddling our thumbs for some time before starting to creep up to the French booths. Then we were through, having missed the the 12:36.

Imagine what it will be like when BREXIT kicks in and us Brits are no longer considere EUropeans.

Never mind it was a nice sunny day. Nothing I like more than sitting in a queue, knowing you have thirty minutes to wait, and the twat in the car in the next lane to you is sitting there being really eco-friendly with his engine running. I don’t know, but I’m guessing that VW forgot to install an off switch in their Scirocco models. Not just that but his windows are down, just like mine, and he decides to treat everyone to some bangra dub gangsta rap crap.

Just to add to the irritation, approaching our new departure time, the passenger from the Scirocco buggers off to the toilets. Then it’s ” gentlemen start your engines” and lane after lane of cars head for the train. All except for the one next to us, which has to go before ours. They can’t move because Mr Sciroccos mate hasn’t come back.

Things had just started to look like the January sales at Harrods, with cars crossing lanes to get past the offending vehicle, when the missing passenger returns. Then they were off and, eventually, so were we.

Loading onto a shuttle always seems, to me, to be highly efficient. Before long we had been swallowed into the belly of the shuttle. It does seem like you are driving halfway to France, so long is the train. Quickly we were all loaded, engine off, hand brake on, gear stick in first and within minutes moving away from Folkestone and heading under the sea.

Just 35 minutes later our shuttle burst into the sunlight and we were in Calais, France. Once the train has stopped the efficiency continued with every vehicle regurgitated from the shuttles belly, out onto the French roads. There are no checkpoints, it’s a controlled sprint for the autoroutes, all aimed to clear you from the area as quickly as possible.

Then we really felt like our holiday had begun. Driving on the wrong side of the road, frantically trying to convert kilometre speed limits into miles per hour. (The kilometre markings on my speedo are too small for me to read whilst on the move).

The satnag did a grand job and got us to the B&B with no errors. However, we were too early to check in so we headed down to the seaside town of Wimereux.

What a pretty place …

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Wimereux – Apartments and Beach Huts

Some of the folks, outside these beach huts, obviously had a passion for the sun. Just an observation based on the deep tan they were sporting.

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Wimereux – Beautiful Seaside Town

Lots of folks were promenading or just sitting, absorbing the suns rays. I don’t know what the sea water temperature was. But given the weather this summer I am guessing that it would be quite warm. Many people were happily swimming about.

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Wimereux – French style with an Egyptian flavour

According to Wikipedia ……

The seaside development was started during the Second Empire, resulting in a remarkable architectural ensemble of houses and buildings typical of the Belle Époque, which are still very well maintained to this day.

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Wimereux – St Louis

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Wimereux – Needs some TLC

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Wimereux – Hotel L’Atlantic

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Wimereux – Beach Huts

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Wimereux – Colourful buildings

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Wimereux – Colourful and ornate

While in Wimereux we had a spot of lunch at Brasserie Les Oyats.  Situated right on the promenade, we had a substantial lunch with views along the seafront and out to sea.

After a gentle stroll along the prom, enjoying the sunshine and the fresh sea air, we decided to head back to the B&B to check in.

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The satnag got us there in no time and we introduced ourselves to our host who showed us to our accommodation. We were gobsmacked. We had been expecting a room with en-suite.

What we actually got was a small, one bedroom cottage. All that was missing was a kitchen. We had our own front door and even had our own terrace with sun loungers , accessed through the back door.

Once we were installed, we made tea and sat out on the terrace which was benefitting from the clear skies and sunshine. Across the terrace there is an orchard and from under the trees came a flock of chickens, coming to investigate the strangers.

The cockerel kept his distance, but kept a watchful eye while the hens came in search of food around our deck chairs. One, a plump white hen, even followed me when I took a stroll across the grass to take a look out over the fields.

I jokingly said I would steal her to take to our gite, a kind of chicken dinner carry-out.

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It was nice to be relaxing after our earlier drive.