Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Oxfordshire Cricks arrive in Normandy

Tuesday 20th July

It’s very hot but a bit grey today and we are going to nip over to check out a possible campsite for the Oxfordshire Crick’s family hols. Well what a disappointment, they wouldn’t take bookings and said you can turn up on the day and see if there is a pitch vacant. Also it was ½ mile to the beach down a busy road and when we went to look at the beach it was covered in very smelly seaweed, unlike the other beaches all along here which are great! We did look at a couple of other sites which were either unsuitable or full. Eventually, as we wanted to do our washing and also Joan’s hair we booked into a very nice site in a place called Merville- Franceville Plage. There is a lovely beach 300 metres away and the town is only ½ mile so tomorrow we will have a wander around and then off to the beach.

It could only happen to Joan, having obtained the little token for the machine and loaded it all up it won’t work! Having been called, I did all the manly things like banging it and checking it was plugged in etc, then went around to the office. Oh no that one doesn’t work, they said as if I should have known, try the one next to reception. Now if something does not work before you get there, why is it my fault that she has loaded it and put her soap plus softener in? Anyway we bundle it all up and try the other machine. Hurray it works! Clothes are washed and we hang them out on the line erected just in time by yours truly. It dries nicely = very happy small person.

Wednesday 21st July

Oh dear, small person has face like smacked bum, it’s raining!!! This apparently is a major disaster as we need to wash our sheets and seat covers? Joan is mollified when I point out gently that it cannot be helped, God controls the weather and anyway they have a drier here. At this point as if to prove me right, it rains even harder! As this is a labour intensive process our trip to town is postponed as hair also needs attention.
Hurrah we have finally got “the Oxfordshire Cricks” booked in for the whole nine days! Joan was getting really worried that they would arrive and not have anywhere to stay. Having spent an hour with the lady in the office we have finally agreed to spend 6 nights on one pitch and then move to another just around the corner for the last 3,so back to the washing.

Everything has tumble dried beautifully then....Disaster!!! Somehow the main seat cover has a huge black mark on it possibly from the machine or a third party interfering with our washing. A very frustrated Joan is calmed by my agreeing to hand wash it. Then we do her hair which turns out really nice just as the sun comes out, so we end a pretty fraught day all smiles, and stroll into town anyway, even though the shops are closed.
The town centre is very pretty and has a green with a bandstand on it.

This is also where the tourist information centre is with a nice pond and flowers in front. While there, we notice a couple of future entertainments that may be good for the children when they are here.

Thursday 22nd July

Today we moved to a free aire just behind the beach where we will stay for two days. As we turn the corner the whole of the main street is a huge market and the small one is wreathed in smiles. As these things go it was a pretty good market actually and we spent a couple of hours wandering around and bought some lovely olives and fruit. For the rest of day we just relaxed and visited the beach. To be honest we are soo excited about the children we cannot settle.

Friday 23rd July

We definitely needed a plan today so we decided to cycle to Pegasus Bridge, a round trip of about 14 miles. What we forgot was the hill which seemed to go up forever. However it was a lovely day again and so we just took our time and to be fair thoroughly enjoyed it. Is it possible we are at last getting fit or is it just that coming back we were able to engage ‘freewheel gear’ hmm? ( see previous pictures of bridge).

Saturday 24th July

Today we move 10 miles along the coast to the aire at Ouisterham for our last night before the family arrive. I must be a bit stupid you know, I have never looked at the possibility of actually getting the ferry to here from Portsmouth. It would be pretty cost effective actually and as soon as you dock you just drive around the corner and park for the night, then nip down to the beach, so we went to find out more about it. After dinner we wandered along to the town bandstand and enjoyed a concert of French music for an hour.

Sunday 25th July

It’s today! They are coming! We are just like a couple of kids, so excited. But first I take Joan to church and head off intending to return in about an hour. That WAS my intention honest, the road to hell etc! In the event I drove a short way out along the coast road and got stuck in the most horrendous traffic jam. After what seemed like ages I discovered the cause was a huge boot sale and with no possibility of turning off I just had to keep going. Finally I came to a junction and got away from it at last. I determined to head back towards the church but took a road heading inland a bit to avoid the traffic. Sometime later when Joan texted me to come and get her, I replied I am not sure where I am? Fortunately for both of us it was a fine day and I managed to get back about 20 minutes late. However such was the euphoria of the day she just smiled and said that’s ok, it was nice watching the world go by.

As we arrived at the campsite in Merville-Franceville a text came through saying we have arrived! As it was only about an hour or so drive from Le Havre we got all set up and prepared to greet them. About 5 hours later they arrived! We had by then been texting and worrying about where they were. This was of course my fault apparently as Andy had told me they were going to amble along the coast road and enjoy lunch at a French Bistro. Nevertheless we were delighted to see them and of course the children were really excited to be here.

After all the trouble we had last year with their tent the new one went up like a dream and was very good indeed. As soon as it was set up we all trooped off to see the beach. Andy and Carole were both delighted with the beach and of course the children were straight into the sea. If anybody remembers last year it was cold and pretty miserable but the weather this year was fantastic. As I have already said the sea was so warm even I went in.

The biggest problem Carole had all of the holiday was keeping the children from getting sunburnt as they are so fair skinned. We were so lucky with the weather that at least twice a day she or Andy had to battle with Joseph and Eleanor, who of course like most children, didn’t want to stand still long enough to have it rubbed on. When we returned to the campsite Andy did the most extraordinary thing, he gave me my birthday present, which was heavily disguised as a bottle of English single malt whisky. Then he had the cheek to announce he had always wanted to try it! Well I said when I open it on my birthday next Saturday you can have a glass, he was not amused but everybody else was.

Up until now I have made this a daily record but I will now just mention all the things that happened over the next 9 days. We did all the things that families do on holiday and one of the nicest was that we were able to eat outside for almost every meal. We started every morning with Croissants, pain au chocolat and a couple of baguettes.

The next day we went to the shops and the children bought things with the money that we and Carole’s mum Joan and had given them. Joe is very canny with his money and selects very carefully but little Eleanor is only 5 and would like to buy everything! Having said that she bought a little fairy doll thing and played with it most days to my knowledge, and Joe got a shrimping net which he also used every day bar one on the beach. Both the children were amazing in the sea and seemed to have no fear at all, just straight in as soon as we got on the beach.

Next I must mention the cheese, the Camembert cheese that had taken up residence in our van and was taking over. I am not a lover of soft cheeses but according to the reception it got when Carole opened it, it was a very good cheese indeed. By now it was not so much a case of spreading it with a knife but more a case for spooning it onto your bread! As it was so warm it was now residing in our fridge for its last few days.

We did a couple of trips out to the Normandy landing beaches. It was such a long way that we all went in the van which turned out to be a very good choice as when we got to both Omaha beach Arromanches we were able to park very close in a special place for campervans. First we went to Omaha beach where we saw a moving event. A group of American children were taking part in a special ceremony with an address from the lady mayoress and then in pairs they raised the flags of all the nations who landed on ‘D’ day while their national anthems were played, quite moving.

Actually the French do not allow any commercialisation near here and a very impressive monument has been raised on the beach, which is quite empty and apparently not a lot of people use it like a seaside beach.

We could not really judge this as when we were there it was high tide so there was little room on the sand. As we looked along the beach it was possible to see the cliffs which the troops had to climb. They looked scary enough without somebody firing at you!

Everybody by now was hungry and Carole and Joan had been looking forward to having moules frites today which they did but sadly it was not up to the standard they have come to expect in France, and 8 or 9 were not edible as they did not open.

Next we visited Arromanches. This is Gold beach where they put the dock that was floated across the channel from England, a lot of it is still there and it is quite impressive. Andy and I went into the museum while the rest of them stayed on the beach.

When we returned we found a cold wind had got up and they were all ready to leave.

This webpage gives a lot of information about the beaches if anyone wants to read about it. http://homepage.ntlworld.com/ratpit1/

It’s Saturday 31st July, a very important day as it’s my birthday!!!
It started beautifully with Joe and Eleanor giving me a card from Carole’s mum and a present and singing happy birthday twice! Then I had 2 birthday spins from Eleanor and lots of giggles from Joe, smashing. I had been asked what I wanted to do and I had chosen to have lunch at a restaurant just across from the site which looked pretty good.

This was a really good choice, the meal was superb and the moules frites for the girls were excellent with lots of umms and aahs etc.

By now the heat of the day was past and we headed straight for the beach, where if the children had had their way I am sure we would have been until it got dark.

Sunday 1st August

It was a bit overcast so we all piled into their car and went to Ousterham. We left the girls on the beach while Andy, Joe and I visited Pegasus Bridge and toured the museum. While we were in there it had the cheek to rain, after 7 days of almost continuous sunshine. So we shot back only to find the beach tent and a couple of towels, they had done what any sensible woman does at a time like this......gone shopping!

Monday 2nd August

This is the last full day of the holiday and we awoke to discover it was pouring with rain, but by about 1.30pm it had cleared and was blazing sunshine for the rest of the day, so we got our last day on the beach until about 7pm. Everyone was in the sea which had huge rolling waves which were great fun to jump.

Eleanor and Joe were in so deep, almost to their necks and Carole, her first time braving the water, had a brilliant time with them and later went back in with Andy. Great stuff!

We then went up at a nice little bar overlooking the sea for a drink, and on to the night market which actually was a little disappointing with very few stalls. Finally Joan and Carole went to the Boulangerie and bought some very nice little cakes for our last meal together.

Having gone to bed a little worried about what the weather would be like in the morning we were pleasantly surprised to awake to sunshine and blue skies. The tent was dry and we were all packed up and away by 11.30am.

The Oxfordshire Cricks set off to spend a little time visiting places along the coast road to end at Le Havre by 5.30pm for their ferry.
Meanwhile we set off for an aire at ‘Forges Les Eaux’ where for €5.75 we got electricity and water. This was about halfway to the Eurostar terminus where we are due to return home at 6.20pm Wednesday.

Next morning we finished the journey and after a brief stop in the hypermarket and a top up of our diesel we went to the terminus 2 hours early. After a very brief check we were sent along to the boarding area and the man said just a minute and made a phone call in French. We were not sure what was going on and thought we were going to be given the full customs treatment or made to wait till our proper time. However he put the phone down and said carry on down there and we were immediately loaded onto the train and left very soon after. So there we are, the train left Calais at 4.20pm and we drove off in Folkestone at 4pm, 2 hours early.

So there we are, the end of a perfect holiday made even more so by the weather, thank you God. The only fly in the ointment had been that we had to move to another pitch as we had been told our one was already booked. We did this with the minimum of bother and the new tent again received full praise but we then sat and watched ‘our pitch’ lay empty for the next couple of days! We were NOT amused but frankly I would be delighted if that was all that ever went wrong.

Thank you for reading this blog. I hope we have managed to show what a great time we have had this year and that it has entertained you.

Lots of love
Bryan & Joan