Saturday, 29 August 2009

France - Day 5, Boulogne-Sur-Mer

Ack, ack, ack, ack, ack, ack, ack was the early morning signal for me to drag myself out of bed and spring into Molly minding mode just about three hours before the appearance of anyone else. In that time I changed her, fed her, played with her and watched her chasing the cat that came by every morning to say hello.

Today was the best morning weather so far and there was a brilliant blue sky and a golden yellow sun and after breakfast and by mid morning the temperature was already up to 28º so we spent an hour or so in the garden before packing up and setting off to visit nearby Boulogne-sur-Mer.

I didn’t have high expectations of Boulogne because I imagined it to be a place of little interest where people arrive by ferry and drive through very quickly without stopping on their way to more interesting places. From the garden of the gîte we could see a large Cathedral and a tall military column and so as we were so close it seemed only good manners to go and have a look. On the approach to the city through shabby pot holed streets there was little to make me review my original perception and when we parked the car and walked into town I didn’t really expect this to be a very long visit at all. There was a scruffy street market where items for sale were displayed in the style of Sally’s untidy bedroom and a featureless walk towards the main shopping street.

The French quite rightly prefer visitors to have a go now and again at speaking the language and I am reasonably fluent in everyday essentials such as: ‘Vin blanc sil vous plait’, ‘Vin rouge sil vous plait’, ‘bier grande sil vous plait’, ‘bier grande vite’ and so on, but beyond that I struggle unless I prepare ahead. We needed some postage stamps so I rehearsed over and again ‘quatre poste sil vous plait’ and by the time we found a shop was practically word perfect. The problem with this of course is that having impressed with the opening sentence then the shop assistant replies immediately in impenetrable French and the only two options are to nod vigorously and hope you are making the appropriate response or just stand there flapping and looking a complete twat! I did a combination of the two and it must have worked because I got the stamps and they were the correct ones for postcards to England.

The girls wanted to shop so we left them to it and we went off to see if there was anything more interesting. Some postcards in the stamp shop showed some surprisingly nice views of Boulogne so we set out for the Cathedral and the old town to try and discover the best part of the city. At the top of the steep hill there was a medieval city wall and a gate leading inside and suddenly Boulogne took me by surprise because inside was something I was not expecting at all.

Boulogne's Old Town is built within the original Roman walls and has recently been well restored and it was in complete contrast to the concrete and glass of the sea front and the shopping streets. Here was the beating heart of a medieval city with a castle, one of the biggest Cathedrals in Europe and narrow streets lined with charming properties, little shops, cafés and bars. In the middle was a public space with imaginative public art based on bits of old motor vehicles and scrap parts which was probably only the French could do this well. We hadn’t allowed a lot of time for this and we could have done with longer but it was very hot now so after a beer at a pavement café we left the old city to reunite with the shoppers at the agreed rendezvous point with an agreement to return before the week was out.

We left Boulogne and went directly to the beach which was much busier today and with the tide right in there was less space available. We found a spot in the dunes with some shade for Molly and we settled down and opened the cool bag for the beers that Richard had thoughtfully brought along. Molly slept for a while and after she woke she played in the sand and we took her to the sea but she was unsure of the waves so we didn’t stop long which was a good thing because the water temperature was several degrees below comfortable. We spent a couple of hours at the beach but then the cool bag supplies dried up so we left and returned to the cottage.
It was 34º now and very hot in the garden as we sat and watched Molly play in the paddling pool. The wind that had been a feature of the weather all week was gone and it was so hot that we had to use the garden umbrella for shade for the first time. In the early evening Richard and I took Molly to Carrefour for food shopping and later we had an evening meal of pizza and cold pasta and experimented with various French cheeses. The hot weather had brought out the flies that were a bit of a nuisance but Rachel discovered a talent she didn’t know she had for killing them with a sharp shooting flip flop trick which accounted for over a dozen.

At nine o’clock Richard and I were called into action once more to take Molly on the village walk to try and persuade her to sleep so we set off via the bottle bank to drop off the last two days empty bottles and then took the route the sensible way past the big loud dog first so that she wouldn’t be woken up on the return journey if we had been lucky enough to be successful. Once again it took a while and she was distracted by a couple of times by the grazing cattle but she couldn’t last out for the entire circuit and she was fast asleep by the time we returned home.

It was a glorious evening now with the remains of a blood red sunset disappearing over the horizon and without any sort of breeze at all we ended the day sitting in the garden with beer and wine and finished as usual by a couple of gin and tonics.

1 comment:

Jane said...

Its 1.07am and yet again I am unable to sleep - but I have your blog to read and take me back to when I was last in France. A few years ago now. I certainly havnt seen as much of it as you have and Im really enjoying reading about your travels there.

Thanks Andrew,


Ps...what a beautiful grandaughter you have.