Didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. It could be the tiny airless room. I’d have slept in the bath but I’m bigger than a mouse. At 9:30 we made the trek up to the breakfast room for our petit dejuener which was very petit after last nights efforts.
Although breakfast is essentially a mile away from the hotel room, the view is spectacular. You sit at the windows watching the gradually receding tide and the graders clearing the mud and clay, ready for a new batch of cars and buses. It made up for the room…almost.
We checked out in time to catch the 11:05 bus to Pontorson gare where we discovered the first train to Bayeux was at 5:05pm!
It appears that Pontorson’s main claim to fame was in 1031, when Robert the Devil (or the Magnificent, depending on which side of the fence you sit), father of William the Conqueror, had a bridge built over the river Couesnon so he could check out Brittany. And so ends the history of Pontorson.
The name translates to Orson’s Bridge but the only one we could find during our six hour imprisonment was a lot newer than 1031. We crossed it, stood in the middle, claimed to be half in Brittany and half in Normandy, strolled passed the Asylum of the Shrieking Woman Who Sounded Like a Tortured Pony, and visited Le Grillon twice.
Le Grillon is a lovely creperie with nice service with a smile and the usual galettes with everything. A word of warning for fellow forced visitors to Pontorson, it is very difficult to get lunch after 2pm. Le Grillon, if you’re lucky, still serves food until 2:30, dependent on the chef’s mood. It does, however, serve drinks all day. They seem quite happy for you to sit, and sit, and sit, which is fortunate since this is what we did.
But not all was a waste, after all where there’s a town, there’s a church. We popped into the extremely large church of St Mary (Notre Dame). The original church dates from 1050 but the building there today is Gothic and dates from 1381. I think. The guide was in French so I had to guess a lot. There’s a tapestry, belonging to this church which is now in the museum at Bayeux – I decided to make it a personal pilgrimage to find it then completely forgot about it as soon as we left Pontorson.
There is a sad stone carving showing, in 22 sections, the passion of Christ. I say sad because all the heads were cut off during the revolution. Another marble carving shows Mary in the middle of the 12 apostles, all with heads, looking up at a floating pair of legs, which we assumed was Christ. It’s a real shame as these would have been lovely, though it still has its history to impart. Still, I guess it says it for Pontorson, after all it’s a town betwixt St Malo and Mont St Michel with no real head of its own.
The train couldn’t come quick enough as most people within txt’ing range will attest. It arrived exactly on time and the crush of people trying to get on was phenomenal. We managed to accidentally gate-crash a group of boy scouts. These scouts were not what Baden-Powell had in mind, rather more like Hitler Youth. Mirinda sorted them out though by telling them I was a toilet in her excellent French. As a warning to others, they were the Nante XIIIth Troop of Euroscouts – give them a wide berth!
We finally arrived at Bayeux after a bumpy ride through the Normandy countryside and caught a cab to La Hotel Du La Pin. I was a bit concerned when the driver had no idea where it was, saying “The names change all the time!” but when I told him the address he dropped us 5 doors away amid the confusion of the decidedly grotty Family Hotel. Finally we backtracked to the most magnificent B&B we’ve ever seen, let alone stayed in.
It’s an 18th century family home with a suite of rooms for guests. One set of guests. Us. It felt a lot like being on a grand tour with Venice just outside the window. mirinda was very pleased with my choice of accommodation and it more than made up for the hotel at Mont St Michel, which, after all, was one of the better places to stay.
Upon our arrival, Mirinda and our hostess, Madame Lanchou, chattered away in a language somewhere between English and French, somehow making themselves understood. She recommended a few restaurants to us then left us to settle into our suite of rooms. Oh, pure luxury. I can only recommend this place as THE place to stay in Bayeux.
After a sudden storm which left the streets glistening and the windows rattling, we ventured out to the Bistro De Paris for a lovely peppered steak and a few beers, then strolled down through the town.
The main street appears (at 10:30pm anyway) wonderfully free of souvenir shops and the cathedral looks fabulous and all lit up. We were caught in a short hail storm on the way back to our rooms but arrived safely and settled back in our gloriously scented linen sheets, drifting off to sleep.
A million miles from Pontorson, a million years from care.