A French Kathy Burke?

Mirinda woke with me at 8am – very rare.

After breakfast we left for a stroll, nay, hike to the botanical gardens which are more accurately described on the map as Jardin Public. More like a sizeable back garden. Still, full of lovely blooming tulips and an amazing tree. 1860 it was probably planted and is now supported by many cables branching out from 3 steel posts. Fantastic. It has a diameter of 40 metres!

Old tree needs support

Old tree needs support

There is a distinct lack of green spaces in Bayeux. This morning, Monsieur Lanchou, was full of praise for the countryside around Orbec, saying how different it is, so hopefully we’ll be in for a lot more of it next week! We are starting to miss it.

From the jardin public we walked to the British cemetery, stopping off at a ginormous supermarket on the way. This explains a general lack of supermarkets in the town as this place would more than cater for Bayeux and the surrounding 500 miles of countryside!

Mirinda was saddened and teary in the cemetery. It is indeed far more emotive than the American one from yesterday. Mind you, I found it more so when I was there alone, as today there were other people wandering around as well.

We didn’t fancy the war museum so we wandered down towards centre ville and discovered the Benedictine Monastery of La Joie St Benoit. A very plain chapel with some impressive statues lining the walls near the balcony. There was a number of holy sisters sitting in celestial contemplation so we didn’t poke about like we normally do. Instead we sat and looked and felt peaceful.

Benedictine monastery in Bayeux

Benedictine monastery in Bayeux

Not far from the monastery is the Parc de Stationnement M. D’Ornano which looks quite nice on the map. Do not be fooled, fellow traveller! An extremely nasty block of toilets, gangs of French juvenile delinquents and basically green access to a car park is all it is!

For lunch we ended up squashed into a little place which the business folk of Bayeux frequent for lunch on Fridays. There was very little room but the food was excellent and quite cheap.

After lunch (it took about 2 hours) we followed the River Seulles to a lovely china shop and bought two ceramic tiles (possibly for the bedroom, maybe outside the front door) with William the Conqueror and Harold from the Tapestry painted on them. Gorgeous china but quite expensive – all hand painted. The tiles were not too bad considering. An elderly American woman with a tiny fluffy dog and her personal translating French woman entertained us for a while with a three way conversation with the shop assistant.

Mirinda started to fade so it was time for a long hard trek back to our rooms for the après midi nap. (Across the road from our room lives a woman who looks exactly like a French version of Kathy Burke.) This morning Madame Lanchou complimented Mirinda on her French accent, saying how her French had improved. Madame Lanchou has very little spoken English, though, she is quick to point out, she can read it very well. Mirinda is rightly pleased with this assessment of her foreign language skills but I think she misheard Madame L, who I think actually said “Your French, it improves, unlike your accent…

This morning the cleaning lady said something to me about scraping the talcum powder off the bathroom walls or something ‘cleanerish’ and Mirinda quickly leapt to my defence as I gibbered away in my nonsense French showing off MY language skills. Taking charge of this language orientated task in her best James Ruse French (and apparently improved accent) she told the mad woman we would be leaving in an hour, and she could clean after 12. She smiled and left. Then, upon our return at 6:30pm, the woman once more knocked at the door and seemed to ask if it was ok to clean the room NOW. And so, let us leave Mirinda’s language skills at that, shall we? Still, I’m just a toilet, so what would I know.

At 6pm, I was bored lying around and writing nonsense in my journal so I went for a walk in search of the Roman lime kiln dating from the 2nd century on the Rue St Patrice roadside which is supposed to stand 3.5 metres high. All I can say is it’s pretty well hidden! I walked the length of Rue St Patrice and saw many things, but a Roman lime kiln? No. And no sign to one either.

I walked back to town, disconsolate but now in search of a copy of the excellent guide book loaned to us by Mr & Mrs Lanchou. This I did find, near where we had lunch. I walked back via an excellent example of a staircase tower. These strange contrivances date from the late 15th and early 16th centuries and contain a single flight of stairs up to the roof – don’t ask me why but it all looks very elaborate for what, in effect, could be substituted easily with a ladder.

Staircase tower

Staircase tower

Back in our glorious rooms, Mirinda decided we’d go for dinner. This meant wandering round looking for somewhere that tickled her fancy. It seemed she wanted to eat fancy, no doubt to make up for the last two nights, but the Rapier (recommended by the Lanchous) was booked out and I don’t think the other place we almost went to would ever admit unshaven ruffians, so we ended up at La Fringale.

Now I have to say the staff were lovely and very helpful, very attentive but the clientele seems to be the scourge of the continent, English-families-who-speak-really-loudly-in-restaurants. This was in direct contrast to our lunch, when we found ourselves in the midst of only French patrons. Anyway, the food wasn’t very good, a bit mass produced and microwaved, and Mirinda didn’t finish hers. They did serve Leffe, so all was not lost. I said to Mirinda, as we left “Can we not go to another restaurant full of foreigners please?” in my best Chandler-esque and she agreed. It’s like the Chinese restaurant thing, if the place is full of Chinese, it’s going to be good. Of course, as we’re about to spend a whole week amid the French countryside, this should prove relatively easy.

We strolled slowly back to our rooms and shut the night behind our shutters for the final time.

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