The Call of the Wild

Vera, our neighbour’s cat, peers at me through the fig tree.  She’s lying on the shed roof, enjoying the warmth of the sun.

Vera

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Reading Week – August 2018

We usually stay at home in August, taking holiday at a less busy time.  So things are reasonably quiet in our neck of the woods at the moment. I suggested to John we have a ‘reading week’.  Instead of fitting reading for pleasure into the short time before falling asleep at night, we would instead put it first and everything else could take second place.  Harder to do than envisaged but at least it has partially worked.

Reading Week with tea and an iced bun … and an old favourite author …

I started off with ‘Imperium’ by Robert Harris  –  one of his ‘Cicero’ series.  I had already read his bestseller ‘Pompeii’ , which was riveting. A wonderful story.  I did enjoy ‘Imperium’ but at a time when many of us are depressed by the state of our country and of the world in general  –  a world also riven by a glut of natural disasters like earthquakes, floods and the ever growing threat of climate change – I have been made very aware of the lack of political leaders with vision in our governments.

Our politicians do not seem to have learned from the past – how many of them have even read and understood a lot of history and then related it to present day problems?  The corruption and venality of Rome in the time of Cicero, Caesar and Pompey unfortunately continues very much alive and well today. Just as if all those politicians have been mashed up like potato and reformed again and again throughout the ages.  Of course there are good ones among the squalid many  –  but we don’t seem to have made much progress from Roman times  –  short term gain still rules the roost.

Why are we cursed with such incompetence, venality and general ignorance?  At the moment many of us feel weighed down with apathy and paralysed by fear.  Fear bringing anger.  Anger bringing fractures in society.  We are warring against one another when the ever growing threat of natural disasters and climate change will finally make war irrelevant.  Will we be leaving the planet to animals and insects, who will do better without us?   It’s sad that what a few great brains have achieved to date, which greatly benefits humanity, will be lost.  Maybe this is the planet’s answer to too many people.

‘Imperium’ by Robert Harris – an eye opening and fascinating historical novel into the the wiles and interstices  of Roman politics …

I needed next to read something different to try and lift my gloomy, negative mood.   What better than Levison Wood’s   ‘Eastern Horizons – Hitchhiking the Silk Road’. I’m very much a one-to-one person and he travels mainly on his own or with one other person from time to time  –  I can relate to that. He knows what he will be doing is at times risky and downright dangerous –  but he wants the freedom, the sense of adventure and the challenge of living off his wits  –  the kindnesses he meets do go a long way to restoring my faith in individual human beings.  This is a journey I would never have been capable of doing myself but I feel I am with him every step of the way.  He’s a true explorer and a great guy, with a depth to him.

A great adventure …

Levison Wood also mentions Rory Stewart  (now an MP)  in the book, who walked alone (latterly with a stray dog) across Afghanistan and wrote about it in ‘The Places Inbetween’.  Both these books are tremendously rewarding. I saw Rory Stewart in Sloane Square recently and thought I might stop him to say how much I enjoyed that book  –  he’s one of the few MPs I have trust in  –  but he was in a hurry and so I just smiled as I passed him.

Read this too …

Some time ago I came upon a republishing of Eric Ambler’s detective stories, which are brilliant.  They are set in 1930s Europe, now reintroduced with new, enticing jackets in colour. ‘Epitaph For A Spy’ and ‘Journey Into Fear’ are both unputdownable.  This is detective story writing at its very best.

Eric Ambler – a great treat …

We (I) tried to keep the world of work at bay  –  John read other books  –  I would say our ‘reading week’ was 75% successful.  We had one lunch out, (which wasn’t the best), we enjoyed sunshine and tea in the garden, and went to the theatre to see David Haig’s ‘Pressure’ – about the vagaries of the weather around D-Day, which proved to be excellent.

The high point was definitely the invitation from the Netflix team to the preview of the first episode of Hania’s show – ‘The Innocents’ – on Netflix.  This was at the Curzon Mayfair, followed by a glitzy party and by the end of the week we had watched and very much enjoyed all eight episodes.

‘The Innocents’ – written by Hania Elkington and Simon Duric …

All in all, a very memorable week!

 

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Night heron

We came back late by the pond.  The restaurant (Côte) was just closing. A heron was standing by the water.

Night heron …

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‘Es Molí’, Deià, Mallorca

Five precious days away.  Given what we wanted was a beautiful place with comfort, rest and relaxation, I relied on a recommendation of somebody who had stayed at ‘Es Molí’ last year.  Never keen on the laborious task of filling in those internet forms, I remembered that many years ago, before you had to do all of that yourself, we went to Madeira with a company called ‘Classic Collection’.  And there they were, now on the Internet, but still willing to do all the work for you.  And they did just that.  Nothing could have been easier!

Once again here we are at Terminal 5, clutching a blue folder which will  hopefully be our key to paradise.

A mystery parcel – that’s an image of our holiday …

Transport was included and when we arrived at Palma airport a venerable gentleman escorted us to his car. As we followed him, another man came up and said we had chosen the best taxi driver on the island.

Deià is on the north west coast

A good start as we meandered along twisting roads, higher into the mountains, edged with olive groves running down to the sea and orange groves stretching up the mountains to an azure blue sky.

Favourite colours – I relax just looking at this photo…

Forty minutes later we turned into a steep driveway.  A warm welcome awaited.  Lovely, sunny room, spacious bathroom and the joy of a large balcony.  Perfect!

Entrance to ‘Es Molí’

Deià, Mallorca

Deià – sea view from our balcony …

It was mid afternoon and we decided to take a look at the village  –  just a ten minute walk away.  John always looks for the highest point  –  so we made for the church.

Half way there  –  a welcome respite  –  I must confiscate that phone!

Drinking fountain …

The church is exquisite and cool.  Beautiful music fills the space and the candles glow.  Outside, there is a small, rickety stall where marmalade made from the orange trees is on sale.

The church, Deià

The graveyard is small and intimate  –  it looks out over two views on opposite sides.  One towards our hotel, the other to the house of Robert Graves, who is buried here.  I’m always fascinated that in many graveyards in Europe, photographs are often part of the tombstones.  But even photographs –  memories  –  fade away in time.  This is a special place and I’m glad to have been here.

Fading memories …

Complementary colours …

Chrome Yellow …

Deià – postbox?

Besides being drawn to the pretty lace curtain here, I wondered if the yellow box was a general postbox  –  or just for the house.  Many years ago in Italy I put six postcards  for England in a box in the middle of the countryside. They all arrived – but six months later!  Maybe some kind person realised they might stay there for ever, covered in cobwebs, and rescued them!

An ancient olive tree

Above the door to a small art gallery … This was once at the bottom of the sea – see shell/sea shell…

We made our way back down endless flights of steps and finally arrived on the main street again, attracted to a restaurant called ‘Nama’.  Our waitress was English, living out here for the past year.  The restaurant had windows which were wide open, looking out towards Es Molí.  If you come to Deià, come here for a special treat.

‘Nama’ restaurant, Deià

Time to read a little on our balcony and watch the night flooding in …

The church at night – view from our balcony …

Breakfasts offer fabulous choices  –  taken inside or out on the terrace.  Afterwards we explore the gardens, having already been up early to swim in the spring fed, heated pool.

Very early morning swim before breakfast – Es Molí

The gardens surrounding ‘Es Molí’ are terraced with many secret nooks.

Gardens at ‘Es Molí’ – irises and lavender

Terraces at ‘Es Molí’

Oranges – ‘Es Molí’

John finds something to tax his brain … !

‘Es Molí’ – under the trees …

We spent some of the morning reading in deckchairs.  After lunch we decided to walk to Robert Graves’ house, which took a leisurely half an hour.  It’s on the outskirts of Deià, on the road to Sollér.

The house is kept as though the inhabitants would be returning in the evening. We were encouraged to watch the film, which described Robert Graves’s life and why he came to live out here from Britain.  It’s been well put together, seamlessly co-ordinating old footage.  I always find visuals stimulate my brain to remember history, especially if personal stories are involved.

Robert Graves had many visitors here – writers, actors, politicians … and lovers, some of whom he married.  Laura Riding was one, who lived for some time with him, his wife and family. Today, he’s best known for his work ‘I, Claudius’, along with ‘The Greek Myths’ and his autobiography of the war years, ‘Goodbye To All That’.

The house and garden are intimately and beautifully laid out  – without it feeling like a museum.

Artichoke splendour

Opium? poppies

In the greenhouse

Araucaria araucana or monkey puzzle tree

This tree became very fashionable with the Victorians.  It is a native of central and southern Chile and western Argentina.   These trees live for 1,000 years.

An orange heart at the entrance to Robert Graves’s home

And then we went inside.

Robert Graves’s desk

Printing press

There’s a room which has been made into a small museum, showing some of Graves’s work.

A copy of his most famous book …

I liked this painted chest…

and I caught John in this painting …

Painting in Robert Graves’s house invaded by John …

A rather enchanting lemur given as a gift to Laura Riding …

The simple kitchen ..

Well used sunhats and shopping bags …

Robert Graves’s home – front door

On the way back to Deià …

A glorious afternoon.   Return to ‘Es Molí’ to read and swim.

Reading by the pool …

Cool …

… blue heaven

Lounging on our balcony in the sun … bliss

There’s a private cove for sea swimming which is about twenty minutes away on the (free) ‘Es Molí’ bus. I love doing things on impulse at the last minute.  So much of daily life strait jackets you into a day already planned far ahead.  As the bus was about to leave, we jumped on.

A lot of time and effort has been put into making this steep cove accessible and inviting.  It’s beautiful but the sea is so cold  –  we’d forgotten that the spring fed pool is heated!  There’s a small jetty which will be perfect to dive from – but in the height of summer!

The café is open and we each have an enormous ‘salade niçoise’ and a refreshing Spanish beer.

‘Es Molí’ -private cove

‘Es Molí’- private cove – spot the yacht!

A friend had recommended the town of Sollér, which you can get to by the local bus.  What most motivated me to go rather than lounge by the pool were the permanent exhibitions inside the railway station of paintings and ceramics by both Picasso and Miró. Also, the old wooden train taken by Michael Portillo to the orange groves in his television series.

Sollér is much bigger than Deia and quite touristy.  We made for the station but on the way stopped at a small door in the wall of a narrow street which offered a museum.  Many steep and narrow staircases led to all sorts of treasures.

Costumes and transport …

What might you find in a pot like this?

Old plates, restored …  the birds are charming

Who is Silvia, what is she ……?

These mysterious Madonna type features reminded me of Shakespeare’s poem – see first line above – from ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’.

Rescued from the sea bed …Roman amphora

The door here led out to a small sculpture garden at the back of the building.  I was nonplussed by the somewhat sinister face at the back of this photo …

A voyeur in the shrubbery?

And another?

Arriving back at the entrance, I noticed a small cellar, painted white.This is a favourite photo … I can smell the whitewashed wall …  lovely!

Reflections in green and white …

And an amusing scenario with the monks.  One looking seriously at his open book, the other with his book closed, his eye straying …

Exit …..

We finally arrived at the station and, as promised, Picasso and Miró made their appearance.

A face – maybe not to be trusted – but  colourfully alluring all the same …

Picasso’s birds …

Compare these with the ones on the old plates in the museum  …

Four rogues ?

Whiter than white …

Miró’s take on life 1

… and 2

Not everyone’s take on life has a touch of genius  but as we passed through the town on the wooden train that wends its way through back gardens to the Port of Sóller,  I took a rather blurry photo of some locals in the third phase of life.

Too blurry … but

they reminded me of a similar group of men playing backgammon in a café in Fethiye, Turkey who invited me to join them and bought me tea. Special unscripted moments …

The train bowled along with breezy, open windows towards the port. We took the next train back as the touristy ‘feel’ here wasn’t for us.  Looks good for a swim though.

Sollér – the wooden train

Port Sollér

Back to Deià and a late lunch of paella in the village.

Entrance to restaurant …

Bottle brush plant

Its name is ‘Callistemon citrinus splendens’.  It loves sun and is drought tolerant – and very splendid!

On the way back we passed a pond full of frogs … John counted 7.

Rustic gate

The frog pond

Some way back there’s a photo with John’s panama hat upended on a table  –  you can see that something has landed on the brim.  Here it is.

It’s a bad pine weevil which bores holes in trees …

A pine tree trunk full of holes …

It looked menacing although it shone gloriously gold and green in the sun.   We should have ‘done it in’ but we didn’t realise what a pest it was.

Our last day.  Sunny and warm.  Deia has a public beach which is 25 minutes walk down a path from the hotel.  A scene from ‘The Night Manager’, a series on television adapted from the book by John Le Carré, was apparently filmed there.   So off we went after breakfast, curious to see if we could recognise it.

On our way …

The path was quite rough in places, as it made its way crookedly up and down through woodland.  But a good day for exploring.

Deia – mountains above the village …

Local flowers – vivid colours

Deia – spiny cactus

Wild flowers

Hurrah! We finally made it …

Freshly squeezed orange juice quenched our thirst as we looked down on the water.  I think in the film everything was made to look more upmarket  –   although it’s a pebble beach, people were out swimming in the small inlet.

View of Deià public beach

Now we had to walk all the way back!  The heat was beginning to rise and the beach becoming more crowded – the Es Molí poolside beckoned.

I’ve so enjoyed this time away.  As the day came to its close, I was on our balcony and happened to look up.  And who was there, staring at me from the crest of the mountain?!

Another special moment …

Last early morning swim, breakfast on the terrace.

And a big thank you to all the staff at ‘Es Molí’ who made us feel so welcome and made our stay so relaxing and comfortable. We will certainly return.

Adiós – hasta la vista

FIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Little lost things …

Once in a while I come upon lost things and wonder about the story behind them.

Lost shoe – York, by the Chapter House

Starry shoe – another lost soul …

Lonely hearts …

A night out at the theatre?

Poor me! Left behind …

Lost – I’m no good on my own!

Night moves  –  52 cards in a pack  –  this one lies in the gutter, making the rest unusable…

I lost a blue sparkly ear ring in the cinema. I went back and called in at the bar  –  some kind soul had found it and given it in. Thank you!

Sparkles – ‘un objet trouvé’ – we have ‘Lost Property’ they have (in translation) ‘Found Objects’!

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Escapees from Chelsea Flower Show

Bowling down Sloane Street on the number 19 bus during the Chelsea Flower Show, we had a show of our own!  Various shops had floral fronts …in celebration of Chelsea in bloom.

Sloane Square – Chelsea in Bloom …21 May 2018

Sloane Street 1

Sloane Street 2

Sloane Street 3

Sloane Street 4

Sloane Street 5

Sloane Street 6

Sloane Street 7

Sloane Street 8

Sloane Street 9

York Square, Kings Road – Chelsea in Bloom

Chelsea Blooms at Sloane Square

Phew! Time to cool off – Sloane Square

And just time too for a cup of tea and perhaps a slice of one of their delicious cakes in Peter Jones before hopping on the tube home.

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The Beast from the East …

‘The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold … And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold’ … from the poem ‘The Destruction of Sennacherib’ by Lord Byron.  Best spoken aloud while galloping on a fiery steed …  otherwise, worth a galloping read…

The Beast from the East was not quite as destructive and colourful as ‘the cohorts gleaming in purple and gold’ but the big freeze came to Barnes and ice blocked our boiler pipe on the two coldest nights of the year.  We hugged hot water bottles and survived the icy blast, welcoming the plumber, who came bearing a hair drier!

We’ve had snow in the past six years but not such a biting wind, which lowered the temperature to the point that the spring flowers wilted with  shock.

The snow didn’t last long.  But the wind pinched our ears and the brown bear coat I bought in the ‘Anthropologie’ sale came into its own. Exceptionally cosy!

I am always drawn to colours but the ‘grimmity’ of this weather comes over best in monochrome  –  this is how it was as I trudged along.

A dainty footprint

Everyday life – highlighted – fairly chaotic?!

Crossing the road …

Garden wall

Posh tyres remind me of a snake’s skeleton …

Squashed foot

Big yeti

And after a while, the sun returned …

Barnes Pond – March 2018

The Beast was repelled for the moment but continued to lurk in the shadows.

 

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Angels + a poem by Christopher Logue

These were the best Christmas lights in central London for a long time and I just wanted to keep a reminder of them.  I wish I had more and better pictures.

Piccadilly angels – Christmas 2017

This is blurry but I did manage also to get in red double deckers and a London taxi.  I had just come out of Waterstones, clutching a bag of books, although I could excuse the blurriness by saying I’d been offered too many cocktails  –  sadly, this was not true.

Blue Angel Wings – Jermyn Street

My favourite angel!  Christmas 2017 – Piccadilly, London

I hope they use these again in 2018.  So much more inspiring than tawdry, lurid coloured lights, which only emphasise manic, commercial consumption.

Angels remind me of a poem by Christopher Logue (1926 – 2011), which I have always felt a deep connection with.  Can’t explain it –  something like a haiku …

“Come to the edge,
We might fall,
Come to the edge,
It’s too high!
Come to the edge,
And they came,
And he pushed,
And they flew”

Season’s Greetings to all.

 

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Vinotherapy at ‘Les Sources de Caudalie’, Bordeaux

An early start in the dark –  a young man from Macedonia speeds me seamlessly through the silent countryside towards Gatwick, intent on his dream of making enough money in London to buy an ice cream parlour in Amsterdam.  I am dreaming of an escape from city life to an imagined paradise for a few days …

It was an easy run.  Gatwick has improved and there was time to have breakfast at ‘Comptoir Libanais’ before departing for Bordeaux and specifically, ‘Les Sources de Caudalie’ – a sheltered spa, deep in the middle of a celebrated vineyard.

It’s an extraordinary place  –  beautiful, discreetly luxurious, warm and tranquil …

A first encounter with the vines and ‘un bon acceuil’ …

We are taken to our rustic abode amongst the vines by two chic ‘femmes françaises’.  The air is soft and fragrant, we luxuriate in the warmth of the sun and we have the afternoon to explore. La vie est belle.

The vineyard

Sculptures abound, which adds to the slightly surreal atmosphere of this place.  I feel I could have strayed onto the set of an art house film –  just hoping they haven’t noticed. Very French, so it’s good that we both speak the language.

A viewing platform

I just caught the bird, before it flew. I’m not sure about the rest of it ..!   As we approached the vineyard buildings, a bird man greeted us.

Birds of Bordeaux

The idea of the birds clustering around him and twittering all together is charming but I can’t help thinking at the same time of the shade of St. Sebastian, shot with arrows.  He is a martyr in a painting by Andrea Mantegna in 1480, which you can see in The Louvre, Paris.  The lushness of the vines is tempered by the challenge of climate change. A good vintage is always dependent on the weather.

View from our rustic abode, which is ‘calme, luxe et volupté’ …

Our house among the vines from the other side …

Outside heated pool …  7.30 am

We were up early and had the pool all to ourselves.  Followed by the most luxurious ‘petit déjeuner’, taken in the main building.

The dining room is on the left, with an outside terrace overlooking the lake …

The chef’s vegetable and herb gardens are here too  –  I had wanted to get a photo of him bent over his parsley but he moved too quickly.  He probably didn’t want to be on show  –  a very special chef, one of whose original dishes  –  which we were given later on  –  is ‘oeuf en colère’.  Translated literally it is ‘angry or furious egg’ but could also, I thought, be called ‘egginatizz’!

‘oeuf en colère’

Spicy line-caught sea bass with beetroot sorbet …

Another astonishing and delicious concoction by our chef, Nicolas Masse, at ‘Les Sources de Caudalie’ … This photo was taken from his recipe book, a copy of which was in our house. Today we tried the more simple café for lunch and were able to sit outside.

Lunch outside on the 2nd November …

There are three swimming pools here and this one has real pzazz. Indoor, but full of discreet light and glorious colour. Again, we had it all to ourselves.

‘Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven. (William Wordsworth 1770-1850)

Everywhere we went we found interesting things – on our way to the spa for massage and general wellbeing, we came upon boats and bears and sculptures celebrating wine.  The vineyard has private roads. It’s true that you never forget how to ride a bicycle  –  I was a little wobbly but it was at least twenty years since I last took to two wheels!  Inspiring – I just need my own private road!

On guard …

Elegant Edwina

Bibulous guardian of the bicycles!

The vineyard offered a wine tasting but  when we arrived they told us the group was full.  We meandered around the entrance and noticed there was a walk through the forest with a glass of wine offered at the end.  All good!

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte – Bordeaux

An impressively large bottle of wine

Stone sink at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Bordeaux

The horses who plough the vineyards – Apollon, Bacchus, Quitus …

The start of the forest walk

… and off we go !

Crossing a primitive bridge to the island …

Autumn leaves …

A woodland shrine …

A bit of a sharp shock! Am glad there is no Vlad the Impaler rushing out of the bushes …

We finally arrive at a Hansel and Gretel house in the middle of the forest, where hens, goats and llamas potter about and a handsome young couple sit outside, chatting together at a table.  There is also a large, modern building behind the house, where the barrels of wine are stored.

The llama looks at us curiously  –  his expression reminds me of my brother, about to laugh at his own joke!

We climb up over an iron walkway to look through the windows of the winery. It looks very high tech  –  I wonder what the sculpture outside signifies?

A giant safety pin, signifying?

Barrels of wine – an example of ‘the circular economy’ at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte …

It’s more hi-tech in the woods today …

Our welcome glass of wine is on the horizon  –  and we get to explore the house in the woods too. I would have liked to take these candlesticks home with me – fashioned out of the old vines.  They both sport great personalities  –  full of ‘joie de vivre’!

Ta-da! Here I come, bearing gifts …

The discreet charm …

More bibulous statues greet us on the walk back through the vines. I feel as if I am ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’  –  soon I will have to step back into the reality of the daily round.

Bacchanalian delights … the eyes have it!

Lady vintner – she looks like a hard worker in comparison!

Walking tall – old and contemporary is an eclectic mix and keeps your eye in …

After another swim, followed by a grand dinner, we join in a stargazing session at 10pm.  Cameras on tripods and telescopes are set up. We fleetingly see stars, the Moon and Mars but there’s a lot of cloud cover  –  so it’s back to our rustic abode for a long sleep before we set forth on our return to the grey skies of London.

And so …  to bed …. to sleep, perchance to dream …

 

A last morning ‘double’ swim – both outdoors and indoors.  There is a mist hovering above the outdoor pool as the heat rises from the water. You could call it ‘romantic physics’. Easy for me to describe the former but more difficult to explain the latter in scientific detail.  I love science but am more intuitive  than analytical.  We need both.  Meanwhile, a blackbird sets off a chorus of birdsong. And I am hungry …

Another fabulous breakfast and then it’s time to pack and say thank you to all who made our stay so welcoming and pleasurable.  I hope it is only ‘au revoir’ and that we can make a return visit.

‘Au revoir’ to the golden boys …

‘Au revoir’ to the ‘Leaping Hare’

I never found out why there was an enormous green rabbit sitting in reception and I only managed to get a rather blurry picture of it by subterfuge.  But it sums up the glorious and surreal ambiance of “Les Sources de Caudalie’. A spa in a vineyard.  And so much more.

FIN

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Wimereux – a stormy adventure with silver linings

My brother-in-law had been going to the north coast of France for many years.  In his youth, he and a friend braved the Channel in a dinghy, and (with a stroke of luck, having got lost mid way) – they  finally made it to Boulogne.  Mickey is also a rail enthusiast and it was because of this he found himself after one of his trips a few miles up the coast, leaving the train at Wimereux.  And so began a love affair with this small country town by the sea.

When my sister married him, she also became enamoured of this Hulot -esque, unspoiled spot with its fabulous ‘digue’ (promenade) and picturesque architecture.

Mickey was in poor health now in his ninetieth year  and needed to be in a wheelchair much of the time but he longed to go back once more to Wimereux.  It was slightly risky but we got a letter from the doctor to say he was fit to travel and off we went.

We’ve made it to the Channel Tunnel … racing towards France

Horse power and mega horse power 2017 … we board the train … Mickey sleeps on …

The tunnel is an astonishing feat of engineering and we are soon on the other side,  en route to Wimereux …

The open road …

We take the coast road rather than the autoroute.  Traffic free – with fabulous views … my stress levels falling by the minute …

Coastal route – a joy to drive

‘Hotel du Centre’ – safe arrival

The resident guardian

We have two rooms opposite one another.  Mickey and Christine have an additional small sitting room with comfortable sofa and TV.  Their window overlooks the garden.  I love my spacious room with giant size bed.  The bathroom is tiny but ‘perfectly formed’!  A welcome hot shower sets me up for the afternoon and evening ahead. With even a chink of uninterrupted peace to read a couple of chapters of my book. Bliss!

The sea awaits, five minutes walk from the hotel.

Wimereux sea air

Seagulls at Wimereux

It’s very windy but we catch the sun and enjoy a drink at the local café, while watching the waves rolling in …  wonderfully exhilarating… and with supper to look forward to …

The hotel owner’s sister has a welcoming restaurant looking out over the sea.  She is so hospitable, rushing out to help us with the wheelchair. Mickey’s eyes light up at the thought of his favourite ‘moules’.

The restaurant by the sea

… and a favourite bowl of ‘moules marinières’ …

By the time we had finished our supper, the wind was howling like a banshee around the building and we struggled with a bumpy ride home.

The night did not go well.  Christine woke up in the small hours in a pool of blood.  Mickey had somehow cut himself.  He is on warfarin, which thins the blood.  Disaster was narrowly averted.

Breakfast is served in a conservatory, which extends into the garden.  Christine and I learned how to eat kiwi fruit without getting the juice all over our fingers.  We copied the stolid Belgian couple on the next table.  Why did we never think of this?  A mysterious face looked down on the diners, high above the coffee machine.

Enigma in the breakfast room …

Mickey had made it to breakfast but we then tucked him up on his sofa and brought him ‘Le Monde’  and ‘Figaro’ newspapers.  The hotel will bring him coffee.

A blustery and fierce wind greeted us as we made our way once again to the sea. What a shocking but thrilling site awaited.  The ‘digue’ was awash with waves, the force of them sending spray high into the air.  There was no point in looking for a coffee in one of the cafés on the sea front  –  they were completely cut off  –  and closed down against the storm.  And yet the sun was bright and we felt lucky to be here. Carpe diem!

Wimereux – waves rolling in a bit too far – I’m feeling quite high on the ozone front!

The drama unfolds …

Surfing …  along the ‘digue’ – Wimereux

After the storm …

A trip to Boulogne market (twenty minutes away) seemed like a good idea before lunch.

Boulogne – old …

Boulogne – new

I bought a bunch of the sweetest, tastiest, small black grapes – probably from Greece.  Also a small, flat, soft leather purse for 2 euros – perfect for keeping coins re parking.

Lunch at the local bakery – with a model fishing boat.

With Mickey back at the hotel for his afternoon nap, we explored the town.  Some of the old houses are quite unusual.

The coloured house by the shore – Wimereux

Houses on the beach – Wimereux

Pavillon des Dunes – good for a film set?

Le Rayon Vert

This house overlooks the sea.  It must be called ‘Le Rayon Vert’ after the film by Eric Rohmer of the same name.  Sometimes, at sunset, as the sun slips below the horizon, there is a green flash as it splashes into the sea.  I have never seen this (except in the film) but hope to one day.

Wimereux – bathing huts

A typical street view near the sea …

Religious automobiles?!  Mixed media?!  Puzzling! Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Christopher officiate over Express Automobiles …

Back to the sea front.  The sea was still rough and we found the local youth risking life and limb …

The local youth flex their muscles …

A new day …

We had one afternoon left.  Mickey was already asleep after his favourite ‘Croque Monsieur’ at lunchtime, so we decided to drive along the coast two miles to a fort at Ambleteuse.  This was built by Vauban on the orders of King Louis XIV.  Access is at low tide only. The fort is open in the summer months, so we only got a view of its dramatic location in the sea.

The fort at Ambleteuse, built by Vauban – low tide

I was keen to get back in time to watch the sunset at Wimereux.  The sky was clearing after the storm and maybe I’d get to see ‘le rayon vert’!

The storm is over but there’s a chill in the air.  The hotel has a good restaurant, so we can eat ‘at home’.  I realise how frail Mickey is now but he still enjoys a good French dinner. And he’s a trouper, keeping going against all the odds.

I put on a warm scarf and make my way down to the ‘digue’ to watch the sunset.  The colours are spectacular.

Golden sunset …

Wimereux windsurfer

Hand in hand …

No ‘rayon vert’  tonight though.

The sun slipped beyond the horizon leaving a glow, like embers in a dying fire. Couples were walking hand in hand along the shore, people strolling with their dogs.  What would it be like if you lived here and often had this experience? Everybody looked content, nodding ‘bonsoir’ as they passed by.  I sat on the wall,  just happy to be part of the scene and for once feeling calm and peaceful, away from all responsibilities.  And the sea, which had been so rough and wild, was calm too in the chill of the coming night.

Evening light

The end of the day …

Windsurfers persevered as darkness flooded in.  A dog walked along the shoreline.

Looking out to sea …

Twilight –  or in French, ‘crépuscule’ …

The dusky, pastel colours here remind me of Monet. I recommend a fabulous book by Ross King called ‘Mad Enchantment’ which is about Monet and the painting of the water lilies.  Ross King is an excellent writer.

Seadog at nightfall …

We go home tomorrow.  For such a short sojourn I feel amazingly restored and fulfilled.  A change of scene in beautiful surroundings lifts my spirits, changes my attitude to life in general.  I hope Mickey feels this too.  We did wrap him up well against the elements as we sped him along the promenade in the wind and the sun. He had the right idea in wanting to come here one last time. Now we just have to get him home in one piece!

It’s market day and once we’ve packed up the car we just have time to see what’s on offer.  I buy dried fruits from Morocco, honey from Provence and special biscuits from Wimereux.

Wimereux fruit and veg …

Wimereux biscuits

The coast road 1

The coast road 2

We make good time to Calais.  Mickey is deeply asleep, ensconced amongst his cushions and chunky Kit-Kats in the back of the car.  At passport control the officer insists on waking him up to make sure he and his passport agree.  At least precautions are being taken against terrorists.  Mickey passes the test!

Passport control

The train is delayed so we manage to settle Mickey down in the lounge with a sandwich, which attracts a perfect little French sparrow, as crumbs scatter on the floor.

Le petit moineau – the little sparrow …

Finally, we’re on our way.  My sister is as practical as I am the opposite. She’s truly impressive with logistics.  Au revoir, France.  We hope to return very soon.  I am a European at heart!

FIN

PS  The book I was reading was “The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories’ by Penelope Lively.  Now in her 80s, she still has a keen and observant eye and a black sense of humour.  Genteel ladies are not always what they seem – she uncovers the deeper traits of human beings through the minutiae of daily life.  Wise and funny.

PPS  Michael Green (journalist, actor and humorist) died on 25 February 2018.  There was a full page obituary in ‘The Times’, another in ‘The Telegraph’ plus ‘The Leicester Mercury’ (where he started his career).  He was 91.

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