Monday, 22 August 2011

Maastricht, Strépy-Thieu, Saint Fraimbault and more

As it pours with rain outside and thunder can be heard all around - it is time to catch up with my blog. It has been one of those unsettled summers, rain one day - hot dry sunshine another. It has just been so unpredictable it has been impossible to plan ahead. The thunderstorm seems to be getting nearer which will probably mean the internet connection will go down and possibly also the electricity. 

We are just back from a short trip to the Netherlands. Setting off from here in warm sunny weather which stayed with us all the way to Maastricht. Here in our region of France there is very little traffic and it is only when you get onto the Paris - Calais motorway that the traffic becomes busier. We were driving across Belgium towards the southeast of the Netherlands so were lucky to avoid any really heavy traffic till we came to a stop at the end of the motorway on the outskirts of Maastricht. There the motorway ends and becomes a dual carriageway with traffic lights as the road passes through the town. Preparations are underway to build a tunnel to take the motorway underground, but it will be many years before the road is completed.  Luckily for us we were leaving the road at the first junction but still had to wait sometime just to get to the slip road.
By the time we arrived at out destination the temperature had risen to 28C and it was very humid and muggy. After taking a walk along the river bank it grew very dark and we could hear thunder approaching in the distance. Luckily for us we were indoors when the storm broke, but a pop festival in nearby Belgium was hit by the storm, the podium was destroyed and tents flattened by the rain and wind. Several people lost their lives. Some of the staff from our niece's restaurant were attending the festival but were  lucky to escape  unhurt.

Silkie chicken drinking water. 
Saturday we enjoyed a walk in the area around Teuven, Belgium. The area is very similar to Suffolk with soft undulating hills. We walked through farmland, woodland and through orchard lined lanes in the warm sunshine, before enjoying a meal and a drink on the terrace at Moeder de Gans. Teuven is close to both the Dutch and German boarders so the clientele tends to be multi national.  In addition to the humans enjoying the sun on the terrace there are  chickens roaming freely around the premises.

 On the way home yesterday we stopped off to visit the boat lift at Strépy-Thieu. This lift was opened in 2002 enabling large 1300 tonnes barges to be raised 73 m.  The construction is amazingly large. We visited the visitors area above the machine room at the top of the building. Again - worth a detour if you are in the area. There are also four more boat lifts in the area, which were built in the early 20th century but are much smaller and can only take small barges of maximum of 300 tonnes.épy-Thieu_boat_lift

BMW Frazer Nash
Every year France closes down on the 15th August for the Feast of the Assumption. Our neighbouring village of Saint Fraimbault holds its annual 'event' on this day. There was a display  of old agricultural equipment and there was the usual vintage car rally.  This particular car was interesting, a BMW Frazer Nash.

Almost finished - the highest point

After many weeks of very hard work, Rob has almost finished the re-pointing of the building in the centre of the yard.  It has taken much longer than he had anticipated when he started.  The result is really good. The new lime mortar really shows off the colour and shape of the stones - a real work of art!
A while ago we visited Forges de Varenne. One of the  iron ore sites which we have here in the area.  Last year we visited a village which had been set up specially for the industry. This site is much older, 17th century. The furnaces are in the grounds of a small chateau which is now used as a family home for handicapped young people.  It is a site well worth visiting if you are in the area.,orne&hl=en&ll=48.630966,-0.59426&spn=0.004219,0.008926&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=41.275297,73.125&vpsrc=6&t=h&z=17

It is still raining and the temperature is falling. Hopefully this is not the end of 'summer' but one does have the feeling that a real Autumn may be a better option than this type of weather.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Rainy August in France

Who ever started the discussion on Global Warming, needs to have another look at their data. I am not saying that I want to stop recycling or being more careful about the amount of fossil fuels I consume, but really...... when I was younger, much younger than today.... August was a summer month. Warm days, even warm nights, pleasant weather for camping and being outdoors. I remember cycling in the heat of the summer in the Loire department when visiting our French friends. Then August afternoons were for spending indoors in the shade and cool of their old house, before emerging later in the afternoon to sit in the shade. Now, August seems to mean spending time indoors to avoid the rain, and when you can venture out it is cool and grey. Luckily  this morning remained dry and  was also very windy which meant the clouds were wizzing by overhead and although some of them have been  dropping the wet stuff from time to time it looks as though it may stay dry all day. Oh no... it rained heavily but only while we were eating lunch. Now the sun is shining again. Rob is taking every opportunity to continue his outdoor work as he has had so many interruptions it seems that the task will never be finished. 

The Bardsey Apple Tree laden with fruit.

By now we should be enjoying the tomatoes we have growing in the garden but, they have enough water and there are plenty of tomatoes on the vines, they are just not ripening. Two plants out the front of the house, which in previous years would have produced ripe fruits a couple of weeks ahead of those in the garden now have some reddening tomatoes, but they are still not ripe enough to eat. Even those in the poly tunnel aren't ripening. Warmth is obviously not enough. Despite this the cucumbers which are also growing in the poly tunnel are very prolific, at least one cucumber per day - today I picked 2 large ones. We even have a melon, but it is still the  golf ball size it was last week, still there is still hope we might get one to eat this summer, which is one more than last year. Sun please come back and warm things up.

Wall paintings - 'Hell"?

Yesterday we visited Lassay le Chateau with my father. There is a building currently being used as an exhibition space which has these very old wall paingings. From the shape of the windows and the topic of the paintings we assume it must be a chapel and the young lady on reception also called it a chapel, but when I tried to discover more about it on the internet I only came accoss mention of it being a jail. Of course it has probably had many uses over the years.

Detail of same wall painting

Another interestign fact I discovered was that Camille Pissarro, one of the impressionist painters visited his friend and fellow painter Ludovic Piette in the area between Lassay le Chateau and Ceauce.

If you have been watching the BBC series on the impressionists you will have heard about him. 

Sculpture on view in gallery!

Raining again!
This last weekend was the  15th 'Les Médiévales de Domfront'.

This event is held bi annually and the old part of the town is filled with stalls selling locally produced craft and food items. There is also typical medieval entertainment. A couple of weeks before the event  a shop opens in town where you can go to be measured for a costume. Not everyone dresses up but many do. Some interesting combinations - modern shoes and specs often accessorising the outfits.

We have been there when it was warm and those wearing heavy costumes where suffering in the heat, however on Saturday when we were there it was a question of avoiding the rain showers. 


One really interesting display was a man and his geese which he controled with a 'sheep' dog and a whistle. The geese were amazingly responsive to the dog and moved a one body when the dog moved around them.

Man on right with stick the 'Goose Herder'
We did make a few purchases from a sculputer, one piece of a women balancing a ball on her ankle, I bought some wooden ear rings and we bought my sister a birthday present, which will for the moment remain a secret as although it is her birthday we haven't been able to send it to her as yet.

With the 'Goose Herder'

I don't know how succesful the event was, a lot of time and effort goes into organising these events and it will be a shame if the stall holders were out of pocket at the end of the weekend. I will ask our neighbours who have a shop in the town selling replica mediaeval items and local crafts.
Please can I have one too, but more sun too?