Tuesday, 29 July, 2008
We left home at 10.45. Our departure only slightly delayed by the need to declare to the police that we had lost a document for the car (the curse of the car). All the police computers in the commune were down. They advised trying the neighbouring commune. We decided that the declaration could wait until Mr. Waffle goes back to Belgium later this week to oversee the packing (no scoffing please). It also appears that our protracted leave taking will involve a further trip to Brussels at the start of September to undergo the dreaded etat des lieux and reclaim some small part of our deposit from the landlord. Sigh.
By 12.15, we were ready to break the journey for lunch. We are not good travellers. We stopped in Cambrai. If you ask me, Cambrai has nothing to recommend it. This is particularly true of the cafe in the main square where we chose to eat lunch. I had a Welsh Flamand which was sold as a Flemish version of Welsh rarebit. Not nice. The local speciality is a boiled sweet known as the betise de Cambrai. Very appropriate.
At 2.00 we were on our way to Brecourt. We went to a wedding there when the Princess was three weeks old and we retain fond memories of it. It took us a long time to get there but at 6.00 we rolled up. Mr. Waffle reassured me that it had only added another 200 kms to our journey to stay there, so where is the problem? When we got there, it was lovely. The Princess flew the kite she got as a going away present from our lovely Italian neighbours only mildly impeded by her brothers. Meanwhile, staff put a linen tablecloth and silver cutlery on the lawn for her and her brothers to eat dinner. Dinner was some rather umimpressive pasta but the surroundings were impeccable. That night we left the children to a babysitter and went to dinner in the hotel restaurant. We noted that the couple who had been desperately trying to avoid eye contact in the garden were Irish and they were clearly trying to ignore us and enjoy an authentic French holiday experience. It pains me to say this but though the surroundings were very beautiful with magnificent views over the grounds, the food was only alright. As we returned to our room at 10.30, I heard voices and said to Mr. Waffle that I hadn’t noticed the television in our room. There was no television: it was herself chatting to the babysitter who despite, one would have thought, having had a surfeit of the Princess, was kind enough to turn up the next morning with a book for her. Our girl can be charming when she gets her way.
Over breakfast, they were, so we were informed by our loving daughter, piping out the Magic Flute over the stereo. We had sent her to a one week music course and she had studied the Magic Flute in detail (middle class heaven) and was confidently identifying Papageno and the Reine de la Nuit. Of course, she could have been completely wrong as we, not having had her advantages, had no idea what the different parts of the piece sound like (we only know the famous bit – I am, perhaps unreliably, informed that this is the Reine de la Nuit).
Wednesday, 30 July, 2008
We spent the morning strolling around the grounds and watching our children put on performances of the Magic Flute in the ruined chapel (the Princess’s efforts somewhat undermined by her brothers who thought they were re-enacting Kung Fu Panda).
At lunch time we went to Giverny and looked at Monet’s garden which attracts hosts of elderly French and English garden enthusiasts and some tired looking American families. We had lunch in the car park which was, in fact, our only good meal in France. Who would have thought? Afterwards, we had ice cream which, as it was hot, melted. I licked Daniel’s into shape and he was furious and inconsolable to the immense amusement of some Chinese tourists waiting behind us in the queue to get into the gardens. It felt like a real holiday: hot, sticky and everyone just a bit cranky.
When we left at 3.00, Mr. Waffle announced that Cherbourg was not as he had thought 2 hours distant but 3. Cue much angst and a genuine worry that having taken two days to do a six hour drive, we might actually miss the wretched boat. We did not miss the boat.
The boat was packed full of Irish people. They were pale, they were square. They had brown hair and freckles. They were friendly. I had an epiphany: these were my people. I was back where I belonged. Our very luxurious ferry (things have changed since I was a child), the Oscar Wilde, had previously sailed in Nordic waters which was, I suppose why they chose to decorate our cabin with a picture of a ski jump which the children found almost as exciting as bunk beds. The family retired at 9.30 to explore all of their thrilling functionalities.
Thursday, 31 July
In the morning, we took ourselves off to the cinema. The only thing showing was Kung Fu Panda and, frankly, once was probably one time too many for the boys to have seen that film but I had to get them away from the common areas where a stranger had reprimanded them. The humiliation.
At lunch time, we packed up and drove off the boat into driving rain. Ah, home again, home again, jiggedy jig.