Monday, 23 July 2012

A Fortnight in Les Hogues

Hello there one and all - yes - I'M BACK! Two weeks in Northern France have zipped by in the blink of an eye and I'm back to reality with a crash.

You know the terrible weather you've been having over here in the UK? Well, it wasn't too different over there in Europe either lol. The day we travelled to our Gite, we drove in some hairy conditions, let me tell you. At one point, the rain was so heavy, our visibility was virtually nil and we pulled over until it improved. I mean, we were on foreign roads, looking for signposts we couldn't see, in conditions which even the locals thought extreme.

However, we eventually arrived at the small community of Les Hogues in Normandy, amid their flooded roads and were welcomed into our home for the coming days. It may have been wet, but it was incredibly tranquil. Very little noise, hardly any neighbours and acres upon acres of deer-filled forest behind us to go and explore.

 After our first day, weather did improve. It was wet for the first week, but just light showers. And the second week was nothing but sun. So we didn't do too badly. Luckily, we took advantage of the first sunny day we had and headed for the house and gardens of Monet. You know, the impressionist painter with a fondness for ponds, bridges and lily pads.

As you'd expect, it was heaving with tourists and everyone wanted to take photos of the famous water gardens. Us included. And it was the first time I witnessed someone taking photos with an iPad.  It certainly causes an eyebrow to rise when someone in front of you holds this board up and takes photos. What the dickens happened to quaint little cameras & apps on phones??? It just looks wrong!

When we booked our holiday, we had no idea how rich the region was in art. On our doorstep were two brilliant sculpture parks. Over seventy pieces of beautiful art in each.  The first one we visited was filled with pieces sculpted by a single artist. Needless to say, I could inundate this post with photos and with great difficulty, I've limited myself to showing you these two. The top photo is Gaia, in gold, atop the earth shaped frock. The second is a modern piece which stood out from the more conventional (& by that I mean bare-breasted nubile women) sculptures, chiefly for the casual air she has and for the mobile phone held to her ear.

The second park was much more outre. With pieces by Volti and Dali, it certainly had heaps of surprises around each corner. The top photo is entitled a "Bisexual Dragon with it's Children". I loved the idea that it was bisexual and not hermaphrodite. The second photo is one example of the picnic tables here. Each had a sculpture attached to it, in this case, a stone egg. It's smooth, shiny surface contrasting against the worn, lichen-strewn stone table and benches. A perfect place for sitting down and ripping into your baguettes and cheese.

In another park, on another day, we came across this beautiful white peacock. Not sure if it's a particular breed of this species or whether it's albino. I've certainly not seen such an exotic example like him before.

As I said earlier, we did have some fine, sunny weather in the second week of our stay and just to prove it, here's a shot I took of the beach at Dieppe, the seaside resort the Parisens flock to.

Food photos! The bain of holiday snaps. It wouldn't be the same if I didn't come back wanting to delete every photo Nick takes of me, no more so than those which include food. However, I gracefully allowed him to snap me seated in front of this heavenly meringue dessert, seconds before I devoured it.

Mind you, this holiday was a little different in how disgracefully healthy we were. We ate mostly salad - BY CHOICE! We nibbled on only small quantities of cheese and most shockingly of all, when visiting the beautiful old port town of Honfleur, amidst all the shops laden with chocolates and patisseries, I dragged Nick into a juicebar. I had a celery, lime, mint and apple combo. Nick had nearly every different fruit and vegetable in the shop, in his, including coriander leaves (blerghhh!)

Finally, a trip to France wouldn't be the same if it didn't include Macarons!!!! And yes, we found a quaint little shop in Giverny, which sold the classier versions of my favourite mini treats. The above selection included salted caramel, strawberry with basil, liquorice, violets, coconut, rose, apple, pistachio, lavender and chocolate. Total bliss! They could certainly give Laduree a run for their money.

And now we're home, thoroughly rested and enjoying a brief spell of sunshine too. Nice to be able to continue eating olives in the garden, with an aperitif before supper.

It normally takes me a week to acclimatise back to reality again. I'm itching to create something. Anything! Just need to tackle all those jobs and deadlines first which have mounted up whilst I was away. Plus there's all those wonderful creative blogs to catch up on too.

Whatever you're up to this week, I hope it's a fun, busy and creative affair.



gypsychick said...

Wow, looks like you had a wonderful time Paul! xo

alexa said...

Superb photos, Paul, and glad you've had such a happy, interesting and healthy time! I love the photo of the statue and the mobile phone - but pleased to see she is holding a book. Were it to be recast these days, it might be a Kindle! Happy macrooning ...

kjjc said...

You lucky lucky boys. That is my fave area of France (apart from Paris of course).
As for the meringue you were about to devour remind me to tell you what they used to be called before the days of PC. Again they are one of my have things about France-scrummy-nothing like them is there?
Still I don't think the wonderful areas you have visited are a god excuse for missing the crop last weekend! :)
Welcome back.

Kory K said...

I wish you could hear my voice when I say this: "Holy crap, that's classy!"

Coriander is freakin' nasty. I'm glad we agree.

I've never had a macaroon before- what is in them?! What's the texture like? I can't tell if they're soft or hard? What do they taste like? Dammit they purty!


Frank Garcia said...

WELCOME BACK PAUL!!! You were missed!!! Beautiful pictures my friend, thank you for sharing them, and those macaroons look delish!!! I want some!!!

Hugs! Frank

cockney blonde said...

Love the piccies Paul, thanks for sharing. There used to be an albino peacock at the wild fowl park in the Cotswolds. Not sure if its still there, or even still alive, but they're a sight to behold, x

Neil said...

Lovely photos Paul, thanks for sharing them. Those sculptures look fab!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Paul I really enjoyed my little trip through your very interesting holiday photos.

Mary Mac

Jocelyn said...

Love the commentary and the photos. Was this house a bed and breakfast or private accomodations?

Paul Browning - The Artsider said...

Gites are holiday houses in France which you can rent out for a week or more. The rural gites are often situated right out in the back of beyond and wonderfully peaceful. Px

Chris said...

Hi Paul, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

Neet said...

Oh I so enjoyed the holiday, I was with you whilst reading this. Gorgeous sculptures, fascinating peacock and one day I will have one of the Macrons you talk about.
Loved your Gite too.
Missing you - Neet xx

JoZart said...

I really , as always, enjoyed your travelogue and it really seems my kind of place. We can always manage to find art wherever we go and it's this that enriches our jaunts.
Lv Jo x
hope to see you at VS... Donna has joined and will be attending too!

Cath Wilson said...

Stunning, Paul - you chose a great location there. Haven't been to Dieppe for a long time and then I only passed through. Glad you had a good time and good to see the Macarons x