Saturday, February 28, 2009

It's elementary !

Although these words so famously attributed to that erstwhile character Sherlock Holmes were never actually written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (but were introduced in the movie 'Pursuit to Algiers' with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce), they nevertheless bring the character straight to mind!

After a few days of relaxing, doing the car 'stuff' and trying to get the camera repaired, doing long yearned for home cooking with loads and loads of veges, this morning we coated up and set forth into the big smoke! Well, OK, the bigger smoke - the City proper.

We were meeting my brother Michael (who is visiting London from the US) for lunch at the Sherlock Holmes Pub which had been approved by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and who gave a number of items to their museum display. We made a booking as their website suggested and drooled over their menu even before we got there (veges with everything!).

It is wonderfully easy to travel around London thanks to the very efficient metro and overground rail system. At Stratford, we have the choice of two lines into the City with 8 stops to the centre. Today, we alight initially at Tottenham Court Road and changed for Charing Cross and then walked down Craven Passage to our rendezvous on Northumberland Street.

We arrive just before 12 to find Michael pacing around a red London postbox, unaware that we had arrived. As we are a little early for the restaurant, we take a seat in the bar downstairs where Michael and I enjoy a very refreshing Traditional Lemonade (with ginger and herb extracts) over ice and Michael has an ale.

We were offered our choice of tables as the first ones in, and so gleefully sat directly outside the study recreated behind a wall of glass. The decor of the whole pub is a shrine to the character and his exploits and in the bar downstairs, they play the old black and white movies.

There is enough choice to keep the fussiest of eaters pleased! If you click on the link above you can see the menu. And the delightful Barbara from northern Austria (near Salzberg where we will head one day in this year) waited upon us so beautifully, verbally trading jokes with the two Michael's' with ease! She even managed to get us some information on the history of the building and a small version of the menu. Of course, out came the card and an invitation to visit us back in Queensland - which she assures us she will take up in a couple of years - "don't expect me to call", she said, "I'll just turn up with a bottle or three of wine!" Hey Barbara - bring it on!!!

So, what were our choices? All are named for either Sherlock Holmes' stories. Well, some might seem foregone!
Abbey Grange (Homemade bubble and squeak with a salad garnish) Michael and Maria
A Case of Identity (Chicken Liver pate served with a salad garnish and buttered toast) brother Michael who joked with Barbara that it was because he wasn't sure yet who he was!
Mycroft's Favourite (Tender lamb shank with a hint of mint, served on a bed of mash potatoes and seasonal vegetables) for the two Michael's
The Noble Bachelor (Medallions of chicken breast with scallion, carrot, sage and onion stuffing and a creamy mushroom sauce, served with fresh vegetables and scalloped potatoes) Maria
Spotted Dick with Custard (what else!) Michael
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Ice Cream - Maria
Apple Pie with custard, custard and ice cream Michael (brother) - and no, its not a typo!

After lunch, we walked with Michael to Leister Square Station (on the Piccadilly line) via Trafalgar Square and the Church of St Martin in the Fields where an orchestral ensemble were ready to practice for a Mozart Concert tonight. This is the parish church of the Royal Family and their crest is set in the ceiling above the large leadlight window in an unusual stylised cross shape.

We parted company at the platforms - Michael heading off to the north and us to the south for Knightsbridge station and H A R R O D S. I just had to show Michael the food hall with its ornate tiled ceilings and showcases filled with delicacies from home and abroad - and not one of them bargain basement. They have further developed their food halls since my 2006 visit and there is now a Tapas Bar as well as a Dim Sum and Sushi Bar. At 3pm on a the last winter Saturday all were full as were the Oyster Bar, the Caviar Bar, the Pizza Bar and the Coffee Bar! Altogether it was extremely busy with jostling and elbowing all round. To be honest, we couldn't get out of there fast enough.

Round the block battling the anti-fur protestors who position themselves outside Harrods regularly, and back into the tube and off to Baker Street. I mean, on the day we dined with the spirit of Sherlock, how could we not go over to 221b Baker Street - the fictional (though real) address of the detective that has been purchased by the Sherlock Holmes Society and made into a museum and souvenir outlet.

"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?" - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, (Sherlock Holmes: 'The Sign of Four')

To enter the museum, is to enter the world of Arthur Conan Doyle. Entry is by way of a souvenir and gift shop, and where the museum tickets are purchased. The Sherlock Holmes Society has endeavoured to maintain an Victorian atmosphere within the complex. In fact, society members are dressed in period costume, from a Commissionaire to housemaids who are actually performing cleaning duties!

The gift shop has an array of the usual memorabilia, which includes cups, plates, Deerstalker caps, curios and even Meerschaum pipes and Sherlock Holmes pipe tobacco! The shop is a curiosity in itself, and any visitor could be excused for spending as much time here as in the museum.

Ah, the museum... It is apparent, the Society has taken great care in attending to details and accuracy in designing the fictional address 221b Baker Street London NW1, as described by Doyle and the line drawings provided by Sidney Paget. The museum occupies a three storey Georgian dwelling, in Baker Street with each storey dedicated to some aspect of the Sherlock Holmes adventures. To put a finer point on the address; when Doyle invented the character 'Sherlock Holmes', the street numbers in the real Baker Street only went as high as 100. Where the museum is located, was originally gazetted as "Upper Baker Street" which Doyle used initially. However, he invented the street number '221b' purely to add credibilty to his characters' growing popularity.

One enters the museum by a dimly lit hallway leading to a flight of stairs, which takes the visitor to Holmes' sitting room and bedroom. Eerily mirroring Sidney Paget's drawings, one gets the feeling of a habitation occupied by an historical figure - right down to Dr John H Watson's desk, the tobacco slipper hanging from the mantelpiece and the initials of "VR" shot into one wall, by Holmes during an episode of boredom!

Taking the stairs to the second level, one enters the rooms of Watson and the ever suffering landlady, Mrs Hudson. Although, Doyle had never described the habitation of either of these two characters, credit must be given to the Society for providing Watson and Hudson substance based upon their descriptions gleaned from Doyle's' stories.

The third storey presents a montage of the sleuth's best known adventures. This montage consists of mannequins dressed in period costume and set in the pose of a particular situation. I suppose it is a game of testing ones knowledge of Sherlock Holmes.

'Silver Blaze', 'The Copper Beeches', 'Gloria Scott', 'The Man with the Twisted Lip', 'Abbey Grange', 'A Scandal in Bohemia'... just to name a few.

However, as in the 'Final Problem', the last exhibit is meeting Holmes' nemesis, Professor James Moriarty the architect of many of the crimes perpetrated within London.

And then we finish the day with a train trip back to Stratford and over to the local movie house to a movie - the only one showing for an hour and a half was The Unborn. A thriller / horror - if you have not yet seen it, don't bother - a few good jumps for Michael but overall very predictable and yawnworthy - absolutely nothing like a good Holmes mystery !

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Very quiet day today just catching up. Did three loads of washing and drying - have I mentioned the dual washer/dryers - very interesting appliances.
Michael did grocery shopping and I played scrabble on line for a while!

This evening we went to my cousin Anna and her husband Gary's place at Bracknell in Berkshire. We had planned to drive and were copying down the directions from the trusty Earth Google and following the route to determine landmarks etc. I commented to Michael that it was sending us into London City (it seeks the most direct route) and then at one point it directed us to 'go through one roundabout'. When I zoomed in it was Trafalgar Square - yep, we were to travel through central London in the middle of peak hour! A change in plans and we prepared quickly to go by train!

40 minutes in a queue to buy tickets, 20 minutes into Waterloo Station and another hour to Bracknell - but there were no navigating disasters or stressed people!

Anna made a fantastic Spag Bol (I need to get her recipe!) with pasta, garlic bread and a yummy raspberry cake to finish.
I took a bottle of Yann and Florence's Cantinot 2006 Bordeaux vintage.

Comments from Andreas Larsson (Best Sommelier of the World 2007) on this wine are:
Elegant nose, dark berries, tobacco, dry spices and cigar box, the palate has a good concentration with dark fruit, plums and firm tannins, well balanced with a high freshness. Really long persistence , should develop very well.

We ended up on the final train back to our station and walked in the door just before 12:30 am. Tomorrow we are off to sort the registration out on the car and to find someone to fix the camera - wish us luck.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Back across the 'Pond'

We made a good start from Pontorson this morning to drive to Calais.

It was a good day for driving - overcast with light rain from time to time. The french countryside is very pretty - even in the dull of today. We pass plenty of agricultural land - some planted, some ploughed, some fallow and some supporting healthy looking cattle. We also pass by the signs for plenty of towns and cities with names that Michael recognises from the WWI and WWII battles of so long ago. Towns like Le Hamel, Saint Omer, Lille, Amiens, the Vallee du Somme etc.

As we get closer and closer to the centre north of France, the traffic picks up - both heading for the capital, Paris and the port exits at Calais. The directions from Earth Google are good and we make the trip in good time - with a few comfort stops, we are in Calais checking in for our journey at 13:39. We were offered the earlier crossing at 14:20 pm (we had booked 15:50 pm just to allow plenty of time) and make our way through deserted alley ways where in busy times there would be hundreds of cars, queueing line after line waiting not too patiently for their boarding. Then all of a sudden we are at the head of the ramp going down to the train loading. Although the cars ahead were in the D queue and we were in the E queue, we just drove on and were not stopped - therefore making the 13:50 train. There was only one other car behind us (an E car also).

You just drive onto the train at the rear and then drive down the train. The carriage is just wide enough for one car and a walkway on either side. There are small windows set in the doors and at the end of each carriage a roller door comes down to isolate the four vehicles in the carriage. The carriages are lit and you are free to get out of your car (although they suggest that you stay with the vehicle).

Safety instructions are posted on the walls and are annonced over the PA system in both French and English. The crossing takes just 35 minutes from Calais to Folkstone in the United Kingdom which is a little further inland than the port at Dover. There is quite a lot of motion and I feel a little queasy - kind of like feeling seasick - I'm sure it is all a trick of my mind! And we arrive just after we leave thanks to the quirks of the time zones!! Not quite as glamorous as the ferry crossing - but much easier and faster for sure.

It feels kind of strange and also comforting to be driving on the left side of the road again, but really, it is easy to adapt to driving on the right! The traffic into London is heavy all the way from Folkstone and gets steadily heavier as we get closer to the City. Google Earth does it again, getting us to Stratford without any trouble - finding the correct street though is a little harder and all it takes is to miss one turn and you are stuffed because all you have is written directions, and not a local street map. However, I pull over and Michael asks a local car detailer who gives us street by street directions including information how to get around the road closure in the street where our booked accommodation is.

The Marlin Apartments at Stratford are newly built and we learn later that this is the area where much of the 2012 Summer Olympics will be focussed, so lots of new building is taking place. The complex is security gated and we are glad we have booked a car space because there is not much parking outside - turns out there is not too much inside either! Someone wants to visit a guest / resident, but refusing to sign the visitor's book, is denied entry - so I guess we won't be disturbed too much. The apartment is complex, but large enough to contain all we need to have a very comfortable week. Michael is happy because it backs on to the rail line - a little noisy but the double glazing does what it is designed for.

Craving vegetables, Michael heads to the closest supermarket and we cook just veges for dinner - yu-u-um. So we are here for the week - off to have dinner with Anna, Gary and the boys tomorrow. Quiet day planned tomorrow to do washing etc.
P.S. The Pond is what the English call the English Channel!

Monday, February 23, 2009

The 39 Steps - I don't think so!

Last night we passed a windmill illuminated in the night sky on our way back to the hotel. The camera batteries were dead so we could not get a photo at that point but decided we should have a look today. So we turn off the road to Mont St-Michel toward Le Beauvior to get a closer look. No, this is not the sort of thing you would expect to see smack bang in the middle of the Normandie landscape - but there it is.

And while this one is restored, there is the shell of another one forlornly unloved just a short distance further down the back road that runs along the ridge. There are cattle in the fields around and a lone donkey just standing - enjoying the pale sun on its back, winter fur still attached to its othewise boney frame.

We spent the better part of today on the 'Rock' visiting Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel. Like Ken Follett who claims Cathedral visiting as a hobby, we find ourselves drawn to the large churches and cathedrals that are so plentiful across Europe. And also like this renowned author, we are starting to realise that the building of these beautiful edifices is more about wealth and power on earth than for any heavenly aspirations. And as we remarked yesterday, this rock just rises up from the open plain - well, from the sea actually.

Mont St Michel is a true example of living breathing architecture adapting and moulding to the times of the day and the best use for its spaces. The earliest church on this site dates back to the 8th Century. This first shrine has been added to, over built, rebuilt and renovated since these early times to produce the Abbey and its accompanying village that exists today. It has been used as a church and abbey, a prison and a fort. Lying as it does just off the Atlantic coast of northern France and only a few short miles across the English Channel form England, it has been the source of seiges more than once.

Now, imagine this - a cathedral style church perched on a monolith that juts out of the landscape some 90 m. What would expect to find plenty of? Come on - how do you get to the top? You got it. S T E P S. thousands of the b***** things! Quite literally. And me with a bung hip. Thank goodness for drugs. In all the extolling my brother Michael has done, not once did he mention those steps - oh sure, he said it was a steep climb, but, thousands of steps! Nah, didn't mention those. Today we walked about 2 kms and climbed up and then down at least 1,100 steps. The Grand Staircase itself has 350 steps in one hit. Thank god there are some stone seats around though not many!

But despite all this, the trip is very definitely worth it. The sheer domination of the buildings over the landscape, the history, the architecture and even just the views are all stupendous. Within the buildings of the abbey itself it is very dark and would have been a very eerie place before electricity - a candle flickers and casts moving shadows and I can just imagine more than one poor monk being spooked by his own imagination. In les chevaliers des chambres (the knights chambers) however there are leadlight windows that flood the room with bright light. Here the monks worked on the manuscripts that the abbey was known for. It was also an area where they gathered to dicsuss religious issues in the warmth of the two large fireplaces.

And the cloister is an unexpected place of tranquility and beauty. You come upon it not expecting such a beautiful place and it strikes at you straight away - now, if it were not for the very noisy (lots of) Japanese tourist groups and there enthusiastically loud guides (sigh)! I guess we should not be complaining too loudly - it is the first time on our trip so far that we have encountered any groups of other tourists and to be fair, they weren't all Japanese.

And back to those stairs - they do not all belong to the Abbey itself, but are all over the rock - up to and within the ramparts and even throughout the village as well as within the buildings themselves and yes - many of the internal ones are spiral stairs! There are many souvenir shops that are only outnumbered by the eateries. In Summer, this place must be a licence to print money.

We do enjoy a hot chocolate and crepe and waffle though after our exertions. On the walk back to the car we can see the tide coming in, though the high tide today will not inundate the car park as happens at least 8 or 9 times a month. Another consequence of this watery phenomena and the soil type is the prevelance of quicksand. All around the entries there are warnings in five languages of the dangers. Somehow, I prefer the statuesque warning that once stood at the entrance to the complex to warn the would be wanderer! This is a rugged but beautiful part of the country and the world.

Our hotel also has quite a history as well. Originally, the Montgomery hotel in Pontorson was the mansion of Gabriel I, Earl of Montgomery, who killed Henri II, king of France in 1559. The main building of the hotel was built in 1526 and has kept many of its original features - the wooden carved staircase, the painted ceilings from the Renaissance as well as an exceptional four-poster bed. General Montgomery also this hotel as his headquarters after the D-Day landings. Their restaurant however is closed at the moment and we are craving a steak (and not more crepes) so head for La Tour Brette nearby. I begin with a Kir Normande as an aperitif - blackcurrant liquer, calvados (for which the area is famous) and apple cider. Very nice.
Borlots mayonnaise (whelks in mayonnaise) Michael
Œufs mayonaise (eggs with mayonnaise) Maria
Faux Fillet au Poivre sauce (Fillet steak with pepper sauce) Blue for Michael and Medium for me - whch disappointingly was almost as rare as Michaels!
No desserts tonight - just coffee which was good.
Now, what the hell are whelks I hear you ask. Well, they are a shellfish very similar to a conch. Michael tells me that the flavour is a cross between a prawn and an oyster and you need to dig them out of the shell just like you do with escargot.
So there is today. Tomorrow we have another 5 - 6 hour drive ahead of us to get to Calais and the car train back to Folkstone near Dover in the UK. Not sure if we will post tomorrow or leave it until Wednesday. Stay safe everyone - especially all you in Australia with the weather deteriorating in the fire prone areas again.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Today we drove up to the Normandie coast so Michael could spend some time at the Allied Forces landing sites and the associated museums. (I took a great book I was reading - Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris who also wrote Chocolat - fantastic book!)

We went to Omaha Beach to start and as Michael solemnly got out, I could not help but feel the desolation of the place as a lone seagull circled overhead. Mind you, there are holiday homes/weekenders now along the coastal strip, but it still looks lonely and foreboding. Anyway,I will let Michael continue the post and tell you about his day. For me, finished the book - you should read it - wonderfully written and I am off to find her other novels.

When you first cast your eyes upon this six kilometre stretch of sandy beach, it's almost imperceptable to imagine, almost sixtyfive years ago on the 6th June, this beach head was a crucible of courage, determination and destruction.

Albeit, there is a distinct solemnity over this tourist area. Perhaps, it is the weather, as the day was overcast, blustery and cold; and the only evidence of life was the occassional visitor and the tell-tale swirls of smoke from nearby chimneys.

All evidence of the Normandy Landings (Operation Overlord) had been removed by the mid 1950's. However at low tide, the broken teeth which were once landing craft, appear above the ebbing tide in a final salute. Towards the east end of the beach there lay the remnants of two German gun emplacements, under the watchful gaze from those monuments to the American Engineers and the 1st Division Infantry.

The day is bleak and blustery; Maria decides to remain in the car with her book and I head forth to explore. The memorials to the landing by the allied forces are stark as they are impressive. A granite edifice saluting the efforts by the advancing forces, impacts to the gravity of that day sixtyfive years ago. On the beach, in front of the granite marker, stands a stainless steel sculpture by Anilore Banon who designed the sculpture to honour "...the courage of these men: sons, husbands and fathers, who endangered and often scarificed their lives i hope of freeing the French people." In its silent stance, it is a most moving salute to those past sacrifices.

I move onwards towards the sectors of the beach, which were referred to as "Easy Green" and "Easy Red" during the landings. The loss of life during the storming of the beach appear to be ridiculed by these names. As I continue my walk, I can feel the sombreness which seems to rise from the sand - maybe the result of a fertile imagination. However, nothing could prepare me for what was to come.

After walking about three kilometers of the beach, I make my way back to Maria, whereby she has exchanged her reading for sleep. I decide to make my way to to the museum, which is closed until 2:30pm, however it's just a half hour wait before it opens again.

The museum is quite small and houses an array of equipment and weapons which were salvaged after the conflict. Overall, the displays have been fashioned as comemorations to all the sacrifices made.

After the museum visit we make our way to the American Cemetery. Like the memorial we saw at Washington DC, this memorial is just as impressive though more sobering. Upon entering the cemetery, you follow a path which takes you past the visitors centre and onto the memorial. Entry into the memorial is vide a large gate, which opens into a garden enclosed by a semi-circular wall. The wall has all the names of American service personel involved in the landing inscribed into the wall. The enclosed garden is dominated by the pillared memorial, sheltering a statue of world peace.

Moving around the garden's path leads you to stairs, which eventually takes you onto the memorial's platform. On either side of the statue are stylised diagrams, sheltered within vesibules, outlining the landings.

However, nothing could have prepared me for the view which I was to experience. Turning around to face into the cemetery, and across the Pool of Reflection, lay a forest of marble. I have seen war cemeteries in books and documentaries; but noting an prepare you for impact upon your senses at experiencing the overall loss and sacrifice - 9134 crosses.

On the way back to Pontorson and the Hôtel Montgomery we made a detour to Mont St-Michel to get a night photograph. Now, you have to remember that we are using Michael's little point and shoot camera (that erased all the photos at one point today) so the resolution is not what it could be. BUT I am telling you, this place is amazing. Driving towards the coast, we turned a corner and there it was off to our right, seeming to just rise up from the soil. The closer we got, the better it looked and this photo is taken from the causeway road that leads to the rock. At high tide, this road is cut and the Abbey and its associated town is isolated from the mainland. Visitor cars parked must be moved or they drown too! When the tides are right, you can watch the water rise and cut it off in less than 2 hours - and as you might guess, it won't happen again until the day we leave here - bugger! Anyway, we are going to visit the Abbey and the musems tomorrow.
Dinner tonight is at Crêperie du Couesnon again with Isabelle and Fabrice (hey, its Sunday night and there is not much open!) and they do not disappoint. Hopefully one day they can visit us in Australia!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Citroen, wine, and leek soup

This morning we are leaving Blaye - but not before we book in for a week from 20 June! There is just so much to see in the area and we have fallen in love with Bordeaux! The week we are coming back is Vin Expo, a huge Wine Expo promoting all the Bordeaux wines. We have been promised a tasting pass by Yann and Florence and Les will get us a visit to Chateau Rothschild and to Remy St Martin - so eat your hearts out guys - will definitely be part of the other 'set' before we get home!
We start today with a walk to the local twice-weekly markets after breakfast. Again, the food safety people would be horrified - there is the boucher with his meat on display and more seafood sellers than you can count doing a very brisk trade - at least their goods are on ice! There are boulangers, fabricants de saucisse, and lots of vendeurs de légumes (that is butchers, sausage sellers and greengrocers) as well as the ubiquitous clothing, handbag and junk merchants. The market is about the same size as the Maryborough markets - but much more vibrant and all the food vendors are doing a very brisk trade. No one relies on plastic bags here - they all carry large woven baskets and you see them trotting home laden with the makings of breakfast, lunch and dinner for a couple of days - and with the baguette for lunch toda sticking out the end. Bread is bought fresh for most meals as without preservative it goes stale quickly - that is, if there is any left over ;).

Michael makes a detour to the Post Office to send a bottle of wine home to David - this wine is the one we had with Les, the Aussies and the winemakers the other night. Want some? Talk with DM - it will take about 6 weeks to get there we think!
Then we are off in Les' Citroen to visit Yann and Florence's winery. We get a whistle stop tour and explanation of the processes. Most of their vines are about 15 years old and by legislation they can only sell 5,000 litres of wine per hectare (this helps to ensure quality and the absence of gluts on the market). The rest (if there is any) they can use for their own consumption, or make into vinegar or the like. We, with the exception of Michael, taste a few others and I buy four bottles of the 2006 vintage that is so good. Yann then gives me a bottle of the 2003 and 2004 vitages gratis! They are lovely people and we are looking forward to spending more time with them in June. I will email their contacts to Brian as they do not have an Australian importer as their previous one and his family all perished in the recent fires - yes, it has touched people's lives even on the other side of the world. Back to the guesthouse with the gearbox on the Citroen screaming as Les hoons it along. Didn't get a pic (will get one next time) - it is bright yellow and blue and with the top open, it is much fun!!!

He has made leek soup for lunch and invites us to share it with him along with the remains of the bagette from breakfast - it is made fresh and on vegetable stock and is just wonderful. Very cleansing. We make our goodbyes to Les and Michele, leaving some Aussie souvenirs with them and then hit the road north. The drive to Pontorson takes just under 6 hours and we pass through some of the most beautiful countryside heading back to the Atlantic coast. While we are too late to go down to Mont St Michel for the sunset photo, Michael does get a few nice ones through the fields as we travel.

We find the Hotel Montgomery easily and our room is very nice - even if it is one the second floor (no lift!). There is a little creperie a few doors away - Crêperie du Couesnon and we take the last table as we enter - the owner Isabelle turns away three groups of up to seven after we sit! The food is wonderful - long live french cooks!!!!
We share Salade de chèvre (Salad, tomatoes, toast with warm goat cheese and walnuts) this was just superb and a
Assiette de frittes (plate of chips)
Crépe Le Forestière – Ladons flambés, champignons, crème (Flamed bacon, mushrooms in cream) Michael
Crépe Le Royale – Jambon, œuf, fromage, champignons a la crème (Ham, egg, cheese, mushrooms in cream) Maria
Crépe Montélimar – Sirop d’érable, glace nougat, Chantilly (Maple syrup, nougat ice cream and Chantilly cream) – but without the cream Michael
Crépe Normande – Pommes poêlées, flambées au Calvados (fried apples flambed with Calvados) Maria
I drank Floralise - a light rose from the Provence area.

We strike up a conversation with Isabelle the owner and sitting nearby, the youngest daughter of a family nearby giggles either at our English or French - not sure which. However she is thrilled with the toy Kangaroo we give her and we leave a set of coasters (Aborignal Kangaroo design) for Isabelle and her husband Fabrice who is the cook. If you ever get to Pontorson, we can highly recommend a meal here. In order to improve her English which incidently is very good), Isabelle is currently reading The Diary of Adrian Mole 13½ in English and we share a laugh.