Sunday: After the gang arrived the night before we all slowly arose with mild hangovers. Bouncing down the stairs, Joy told me that she had baked one of her famous Victoria Sponges for my wife and I, just as I was about to say ‘thank you’, she exclaimed; “But we’ve eaten it, it looked nicer than what was available in the motorway services.” Mum, Pete, my brother & Nic, moi sister in law and two good friends, Gary & Joy fancied seeing a French Market today, so off we set in a two car convoy to the adjoining town, Trouville. Being awash with people and cars, I got out to look for a space as our UK convoy queued for the car park. On my return, no convoy. Easy, I thought, I will call them - No phone. I’ll go and have a coffee then - No wallet. Half an hour later a bemused Englishman called Gary arrived saying; “I didn’t realise you had got out of the car.” Eventually, we all parked and went to explore Trouville’s large riverside market. An explosion of colour and sound with a traditional carousel, clothes stalls and food galore greeted us. Sausages and cold meats of every description, most I suspect filled with gizzards, tripe or random offal, all things that the French seem to delight in devouring. There was even a stall selling live hermit crabs with multicoloured hand-painted shells. (See picture) Cider and Calvados was of course plentiful and a trip to the crepe and ‘fondante au pomme’ stall was delicious.
Trouville is also famous for its Fish Market so we decided to have fresh fish for dinner. Crevettes Rose cocktail for a starter, followed by a double fish course of sole and gurnard wrapped in Parma ham, all served with sautéed potatoes, shallots and fresh vegetables. Peter cooked, as he has skills in the kitchen that would suit a fine restaurant. His nickname of ‘Perfect Pete’ is irritatingly well founded. We rounded off the evening by once again drinking too much. It was during this time that I made a fateful mistake in informing everyone that the French do not have their own word for ‘carousel’. I then gave some other examples; ‘boutique’, ‘café’, ‘baguette’ etc. Little did I know how this would haunt me over the coming days! I then suggested we turn on the ‘French language only’ TV we have, but no-one seemed enthusiastic about my offer to translate each programme for them. At one stage someone did mention Peter’s guitar, but fortunately I moved swiftly enough to change the subject, - drinking seemed the correct and main objective of the night.
Monday: Up early, I wanted to greet everyone with ‘Good Morning’ in French, but they do not have such a saying. So, it was simply, bonjour, then French stuff for breakfast, before a whistle-stop tour of the towns sites. This was followed by a hot chocolate whilst people watching outside a café in the town square. The weather was perfect as I guided my entourage to the Deauville-La Touques Racecourse for an afternoon of horse racing. On arriving, everything seemed a bit quiet, and once inside there was not a horse in sight. Ah, wrong racecourse. With all of the composure of ‘Brendan from Coach Trip’ I gathered my un-amused group and redirected them a mile or so down the road. Entry was free to Deauville Clairefontaine Racecourse and there were actually horses there. The course is famed for its flowers and even in October the quaint buildings and beds were bedecked with triumphant colour. We did consider betting, but even this was too confusing for a Francophile such as myself. No worries, the afternoon’s ambience was perfect entertainment alone.
Tonight was Gary’s turn to cook, and being a retired fireman he prepared enough tasty food for a watch of twenty hulking firefighters. As the evening got late we were catching up with stories about family, distant relatives and long-time friends, which if overheard would have sounded more like an episode of the Jeremy Kyle Show. Mum then grinned and told a story about a school friend we had, that none of us could remember, who had been abducted by the Moonies. As the drink flowed, life became even more surreal, when our guests then decided to play a game of ‘Words the French don’t have their own word for’. The resulting sentence; “We watched the Grand prix, then went to the boutique to buy some lingerie and a basque which will be ideal for using for burlesque, oh la la! As we entered the restaurant, run by a local entrepreneur, and just down the boulevard in a cul de sac, the sommelier offered us champagne and the hors d'oeuvres and amuse-bouche were accompanied by a linen serviette. We were then given the la carte menu which had desserts like; meringue, eclairs, gateaux or flambé bananas, with petit fours followed by liqueur. The maitre d, whose name was Philippe Flop, was wearing a cravat and was from Bordeaux. He had previously worked in a bistro next to a menagerie, which had specialised in croissant with mayonnaise, vol-au-vents, and quiche with mange tout. Philippe proved to be a bit of a raconteur, as he told how his sister had once had a liaison in a hairdressing salon with Danny La Rue……...”, I simply stood on the balcony and threatened to jump unless they stopped! As things returned to a sort of normal, in turn, each of our party swivelled to looked at the framed object in the room. My brother then said; “I wonder what the French call a French Door, … or a French kiss,… or a French letter.” I was soon on the balcony again.
Tuesday: Empty house again after guest departed following breakfast, - spent rest of day recovering.
Wednesday: Called to introduce myself to the Mayor, but receptionist at ‘La Mairie’ pretended she did not understand my French. I decided to come back when someone who spoke proper French was on duty.
Thursday: On one of our many daily beach strolls whilst walking the dogs, we today met a couple walking a fine Newfoundland. As the dogs greeted each other, in a way only dogs can, I stopped and chatted to the owners. “Le bon chien, et le grande chien” I commented. ‘Oui, merci monsieur” they replied. Obviously they wanted to chat with a fellow French person, so we then went on to have more in-depth conversation. I was a bit surprised to find out they had not heard of Charles Aznavour. Even when I sang the first four verses of ‘She’, it did not shift their memory. As they left, they wished us both ‘au revoir’, mounted their Newfoundland and rode off into the sunset, only pausing to give my wife a sympathetic smile. Meandering our way across the sand my wife told me how impressed she was with me. Sometimes she gets the words ‘embarrassed’ and ‘impressed’ mixed up, but I knew she was right this time. “What do you think you said at the end?” my wife sweetly enquired, ‘I told them our dinner was in the oven.” “You do realise” she growled; “You actually just told that couple something like ‘We must go now as I have locked my grandmother in the fridge’.” One deft kick of my heals with a pair of size 5 ladies walking boots and my face was flat in the sand.
Friday: Went to get more baguettes, now eating three two footers a day.