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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Ramblings from Deauville | Part 2

Things had been going well, plenty of local fare, three books read, another on the go, and happy dogs striding across the massive sandy beach.

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Preparing for one walk, Skye was excitedly bounding around with her extending lead in my hand. As she did a circuit of the coffee table, the rather nice glass vase in the centre was yanked defencelessly onto the tiled floor. It didn't bounce very well.

Our unscheduled shopping trip confirmed that France is expensive and as Deauville's shops include brands such as Chanel (Coco opened her first shop here), Lancel, Ralph Lauren & Louis Vuitton it demonstrates that this resort can take prices to another ridiculous level!

Disappointingly for me, we found a similar glass vase in the town. Having completed her role in 'product sourcing', my wife handed the 'le purchasing negotiations' over to me. 

The negotiations may have been somewhat easier had the guy spoken proper French. For some reason he was failing to understand my perfect dialect, together with numerous facial expressions and some rather exaggerated Gallic hand gestures. My new friend in the shop looked rather blank and a little nervous, as I added the classic technique of holding up various numbers of fingers from a closed fist to represent Euros. 

My final attempt at communication involved a slight of hand, as I seamlessly removed my beret from my pocket and placed it on 'ma tete', then I slowly unzipped my coat to reveal my blue & white hooped t-shirt, and nonchalantly leaned on the counter. From the corner of my eye I could see the admiring glances coming for my wife's gaze, but although my new friend looked impressed, he remained non-moved.

As I stared defeat square in the eye, I handed over the 50 Euro. My new friend smiled, more in relief than pleasure, and hurriedly did the wrapping and escorted us from the premises.

We relieved our trauma with a trip to the supermarket, a ham baguette, a couple of glasses of vin rouge, followed by a lay down on the sofa half looking at the Kindle and at the gentle waves against the sand.

Tuesday bought a trip to the vets. Thankfully my wife's coat is only listless due to an excessive consumption of fromage. While there, we booked the dogs in for their 'back to Britain' jabs in just under two week's time.

On the way back we stopped at the fish market for Normandy Sole for dinner and fresh Prawns for lunch. The compulsary baguette was of course also purchased. Why is it that prawns are so delicious, yet so often disappointing and more a watery mush. Not this time though, the flavour was perfect ...and I did not even complain about eating salad with it.

Discovered today that my friends here on the Cote de Fleurie call 'D-Day', 'J-Jour', and that the French do not have word for éclair, macaroon or nougat.

It has become clear to me that our French friends are still grateful for the sacrifices of our forefathers 60 years ago.  On recognising our English numberplate, they often demonstrate their gratitude by hooting their horns or waving excitedly. My wife however thinks it may have more to do with me driving on the wrong side of the road.

When Monsieur Baguette invented his exceptionally long loaf, I wonder if he realised this would drag me on a daily trip to purchase this as an accompaniment for everything we are eating. Any visit to a French supermarket brings a mixture of lip licking and astonishment in equal measure. My French brothers know a thing or two about ham, cheese, fresh fish, pastries and wine, however their love of offal is a different matter. White sausages, fat filled terrine's, unidentified fish soups, and tripe abound, they also seem to love vegetables and strange alien foods in jars. We must be missing something delicious somewhere, but how to gather the confidence to go completely off piste is tricky. I did try a jar of crevette pate, but it just tasted like swan to me.

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Saturday bought the obligatory visit to Deauville Market and of course the supermarket. I was still recovering from a night of storms, banging shutters and a demented dog panting in my ear all night, (My wife slept fine, no panting, just the occasional dribble and snore.)

Steve, my brother-in-law arrived on Sunday. The afternoon was quite peaceful, until my wife spotted a man frantically waving at our balcony from the beach boardwalk. She decided I would be best to deal with the issue and left me to direct the guy to the entrance gate. On speaking, it became obvious that he did not speak my dialect of French, so it was tricky. The only option was sign language, so I held up 4 fingers, made a cross sign and then 7 fingers adding the word 'vacances'. As he tried to interpret my signals (for we are here on a month's holiday) I spotted his jacket had a logo with 'security' on it. He kept repeating the word 'alarm'. I said we were not alarmed about anything, and in fact we were fine and having a lovely time. After a while it became clear that our conversation was going nowhere, so I patted him on the head a couple of times, kissed both his cheeks and wished him a bon voyage.

On returning to the house, my wife suddenly confessed that whilst I waited in the car on our way out earlier, she may have set off the house alarm by mistake. Bless her petites boutiques de coton.

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During the past couple of weeks we have got a taste for Pommeau de Normandy, a local speciality which is basically an Apple Port, made from Calvados & fermented Apple Juice.

We discovered this gem on our visit to the distillery and orchards of Christian Drouin. Delicious cannot adequately describe the smooth and fruity aperitif & digestif. It is made using 20 types of apples and is matured in oak casks for 18 months, - and worth every second. Described as perfect with blue cheese or dessert, I have discovered is also goes perfectly with croissants, crisps, Nutella, or cornflakes.

After opening one bottle with lunch, our planned afternoon of book reading, ended as a deep sleep until it was time for the home bar to reopen. My wife has bought a few bottles for friends at home, but there is a good chance they will never see them!

During the week Steve was introduced to part of our new culinary repertoire (The French don't have a word for that either) of home cooked food, French onion soup, Normandy sole, tartiflette, as well as being swamped with ham, rillettes, canard mousse, crevettes roses & avocado, Normandy soft cheeses, and a rather tasty Comté reservé hard cheese that we had discovered at the market. He also of course soon got a taste for Pommeau.

On one of our daily pilgrimages to Carrefour, my brother in law ventured to the till alone one day. Sadly, whilst an expert in the inner workings of a computer programme, he is not so good with his linguistic skills. This was proven as he smiled gormlessly to every question from our favourite cashier. However, having not answered any of the questions, as he left the till his confidence increased and he gave her a cheery 'gracias' along with a slightly demented wave. The Gallic shrug that our friendly cashier gave in our direction said all.

A trip to the racehorse auction was fun, that was until one of horses in the parade ring got spooked and was bucking like a bronco and threatening to trample all in sight. My wife is in constant fear of being attacked by ponies when we are in the New Forest, so she was particularly alarmed. There was only one thing for it, so we opted for the nearest creperie. Here I learned that a banana & chocolate crepe, alongside a caramel butter crepe and a thick hot chocolate is a little too much even for the sweetest tooth.

Naturally our week with Steve has also involved more eating out, and we have all experienced new dishes such as; an egg poached inside a brioche roll, fish soup, fillet of ling (fish), a whole bass - head and all, and fromage blanc, which was claimed to be be cream cheese with red berry coulis, but more like yoghurt with a red topping like you get on an ice cream cone. Talking of cream, well sort of, - in the land of cows and cheese it is amazing they don't do anything like the glorious single double and extra thick creams we know at home. Their cream is mainly a strange savoury & sweet mix for cooking, their eclairs are filled with flavoured custard, and for desserts they seem happy with squirty cream from a can. No chance of cream tea in Normandy then!

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We decided to mark Valentine's Day by adding our own marked padlock to the Metal Heart in the seafront gardens. As we disposed of the key, a little bit of us will now be in Deauville until next time we come.

Fearlessly we have spent the month accepting the challenge of the town's Avenue of Death and negotiating the town centre Roundabout of Death. Both are so called because at these locations any driver can appear at will and without warning from any direction. The faster they randomly drive straight in, the happier they seem. Parking bays are also of great amusement to my French brothers, they obviously consider the white line of no relevance, and simply as a rough guide for part of the car underside to cover, ensuring of course that they use at least two spaces.

It has to be noted that the zebra crossings are certainly not to be used by any faint-hearted pedestrian. To ensure the driver has the advantage in the Russian roulette crossing game, they cunningly allow parking right up to the black & white lines, thus increasing the excitement, as the brave pedestrians are then able to appear completely unexpectedly. Driving and road crossing in France should quite clearly be classified an extreme sport.

After a month of being French we are being repatriated on Saturday. With a bit of luck our journey home will be uneventful and my return to speaking English will not prove too difficult.


*If you would like to read a ridiculously long account of our last emigration to France, you can click on the links below. It is not something for the faint-hearted or for people with anything better to with their time!

Ramblings from Deauville | Part 1: click here

Deauville Diary - Week One (Oct 2011): click here
Deauville Diary - Week Two (Oct 2011): click here
Deauville Diary - Week Three (Oct 2011): click here
Deauville Diary - Week Four (Oct 2011): click here

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