This has been a truly amazing week and one full of action and incident and involving quite a lot of eating and drinking. This should make up for last week’s blog which on reflection may have appeared a bit stodgy with rather a lot of bread involved. No such problems this week with lots of incident and which all started with the Le Mans 24 hours.

This was not a trip to the 24 hour race for which Le Mans is famous but instead a 24 hour visit to the medieval town centre and the chance to see an amazing light show called “La nuit des chimeras” or the night of angels and demons. This is an impressive show with images being projected onto the cathedral and onto the city walls. Each set of lights told a story and was accompanied by music. A walk around the medieval centre after dark enabled us to see all the different projections onto different buildings. Quite a charming and wonderful display which also attracts a lot of tourists and so makes the town centre alive at night.

Light show on city walls at Le Mans

Mrs.Parish and I arrived mid morning and spent an hour looking around the medieval buildings and streets which are very interesting and then we had lunch outside so we could enjoy the sun and a lovely lunch and wine which, being France took us an hour and a half. After lunch we decided to have a look at some of the museums and here I have to say we were somewhat disappointed and somewhat mislead. Right in the centre of what is described as the Plantagenet City was the Queen Berengeria Museum. For the non history people, the Plantagenets were Kings of England who were born in France and started by Henry II who was born in Le Mans and followed by his son Richard the Lion heart. Richard’s wife was Beregengeria and she lived for 25 years in Le Mans after his death. So we thought the Berengeria museum would tell us all we wanted to know about her and the Plantagenet’s. We duly arrive at the museum and once we had paid for our tickets the lady at the welcome desk said that there was nothing about Berengeria in the building which was built after her death. In fact the museum held only some very boring paintings and some pottery. They had just decided it would be a good idea to name the museum after Berengeria. Nice touch taking our money before telling us this! Fortunately it was quite cheap to go in.

So we decide to visit the City Museum, called “Carre Plantagenet”. This must be the place with all the information on the Plantagenet’s and their links with Le Mans. This of course is France where not all is what it seems and we discover again once we have bought tickets that the carre Plantagenet museum is named after where it is and not what is inside it. In fact it is the city museum of archaeology and there is not much about the plantagenents only one old painting of Geoffrey of Anjou who was Henry’s father in law.

We decided to go and find our hotel which was an absolute delight and was situated just behind the cathedral with fine views from our bedroom. After a suitable rest from our exciting museum visits we decided to go and eat before the light show started and found a great restaurant in the medieval town square where we had a 2 hour meal. We worked out that so far we had done 4 hours sightseeing and 3.5 hours eating and drinking and we felt that the balance was about right!

Cathedral from our hotel

We then went to see the light show with angels and demons climbing all over one side of the cathedral. On the city walls were massive figures and dragons and in one square medieval diners sat at a banquet table.

On our way home the next day we stopped off at a place called Sille le Guillaume. I think Mrs. Parish was indulging me after the historical disappointments. Sille le Guillaume is the name of a French town and we had often seen signs for while travelling in France. Of course I always dissolve into laughter and ask why the French have a town called silly billy (Guillaume being French for William). Anyway there is a lake and forest there and we spent a couple of hours walking in the woods and saw two Kingfishers which we watched for sometime by the lakeside.

We arrived home on Thursday evening and at around 9pm we spotted two hot air balloons flying very low to the ground. One just managed to get over our house before drifting away across the fields. The second balloon clearly wasn’t going to get high enough and the balloon landed in a recently cut cornfield just at the top of our lane. Well we were in the lane with our neighbours Daniel and Giselle and dog Pepito. So we all hurried to the end of the lane to see where the balloon ditched. Unfortunately there was no carnage and mayhem just a gentle landing and the balloon deflated and the following cars came along to pick up the balloon to take it away. We saw the same two balloons the next night and this time they drifted past us without incident although again they seemed very low and just missed some tall trees. Of course in France hot air balloons are called Montgolfiers after the two brothers who were the first to ascend in hot air balloons in the 18th century. So Daniel kept calling them montgolfiers which had me in fits of laughter as it reminded me of the famous Monty Python sketch on the Montgolfier brothers. I probably should get out more.

Montgolfier above (just) our barn

So after the montgolfiers we were invited into Giselle’s for coffee and somehow the conversation got around to wasps (Gueppes in French). Apparently it is a bad year for wasps and there are a lot of them around. We explained that we had a wasp nest in a hole in the middle of our orchard and the wasps were fighting Mrs. Parish for the blackberry harvest. We did have some spray to kill off wasps in a nest but this involved getting very close to the nest and firing the spray down the hole. I was looking at the spray can when Mrs. Parish casually mentioned that a French farmer had died after being attacked by a hoard of wasps when trying to kill their nest. I put the can back and said we should give this further thought. Of course Giselle had an answer and disappeared out into her storeroom and came back with an ancient box containing some insect killer. It looked at least 60 years old and probably contained some sort of banned chemicals. She swore by this powder and so said she would come over once it was dark. She said this was to ensure that all the wasps had returned home. I wasn’t so sure and thought that it would be dangerous to be seen with the box in daylight.

So about 10-30pm Giselle arrives and we sally forth armed with torches and the box to attack the nest. We creep up as quiet as we can, just in case the wasps are still awake. In fact there are a couple at the entrance, night watch wasps I suggest. I’m told to shut up and keep quiet! Giselle produces a spoon and liberally places the powder all around the hole so that the wasps must go though it either going out or coming in. Giselle shines her torch down the hole, which I am not sure is a good thing but no wasps appear and we eventually withdraw to the house. In the morning there is no sign of life in the nest and we fill in the hole. Such is life and death in rural France!!

Just when we think the week can’t get any more exciting we find two eco cops in the lane. I have mentioned these before from the Environment and wildlife police. They came to see us about the hunters who shot a boar. I was a bit worried they had heard of Giselles poisonous powder but no. Thankfully they had come round as part of their routine checks on water course and had been to look at the stream at the bottom of the big filed. They check to make sure they are running properly and that people are not disposing of chemicals into the stream. Our stream had the all clear and the two cops stopped to have a chat with us. They were very impressed with the clearance work we had done and the path we had made and also them areas where we had planted wild flowers. They also advised us about some of our small oak trees which are being rubbed by deer and which is damaging the bark. They suggested using plastic tubes used from drains or electrical wiring and to cut them in half and put these around the trees. We had some in our store but they are red. So we now have a lovely lot of oak trees running along the path all with red trousers!

So an exciting week comes to an end and the weather has been hot and sunny all week and is still hot into this evening. Now the blog is written it is time to sit and enjoy a lovely sunset with a little aperitif.

Bon weekend