I finished the blog last week just as I was preparing to eat a meal prepared by chef, Sam who was visiting us with Emma and her family. He was cooking bouillabaisse a French fish stew cooked in a thick tomato sauce (it also includes langoustines and mussels). I have to say that it was excellent. We ate outside sat round our big table on the patio in the very warm evening sun. With fresh French bread and of course some lovely French wine, it was a great experience. It was also nice to share the meal with our visitors.

As well as Emma’s brother, Sam and his fiancée Emma, we also had her mum, Julie and her other brother Nathan. It was lovely getting to know them and in France of course a family meal is an important feature of life.

The other advantage of having friends and family to visit is that it gives an opportunity to go out and visit some of our local tourist attractions. And so we duly went to visit Bagnoles de L’Orne during the week. This an old spa town which still has its thermal baths and at the centre of the town is a large boating lake surrounded by a large apartment block, once the Grand Hotel and the casino. The town was very famous in the early 1900s and during the period of La Belle Époque it was much visited by the rich and famous who came to take the thermal treatment and wine, dine and gamble. 

As part of the town trail we visited an area of housing built during this period and full of grand and flamboyant houses. It is now a bit run down and there are many houses which appear unoccupied. Interestingly they all seem to have barred windows at the level of what must be the basement. We wondered if the bars were to keep people out or to keep them in! Some of the houses had that dated horror movie look with just one room on the top floor with some faded net curtains. At any moment it looked like they would be pulled back to reveal some crazy old woman. 

A belle epoque house in Bagnoles

There were plenty of occupied houses and some being converted into flats and apartments and it looked like the area was improving. One house was clearly occupied by some crazy cat lady and the garden contained a cats kennel with a model cat looking out. This seemed to me to be an obvious option for the La Godefrere cats. They I think would like the idea of outside kennels. A sort of day house.

Crazy cat house

Another interesting feature of Bagnoles was the use of the phrase “Trottoir pas crottoir” illustrated on the pavements with a picture of a dog. It means politely this is a pavement and not a toilet for dogs. Part of a campaign to reduce the amount of dogs mess on the footpath but interesting as it is done as a form of street art. From what we saw it seems to be working!

Street art! (please ignore feet)

So  an interesting place and a good day out with plenty to see and the town walk covers a range of places from the Belle Epoque to the lake and casino and through a valley where the thermal baths are around through a wooded area where an old chateau has been turned into the local town hall. Some good places for a bit of lunch as well.

Later in the week we went en masse to the Michelin starred restaurant in Mayenne called L’eveil des sens. Which means the awakening of the senses. This is a one starred Michelin restaurant run by chef Nicholas Nobis. This is an experience not only in excellent food but also French cuisine and service. The restaurant is quite small but the whole experience is good. The service is amazing and professional. There were seven of us for lunch and everything was served together and with some style. The waitresses explaining what all the dishes contained. From the amuse bouches to the petit fours with coffee it was all done with style and good service.

For Michelin quality food the price is not excessive. For a three course mean it came to 40 Euros. Around £35. The wine is suitably expensive and you have to take care as some bottles come in at 350 Euros a bottle! There are some more competitive prices and the wine was of course also excellent. Our visitors were suitably full and impressed at the end of the meal and we all went back to La Godefrere for a well earned nap in the garden.

With the fine weather we seem to have spent a bit more time sat in the garden. Certainly the cats have been enjoying the summer weather and Archie in particular just comes across the lawn and falls over to go to sleep. His thoughts of a long and peaceful sleep were often interrupted by the chickens who roam around all the gardens and then find this large furry thing draped over the lawn. They have taken to creeping up on him and pecking all around him. This then comes as something of a surprise to Archie who finds himself surrounded by chickens.

Archie and the hens

Talking of chickens we have arrived at a point where we need a chicken protocol. At the moment Mrs.Parish is the chicken lady and does all the feeding and letting out and putting away of the chickens. She is due to go over to England on Tuesday leaving me in charge of the chickens! I explain that I will need a detailed protocol of chicken care if they are to survive. The chickens are let out first thing in the morning and this also requires changing water and breakfast for the hens. During the day they roam around the garden and generally bother the cats. In the evening they are put into their run mid evening and then locked away in the hen house when it gets dark. The art is getting the hens firstly into their run. This seems to be a question of bribery by offering them corn as a treat. The next thing is to get them up the steps and into the hen house which is seems more controlled by how dark it is getting.

I have a feeling that the bolshie chickens are just waiting for me to take control before applying suffragette tactics to make life as difficult as possible for me. Even if it is written in the chicken protocol the hens will see this as an opportunity to assert their independence. The cats also are preparing for this period and I have noticed them huddled in the garden preparing for a concerted revolt as a means either of getting more in time or more food. Mrs. Parish is away until next Sunday so that is enough time for the chickens and cats to create mayhem!

While all this has been going on the Little Owls have fledged their young and there seems to be two young owls that are now being fed in the evenings in our garden. The two young owls are either sat in a tree or come down to the grass to be fed by their parents. Occasionally dive bombing Moggie who also has been sorted out by the chickens who squawk at him when he comes near. The local swallows have also taken to flying at him. They all seem to have his measure!

It is now late in the evening and we have just got back from a meal and several drinks with our new neighbours who are here for a week. We managed to sort out all the world’s problems so can sleep peacefully tonight.

Bonne soiree