So it is finally the end of Christmas at La Godefrere after our fourth experience of festivities. This past week we have had our vegan Christmas with Amy and Charlotte. It seems like a long time since our daughter Jo came for the first Christmas back in December. We have had to work hard to cope with an excessive amount of eating and drinking and have played so many board games that we are playing in our sleep. One of the most difficult things has been listening to our CD of Christmas music repeatedly. Cheesy Christmas songs have a habit of getting stuck in your head.

My daughter Amy in our nature trail taken by Charlotte (

The other problem of a lengthy Christmas is working out what day of the week it is. It is a bit like being in a time warp where the space time continuum is distorted for the festive season. When you are constantly on holiday with no pressing daily tasks it seems as if it is Sunday every day. This feeling is added to by the serving up of sumptuous meals and the odd drop of wine. So this week it ceased to be Sunday for the first time. It was a bit confusing because the next day was not Monday but Wednesday after taking Amy and Charlotte back to the ferry on Tuesday evening. Of course we then added to the problem by having a cleaning day which is normally on Friday on Wednesday. At least we have now arrived at a proper weekend and it is actually Sunday today so we can restore normality at least for a while.

We rounded off our final Christmas with a visit to our friend Alex who runs an Alpaca farm not far from us. Amy and Charlotte were keen to see the animals. The weather of course was against us and our first attempted visit was put off because of the rain. The second attempt was more successful and although it was very muddy we did manage to get round. Charlotte is a photographer and took her camera and was rewarded by a fantastic display by the alpacas that posed and played up to the camera. Of course we met the famous Ron, the alpaca who doesn’t believe he is one and is a bit of a loner. We of course also saw the other animals including goats, chickens and a new acquisition a wonderful big Percheron, which is a French shire horse.

Charlotte's picture of a performing alpaca (

Visiting Alex is always a bit manic and this time was no different but it is always interesting. After a good look around we went in for a coffee and of course shared the kitchen with three large dogs and a cat. While there we met Ellie who works at an animal park at St. Symphorien which is about 30 miles away. The animal park is currently closed to the public but has a range of rare breeds and other animals, including herds of fallow and red deer. Anyway we were invited by Ellie to come and have a look round. She told us the park had been closed for some time and was a bit run down. It needed a lot of work to restore it and make it suitable to open as a tourist attraction again. She said drive into the village and turn left at the house with no roof! This seemed an ominous start to a visit to a rundown wild animal park. She then told us to go through some very large gates which may or may not be open! This would lead us to park outside the large house inside where the owner of the park lives. Ellie said the elderly lady who lives there would not mind.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that we arrived at St. Symphorien on the Monday morning. We duly turned left at the house with no roof. Indeed it barely had any walls it was so dilapidated. We drove down to the great wooden gates which were fortunately open and parked outside a large house. The park had once been the grounds of a large chateau which had burned down many years ago. The large house appeared to be the estate farmhouse and we parked in front. We were standing around looking a bit bemused when out from the house came the lady who owns the park. I was running through my mind the scenarios from various horror films and wondering if we should make a run for it now. In horror films they never take the chance to run away and then it is too late!

Anyway the lady was pleased to see us and showed us the way to go to walk round the park. She then insisted that when we had finished we must join her for a coffee. So we set off and spent a wonderful morning going round the estate meeting a whole load of different animals. There were Jacob’s sheep with huge swirling horns, loads of other sheep of differing breeds, a herd of highland cattle and two herds of deer in very large enclosures where they were living as a wild herd. There were also llamas, donkeys and goats. We met Ellie on the way round and it is her job, on her own to feed all the animals and to treat any ailments they had. She also explained that they were trying to re-home a number of the animals while they reorganised the park.

Highland cattle taken by Charlotte (

Fortunately I had anticipated this and had carefully warned Amy and Charlotte not to make any nodding gestures nor to make any signs that may be interpreted as agreeing to take any animals. I also advised them that they would be searched before they got back in the car! We ended up back at the farmhouse and were entertained by the owner with coffee and cakes and told us all about the history of the park and her plans to try to restore its fortunes. She was the perfect host and we had a great time.

The vegans have now returned to England and we are returning to some sort of normality. The first task was to get some meat to eat and I was straight to the consignment of pork that was delivered last week. We had some lovely pork sausages!

This Sunday we returned to the village repas circuit organised by Emile and Yvette. Today we went to the nearby village of Brece for a meal organised by the Familles Rurale. A charity that works to address family problems in a rural community. Today was a “Pot au Feu” day. Pot au feu is a very slow cooked joint of beef, served with boiled potatoes and carrots and cabbage. It is very nice and the meat through long and slow cooking is very tender. Once again the repas was well supported and over 300 people crammed into the village hall. In typical French fashion the meal was supposed to start at 12-30 lunchtime. We arrived at 1pm and from that period people wandered in and the meal started to be served with the obligatory kir. We then had a soup made from the juices cooking the meat with bread. Then the pot au feu followed by cheese (again a requirement) and finally a chocolate pudding. By the time we had coffee it was nearly 5pm and the meal had frittered away a wet winter afternoon in great company with of course lots of wine and conversation.

Mrs.Parish and I are now resting and think we may be able to go several days before we need to eat again.

We are now looking forward to the visit next week by our good friends Alan and Debi. They are coming for the weekend and it will mean that the blog will probably have to wait until the following Monday before it is written up.

For now bonne semaine