France in July 2005

First we visited our friends the Armitages, who have a second home in Erin. Their son Matthew, a charming redhead, was in Griffin's class at Manor Lodge.

A lot of time was spent on their bouncy castle, sometimes with soap suds.

We also took them geocaching.

We visited a lovely market at Arras. We waited on the artichokes, and then ended up not finding any. Moscow rule. Arras market

At the beach near Merlimont, some of us played a form of cricket in the extreme wind. Ross went off to the dunes to dig a hole. He dug really deep, so that when it collapsed, with him headfirst and hands-back, he started to suffocate. Luckily a passing Frenchman found his waving legs to be irregular, and pulled him out, probably saving his life. We will never call them cheese-eating surrender monkeys again.

Here is Griffin eating a cone after the beach excitement. Griffin with cone

Here is Patricia, waiting for some lardon-and-creme flammenkuche. We had taken the Armitages here (Montreuil) earlier, but it was closed. So we went back after we had moved on to the camping part of our vacation.
beautiful Patricia

And here we are at the chocolate shop in Beussent. choco shop

Claire puts up the tent at the first campground, near the forest of Eawy. tent near Eawy

There are lots of gardens in this part of Normandy. hydrangea reference garden race at Auffay cabbage Bois des Moutiers

One of the gardens was called ArtMazia, which has a huge copper-beech maze. We arrived after closing, but P persuaded the owner, Geoff Troll, to let us in. We did the whole maze, with accompanying treasure-puzzle-hunt. Geoff treated Griffin and even Claire to well-deserved lessons on cheating. Then we set up our tent in his campground, which until that evening had been full of a school-group of underprivileged kids doing art-therapy. Geoff cranked up the free games on the pinball machine. I invited him and his wife Hyacinth to dinner, so they took us to a nice local restaurant. And then afterwards they treated me to their very fine home-made calvados.

The next day we went kayaking! I found a listing in a guidebook, and after listening to a lot of fast French over the phone, I finally figured out where to go. The guide who rented us the equipment was a teenager who was making no concessions to anglophones. I did manage to lie in French, saying that Claire was the minimum age of 10. The teenager seemed to say a lot of stuff about chutes and keeping to the left or right at various points, especially at a mill-race. When the time came, we clung desperately to hanging willow leaves to try to suss the situation, but were borne inexorably to our doom, daddy and Griffin first. Luckily the small camera is still functioning after getting wet. I won't even mention about when the girls needed to pee, or the ferocious dog. We did see a lot of muskrats, or something like that.
kayaking on the Varenne kayaking on the Varenne

Our last night of camping was at Quiberville, on the ocean. Ross found a fantastic black flint fossil of a sand-dollar. We had a so-so meal in a local restaurant. I have to admit that most of the best food this trip was picnicking or cooking our own, though this was partly because we did not track down any really fancy restaurants.
Ross Ross fossil karate kids Claire

After this it poured all night and the next day, so we phoned P&O and got our ferry trip moved up a day. But we will be back in October.

We didn't see Fleur Delacour anywhere, but we did do a lot of Harry Potter.

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