{an autumnal trip to France} part 1 :: Normandy

normandy-2The moment that I stepped out onto the deck of the Brittany Ferries ship, and took in a lungful of salty air, I felt my shoulders lower and my head clear. My love and the littlest boy stayed curled up in the cabin, one reading Paris guides, the other alternating between testing out the softness of the lower bunk and peering out of the window crying “Look, Daddy- boat!”.

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The older boys and I waved England goodbye, watching Portsmouth recede into the distance before they explored the soft play facility and I indulged in a slice of tarte aux abricots and a hot, uninterrupted cup of tea. Arriving into Caen that evening we were relaxed and cheerful, revitalised by a rest in the cabin, a stroll on the deck and delicious meal from the restaurant. We were ready to wind our way down long roads, past colourful trees and charming villages until we reached our destination.normandy-11I have been visiting my parents’ cottage in Normandy since I was a teenager. Oddly, now that they have sold the home of my youth, this stone-walled cottage deep in the French countryside is the place that feels most like a homecoming to me. The last time that we were there, the littlest was a tiny baby, and so this visit was a voyage of joyful discovery for him. Running wild in the garden, spotting the heron by the pond, communing with the cows at the end of the garden, each of these small things brought him huge delight.

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normandy-9The older boys built dens, collected leaves, searched fruitlessly for snakes (thank goodness!) and spent time carefully whittling sticks. On the eve of Halloween, my Dad helped them to make a fire pit, and to construct an elegant bonfire. A carved pumpkin aglow beside the window, and marshmallows toasted on the fire were our simple celebration.normandy-8normandy-12

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Almost every morning, I awoke to mist gently rising from the pond, or on one day, a countryside swathed in fog. Each time I grabbed my camera and hurried out into the garden in my pyjamas, hoping to capture the haze that softened lines and sharpened colours in the October Mayenne landscape.

normandy-10When the fog cleared, it left behind bright sunshine, sparkling on the surface of the nearby lake like a million tiny starbursts. The boys, paddling in their wellies, looked to be wading through a bright galaxy, creating black holes and starry eddies with every footfall. Oak leaves from the trees around the lake fluttered down towards the water, pirouetting in the breeze and coming to rest amongst the glitter.

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I will hold fast to these little glowing moments of autumnal magic, in a place close to my heart, surrounded by those I love.

The next part of our adventure took us to Paris, but that will follow in the next post. I hope you’ll come back to read it…

{Our ferry crossing was gifted to us, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.}

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