During our first week at Ouistreham we got to thinking about moving on to Cherbourg and then to St Quay Portrieux where we had planned to winter this year. Contrary to many comments about Ouistreham it looks perfect – a tree-lined, quiet marina with busy periods for afternoon/evening entertainment. This led to the question of why move further this year as we had promised ourselves that as we’re not in a hurry and if we liked somewhere, why not stay a while. The benefits to this are that you get to know the locals as they soon work out you’re not just a transient. Our berth is without doubt the best we have had in France and possibly the best since leaving Hull. Shearmyste takes pride of place at the end of the pontoon with all manner of boat types passing by – the majority of whom wave and shout “bonjour” as they go. Funnily enough all the neighbours are French – that’s possibly another reason for staying!
So, what is Ouistreham like? Steve has just a 10 minute walk to a very secluded beach to undertake something that he must do, which is to forage for his own seafood supper (clams and mussels aplenty)! Unfortunately (for me anyway) he was disgusting on our first trip – breaking open a number of clams and eating them sushi style – urgh! The boulangerie is a little further and up the only hill in the place (but it is actually more like a molehill!). The D-Day landings took place in this area and you can cycle from Ouistreham along Sword beach with plenty of historical places to visit for those interested in WW II.
The only downside to our Ouistreham experience has been the Saturday market of between 5 and 3 stalls! However it does meet our needs – eggs and veg and, unlike all the other markets we have visited, does not sell mattresses! We are the closest we have been to a big supermarket in our trip so far which also happens to exchange my English sodastream gas cylinders! We have managed to find the best shiny shop (aka chandlery) that we’ve ever seen and it’s only a 10 minute cycle away!
The Portsmouth to Caen ferry terminal is within 10 minutes’ walk, making it easy for our guests to carry their essentials (payment for bed currently stands at smoked streaky bacon, salad cream, HP sauce, Krackawheat, Worcestershire sauce crisps and Marmite crisps!!) Meat here has been a bit of an issue and it appears that I am finally a proper vegetarian! Steve has given up on chicken too and is starting to eat more pork and fish – he keeps talking about becoming a Presbyterian with added bacon. However the staples are good and cheap (wine and vodka). We are making our way through our store cupboard basics which means standing for long periods of time in front of the flour section of the supermarket trying to work out which is the best strong plain flour to make my pizzas etc. My first foray into French flour has only been semi-successful – it seems to need an awful lot more water than I am used to using. However the results have been edible and nothing like the gluten-free frisbees I made for Daisy and William!
Bike rides along the canal, seafront and river are just perfect (that means flat!). Caen is two hours by dinghy but at 8 miles each way it’s a bit too far for cycling at the moment (hot flushes and hot weather do not help!!).
Wildlife abounds here in Ouistreham. Herons, coots, ducks, crazy geese, little grebes, egrets and I even saw my first water vole today. Unfortunately Steve’s camera work left a lot to be desired (perhaps 4 mugs of strong coffee were too many too soon!)
Our language skills are improving nicely, we seem to be able to get through most conversations with only a couple of puzzled looks and Steve has been challenged by the marina staff to learn one new word everyday. However his favourite word is derrière- initially because it makes so many appearances in any sports broadcasts we watch and he has finally realised that it doesn’t just mean a part of the anatomy!
Steve’s birthday on Sunday came and went quite quietly – maybe because I spent all afternoon asleep (as I had not slept well the night before!) only to be woken by Steve frying onions for his birthday meal! Our planned menu of garlic dough balls with baked eggs and tomatoes worked perfectly but were not conducive to us partaking of the family favourite – tiramisu, but it didn’t go to waste as it followed yet another Italian main the next day!
We are currently surrounded by some of the Open 40 fleet who are preparing for The Normandy Race which starts on Sunday. The race village opens on Thursday in Caen marina so we think we are going to attempt our first bus trip on Friday to have a look around. Steve wants to go out through the lock in the dinghy to watch the race start on Sunday – I’m not so sure about that!