Finally our first foray on the French public transportation system! Steve thought it was high time that we expanded our horizons so after a bit of research we decided that we would catch the bus to Deauville/Trouville – two towns on opposite sides of the River Touques joined by a bridge. Several yachties had told us what a wonderful place it was and as we have already passed it and not called in we thought it would be a good bus trip to make. Steve wanted us to catch the 9 am bus into Caen however we are not that good at getting up (he is convinced that my body clock is still on English time!) so it was the 10 o’clock that we caught. Whilst waiting for the bus to arrive we noticed that another couple waiting were also English so we had a bit of a conversation with them. They were from Sandwich in Kent and asked what our plans were. When we said we were heading to the Med, they asked if we were going round or through the canals to which Steve replied: we can’t go through the canals our yacht is too big (does that make him a pompous arse?!!) However, they seemed fairly impressed with that (so maybe not!!) When we were leaving the boat I had asked Steve if I needed to bring my phone and he said there wasn’t really any point and it wasn’t until we were at the bus stop that we realised we had no way of knowing what the time was – he has adopted my practice of no longer wearing a watch!! We did have my camera but the time has never been right on that so that was no use!! I had been practicing and practicing (in my head) how I was going to ask for the tickets and in the end cocked it up and said something completely different! However the bus driver understood and we paid our three Euros for the trip into Caen. We each had a ticket which had to be inserted into a reader/printer thing that acted like the till from the old sit-com “Open All Hours” so it grabbed your fingers as well as the card and if you’d done it correctly it printed on it and if not it just spat it out for you to try again! (I wonder how we know that!!)
Upon arrival at Caen bus station we bought our ticket (billet) for Deauville. I stood back and allowed Steve to try to buy the tickets but had to step in when he asked for return tickets to Honfleur! This time we had one ticket between us, and from having read something on the bus company website I believed we would have to insert the card twice each time we used it – Steve initially didn’t believe me as he thought it would register as a two person card – but again I was right! That seems to be happening a few times lately!!!
The trip to Deauville was quite scenic and Steve finally was able to have his ‘hill-fix’ and I was very relieved to be on a bus and not a bike! We went through several small towns, one being Dives-sur-Mer which Steve had read about having a wonderful market hall and reputedly the best market in Normandy. On arrival at Deauville we headed straight for (surprise, surprise) the marina (ok it was extremely close to the bus station!!) This was when we discovered that the two towns are definitely only connected by the Pont des Belges and the only way from the marina to Trouville is via a water taxi which didn’t appear to be running. We found our way to the marina basin that all the Dutch had been raving about and we could see why – the perfect location for a family beach holiday with the beach just over the wall from the marina. The local racehorses are exercised on the beach as well – but unfortunately not whilst we were there. So, as we are not beach lovers I don’t think we really missed out by not calling in there.
Deauville is known as the Cannes of Northern France but it appears, especially on a late September day, not to have quite the same amount of the glitz and glamour provided by the Mediterranean – more like Eastbourne on a windy day! As we left later than anticipated it was lunchtime so this allowed us the opportunity to savour the French equivalent of a sandwich (half a baguette either ham or cheese). As there was a ‘congres’ in progress next to the only open beachfront kiosk, they had practically run out of bread, so Steve’s quick thinking changed our order to one cheese “sandwich” which we would share. We sat on the beach to eat our demi demi-baguette containing the thinnest slices of Emmental we have ever seen – Steve’s cigarette papers are thicker!! We also had a beer each (as it was cheaper than Coke!) The only photo we actually ended up taking was a line of Renaults outside one of the grand hotels.
Due to lack of a timepiece and an ice cream interlude we missed one bus by about 5 minutes (if that) and then had to wait over an hour for the next one! Guess what we did then – sat looking at the yachts in the marina!! We managed to make it all the way back to Ouistreham by about 7.15 – a good day out!
Having been reminded about Dives-sur-Mer, Steve thought it would be a good idea for us to cycle there on market day (Saturday). Luckily (?) my replacement tyres had arrived and Steve had fitted them on Friday. The route to Dives as the crow flies is probably about 12 km – however the River Orne is in the way!! This means a 4km up one side and a 4km down t’other just to effectively be about 300 yards from where we started!! The weather forecast was favourable-ish but the wind was quite strong and from the south in the morning. There is an established cycle route to follow which takes you through the nature reserve at Sallenelles and we did a slight detour through the dunes at Merville Franceville. We arrived in Dives and our first stop was yet another marina – our neighbour, Guy, is thinking of keeping his boat there so we thought we would have a look. We then made our way into the town centre and found the market hall and some other rather beautiful buildings.
It would be amiss not to mention French markets – everyone seems to rave about them. However our experience thus far is that they appear to be more expensive than the supermarkets and even though the produce looks good today, in our experience it is not the place to do a weekly shop as the shelf life appears to be less. The market hall lived up to expectations; however the produce appeared no better or worse than any other market. There was a very expensive cheese seller, cheddar and parmesan at 30€ a kilo!!; a butcher selling horsemeat and the biggest brioche we’ve ever seen!! Outside you could buy mattresses, a huge, extending dining table, Rasta hats and just about anything else!! On the cycle back the wind appeared to have shifted and increased in intensity – it was now coming from the southwest – which, funnily enough, was the direction we were travelling! But at least it was flat!! When we got back we decided we would work out how far we had actually travelled. I thought it had to have been about 20-25 km (I knew it was further than when we had gone to Caen), however Steve did make the comment yeah 20 km one way! So Steve was right this time, our total distance travelled was about 42 km (26 miles!).
Steve has made me the happiest woman in the world! How can that be, you may ask? Well, he bought a tin of marrowfat peas (Pisum sativum var. medullare) from the World Foods aisle at the supermarket(!) and came up with this:
1 tin of marrowfat peas (small tin here 1€30)
Pinch of salt
Combine egg, flour, vinegar and water and mix to a thick batter, leave to rest. (Batter recipe based on a Brian Turner one)
Drain peas thoroughly, then using your right hand (so apparently if you are left-handed you can’t make them – that’s my excuse anyway!!) manipulate the peas until they squelch through your fingers. Then add the required seasoning (salt). Best salt to use is the crappy table salt (none of the fancy sea salt for this recipe). Form pea mixture into neatly shaped, meat ball or cork ball float (for the yachties amongst us) size balls and lightly flour them.
Peel potatoes, then cut into batons approximately 3/8” square (length dependent on potato). Hide under a paper towel so the recipient can’t see what you’re doing.
Using a wok, as this is the only safe boat method for us, add approximately an inch to an inch and a half of oil – must be vegetable, however the purists could use lard or beef dripping – but not on my boat! Heat oil carefully to a temperature that would fry a bread cube to a crisp in minutes. Place hidden potato into said oil and fry for approximately 5 minutes turning frequently to ensure even fry. Remove and place in a position where the recipient can’t see them. Place preformed pea balls into the batter, coat thoroughly then place into the hot oil, turning occasionally to ensure thorough browning on the batter. If you have a deep enough pan, they could be considered done when they float – however on board that is not possible! Once the peas are nearly cooked, carefully return the batoned potatoes to the oil until everything is nicely golden brown. Serve with loads of salt and vinegar (again crappy salt works much better than fancy salt, and the vinegar must be malt vinegar!) No other garnish required. And there we have the southerner’s pea fritter and chips!!!
Oh and as for the half a pineapple? There is a chap who may also be living aboard in Ouistreham, we have seen him out and about a few times. One evening Steve had a brief conversation with him in the gents, explaining that we were staying here for the winter and later that evening he turned to me and said “demi anas” – I thought he’d said “demi ananas” (half a pineapple) and asked him what on earth he was on about. He had been thinking how he could explain how long we were staying here in words he already knows – he knows that demi means half and thought he knew that ans was year – so he thought that by combining them it would mean half a year – which it nearly does – but his pronunciation let him down again – the poor boy, I was giggling about it for ages!!!!
Choking chilli sauce, the ongoing flour saga, lightweight patisserie and Theresa’s engineering fist-pump moments!!!