Sandboys Christmas

It’s been a quiet time for us this last week before Christmas.  Since we only buy presents for family who live in Guernsey or the UK, nearly all our Christmas shopping is done online several weeks in advance.  This year we sent gifts from the Loch Fyne, Bucktrout’s and Rock the Boat online shops.  We also bought some craft items at the Montreuil Christmas Craft Fair a couple of weeks ago.

Tomorrow, Christmas Day, we’re celebrating with a Christmas dinner at La Verrière in Berck, where we’re sure of excellent food and friendly service in comfortable surroundings.

After Christmas we look forward to the arrival of Mr and Mrs Macpherson at our Garden Studio apartment on Tuesday, and the Robson family at Sandboys Pearl on Friday.

Happy Christmas and Cheers!

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A Hot Monday in France : with a Parrot!

Wow! It was hot today

– and there was work to do, so there was no way a lazy day was in prospect. We got started early when M. Lannoy, the occasional gardener arrived at The White House. While he got busy in the early morning warmth we prepared the Garden Studio apartment for the next guests after the departure, yesterday, of regular visitors, the Griffiths.

By the way, the Griffiths tried the restaurant at Berck that we reviewed in our last blog post. They loved it and even went back there a second time during their 6 night stay. I seem to remember they also like the Auberge du Bahot, a little country-style place in the neighbouring village, but it’s not open on Mondays whereas “Les Pieds Dans L’Eau” at Berck is.

Our garden provides some shady places on a hot day

The West wing and Garden Studio apartment seen from a shady place in the garden

After the housework and some office work it was time to go out in the garden. By this time it was really hot, somewhere around 28 degrees in the shade. Of course, when you’re working in the garden there is no shade – at least, not when you’re mowing the lawn there’s not. Still I would rather have that job than the one Sue was doing – kneeling on the hot ground pulling weeds out of the flower beds. At least while you’re mowing you can look over the hedge and watch people passing by. Today a man, a holidaymaker I guessed by his clothes, went by on a bike with a parrot on the handlebars. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera on me, and anyway I was taken so much by surprise that he had gone before I could have taken a snap even if I’d had one.

There’s plenty of time to let the mind wander as you push a mower, so a plethora of questions formed in my mind. Was it his pet parrot, or had it just flown down and perched on the handlebars for a ride? Would it take off from time to time for a quick bird’s eye view of the terrain, or did it prefer to let the cyclist do all the work? Would it talk to the rider, give directions, perhaps, or even swear at him if he took a wrong turning? What would happen if the parrot was spotted by a hawk? Thinking about all these possibilities took my mind off the tedium of mowing, and even the discomfort of the heat.

It eventually got too hot to mow any more, so we both stopped for lunch. Soon, though, it was time for a major shopping trip to the supermarket (it’s less busy there between 12h00 and 14h00). And at least it was nice and cool in the shop.

After the shopping there was laundry to collect from one of the Fort Mahon houses and more office work to do – bookings to confirm and payment reminders to send, while Sue did gite laundry and ironing (another hot job). Finally it cooled off enough outside to go out and do some more mowing. At 17h30 the mower ran out of petrol. There was more in the jerry can but I took the hint and called it a day.

M. Lannoy continued his hedge trimming until 18h00. He had worked solidly in the blazing heat since 08h30, taking only an hour’s rest in the shade of our avenue of pines, at around 12h30, for his lunch.

Bravo! M. Lannoy. Thanks for working hard in the sun on a hot day – and for seeming to enjoy it.

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A Good Place To Eat At The French Seaside

Families staying at the Sandboys seaside gites or at our Garden Studio apartment will never lack for choice when it comes to places to eat.  Fort Mahon and its surrounding countryside, towns and villages are packed with good restaurants, brasseries and cafes.

Exterior view of Les Pieds dans l'Eau restaurant

A good seaside place to eat - Les Pieds dans l'Eau at Berck

The other night we were planning to eat out before going to the cinema in Montreuil.  The film (The Company Men, with Ben Affleck and Tommy Lee Jones, in English with French sub-titles) was not scheduled to start until 9pm, so we had plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely meal beforehand.  We had a place in mind, too – somewhere we hadn’t been before – the Brasserie “Les Pieds dans l’Eau”, aptly named as it is on the beach at the seaside resort of Berck (about 12 miles drive from Fort Mahon).   This is the restaurant at Berck’s Agora Leisure Centre which I had noticed while attending swimming club training sessions in the excellent pool there.

Brasserie Les Pieds dans l’Eau, Agora, Berck-sur-Mer, Tel. 03 21 89 87 10

The restaurant is very comfortably furnished and nicely decorated in a modern style.  It is accessed either through the basement level of the Leisure Centre (the restaurant is actually underneath the seaside promenade) or by steps down to the beach from the promenade.

Appropriate seafood specialities for a seaside restaurant

Seafood specialities and wines by the glass.

Appropriately for a seaside restaurant, the kitchen at Les Pieds dans l’Eau leans towards seafood, though salad and meat eaters are certainly not forgotten and will find plenty of choices on the extensive menu.  There are some spectacular-sounding specialities as well as a sensible children’s menu.  You’ll find almost all seaside restaurants in France are well prepared for families with small children – we noticed that Les Pieds dans l’Eau had a good supply of high-chairs available to cope with the summertime family seaside holiday rush.

Comfort and fresh decor at this seaside reastaurant

The comfortable interior of Les Pieds dans l'Eau

We chose to eat inside, although it was a lovely sunny evening, and there was plenty of room at the open-air beachside tables.  We both chose the same cold starter, Tartare de tomates fraîches et confites, copeaux de Parmesan, a delightfully fresh and zingy dish.  Sue had Moules Frites for her main course – it’s virtually this seaside region’s signature dish – while I tested the kitchen with a more demanding Turbot rôti, sauce vierge, escalivade de légumes.  I was very happy with my excellent fish, though I personally found the dressing on the vegetables a little too oily for my taste (most people will probably disagree with me)

There is an excellent choice of wines, including a range of wines you can order by the glass.  Unusually you don’t pay any extra for the “by the glass” option.  A 12.5 centilitre glass is priced at one-sixth of the bottle price.  We chose a very acceptable French Chardonnay from the Pays d’Oc, and since we had 3 glasses between us (only one for me, the driver), we paid for exactly half a bottle.

We had to leave it there without trying any of the interesting range of desserts so that we could make it to the cinema in time, but we’ll be back on another occasion to see what they’re like.

All in all, Les Pieds dans l’Eau gets our Sandboys stamp of approval as a very decent, comfortable and superbly positioned French seaside restaurant.

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Motor Caravans : can this really be fun?

This morning’s training session at Berck Natation (Berck Swimming Club) was cancelled.

I didn’t know this until I arrived at the Agora Leisure Centre on the seafront at Berck, where I met another of the early-morning regulars who told me he had just found out about the cancellation by looking at the club’s internet page. Well, at least I know where to look, in future.

Camper vans at the Bay of the Authie

Camper vans swarm at the Bay of the Authie

It was a beautiful morning, so instead of swimming I took a walk along the seafront as far as the mouth of the Authie river. Here, tucked away almost out of sight in a car park among the dunes, I was surprised to find hundreds of motor caravans, camping cars I think they call them here, all drawn up in the seaside carpark like a pod of beached whales, with no more than a couple of feet between them. It was just after 7 in the morning, so there were few signs of life, but I wondered what the scene would be like when everyone decided to get up. Assuming 2-3, possibly more occupants per van, there would be barely enough space left in the car park for them all to stand, let alone get the deck chairs out and lounge about.

Berck

Rows of camper vans at Berck. What are they here for?

What brought them all here, I wondered? I know it’s half-term, but why would they all suddenly descend on Berck? Either they all know something I don’t, or, as I prefer to imagine, motor caravans, like bees, just swarm from time to time when a mysterious instinct takes hold of them. Perhaps there’s such a thing as a Queen Van at the centre of the hive.

I really didn’t want to stay to find out how an angry hive might behave on waking to find an intruder among them so I left Berck without disturbing them.

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