A Day in…………Port Isaac Cornwall

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Alt="Port Isaac Cornwall photography for UK Travel Memoir"
Port Isaac harbour from a view on Fore Street

Port Isaac is a small fishing village that tumbles down to the sea at a narrow cove on the North Cornish coast. Although certainly not short of tourists we found this area delightfully by passed by most visitors as they speed along the coastal roads to Newquay, St Ives and other hotspots of Cornish tourism. No doubt this area suffers also from the second home syndrome that so rightly annoys the locals, but this part of Cornwall retains a more authentic feel of community. Port Isaac certainly felt vibrant and alive.

It is a fairly long but gentle stroll from the main car park to the start of the older part of Port Isaac. Then the incline changes from gentle to steep. There is another car park on the way to the neighbouring Port Gaverne that is closer to the harbour, but it is smaller and often full.

On our stroll down to the harbour we are confronted with Port Isaac’s more recent past. Outside a relevant property there is a tour guide and his flock of Doc Martin devotees enjoying tales from the filming of that popular TV series. A good percentage of today’s visitors are in Port Isaac because of the Doc Martin show. It is an enduring reason for people to arrive in the village, seeking out the filming locations. I must confess that I have never watched a single episode. Whether that deserves an apology I am not sure but I sense I am in a minority of at least one just now. Cornwall is a mecca for film producers and this particular production is extremely popular.

We pass a couple of the ubiquitous, but welcome, pasty establishments. As always in Cornwall the claim of a particular outlet will try to surpass that of its neighbour. The finest pasty in all of Cornwall is for you to decide but you will not be wanting for advice along the way. Port Isaac, like many small harbour villages, boasts some attractive artist studios and independent gift shops. On the way down Fore Street (do all Cornish villages have a Fore Street?) two catch the eye – Secrets which has a variety of artwork and artisan creations and Martin Dempsey Gallery just a little farther down the incline. Distractions abound as we slowly make our way to the harbour. Along the way as a keen photographer I am drawn to the occasional opening offering a panorama of the harbour and out to sea. It is an attractive and quite dramatic setting for a fishing community.

The harbour landing area is called ‘The Platt’. It is quite unusual in that it is very much a beach landing for the vessels and the catch would be hauled up the incline of the Platt. Lobster pots give a clue as to the popular catch for the village. Fresh fish is sold just yards from the sea at ‘Just Shellfish’ by the Platt opposite the RNLI station. A young lifeboatman was touting for contributions but as I had my RNLI cap on at the time, he allowed me to be exempt. It is a charity I am happy to support. Living in Weston Super Mare I am aware on a nearly daily basis just what incredible work they do. As for some of the people they have to ‘rescue’ at WSM – well, words fail me!

Alt="Photo of Port Isaac Harbour Cornwall for UK Travel book"
Port Isaac Harbour from ‘The Platt’

Port Isaac is not pedestrianised, it cannot be as it is a working harbour and village. One consequence of that is the beach landing area is used as a van park for the businesses in the village. Now, as a photographer I have to say that this does impact on the view. But, this is not a Cornish Disneyland, people live and work here. Fore Street is the main road in Port Isaac, but it is like most streets in the village, extremely narrow. As we got to the harbour a white van was starting back up the hill, coming to the first sharp turn up the hill. I have to say that I thought this to be the definition of optimism. I was proved correct as he met another van coming downhill around the same corner and they ended up face to face. That took some sorting out but I assume an everyday consequence of trying to make a living in this cramped space. The aptly named Squeezy Belly Alley is just off the harbour and you can see if that description would apply to you. I was fine.

I always feel self-conscious about exploring the narrow streets of a village like this. People live here and perhaps do not want people gawping at them, especially with a camera. However, tourism is vitally important to the village and on balance tourists will want to explore if they are to spend money in the village and hopefully the locals are not overly disturbed. I take a couple of photos along the lanes and then run away quickly.

Alt="Port Isaac Cornwall Cottages for UK travel book"
Port Isaac Street with pretty Cottages

Directly facing the Platt and with views out over the harbour is one of Nathan Outlaw’s Michelin starred fish restaurants. This one is quite small, serving a few tables only. At the beginning of his career he worked with well known fish chef Rick Stein in Padstow, Cornwall. He has gained a fine reputation. One of those chefs that people seem to not have a bad word about, and he is popular locally – he doesn’t appear to be a knife throwing chef shall we say. He is firmly based in Port Isaac after having his flagship restaurant in Rock for several years. I love fish and cook it often at home. We have enjoyed Rick Stein’s restaurant several times and his style is to keep it simple and fresh and that is just perfect for us. I am undecided about whether I want my fish restaurant experience to be in the style demanded to gain a Michelin star. I need to try it to see whether Nathan Outlaw’s extra attention to precision detail is for me. Maybe next visit.

Alt="Port Isaac Platt Cornwall for UK Travel book memoirs"
The landing area called ‘The Platt’ at Port Isaac Cornwall

Fore Street leads back up to re-join the SW coastal path, just close by the Cornish Cove tearoom. This path is well worth the detour, leading to the even smaller Port Gaverne. The path gives excellent views over Port Isaac sea entrance. The cliffs opposite show signs of caves having been formed at the base. Not that I shall be exploring. Visiting in early spring means you get the delight of seeing the abundance of spring flowers on the cliff sides and that is true throughout Cornwall at this time of year. The path leads to the other car park for Port Isaac and the start of the road down to Port Gaverne.

Halfway down to the beach is a welcome seat offering a spectacular view over the cove. The cove is narrow and on first view a treacherous place to bring a boat into. Fingers of rock jut out into the cove and the entrance is narrow and in fierce weather would have needed exceptional skill to navigate. Port Gaverne was once a thriving port and during its time of importance for fishing the catch would have been mainly pilchards. You sense that would have been a tough life, even tougher than the life the fisherman of Port Isaac just around the headland would have endured. Today, it is a perfect spring day. On the rocks leading to the cove entrance brave swimmers are taking advantage of the calm sea and leaping off the rocks for a spot of wild swimming. I watch admiringly but with no wish to join them.

Alt="Port Gaverne Cove Cornwall photography"
Port Gaverne Cove Cornwall

Time now to make our way back. Above the car park on the left is another art gallery – Cliffside Gallery. A beautiful gallery to enjoy, featuring artwork, textiles and more. Opposite just higher up the road is Nathan Outlaws new restaurant ‘New Road’. It reminds me that we have still not bought any fresh fish and the thought of walking all the way back down to buy at the harbourside is not a tempting one now. Just farther along is a fish oasis. A small inviting café called ‘Fresh From The Sea’ does indeed live up to the claim in the name. It sells fish in addition to serving a few tables inside and outside. We could have stayed for the ‘Sole in a Bun’ but instead buy some fresh sole to cook later. It turns out to be the most wonderful fresh pieces of fish I have tasted in a long, long time. What a brilliant place and well positioned at the top of the hill rather than below.

So ends our day but the fish in the evening with a chilled glass of wine will round of a excellent Day in ………Port Isaac.

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French Travel – A journey by film prints for my next book

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Colourful enamel signs on L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue market Provence France

My fifth book about our twenty five years of French travel is due out in the summer of 2022, early July. It is mainly new writing and sets out to tour France from Calais to the south and tour back round to the starting point. To accompany the text I have had to delve into some pre- digital photography. Perhaps not as sharp as the newer digital photos but I found them quite atmospheric and pleased with the results. I hope you enjoy them also. I will post more later.

The photos can be view in a lightbox by clicking on them

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chateau of Chenonceaux Loire Valley France
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A Day in …………….Lavenham

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Alt="Photo of Lavenham Suffolk Guild Hall Medieval Architecture"
Lavenham Guild Hall in Suffolk – Medieval Architecture and open by National Trust

Lavenham is a place that is well worth a detour, a special journey. It is a fine place to stroll with your camera. It has some excellent choices for lunch. On some days there is a market in the square. It boasts many lovely independent shops. It is quintessentially, historical England. It is a must see.

Lavenham, despite its popularity, is one of the easier places, and one of the cheapest places, to park your car. Perhaps there is a local bylaw that prevents ugly ticket machines spoiling the view when people are photographing the town. There is always Photoshop I suppose, but long may this state of affairs continue. Today, we are able to park in the town square. There is no market taking place, just a travelling fish van that has gathered a substantial queue.

A bit of background. Lavenham is a marvellous survivor from Medieval times. One of the finest examples in the UK of such architecture. From the atmospheric town square to the surrounding winding streets the amount of preservation is staggering. Most towns in England have lost all their connection with their medieval history but here it is laid out like a theme park, all still in use. Lavenham was prosperous back then because of its buoyant wool and cloth trade. This eventually died away due to intense competition and the town went through a long period of decline, but its architecture remained. The building were divided into smaller units but because no one really was interested in developing the town, its poverty did in fact save it. A visitor from the 15th Century would certainly recognize where he was.

The starting point of any walk around Lavenham will no doubt be in front of the Guildhall in the village square. This spectacular building is now in the care of the National Trust, dominating the town just as it did back in Tudor times. The guildhall has served many purposes over the centuries from its early religious guild associations. Many of its uses, including its role as the town workhouse, could have ended this fine structure. In WW2 it had a variety of roles to play. The area was home to a large American Air Force base and the Guildhall was a focal point in their integration into town life.

Alt="Photo of Medieval Little Hall in Lavenham Suffolk"
Medieval Little Hall in Lavenham Suffolk

Walking anti-clockwise around the town square, with the town cross in the centre of your stroll, you will be attracted to the colourful 14th Century Little Hall. This is now a museum and has a delightful garden attached to it. The colour is extraordinary. Is it orange, sandy maybe? You will have to decide. You certainly won’t be able to miss it. Next to Little Hall, inevitably, is The Great Hall. This is now a boutique Hotel and restaurant. An enticing place for a fine lunch or today just for an envious glance inside.

Alt="Photo of Angel Hotel in Lavenham Suffolk"
Angel Hotel in Lavenham Suffolk

The square has a number of independent shops displaying their wares and inevitably attracting you inside. As you walk around, by all means enjoy the shops, but do not forget to look up and admire the architecture. The angles will play with your head and may make you dizzy but it is worth the discomfort. Enjoy too, the views down the streets leading away from the square. Some give great views over open, rolling countryside.

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Quiet corner in Lavenham Suffolk

Lady Street leads the way out of the square and at the bottom of this architectural gem of a street is the restaurant Number 10. An exceptional lunch made us ready to continue our exploration. Opposite the restaurant is the rear of the Wool Hall, its former use self-explanatory. This is now part of the Swan Hotel. As you round the corner of the structure onto the High Street you get the full experience of the size of what is now the Swan – in your imagination exactly the type of Hostelry that may have survived the centuries. It sets the tone for the entire High Street. This street will take you some time to explore with one extraordinary building after another. Some seem to be defying gravity, but they are still standing after all these centuries. Gift shops, antique shops, cafes, wine bars, art galleries all vie for your attention. It may cost you a little expenditure along here but you will at least go home with or have enjoyed quality. Today it was a fine leather handbag that came home with my wife. Check out the tea room in the crooked house, again a self-explanatory name. It is impossibly shaped, but yes, still standing.

Alt="Photo of Lavenham Suffolk High Street"
Lavenham Suffolk High Street

There is so much to see and do in Lavenham. The architecture is unforgettable. The sense of times past, and a way of life, being preserved is all around you. I am certain you will not find any cheap or chain shops here. The town is a haven from all that seems to bedevil English town centres. If it takes you a very long time to make your tour of the town and all the shops on offer then there is a compensation for that – you can always stay for dinner.

The town has an excellent website and includes this helpful map to enable you to walk the town and not miss anything :  

https://www.lovelavenham.co.uk/walks-lavenham-suffolk/

Alt="Photo of medieval house in Lavenham Suffolk England"
Medieval House in Lavenham Suffolk

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Claude Monet and his House at Giverny

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Monets house and garden at Giverny France. A view of the main path to Monets House.

The story goes that Monet in his search for a house to accommodate his growing family set out one day by train from Paris and spotted what was then the tiny hamlet of Giverny. Standing out amongst the cluster of properties along Giverny’s long main street he saw from his carriage a long but low house set in surrounding scrubland. The railway line is no longer there, although there was no halt in any case at Giverny, so Monet walked back through the fields from Vernon to find this property. What made this building stand out was that unusually it faced away from the road towards the river. For a modern-day visitor there is no inkling of the beauty behind the stark long wall on the main street.  He found to his delight that this property was available for rent and the rest is history. Monet eventually purchased the house and garden. You could say it is bequeathed now to all the visitors that can experience this most magical of places.

One of the haunts of Claude Monet in Giverny – Hotel Baudy

Monet was at this time a widow after the death of his first wife and mother to his children – Camille Doncieux. Before her death however he had begun a relationship with a woman of a higher social standing than himself. Alice Hoschedé became his lady-friend as they would have been discretely known and with Camille and their children they lived as a menage for some time up until Camille’s death. At Giverny Monet and Alice set up home with his two sons and her six children although they could not marry until 1892 after the death of Alice’s husband Ernest. The house would be Monet’s delightful home for the rest of his life, and he was completely devoted to the property and gardens, all becoming synonymous with his name. In front of the house lies the Clos Normand, full of flowers. The other side of the road he developed into what we see today by having the waterlily pond constructed. To achieve his aim, he was decisive and didn’t hesitate to change the landscape by diverting a branch of the Epte River. We shall visit the house and gardens more than once on our stay but first we must find our accommodation for the final leg of this trip.

La Pluie de Roses is located some way past Monet’s house as you come towards the end of the village. We are welcomed after our rather fraught day collecting and driving our hire car by Philippe and Elisabeth. This couple have recently sold this gorgeous property, but the current owner appears from the excellent reviews to have more than maintained their high standards. Giverny is blessed with some fine Bed and Breakfast accommodation with this property exceeding our expectations. The rooms are beautifully decorated in a style that could only be encountered in France. There are some quirky touches especially in the downstairs bathroom that is adorned with theatre posters and related photos. It could be a place to linger and read the walls. Our bedroom is sumptuous and in sympathy with the period of the house. It also has a quirky feature in that the fabulous shower has to one side a full-length plain window. You get a great view out over the village and presumably someone in the right place at the right time will get more of a view than they bargained for. The odds are in your favour due to the position of the bathroom – but you just never know.

The house has a wraparound garden that is lovingly tended. The grand stone steps that lead to the French doors at the rear of the house are a very typical feature in a house of this style. It has an intimate grandeur.

The hosts do not provide an evening meal but there are some good options for dining in Giverny. We contented ourselves on this first evening with a light snack before sleeping very well, only waking with the birdsong, ready for the main event of our visit – Monet’s house and garden.

Our hosts at La Pluie de Roses have an especially useful scheme whereby they can sell you tickets to enter Monet’s house and gardens. It is only when you gain a sight off the house that you realize just how much of a life saver this is. Strolling to the front of a queue that stretches way back down the main street and gaining instant admission to the accompanying despair and groans of the waiting throngs was a great relief. Actually, we did not go straight into the gardens. Just by the entrance a young newly married couple were emerging after having had some wedding photographs taken in Monet’s Garden. It would be difficult to beat that for a location for your photographs. They kindly obliged while I took a couple of photographs of my own and they added a touch of glamour to the scene on this hot sunny morning.

Monet House and Garden – a quiet spot with the Japanese Bridge. A French travel tour

As you pass through the entrance the gardens are on first impression slightly underwhelming. I think it is because you feel that an iconic Japanese bridge should be right there in front of you. There is no question that expectations are extremely high. Initially however, you must make your way around a grassy section complete with discarded garden tools and a wheelbarrow before you come round to your first view of the long low house that Monet so loved. Now you are completely engrossed and drawn into this magical place that Monet created and has been lovingly maintained as an incredibly special place in France. The house is gently shaded from view by the lush growth of the trees and plants as Monet skilfully teases you to explore and find the perfect view of his house. That perhaps is to be found when you reach the main pathway leading up to the house, a view that Monet captured so well. Today that pathway is flanked by a gorgeous array of flowers in the lush borders either side of the path. One of the tricks he used, one which shows his skill not just as a painter but as a gardener, is how he leads you around the pathways to continue giving you different glimpses of the house. It is stunningly beautiful. If you have done your homework and have a love of his Giverny paintings, you will also be able to imagine and indeed expect one of his children to stroll out from behind a tree or shrub or emerge from the house into the garden. The setting for painting his young ones would have been magical and inspiring for him and you can clearly understand why he painted so many canvases of a personal nature here at Giverny. Monet also liked to take himself away and be alone in the garden. He would not have lacked for any number of beautiful subjects in the garden in front of the house. Then he could go across the railway into the Japanese garden and be quite peacefully secluded to paint the images that he is most famous for. Today the Japanese garden is reached by a short subway that takes you under the road where you are transported back in time to an atmospheric setting that is beautifully tended and familiar to anyone with the slightest knowledge of Monet’s work.

The Japanese section of Monet’s Garden is a delight and very sympathetically maintained. Although the lily ponds and the ubiquitous bridges are of course the highlights you have come to see it is the secluded, tucked away parts of the garden that really delight. The area shaded by the trees with a small river of water, a rowing boat tied up by the bank waiting for Monet to step in with his easel and paints. These atmospheric tableaux really transport your imagination back in time, giving a genuine sense of how Monet must have delighted in the construction of this gorgeous garden and then to enjoy using it to paint some of his most enduring landscapes. They are also a welcome quiet section to enjoy before embarking on the path around the Japanese garden, a path that will need a little patience to negotiate. Being one of the world’s most famous gardens you will find it busy at most times. Waiting for a loving couple to finally finish their photography on one of the famous bridges does need some tolerance on your part but it is worth the wait. The views from the bridges over the lily ponds are spectacular and do not be put off or intimidated – take your time and get the shots you want. You will be glad you endured when you get home.

Claude Monet Haystacks in the French village of Giverny France

The lives of Claude Monet and Alice Hoschedé were complicated. They were a couple and their families were living together but Alice always had some dependence and contact with her husband Ernest. Alice tried to resolve the situation with her husband over the next ten years after moving in with Monet at Giverny but without success. The ambiguity of their relationship remained until Ernest Hoschedé died from a prolonged affliction with gout in 1891. Monet had bought the house and land in Giverny the year before, having rented the property until then. Alice and Monet finally regularised their relationship on 16th July 1892 when they married in Giverny. Four days later Alice’s daughter Suzanne married the American painter Theodore Butler.

Monets great canvases in Musée de l’Orangerie Paris France

With his marriage to Alice and the purchase of the house and land Monet could now settle into developing the house and gardens. He extended the gardens and embarked on creating the water gardens and the gorgeous expanse of lily ponds that people associate with Monet and Giverny. His collection of Japanese art was built up and the overall effect of his enthusiasm is the extravagant colour of the planting and the breath-taking beauty of the house and gardens that we see today. Much of the credit for the survival of the house and gardens to endure to the condition they are in today is down to the care that was given to them by Alice’s daughter Blanche. She married Monet’s son Jean Monet. Jean died in 1914 aged just 47 after a long illness. This was just three years after the death of Monet’s wife Alice and the two events consumed Monet with grief. Blanche returned to Giverny as a widow to care for Monet and help him through the remaining years of his life. Monet died in 1926 at Giverny. Blanche also was a painter and her haystack paintings clearly owe a debt to the tutelage of her Monet. Blanche took on the responsibility of the house and gardens and as she was so in tune with her father she enabled its survival to be as we see it today. It is quite a legacy. I can confidently state that if you have never been to Giverny then if you possibly can you must go – you will never forget it.

There is one final place to visit relating to Monet and his family – The village Church.

Monet family resting place in Giverny churchyard

The Monet family have a plot in this church of Saint-Redegonde located about a kilometre along the one main road in Giverny from Monet’s house. The plot, although not extravagant, certainly conveys the status of the great painter and his family in the local community. You will no doubt want to stop by the graves and pay your respects and there is an exercise to be done in working out all the family relationships of the complex Monets. The church repays a visit inside, but you have to remember that Monet was no great supporter of the church during his lifetime. It is entertaining however to try to picture the scenes played out here by the family. This little church played its part in many important family events of the Monet – Hoschedé family.

The Monet connection is not the only fascination that comes from a visit to this church. It was only by accident on our visit here that we discovered the graves of a crew of airmen that crashed nearby shortly after D-Day. I have because of my interest in family history developed a passion for touring churchyards and could not resist a wander through this one after paying my respects at the Monet family tomb. You cannot miss the unusual sight of a propeller turned into a monument. The inscription indicates that the propeller is from the Lancaster that crashed but from most accounts it appears to be from another aircraft. Here in the churchyard are buried the crew of the Lancaster, a plane that crashed on an operation near to Giverny on the night of June 7/8, 1944, less than 48 hours after the D-Day landings.

Resting place of Lancaster crew in Giverny Churchyard

The Lancaster plane was from 115 Squadron I LL864 piloted by Ronald Maude who was only 21 years of age. You cannot help but reflect what you personally may have been doing at that age. It most certainly would not have been flying such an iconic plane over dangerous enemy territory. Pilot Maude and his crew were based at RAF Witchford in Ely, Cambridgeshire. Early morning at around 2:20 am the plane was shot down by an enemy aircraft flying close to the Giverny – Vernon road. Incredibly they seem to know who the German pilot was that shot the plane down. He was a Major Walter Borchers who had a very successful strike rate as regards destroying RAF aircraft. He however also did not survive the war but continued in the air well into 1945 before being shot down.

The grave dramatically indicated by British flags stands out prominently in the churchyard.

The inscription on the memorial reads: “These seven air men fell and were buried together”.

Seven plaques with a personal dedication remembers each individual airman. There is also a poignant photo on the grave that was taken shortly before they died showing them as a happy close-knit crew. Soon tragedy would befall them. They are still remembered here by visitors who leave flowers and other tributes on this site.

I feel it is right that I list the names of these young men and please visit this grave when you have paused by the Monet grave.

They are:

P/O  Ronald Maude

Sgt Alan Anderson

F/O Ronald Tovey

P/O Harold Forster

Sgt Jack Fyfe

Sgt Robert Sutherland

Sgt Kenneth Penton

Normandy has no shortage of sites such as this one in Giverny Churchyard. You cannot help but be transported back in time to those days of conflict but it is still extremely difficult to visualize such horrors in this beautiful and peaceful landscape that we travel in today. Even though we are over 70 years on from those dark days of World War II the landscape is still bearing the scars and reminders of that time. In many ways we tend to think purely of the allied landings as being the defining moment of the fighting in Normandy. However, when you travel through the countryside and towns it becomes apparent that the beach landings where only the beginning. The towns, villages and people of Normandy and of course the soldiers and airmen that headed inland towards Germany paid a terrible price for the liberation. Even in such a sleepy and peaceful place as Giverny the impact was felt and in many of the smallest remote villages you will find that is the case.

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In search of Hemingway and Midnight in Paris – a chapter from my Paris Travel Memoir

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Alt="Interior photograph of Restaurant Verlaine with Ernest Hemingway in Paris France"
Restaurant Verlaine – Ernest Hemingway’s workplace Paris France

One of the most evocative books about Paris could be considered to be Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’. If ever I need inspiration to write about Paris or to make plans for another visit then that is the book that clinches my mood and motivation. It works every time for me even though you do have to take some of his Paris memoir writing with a reasonable sized pinch of salt. He paints such insightful but sometimes harshly unsympathetic portraits of the characters from the era, the writers and artists that dominated ‘20s Paris. Describing the life and ambiance of the city at that time period so well – he constructs a painting in words. His portrait of F Scott Fitzgerald made me laugh, cry and wince at the astonishingly eccentric tales he recalled. Yet it is a book that has such a depth of sadness too. Like my taste in music it appeals to my melancholic side – as my daughter says; ‘the sadder the better’. Certainly there is a sadness surrounding the future aftermath of Fitzgerald and Zelda’s tragically short lives spiralling downhill shortly after these events. It is though the final chapter of a book that was written just before Hemingway’s lonely death nearly forty years detached in time from the events in the book that conveys his deep regret. He threw away the happiness of his life in Paris with his first wife Hadley and their young son. There is not always something better around the corner, often what we already have is all we need for our contentment. It is a book that can be a Parisian guide but today we have something more visual based on his work.
The Woody Allen film ‘Midnight in Paris’ is themed on Hemingway’s book as any cursory read of it will establish. Really though it is a film that does more for the Paris tourist board than any amount of advertising. It is a love letter to a great city. The film recreates the times of the 20’s that Hemingway so eloquently describes, an era that the film’s main character Gil adores as he is bewilderingly entranced to be transported back to that time. Adriana, his new muse, prefers La Belle Époque but he cannot understand wanting anything more than to be experiencing the lively writing and arts scene of Paris in the 20’s. I am with him on that, but really all the book and the movie do is to convince you that Paris is the finest city in the world. When I arrive at the Gard Du Nord on the Eurostar from London then my current era waiting outside the station is just fine by me. The filming locations for ‘Midnight in Paris’ are well documented and in fact Hemingway makes a fine job of that. So if you want to follow them all it is easy to do in our smartphone era. I will take you through on a mixed journey, some of the places in the film that I love. Also bring in some parts of Paris that historically are so very interesting and should be part of your visit. If your time in Paris is all fine dining then you are missing out on a broader experience.
If you are going to start on a history and writing tour of Paris then I suggest it begins on the steps of the church of St Etienne du Mont, Place Sainte-Geneviève, 75005. The actual steps used in the film where Gil waits for the time travelling car and his famous hosts are just around to the side of the church. From here they look down Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève, the road up which the car approaches. It is a supremely evocative location and it is worth taking the time to search out on the internet a photo taken on 22nd August 1944 of armed resistants just coming down from the area of the steps at the height of the struggle to liberate Paris from the German occupiers. Historical fact and fiction can be found being enacted side by side on the streets of Paris and in your imagination. If you go back around to the front of the church onto Rue Clovis and head towards the Latin Quarter by turning right onto Rue Descartes you will come to a small but perfectly formed restaurant – La Maison de Verlaine. The clue is in the title but it was not a happy place when Verlaine died there in a miserable state as a result of his alcoholism. It is also a building where Hemingway rented a small attic room and took himself off to write in peace and seclusion. There is a delightful story in his book about the goatherd taking his flock every day past Hemingway’s building and milking the goats to order as the locals emerged with their containers. It is certainly an evocative street. We have eaten on the terrace at this restaurant of an evening and the food is excellent. The location is pure Paris left bank so don’t let me stop you going. Just a little farther up is Place Contrescarpe which again features in Hemingway’s life and times in Paris. This is a place where he describes almost with affection the bar humming with the pungent smell of bodies and drunkenness. It is a vivid portrait you can almost sense the reality of from the page.

Alt="Rue de la Montagne Sainte Genevieve Paris Midnight in Paris film location"
Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève

I hope to convey just what these people meant to us and how Paris bound all the best of memories together but it is a slower process. As I said Paris is throwing up too many ideas and I think it will produce two books rather than one. Just adding my love of its history to the book gave me a challenge to fit it all in. I have a passion for the time of the occupation, perhaps because I know that I would have been personally caught up in all its horror had I been living in Paris back then. I find it fascinating and hope to convey that a consideration of those events should not be overlooked by the visitor. No, Paris unlike Provence cannot be based around wonderful long lunches, it needs more effort for a visitor to get full value from a visit. I loved the writing and research for this book but despite Hemingway dwarfing me as a writer I do possess something he relinquished – I can write of Paris without any regrets.

The full chapter and other meanderings through Paris are in my book : A DREAM OF PARIS available free on Kindle Unlimited

Alt="Les Deux Magots Cafe Paris France home of Artists and writers including Ernest Hemingway"
Les Deaux Magots Cafe at the heart of St Germain Paris

Come to Paris with my Dream of Paris Memoir
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A Day in …………….Grasmere

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Alt="View of Grasmere lake from the south end"
Grasmere Lake from the southern ‘beach’ end

Grasmere is a small popular village in the English Lake District. You can indeed have a day in Grasmere itself but if you are able then it repays putting the village at the heart of a walk in the area. Our day begins just off the A591 from Ambleside at White Moss National Trust Car Park. Behind the car park a track rises quite steeply to join a well defined path that heads in the direction of Rydal. After this brief climb the route rarely taxes your uphill stamina, especially as much of the walk later is taken at lake level

Alt="Photo of Rydal Water from the Corpse Road from Grasmere"
Rydal Water from the Corpse Road from Grasmere English Lake District

The path we have joined is part of the old Corpse Road, a type of road that is a feature of the Lake District. Back in the day when transport was not motorised, the deceased loved ones had to be transported to a consecrated church for burial. The church of St Oswalds in Grasmere was such a church. This particular Corpse Road was used to take the coffin to that church. I assure you that you will not encounter a single coffin on your walk today. Halfway or so along the route to Rydal you come across an old stone seat – long and flat. Yes, it is just the right size for a well earned rest in bygone times. It does afford a beautiful view across to Rydal Water, a romantic pause on the way to a last resting place. As a modern tourist we are not put off by past history to just rest for a while in this wonderful part of the Lake District.

Alt="Corpse Road photo from Grasmere English Lake District"
Corpse Road from Grasmere towards Rydal – A convenient ‘Resting Place’

Continuing our walk on this delightful track it is not long before we come to the tiny village of Rydal. This area of the Lakes is synonymous with the poet William Wordsworth. He will feature regularly on our Day in Grasmere. Rydal Mount and Gardens, a favourite home of the poet and one that can be enjoyed by the visitor today. We continue down to the A591 and cross it, bypassing the tempting Glen Rothay Hotel Bar, and join the path to Rydal Water. This is joined by crossing a small wooden bridge over the River Rothay, the path opening up through a glade of trees to give a view over Rydal Water to the incline leading over to Grasmere Lake. The path hugs Rydal Water keeping the heights of Loughrigg Fell on your left. The path above this one contains a large cave, Rydal Cave – well worth a detour if you have the energy.

Alt="Photo of William Wordworth home of Rydal Mount in English Lake District"
Rydal Mount Home of William Wordworth Lake District

By the side of the water some fisherman are enjoying the peace and quiet and we go past slowly and gently to keep the fish in a relaxed state. Rydal Water narrows and ends, the path rises to a small summit.

Alt="Photo of Rydal Water English Lake District"
View towards Rydal Water from the path to Grasmere Lake

This brings the lake of Grasmere in all its glory in front of you. Below is a the river making its way to the lake and a few walkers are coming over from that direction. The path takes a gentle path down to the lake and one of the English Lakes finest viewpoints at the ‘beach’ at the head of Grasmere Lake. This is a stunning location across the lake to the island and to Grasmere Village. At the far end the fells part to leave a gap. If you are lucky, you may be delighted to have your peace briefly disturbed by lightning fast RAF jets practicing hugging the terrain through that gap.

Alt="Photo of Grasmere Village from Grasmere lake"
View towards Grasmere Village from the Grasmere Lake path

Generally only peace reigns, the swans and geese on the lake occasionally coming to waters edge in search of some spare lunch. The path hugs the left side of the lake and we stay on the lower part, at water level before we are forced back to the main path. Despite being at ground level this path give some of the finest views in the Lakes. The fell rises gently to the left and sheep graze, giving a bucolic pastoral scene. The lake to the right is calm and flat with spectacular views to Grey Crag, close to Alcock Tarn. On such a calm day the reflections of the fells are a mirror image on the water, disturbed only by a solitary rower who has headed out from the boathouse at the village end of the lake. The path is forced back up to the road, curious Herdwick sheep watch your slow progress up the short incline.

Alt="Photo of Grasmere Lake English Lake District"
Grasmere Lake English Lake District

The village is not far along the road. You can stop for a coffee or an ice cream at the café by the boathouse if energy levels are flagging. It is worth stopping anyway around this area and just taking a few moments to absorb the magnificent scenery around you. As they say, always look back as well on a walk.

Grasmere is a popular village so do not expect to have it to yourself. Young Japanese are great devotees of William Wordsworth. You will meet many of them. Is it the daffodils? One of those curiosities of culture. They love Peter Rabbit as well. They are no doubt vital to the Lake District economy.

Village Green Grasmere

Most visitors tend to congregate around the area of the car and coach park, patronising the shops and cafes along that road to the church. That would be a mistake as the main part of the village lies behind this area. The church of St Oswalds it has to be said has a quite beautiful, reflective setting. The River Rothay runs  by the side of the churchyard and gives a gentle backdrop to a stroll through the church ground to the inevitable visit to the Wordsworth family graves. It is a generous plot and well maintained. Wordsworth was genuinely a part of the Lake District community, and his poetry reflects his love of this gorgeous area of Britain. Yes, there is also a daffodil garden but in this context it comes across much more than a cliché – the local are proud of their association with such a famous ‘son’.

Alt="Photo of Wordsworth family graves in Grasmere Cumbria"
Wordsworth Family Graves Grasmere Church

The gate at the end of the graveyard leads to the village proper. You surely will not be able to pass the first building you encounter. This is Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere gingerbread shop. The aroma will draw you in. Started in 1854 this shop is famous the world over and no self-respecting TV personality on their ubiquitous tour of ‘Their England’ can avoid bringing the film crew here. The gingerbread here is not your average concrete consistency variety that build the houses but a cross between a cake and a biscuit with a touch of secret spice. It is quite unique and utterly irresistible.

The village itself has lots of small independent shops, cafes and restaurants. Overlooking a small grassy area at the centre of the village is the Heaton Cooper Art Studio, a family of respected artist going back to Victorian times. A café adjoins the gallery and well worth a visit. You may after your walk need a rest and quite often we would gravitate to Tweedies Bar with its large garden along Langdale Road from the gallery towards the lake. In the other direction there is more for art lovers and plenty of craft shops. Easedale Road intersects this area and leads, eventually, to Easedale Tarn. This is a wonderful walk with a rewards at the end of a beautiful tarn, so typical of the Lake District. It is quite a trek, and uphill at times, but well worth the effort. But that is for another day.

Alt="Photo of William Wordsworth Dove Cottage"
William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage at Grasmere

Retracing our steps through the church and back towards the A591 we turn right and immediately take the left fork that leads to Dove Cottage. This building is exceptionally well preserved in a way that makes you feel that Wordsworth has just popped out to check on the daffodils. We pass by and follow the road that hugs the A591 at a higher level, giving great views over the route we have just followed. And so, too quickly, our day ends back at White Moss car park. I commend this as one of England’s great days out. We have enjoyed this often and I know you will enjoy it.

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A Day in …………….Lavenham

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

Alt="Photo of Lavenham Suffolk Guild Hall Medieval Architecture"
Lavenham Guild Hall in Suffolk – Medieval Architecture and open by National Trust

Lavenham is a place that is well worth a detour, a special journey. It is a fine place to stroll with your camera. It has some excellent choices for lunch. On some days there is a market in the square. It boasts many lovely independent shops. It is quintessentially, historical England. It is a must see.

Lavenham, despite its popularity, is one of the easier places, and one of the cheapest places, to park your car. Perhaps there is a local bylaw that prevents ugly ticket machines spoiling the view when people are photographing the town. There is always Photoshop I suppose, but long may this state of affairs continue. Today, we are able to park in the town square. There is no market taking place, just a travelling fish van that has gathered a substantial queue.

A bit of background. Lavenham is a marvellous survivor from Medieval times. One of the finest examples in the UK of such architecture. From the atmospheric town square to the surrounding winding streets the amount of preservation is staggering. Most towns in England have lost all their connection with their medieval history but here it is laid out like a theme park, all still in use. Lavenham was prosperous back then because of its buoyant wool and cloth trade. This eventually died away due to intense competition and the town went through a long period of decline, but its architecture remained. The building were divided into smaller units but because no one really was interested in developing the town, its poverty did in fact save it. A visitor from the 15th Century would certainly recognize where he was.

The starting point of any walk around Lavenham will no doubt be in front of the Guildhall in the village square. This spectacular building is now in the care of the National Trust, dominating the town just as it did back in Tudor times. The guildhall has served many purposes over the centuries from its early religious guild associations. Many of its uses, including its role as the town workhouse, could have ended this fine structure. In WW2 it had a variety of roles to play. The area was home to a large American Air Force base and the Guildhall was a focal point in their integration into town life.

Alt="Photo of Medieval Little Hall in Lavenham Suffolk"
Medieval Little Hall in Lavenham Suffolk

Walking anti-clockwise around the town square, with the town cross in the centre of your stroll, you will be attracted to the colourful 14th Century Little Hall. This is now a museum and has a delightful garden attached to it. The colour is extraordinary. Is it orange, sandy maybe? You will have to decide. You certainly won’t be able to miss it. Next to Little Hall, inevitably, is The Great Hall. This is now a boutique Hotel and restaurant. An enticing place for a fine lunch or today just for an envious glance inside.

Alt="Photo of Angel Hotel in Lavenham Suffolk"
Angel Hotel in Lavenham Suffolk

The square has a number of independent shops displaying their wares and inevitably attracting you inside. As you walk around, by all means enjoy the shops, but do not forget to look up and admire the architecture. The angles will play with your head and may make you dizzy but it is worth the discomfort. Enjoy too, the views down the streets leading away from the square. Some give great views over open, rolling countryside.

Alt="Photo of quiet garden in Lavenham Suffolk"
Quiet corner in Lavenham Suffolk

Lady Street leads the way out of the square and at the bottom of this architectural gem of a street is the restaurant Number 10. An exceptional lunch made us ready to continue our exploration. Opposite the restaurant is the rear of the Wool Hall, its former use self-explanatory. This is now part of the Swan Hotel. As you round the corner of the structure onto the High Street you get the full experience of the size of what is now the Swan – in your imagination exactly the type of Hostelry that may have survived the centuries. It sets the tone for the entire High Street. This street will take you some time to explore with one extraordinary building after another. Some seem to be defying gravity, but they are still standing after all these centuries. Gift shops, antique shops, cafes, wine bars, art galleries all vie for your attention. It may cost you a little expenditure along here but you will at least go home with or have enjoyed quality. Today it was a fine leather handbag that came home with my wife. Check out the tea room in the crooked house, again a self-explanatory name. It is impossibly shaped, but yes, still standing.

Alt="Photo of Lavenham Suffolk High Street"
Lavenham Suffolk High Street

There is so much to see and do in Lavenham. The architecture is unforgettable. The sense of times past, and a way of life, being preserved is all around you. I am certain you will not find any cheap or chain shops here. The town is a haven from all that seems to bedevil English town centres. If it takes you a very long time to make your tour of the town and all the shops on offer then there is a compensation for that – you can always stay for dinner.

The town has an excellent website and includes this helpful map to enable you to walk the town and not miss anything :  

https://www.lovelavenham.co.uk/walks-lavenham-suffolk/

Alt="Photo of medieval house in Lavenham Suffolk England"
Medieval House in Lavenham Suffolk

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A Day in …………….Lavenham

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

Alt="Photo of Lavenham Suffolk Guild Hall Medieval Architecture"
Lavenham Guild Hall in Suffolk – Medieval Architecture and open by National Trust

Lavenham is a place that is well worth a detour, a special journey. It is a fine place to stroll with your camera. It has some excellent choices for lunch. On some days there is a market in the square. It boasts many lovely independent shops. It is quintessentially, historical England. It is a must see.

Lavenham, despite its popularity, is one of the easier places, and one of the cheapest places, to park your car. Perhaps there is a local bylaw that prevents ugly ticket machines spoiling the view when people are photographing the town. There is always Photoshop I suppose, but long may this state of affairs continue. Today, we are able to park in the town square. There is no market taking place, just a travelling fish van that has gathered a substantial queue.

A bit of background. Lavenham is a marvellous survivor from Medieval times. One of the finest examples in the UK of such architecture. From the atmospheric town square to the surrounding winding streets the amount of preservation is staggering. Most towns in England have lost all their connection with their medieval history but here it is laid out like a theme park, all still in use. Lavenham was prosperous back then because of its buoyant wool and cloth trade. This eventually died away due to intense competition and the town went through a long period of decline, but its architecture remained. The building were divided into smaller units but because no one really was interested in developing the town, its poverty did in fact save it. A visitor from the 15th Century would certainly recognize where he was.

The starting point of any walk around Lavenham will no doubt be in front of the Guildhall in the village square. This spectacular building is now in the care of the National Trust, dominating the town just as it did back in Tudor times. The guildhall has served many purposes over the centuries from its early religious guild associations. Many of its uses, including its role as the town workhouse, could have ended this fine structure. In WW2 it had a variety of roles to play. The area was home to a large American Air Force base and the Guildhall was a focal point in their integration into town life.

Alt="Photo of Medieval Little Hall in Lavenham Suffolk"
Medieval Little Hall in Lavenham Suffolk

Walking anti-clockwise around the town square, with the town cross in the centre of your stroll, you will be attracted to the colourful 14th Century Little Hall. This is now a museum and has a delightful garden attached to it. The colour is extraordinary. Is it orange, sandy maybe? You will have to decide. You certainly won’t be able to miss it. Next to Little Hall, inevitably, is The Great Hall. This is now a boutique Hotel and restaurant. An enticing place for a fine lunch or today just for an envious glance inside.

Alt="Photo of Angel Hotel in Lavenham Suffolk"
Angel Hotel in Lavenham Suffolk

The square has a number of independent shops displaying their wares and inevitably attracting you inside. As you walk around, by all means enjoy the shops, but do not forget to look up and admire the architecture. The angles will play with your head and may make you dizzy but it is worth the discomfort. Enjoy too, the views down the streets leading away from the square. Some give great views over open, rolling countryside.

Alt="Photo of quiet garden in Lavenham Suffolk"
Quiet corner in Lavenham Suffolk

Lady Street leads the way out of the square and at the bottom of this architectural gem of a street is the restaurant Number 10. An exceptional lunch made us ready to continue our exploration. Opposite the restaurant is the rear of the Wool Hall, its former use self-explanatory. This is now part of the Swan Hotel. As you round the corner of the structure onto the High Street you get the full experience of the size of what is now the Swan – in your imagination exactly the type of Hostelry that may have survived the centuries. It sets the tone for the entire High Street. This street will take you some time to explore with one extraordinary building after another. Some seem to be defying gravity, but they are still standing after all these centuries. Gift shops, antique shops, cafes, wine bars, art galleries all vie for your attention. It may cost you a little expenditure along here but you will at least go home with or have enjoyed quality. Today it was a fine leather handbag that came home with my wife. Check out the tea room in the crooked house, again a self-explanatory name. It is impossibly shaped, but yes, still standing.

Alt="Photo of Lavenham Suffolk High Street"
Lavenham Suffolk High Street

There is so much to see and do in Lavenham. The architecture is unforgettable. The sense of times past, and a way of life, being preserved is all around you. I am certain you will not find any cheap or chain shops here. The town is a haven from all that seems to bedevil English town centres. If it takes you a very long time to make your tour of the town and all the shops on offer then there is a compensation for that – you can always stay for dinner.

The town has an excellent website and includes this helpful map to enable you to walk the town and not miss anything :  

https://www.lovelavenham.co.uk/walks-lavenham-suffolk/

Alt="Photo of medieval house in Lavenham Suffolk England"
Medieval House in Lavenham Suffolk

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Chocolat filmed in the quietest film location village in Burgundy

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Taken from my NEW book released on July 7th

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Alt="Photo of Flavigny Chocolat film village for French travel guide books"
Flavigny-sur-Ozerain – L’Ange Souriant Chambres D’Hotes

Chocolat

This destination is one of our favourites – Northern Burgundy. It is a much neglected part of France from a tourist standpoint. To the north is Champagne with its landscape of gently rolling vine covered hillsides. The towns of Champagne are steeped in wine making history and the money coming into the area keeps it looking expensively maintained. It is an area that will always delight but just to the south is a less travelled region that is more warts and all in its presentation. The towns are just that little more untouched and authentic, the countryside rural and pure, not quite manicured to within an inch of its life as in Champagne. It is a region that produces fine wine, wine that other than Chablis rarely reached the supermarkets of the UK. These wines are well worth finding when your car has an empty boot. They are astonishingly good value.

We are going to start this leg of our road trip in a small village in the French department of Côte-d’Or, in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. When you are asked to name one or two films set in France then the usual suspects come to mind. ‘A Good Year’, ‘Midnight in Paris’, ‘Mr Bean’s Holiday’. If I ever asked the female friends of my wife then they always seemed to come up with ‘Chocolat’, the film based on the novel by English Author Joanne Harris. Starring Johnny Depp, Juliet Binoche and Judi Dench it was a popular addition to the genre. I have to say at the time of our travels I had never seen it of knew anything of the storyline. I certainly was not aware of the film location in France. Flavigny-sur-Ozerain is the setting for Chocolat and that is the village where our bed and breakfast accommodation is located. Somebody told me that film fact by the way, because you would not be aware of it when you are staying there. This rural village is just that and resolutely determined to stay one. There are no indications that it has a claim to fame, no signposts designating the places featured in the film. Certainly, there are no souvenir shops. I doubt you could even buy a bar of Chocolat. This would never be allowed to pass in England. If even an advert is filmed in the smallest of towns or villages in England they would certainly make sure you knew about it. You are absolutely not going to get the T-Shirt in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain.

I cannot say I am disappointed at that. I like my locations in France to stand on their own, keeping their individual charm. Flavigny does not disappoint on first view of the village from the Northern approach road. It looks the quintessential Plus Belle Village de France as you take it in from a distance. I pull the car over on the rise with the village beyond emerging out of the lush green countryside. The dominant feature as is the case in most French villages, however small, is the church spire. Abbaye Saint Joseph de Clairval is a particular stand out example and I should have realized, features in the film. It is a promising first impression.

Entering the village, we make our way slowly along the main street and cannot miss our clearly signed accommodation – L’Ange Souriant on Rue Voltaire. I am writing this in Covid lockdown times and of course most things are closed anyway but I suspect that this establishment is no longer trading which is a shame. It would be one of the most enjoyable places we stayed at in France, despite its modest pretentions. As I have mentioned this an extremely famous village, Hollywood superstar famous. Strangely no one seems to have told it. From entering the village, we have not encountered a soul. The first person we see is our host and then again that is not straight away by any means. She is not around when we arrive, so we have to wait, explore a few side streets winding around the property. Disturbing the slumbers of a couple of cats is the best we can achieve in bonding with the locals. Finally, the lady we are waiting for comes around the corner with her three young children. The school run accomplished she warmly greets us and apologises for not being here for our arrival. She sets the tone for our visit, and we are immediately part of the family.

Her home follows the usual style of furnishing in rural France. In our bedroom large solid chunky furniture dominates our space. Throughout Burgundy and other parts of France it seems that furniture is handed down from generation to generation. Dark wood fixtures may be well out of fashion in England but not here in France and it is always oversized. It is an extremely clean and well cared for space though and the overall atmosphere is homely and generous. Having unpacked we are welcomed into the family space, the owners three children doing their homework. As always in France little excuse is needed to offer a guest a glass of wine and our delightful host continues that tradition with a lovely light Burgundy.

Soon it is time to go in search of food, a typical Burgundy auberge perhaps in another picture-perfect village. We head out through the village gates and into the expanse of countryside beyond. The light is already gently fading with the sun just obscured by the cloud on the horizon. It is a gorgeous view and completely tranquil. As we drive down the narrow lanes and pass-through various villages it becomes readily apparent just how tranquil it actually is. Apart from the odd cat and assorted cattle in a field there is no other sign of life. Despite it being dusk very few lights are flickering in the villages and although there may be an auberge sign or two gently swaying in the breeze the attached restaurants are resolutely closed. So too are any village shops. Except one that we eventually stumble upon after driving around for around an hour. Our French evening meal feast is a couple of slightly past their best chocolate croissants and a bar of chocolate all washed down with a cheeky little half bottle of sauvignon blanc of dubious parentage. Still, being able to gorge on this feast back at the village sat by the church in the deserted town square, peace all around, it is not a bad end to the day.

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain – A quiet corner of Northern Burgundy

We explore a little more on the following morning, but Flavigny is just a pleasant, quiet Burgundian village. There is no ‘Chocolat’ tourist trail, no souvenir shops where you can buy your ‘Chocolat’ Chocolate. It is a village were the local life goes on at its slow unconcerned pace. We saw a man tinkering with a car down a side street at what I presume passes as the local garage. An old lady wanders across the church square to talk to a neighbour. That is about it really. The French do not really do celebrity transformations of their villages and that is the same story throughout Burgundy and much of France. As you tour the Burgundian countryside you pass through so many lovely villages, many are incredibly famous throughout the world. The wine villages around Beaune such as Pommard, Aloxe-Corton, Gevry Chambertain, Vosne-Romanie and so on are names to conjure with. However, when you arrive at these villages there will be just a simple village sign as there is on entering any village in France. These villages have remained small and undeveloped and if you are expecting any sort of fanfare announcing their important status then you will be disappointed. In fact if anything they discourage any additional attention. I for one am happy with that and the countryside of Burgundy remains very unspoilt and is much as it has always been. The only drawback is that because they do not overly put themselves out for the hungry tourist you can find even in summer if a restaurant only opens Wednesday to Sunday, lunch only, then those are the hours and even if there are coachloads of ready customers those hours will not change. Bring a sandwich!

Alt="Photo of Burgundy village cycle for French travel guidebooks"
Cycle by the riverside in Noyers Burgundy France

Flavigny does have its charm even if you are a disappointed ‘Chocolat’ tourist, which I am not. The old walls and gateways to the village are well worth seeking out as is the area around the church. Its charm as a filming location is obvious and although a stroll around the village will be uneventful you will encounter one or two villagers and the welcome is friendly. At the entrance to the village is the one claim to fame that the villagers will acknowledge with genuine pride – the Anise of Flavigny shop and manufacturers. It is in the Benedictine Abbey in Flavigny that this tasty little treat has been made since 1591. Always produced according to the same ancient recipe, each individual aniseed is still patiently coated in thin layers of a secret delicately flavoured syrup. To the villagers sharing a sweet with a hidden aniseed at its heart is symbolic of love itself. Having a pedigree going back through more than four centuries of history, this is one of the oldest brands in France. They do last a long time so a couple of their attractive tins for the winter are a welcome addition to any store cupboard or the car glove box. One thing however, even in this shop, you are not going to find and that is a bar of Chocolat Chocolate or a Aniseed Chocolat here in Flavigny. There are no souvenirs to be had of the film location. All the better for it really, we enjoyed the quiet and to wander round the village with my camera was a photographer’s dream – no cars, no people.

Our stay at our chambres d’hôtes here in Flavigny was extremely pleasant and we bid adieu to our host and her charming children following another copious breakfast. At least this was a regular source of food for at least one of our daily meals here in rural Northern Burgundy. Flavigny is a charming village but please bring a packed lunch if you are not coming in July or August.

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

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A Family Ancestry Story with a Beautiful Ending

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This is our Family history story and I hope you enjoy the twists and turns and find inspiration to check out your family tree.

Ancestry and Genealogy are so popular today and this is an inspiring story stretching over 200 years from a military perspective.

When a bullet in the Great War actually turned out to be a life saving event and the family survived to tell this remarkable story.

It travels from England to Spain and Ireland. We start with Wellington on the Peninsular campaigns and on to South Africa and then the trenches of France. Finally the landing beaches at Salerno Italy.

Come and live through those times and experience it all set against a background of Victorian and early 20th Century England.

It is fair to say the laughs are few and far between in this story but the resilience of these people will impress you.

The ending is a surprise as coincidences and history come together with a beautiful heart warming ending.

This was a 12 year labour of love and I include a full chapter on Ancestry research with tips and mistakes to avoid. I know – I made many.

Alt="photo of Salerno Beach landings September 1944"
Landing on Salerno Beach Italy September 1943
The slum dwellings of Water Street Darwen – the home of my family back in Victorian times – A modern day descendant looks on
Alt="Photography of Victorian Darwen Lancashire
Water Street Darwen Lancashire – Note the stream running under the buildings. This caused tragedy and loss of life in Victorian times

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