Day 77 Thursday 17 August 2017

Boulogne

A very wet morning.  I blogged and read about WW1 whilst Malcolm planned our passage to Dunkirk, Ostend and Roompotsluis, dodging the shipping lanes to Antwerp and the sandbanks.  He also refuelled the boat and washed it down in the rain.

About 4 pm it stops raining and we go to La Poste to buy stamps for birthday cards and to the big Carrefour for supplies.  On the way back to the boat, I go to the Boulangerie for cakes for pudding: only one Religeuse au café!  I have to have a Tarte aux myrtilles (bilberries) instead. Make a double ration of Spaghetti Bolognaise sauce for our prolonged stay in Boulogne.  Strong winds are forecast – 6s and 7s – until Sunday. 

 

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The window of the Boulangerie – hope we don’t meet a crocodile!

 

Investigate the train times from Boulogne down to Etaples, near Le Touquet Paris Plage for tomorrow.  This is where Vera Brittain served as a VAD nurse during WW1.  Must read ‘Testament of Youth’ again.

 

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Day 76 Wednesday 16th August 2017

Dieppe to Boulogne

Set off at 10 am so that we have four hours of tide against and six hours of tide with us.  It takes us 10 hours to cover 53 miles – motoring with the mainsail up (and the genoa for an hour as the wind shifted round sufficiently).  A beautiful sunny day which would have been perfect for sailing – but there’s only 5 knots of wind and the wind direction indicator is going round and round!  Very cyclonic!

I read parts of my ‘History of Modern France’ about the First World War to Malcolm.  I didn’t realise that De Gaulle, serving in the trenches,  received a bayonet wound in the thigh and was captured by the Germans. 

On the AIS we can see all the ships in the shipping lanes going up and down the Channel and then actually see them in the distance.  We are tracking a bigger Dutch boat ( J35 ) on AIS which left shortly after us and eventually draws level just as we enter the outer harbour at Boulogne.  One boat cruising but two boats racing!

I prepare a boat stew (a one-pot supper, served in bowls with spoons,  to be eaten on passage) with chicken, lardons, potatoes and carrots and haricot beans.  It’s a welcome meal at 6.30 pm. 

You have to call the Port Authorities in Boulogne on Channel 12 to make sure that you are able to enter.  And we are.  Then Malcolm rounds the south pier and manages to snare another fisherman’s line – the air is blue from atop the pier end! 

When I go to the Capitainerie to pay, the Dutch couple just behind us have seen a dozen dolphins. No such luck for us !

 

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The marina at Boulogne – noisy fishing boats on the quay opposite – at low tide

 

 

Day 75  Tuesday 15 August 2017

Dieppe to the Somme

Arrive in Albert by 10 am after a drive of a couple of hours.  We’re following a guide for a day in the Somme and the town of Albert lies behind the middle of the line of that battle.  John Masefield described it in ‘The Old Front Line’, written in 1917, as ‘the centre from which, in time to come, travellers will start to see the battlefield where such deeds were done by men of our race.’

 

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The Golden Madonna in Albert

 

The church with the glittering Golden Madonna in Albert can be seen for miles.  In January 1915 German shelling toppled the statue to a perilous-looking angle below the horizontal, but it did not fall and was visible to soldiers of both sides for many miles around.  The British and French believed that the war would end on the day that the statue fell, the Germans believed that whoever knocked down the statue would lose the war.  Neither prediction came to pass.  During the German occupation from March to August 1918 the British shelled Albert and sent the leaning Virgin hurtling to the ground.

 

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Mural of the toppled Madonna

 

The Somme 1916 – 18 Museum is situated in the subterranean tunnels under the basilica.  It gives us a good idea of the conditions of trench warfare, with realistic scenes of British, French and German trench and dugout life.  There are also photos of the many, many soldiers from the Commonwealth: Indians, Canadians, South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders.

Next we go to Beaumont-Hamel to Newfoundland Park, where there are preserved trenches.  The park is run by young Canadian guides who give us a self-guided tour brochure. 

 

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The zigzag of the trenches

 

The Caribou Memorial to the missing Newfoundlanders.  

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The 51st (Highland) Division Memorial situated where the German first line ran.  So close.  As the Newfoundland soldiers advanced they were silhouetted, making them a clear target. 

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A brief stop at the Ulster Memorial, based on a replica of Helen’s Tower in County Down, where the 36th (Ulster) Division trained before coming to France. 

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Then the Thiepval Memorial, commemorating over 72,000 British and South African servicemen who died on the Somme between July 1915 and March 1918 and have no known grave.  Their individual names are inscribed on the 16 pillars making up the base of the monument.  There are two graveyards for French and British soldiers in front of the Memorial, which was designed by Edward Lutyens.

And lastly, the Lochnagar Crater (signposted as ‘La Grande Mine’), 91 meters in diameter and 21 metres in depth, where a series of mines were blown at 7.28 am on 1st July, 1916, marking the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.  On that single day 70,000 soldiers lost their lives and hundreds of thousands more were to die during the next few months on this 14 mile stretch.

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Nearby a few late poppies struggle to raise their heads in a mown cornfield – a fitting tribute to such scenes of carnage. 

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Day 74  Monday 14th August 2017

Dieppe

Today is a ‘jour de pont’ as the bank holiday is tomorrow for Ascension Day, which means that people can make a long weekend of it. It’s certainly very busy in Dieppe: lots of families milling about, visiting the fair and eating in all the restaurants along the quayside by the marina. 

We’ve decided, because of the strong wind warnings tomorrow, to hire a car and visit the Somme battlefields.  Walk down towards the station, putting laundry in en route, to find Avis and negotiate for a day’s hire.  Of course, they’re all shut tomorrow so we can have the key now and pick it up at 5.30 p.m.  Think we’ll leave it at the station as there’s nowhere to park near the marina.

Last time we only stopped overnight in Dieppe so now we have time to explore the old town, its huge cathedral like church of St. Jacques and the castle on the cliff. 

 

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L’Eglise St Jacques by Camille Pissarro

 

The original church was built in the 12th century to greet English pilgrims heading for the shrine of St. James at Santiago de Compostela. 

Climb up to the medieval chateau which also houses the Musee de Dieppe.  This little tower reminded me of Essouria in Morocco where Jonathan and family have recently holidayed.

 

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Tower with goats

 

There’s a good selection of paintings from the impressionists.  Loved Dufy’s painting of these peche a pied men with their huge shrimp nets, just like at Grandcamp-Maisy.

 

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Dufy’s painting of shrimp fishermen

 

And this one of the elephant with his trunk at Etretat.

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There are two rooms full of carved ivory.  Apparently Dieppois ‘explorers’ shipped ivory home from Africa to such an extent in the 17th century that there were 300 craftsmen-carvers here in Dieppe.  Like the jet industry in Whitby in the 19th century, sparked by Queen Victoria’s wearing of jet jewelry after Albert died.

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Wonderful views of the town and port from up here.  The ferry between Dieppe and Newhaven began in 1848 as the Newhaven Packet, soon after the railway arrived from Paris.  The town became a fashionable seaside resort, attracting French aristocracy and British royalty.  French visitors would promenade along the seafront, while the English colony indulged in the peculiar pastime of bathing in the sea!

 

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A fine day at the Chateau

 

Day 73  Sunday 13 August 2017

Fecamp to Dieppe

The Cote d’Albatre (Alabaster Coast) is known for its high white cliffs but the shoreline is eroding at such a ferocious rate that the small resorts, tucked in at the mouths of successive valleys, may not last another century.  However at the moment they are prospering with marinas, water sports facilities and casinos which ensure a steady summer trade.

We set sail at 12 noon to catch the tide flowing north.  Bit of an entanglement with a fishing line cast from the north pier just as we are passing – reminds us of having to dodge Whitby’s north pier fishermen! 

 

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Fecamp

 

 

We have 3 knots of current with us and seem to be doing really well, but the wind is 7 – 9 knots, and from further north than expected, and we can only motor-sail.  The cruising chute is already to go but the wind is in the wrong direction – again!

Every break in the cliff seems to be filled with a village – even those which only have a shingle beach and no port – but one has Paluel nuclear power station in it!

 

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Paluel nuclear power station

 

 

 

The sea is a beautiful turquoise colour.  You can understand why the Impressionist painters all flocked to this coast – the white cliffs and the irridescent colour of the sea.

On arriving at Dieppe we have to listen on Channel 12 for any Port information as the Dieppe – the Newhaven ferry comes in here and they also regularly dredge the channel.  It seems that all the yachts come in at the same time, about 5 pm.  There are French, German, Dutch, British and even Danish yachts.  Many are heading home at the end of a cruise. 

 

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Busy Dieppe

 

After supper we go for a walk along the prom where there’s a huge fair, even bigger than St.Vaast.  Standing underneath the ride with the two long arms makes Malcolm feel quite poorly!

Day 72  Saturday 12 August 2017

Fecamp

Jobs in the morning:  Malcolm put a topcoat on the engine touch-up, scrubbed the waterline on the port side and made a passage plan for Dieppe, 31 miles away.  I blogged.

In the afternoon we visited Le Palais Benedictine where all the world’s Bendectine liqueur is distilled. 

 

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Le Palais Benedictine

 

It’s an amazing place – a ‘mock Gothic  monstrousity ‘ according to the Rough Guide – built by Alexandre le Grand who revived the manufacture of the sweet liqueur, originally invented three centuries earlier in the local abbey. Here he is – immortalised in a stained glass window.

 

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Alexandre Le Grand

 

He obviously made a fortune as the galleries upstairs reminded me of Hearst Castle in California, which I visited with Jenness.  Galleries full of early Renaissance altarpieces, statues and paintings, with elaborate ceilings.

 

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A 15th Century nativity scene

 

Next you come to the production area and get to smell the 27 herbs and spices that go in the secret recipe.  There are huge kegs down in the cellar too – and, at last, the free tasting! You get to taste either the Benedictine  or B & B, a brandy blend, and the either a cocktail with pineapple juice or tonic.  We love it!

 

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Empty glasses all round!

 

On the way back to the boat we call in at the tiny supermarket for white wine, my duty-free white wine from Alderney has almost run out.  Then to the Boucherie for pork chops for tomorrow night and sausages for the day after.  We eat out at Le 900 Restaurant where we dined last year on our way down the coast – their set menu is only 20 Euros for three courses. We both have soupe aux poissons for starter, then I have skate wing a la normande – a much meatier fish than I imagined.  No prizes for guessing what Malcolm had! 

Day 71  Friday 11th August 2017

Le Havre to Fecamp

Depart at 9.45 am, and sail past the shingle beach with the beach huts as two more ships head into port with their pilots on board.  A busy place, Le Havre!  There are lots of terns, diving into the waves, and then gannets also diving for fish.  The ‘lighthouse’ of Eglise St.Joseph doesn’t disappear round the headland until 11 am:  it certainly dominates the skyline.

The wind was 10-14 knots from the NW and we made good progress out to the recommended crossing point of the Le Havre Antifer ship channel, which is about 4 miles out from the shore.  The Antifer is an especially built port for importing petroleum products and we can see a large tanker in port.  Reeds Almanac states that you should cross this channel in the recommended manner, but most other yachts seem to be ignoring this advice and save themselves a good couple of miles.

We were now able to turn towards Fecamp, which put us on a broad reach but I suddenly demanded to divert to Etratat to see the cliffs again.  Unfortunately the sea was quite roly poly so my pictures are blurred – but lovely to see the elephant dipping his trunk in the ocean again.

 

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Maupassant’s ‘Elephant’

 

 

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The caves and arches at Etretat

 

Then we carried on to Fecamp, and the wind backed.  We tried goosewinging but it proved impractical in the lumpy sea.  We managed to do 6 knots over the ground just with the main,  because we still had a strong tide with us.  Enter the port, Malcolm compensating for the strong current which is trying to sweep us further north, and moor on the Visiteurs pontoon with a bevy of large Dutch boats on a touring regatta, now heading back home.

We’re both tired after our interrupted night and soon nod off for a nap.  After supper we head to the Societe des Regates de Fecamp for a drink.  The clubhouse , over the Capitainerie, has wonderful views of the port and the sea, right down to Etretat.  But no-one speaks to us and we’re the last out at 9.30 pm – not quite a Whitby welcome!