Monday, July 6, 2009

All's Wight with the World

I promise. No more puns on ‘Wight’.
But I’m here.
Back on the downs, back in my lovely, comfy, white suite at Hermitage Court Farm, back with Jayne and Chris and Jack and Charlie Holmes. Back where the air is sweet and swirling, where the only noise is a hare thumping across the lawn, a pigeon starting out of a hedge or the wind wuthering across the heights, and where Red Fred (saved for me by those magnificent men at South Wight Rentals) waits obediently at the door to take me to discover any bits of the isle I might have missed last year and, of course, to revisit the bits I loved last time round.
St Catherine’s Downs are quite a way from Couptrain, France, and getting here was something of a cavalcade. Brian and I drove first to le Gros Chêne, Ablon, for our ‘holiday’ night at the curiously-named Le Cochon Joyeux. The Jolly Pig turned out to be a sweetly quaint and decidedly pretty old small-village farmhouse, run by a lively former theatrical costumier.

The sort of place for a secret romantic weekend rather than for two old blokes on a stop-over, but we coped. If you have sturdy legs, you can walk from le Gros Chêne into Honfleur, but we (after walking even further in the wrong direction) took the car, and lunched on excellent tripes (well, how near to Caen can you be!) at what looked like a touristic eatery on the much-photographed and -painted waterfront. OK, maybe La Maison Bleue, Honfleur, is touristique -- Frédéric and Jean-Luc were such excellent, companionable, hyper-professional serveurs that I even left a tip (I don’t, normally) -- but I tell you, one eats very, very well, at a very reasonable price, there.

On to Trouville and Deauville – oddly, I liked the former (see photo) the better, but modern building hasn’t helped either of them – and then on southwards, where I confirmed my earlier impression that Houlgate is the prettiest spot on the coast. And, finally, to Ouistreham and the ferry.

I enjoy travelling with Brittany Ferries, and I enjoyed myself extra this time. I chummed up with 20 year-old Levi from Swindon, who was travelling from Normandy to Turkey via Gatwick, and we shared the odd midnight beer in the ship’s comfy lounge, before I bethought me of the early morrow and dove tardily into my little bunk.
And at 7am it was Portsmouth. Taxi to the Wightlink FastCat (7.45), hydrofoil to Ryde (8am), that wobbly little train from the pierhead to Shanklin (8.45), a trundle with the suitcase down the road to South Wight Rentals (9am), joyous reunion with Red Fred and, finally, at his helm, off up the Newport Road direction St Catherine’s Downs…
and here I am.
Easy, when you’ve done it before. Wondrous, when it turns out to be even lovelier than you remembered...

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