The French House in Fiquefleur-Equainville is a home away from home to kick back and reconnect in. Reconnect with each other and reconnect with time. I mean ‘old school’ time, when time is on your side and not against you. Like Sundays used to be when I was young. But days of it.
I find Normandy therapeutic. I like its slower pace.
I like this valley garden too, with it’s meandering stream below.
We stepped inside and it was clear that Rosie pug was pleased to be here!
Charlotte and the dogs take in the view from the balcony.
Stretching our limbs after the long car drive we breath in the fresh air and enjoy the quiet.
Poppy our Boston Terrier, however, marches excitedly up and down.
Tho’ Rosie pug has worn herself out already and sits in the shade with her ‘no-one told me it was gonna be this hot’ face.
The men go ‘hunting’ to the local butchers in nearby Beuzeville and get supplies in from the supermarket there, while us girlies make up the beds and settle in the dogs.
In no time we were being handed cold bubbly pink champagne and were content to be mesmerized by the beautiful view.
Well until James stepped in and snapped us out of it!
With the fridge full of French food and wine and the prospect of a long weekend of complete relaxation we acclimatize quickly.
That is until Poppy, in her heady mood, jumps up to catch a wasp, which stings her just inside her lip.
We jumped to our ‘battle stations’. Charlotte stopped sipping her Champagne so she could drive to the vets if needs be and James googled what we should do.
James was Poppy’s hero and managed to flick out the stinger.
She was very lucky that it wasn’t near her throat when it could be very dangerous.
With James checking every 1/2 hour we took another deep breath and took a stroll round the little courtyard garden at the side of the house.
The evening was slow and boozy, listening to French music with James slow cooking his incredible chilli.
Poppy recovered and all was right with the world.
We woke the next day to crayola blue skies.
Charlotte got ready for a trip into the beautiful Honfleur.
We have a family rule when we come to France, we only eat bread and pastries bought that same day. It’s the fun of heading into different boulangeries to see what you can discover fresh from their ovens.
When we got back we set up lunch on the table that sits beneath the wisteria on the decking. Left over chilli (which tasted even better the next day!) and our freshly bought bread and cheeses.
One of these cheeses was made from sheep who were hand fed buttercups up a French mountain, the other from a place where the villagers would all come out to sing the lullaby ‘frere jacques’ during milking. I, however, proclaimed the 3rd one was by far the best. Turned out to be a bog standard cheddar. A bit of a high five moment for the boys (who planted it as a trick) but I can’t deny my English heart.
Followed by a selection of scrummy tartines bought in Honfleur. Tart lemon, red berry crumble and a soft almond one with jam (we would call it a Bakewell tart).
It was James 25th birthday recently and couldn’t resist bringing his new Green Egg with him.
The men decided to assemble said Green Egg on the upstairs balcony ready for tomorrows smoked meats marathon.
and marinaded the pork shoulder and ribs in a thick spicy sauce so it’ll be tasty through and through. Hubby has taken to calling it a ‘Boston Butt’ cut but on account of little Poppy I’ve banned it!
Meanwhile, us girls found joy in doing absolutely nothing…
As the day got hotter we had to find ways to cool the dogs down.
Most of the time we relaxed in the shade.
After a wonderful evening in Honfleur at L’Endroit we took our time getting up. I enjoyed a cup of tea in the cool lounge by the fireplace (we would not be lighting on this trip).
After popping out to pick up fresh bread and pastries for breakfast and a few strolls round the garden with the dogs, James could be found pottering around his Green Egg.
Today the men would be smokin’ the meat for 8 hours. You can’t underestimate the excitement this has caused.
The grill is now set for some smokin’.
The temperature of The Green Egg is key and needs to be super low for the shoulder of pork.
Eight (yes eight) hours from now this shoulder will be transformed into smoked pulled pork.
Taking a slow walk around the garden I hatched a plan to get some exploring done without tearing the men from the egg (for too long at least). The church of Fiquefleur-Equainville looms over the garden of The French House and so we head off to take a look.
At some point this dinky church was doubled in size. My feeling is that the back end is older because it is plainer.
The wash houses are found all along these valleys. One is here in the grounds of the church. These basins were built for the rinsing of the clothes (washing was done at home).
Lots of clean water was needed for rinsing so the streams along this valley gave a good supply.
Women would kneel and throw the clothes into the water wringing them out using a wooden paddle. It was strenuous work, forcing the women to work together.
This meant women would meet up here and exchange gossip and jokes. They would sometimes sing and sometimes conflicts would arise. All pretty standard then!
Wet clothes would then be taken home to dry by the fireplace.
The grave yard is very neat and well cared for.
Most of the graves are decorated with flowers.
Touchingly many have these plaques placed on top. A husband and wife lay here together and they seem to be still loved and respected by those in the village. No damage, weeds, graffiti here.
I know it seems weird, but I find it a lovely heartwarming place to be.
This cross seems as ancient as the back of the church and leans in it’s old age.
Sadly we were unable to get inside. Maybe it’s just too full of ghosts.
It was nice to take a moment and enjoy the peace. The seat was so worn it must have been witness to many events. Not just burials, but happy ones such as weddings and christenings too.
Back to the smoking Egg to check on it’s progress. There were rumblings of unwanted temperature changes. Time for a slow afternoon sipping chilled wine and chilling about.
Keeping the dogs the right temperature turned out to be fun too!
They really got rather used to it!
As dinner was unlikely to appear before the setting sun, it was a great excuse for Charlotte and I to enjoy a custard slice fresh from the bakery this morning.
Finally the guys were happy with the inside temperature of the pork shoulder. Time for that one to ‘rest’.
So in goes the ribs that were started in the oven…
As the sun began to set there was plenty of minor adjusting to be done as the temperature teased up and down.
These photos below are happy photos of a happy shared experience, but I was in two minds whether or not to show them.
My hubby is a little, well, eccentric, a bit out there – and according to his ‘homemade shorts’ still a bit 80’s!
As a family we laughed when he strutted onto the decking earlier all ‘leggy’. Laughed even more when he reasoned that he cut these daisy dukes ‘cos he wanted a proper tan.
Still, if James can handle it, so can I.
and for the record, he really did have a smashing tan.
So, just as the sun was setting (this is mid summer so not a moment too soon) dinner was plonked on the table.
The meats were as soft as can be and a major success!
If you want to enjoy a bit of an escape to laid back Normandy, the details of this house is below.
Being around this bunch of beings is precious and there’s something about this place that helps create those bonding times.