Mum and Dad came to stay with us, for their second visit, in September.
A good journey!
This time, they took the train from Ashford in Kent, through the Channel Tunnel to Lille, then on to Le Mans, directly, with no stops. So far so good! They also managed to get their connecting train from Le Mans to Sillé le Guillaume, where we collected them on time, with no miss-haps on Friday 9 September! Hoorah!!
Time to relax
As usual, we’d worked right up until the day before the visit, DIY-ing, cleaning, gardening and generally titivating. Consequently, we were pretty tired by the time Mum and Dad arrived. We’d also had the sad loss of Jim only a few days before and I think we were still regrouping after the summer sejours. Luckily, Mum and Dad were more than happy to spend time at La Biochère, looking at all the changes we’d made since their last visit in April, enjoying little strolls from the property and relaxing in the loungers enjoying the good weather!
The Commune Picnic
Well, best laid plans! For the Saturday (the day after Mum and Dad’s arrival), we’d bought tickets from our neighbour, Claude Ory, for the commune picnic. Apparently, this is a biennial event that is a joint effort between three communes – St Pierre-sur-Orthe, St Martin de Connée and Averton. After the last commune affair we went to, we were a little worried how it was going to turn out! We needn’t have been concerned. As usual we met with Claude and Monique beforehand, finding Jean, Niz and Henri had arrived just before us – of course, we took a drink with Claude and Monique, along with the obligatory nibbles (!) before we headed off in convey to the picnic. It was about 20 minutes away, just outside Villaines la Juhel. We’d never been to the site before but it was lovely – there was a huge lake to walk around, bridle paths, a camp site, nature trails and other activities. We found the picnic had been well organised – four large pigs were already roasting on a BBQ….
However, we soon realised that we should have read our tickets more closely – everyone was to bring their own plates, glasses and cutlery…… oops! Thankfully, we have some very kind and considerate neighbours – Jean and Niz had also forgotten to bring their bits and bobs, so drove back home to collect them and to bring us some extra plates, etc too!
Trestle tables and benches had been set up under open marquees and Claude chose a table for us all to be together and join some other friends too. It was a happy event – there must have been around 200 people participating, including a local member of parliament, who took the time to shake hands with everyone in welcome – he told Edward he had a charming accent! It was fascinating to watch the comings and goings – everyone seemed to know each other and there was constant chatter throughout the meal – 5 courses, of course! There always seemed to be second helpings on offer – it was so delicious, I’m sure nothing went to waste…
Afterwards, we all played a game of boules. I’d asked earlier where the ‘terrain de boules’ was – there was much hilarity when I was told it was the car park! I thought it would be a little odd but soon realised that this was the norm – multiple groups of people were soon taking out their boules and launching them up and down the car park – it was great fun!
Mum had a go too and ended up in the winning team! While I sat out with Monique, all around under the permanent open barns, yet more people were playing cards – there was a constant murmur of quiet talking as they played – people relaxing, having fun and catching up with friends and neighbours. It was very gentle, very French and a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon…….
Out and about and time at home
While we were all keen to relax and not do too much, we thought a trip to our local brocante on Sunday morning would make for an interesting hour or so. Sadly, it wasn’t open when we arrived, so instead we went a little further to the town of Fresnay-sur-Sarthe. We like to come here and have a little wander around the streets, the castle gardens and watch the river below from the castle walls. Mum and Dad like it here too and we spent a little while taking in the scenery before it started to rain. Edward caught these little girls enjoying the rain with their umbrellas….
It was enchanting to watch, especially as one of them had no shoes on her feet!!
Monday and Wednesday were ‘rest days’ – spent at home, mooching around the house and garden. We played boule in the courtyard some evenings and Mum and I did some gardening – mostly clearing weeds from the beds that I hadn’t had time to sort out in the summer. It was a great help to have another pair of hands! Oh, and we did quite a lot of blackberry picking….
About 10 pounds picked on this occasion! In all we have over 30 pounds in the freezer at the moment!
Dad enjoyed walking around the meadow, particularly because he’d found we had a colony of wasp spiders…. They are pretty big spiders and look like wasps! They mostly sit in the middle of their webs until some unsuspecting prey item lands in the web and then they are soon to work ravelling the corpses in silk, ready for a later meal – Dad loved to see the spectacle!
We even set up the treasure hunt we’d created for the French students – Mum was really keen to have a go!! It was certainly fun to watch, although it has to be said, Mum was more enthusiastic than Dad, although Dad came into his own when they had to do a bit of map reading!
In the meantime Edward and Mouse were just chilling out….
On Tuesday, we took a little tour out in the car, bringing a picnic too. The weather was lovely and our first stop was Site de Montaigu – a hill with a little chapel which has links to the pilgrims travelling to/from Le Mont St Michel. We had the place to ourselves and so had time to take in the spectacular views and feed the friendly goats!
Next stop was the Chateau at Mézangers – we’d brought Mum and Dad here before but as it was out of season, we were unable to walk around the grounds. As we stood at the gates admiring the view of the castle, we realised it was closed for lunch!! So we decided to take our picnic to the Gué de Selle, a nearby park with lake, camping, walks, boating and lots more. At this time of year, though, the holiday season is over and it takes on a very tranquil atmosphere. We ate our lunch under the trees then went for a lovely walk alongside the lake. It was teaming with wild life – waterfowl, fish, small song birds fluttered all around us and a nuthatch seemed quite unaffected by passers by. Across the lake we were amazed to see an osprey diving for fish and catching his dinner, only for a buzzard to chase him for the catch!
We only walked along one side of the lake, although it is possible to do the full circuit. It was becoming very hot by now, so the shade from the trees was welcome…
It is a beautiful place and certainly we shall be coming back, perhaps for a walk all the way round next time!
So, we headed back to the chateau.
But by this time, the afternoon had become a scorcher and we were all feeling tired from the heat and walking. We took a little while to take in the view from the lake then decided to call it a day and spend the rest of the afternoon/evening at home. This little fellow seemed to like the sun though, hiding in the meadow…..
Their last day with us was my birthday. Somehow, I’ve managed not to take any photographs (!) but I had a lovely day. I was treated to a delicious meal at the restaurant we found with our friends, Anne and Steve back in June, then we took a drive over to Fontaine Daniel to have a look around the mill shop. I always love looking around there and Mum enjoyed browsing through the fabrics too – we both managed to buy some remnants for later projects! We finished up with a little shopping in Mayenne before making our way back home for our customary evening film show 🙂
In all, we had a lovely week with Mum and Dad and it seemed to go by so quickly. Thankfully, their return trip was relatively uneventful, just long waiting times at Lille, but still preferable to crossing Paris!
Already looking forward to their next visit in the spring… ♥