This is not a photo of Normandy.
I have started an entry on Normandy with a picture of the opulent shadows of the inside of Opera Garnier in the middle of Paris as I want to highlight the difference between city and country. The zenith of traditional European architectural grandeur: red velvet, towering statues and candelabras. Then I stepped off the train into the countryside of Normandy…
Paris is not all beautiful interiors. All of a sudden I’ve left the heat and the noise and the tourists of the streets of Paris behind.
Fagus silvatica, or the European Beech tree. It has been interesting to see the same symmetrical veins on beech leaves on species in New York, Canada, England, France, New Zealand and Tasmania. Veins of continuity which cross the planet, as I travel eastwards. Beech leaves linking the continents with their slanted striations.
This is Eu, a small town in the north of Normandy. Half-timbered houses are common around here, with their black beams and wattle and daub walls painted white. Many of the coastal towns with their old stone buildings, gulls crying, green and rolling hills around and cool and often rainy sky remind me that I am in the France that is so well known and evoked by English literature over the decades and the centuries. This is the France that is just on the other side of the channel from England, a big stone’s throw away. So the landscape is just the same. It is the first foreign bit of land generations of English men and women have seen down through history. Julian Barnes’ ‘Flaubert’s Parrot’ springs to mind. It is much easier to feel at home here than if you were English and you’d gone down to Avignon or the south of Europe.
Just outside of Eu…
The first couple of nights I stayed at the house of the parents of a friend. It was an old farm house in a valley with green woods and fields around. Lovely. Waking in the morning and sticking my head out of the window it was beautiful to be surrounded by green hills and forests and fields and no other houses or people. I’d look out after having just woken up, still feeling groggy, and have the invigorating vista of green and outdoor life below and before me, with Austan the Breton Spaniel running across some field to the right, and the cool air brushing against my face. The house still has its exposed oak beams, hundreds of years old, in the kitchen.