Monday 28 March 2022

Granville - the zoo

The zoo at Champrépus is a short distance due east of Granville, and it's on our way home.   It was open on the Sunday of our return, so we decided to visit it.   We were nearly put off by the admission (just under €40 for two) but in the end we decided it was well worth it.   As well as being an interesting visit, the zoo has a record in successful breeding of endangered species of which it is justly proud.   Its animal enclosures are well-laid out and natural-seeming, and it was good to make a contribution to its preservation efforts.

There were too many different animals to note each one, but a few things stand out.   The meerkats are smaller than I thought, only about 12 inches high.   You could walk among (but not touch!) some of the lemurs.  Porcupines are bigger than I thought - more the size of a small pig than a big hedgehog.   And I was delighted to see a Norwegian Blue in an excellent state of health.

Here's some pictures.

Saturday 26 March 2022

Granville - water power

After we did the purple bike run, and before we visited a local garden, we trundled off to the seaside to find a random café for lunch.  On the way back we came across this enchanting (at least to me) water mill.

Three wheels, no less, and all fed overhead, the most efficient way.

I like water mills.   In these times where we're expected to change to renewable energy sources, here's one.  And it's efficient too, with a water mill returning, during its working life, about 200 times the energy used to build it.  (By comparison, solar panels, in these latitudes, return about two times)   What's not to like?

It puzzles me that here in France, in the Mayenne at least, the civil service seems determined to put as many water mills out of action as possible.   This results in a "change of use" of the building, that in turn means that the owner loses the right to use the water's energy.   I suspect that in a few years, the state will come back and take the rights, and re-create the mills, now as a monopoly supplier of energy.

Thursday 24 March 2022

Granville - bikes

We took the bikes to Granville.  Strictly speaking, we took Anita's trike and my bike.   They both fit in the back of the old Renault Espace, as long as we drop the handlebars on Anita's.

We always like to look out for cycle routes on holiday;  they can be a good way of exploring the area.   The people in the tourist office in Granville were helpful and sold us a little booklet (€1) with some marked cycle routes on it.  We did two of them, just south of Granville, shown green and purple on the map below.

Anita is a bit tentative on the trike, and prefers to ride on dedicated cycle paths that are free of car traffic.   It's often difficult to tell from a tourist map which tracks are shared and which are not, and whether the roads are busy or not.  The green one wasn't a success.   There was no major difficulty, but it ran beside the sea for only a short stretch, and thereafter it was on a sectioned-off part of a fairly busy main road.  It was easy to believe that in high season the cycle path and the road alongside it are both very busy.  Although there wasn't much traffic, it wasn't especially fun to follow the route.   We did half of it and retraced our route.

The purple one was much better.  It is almost all on roads shared with cars, but they are minor roads with very little traffic.  We followed the track signs in the car to arrive at the marked start point and from there we went all the way around it on the bikes.   There was a very short section (20 yards or so) on a major road, but nothing to worry about.   That section also featured "La Grange de Tom", a café and restaurant and we stopped there for a coffee.   When we went past it in the car on the way back, it was lunchtime and the place was clearly very popular.   You could see the Mont St Michel from there, just about visible through the haze.

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Granville - Christian Dior

The father of Christian Dior had a house in Granville that he was forced to sell after falling on hard times.  The town acquired it and it is now a museum and municipal garden.  We didn't go in the house (it was closed at this time of year) but we visited the garden.   It's a little town garden, free to visit, open all year, and maintained by the council.   There are the ubiquitous plantings of flowering annuals, but also some attractive rose beds and other features that would make the place worth visiting all the year around. 

It's right on the clifftop, and you can walk to it via the sea-front promenade, followed by a steep set of steps, or along the suburban road.   If I lived in Granville I would take my Sunday papers there to read.


Sunday 20 March 2022

Granville - wind power

We took a short break at Granville, a town at the southern end of the west side of the Cherbourg peninsula.   We got there during the afternoon of Thursday and took the time to chill out, have a coffee and stroll around the town.

The hotel was right on the sea front, surrounded by coffee shops, restaurants and small parking area - free for half an hour, a couple of euros for two hours, but 27 euros thereafter.  I got the impression they don't want you to stay long.   There was unlimited free parking a five minute walk away, so we left the car there overnight. 

There was a good sea breeze, about a force 3-4, and the land rises steeply from the shore, so there was enough lift to keep hang gliders and paragliders in the air, so we enjoyed watching them fly with the gulls.

I'm not sure if this vertical windmill generates any useful electricity, but it was turning well in the wind.  


The wind was chilly, but the sun was out so in the sheltered areas it was warm.   We had out coffees indoors, looking out.

Wednesday 9 March 2022

Spring flowers

Most years we buy some daffodill bulbs and plant them out in the garden.   Unlike tulips, they thrive and spread, so it's getting difficult to find an area in the garden that can be dug without disturbing some daffs.  But in Spring, when the conditions are right, they give a fabulous display, and this year the garden seems carpeted with them.

There's not just daffs, the Christmas roses seem to be doing well too, I have white ones and pink ones.

And who can dislike primroses, or the winter-flowering honeysuckle Lonicera Fragrantissima?

Sunday 6 March 2022

The cold frame

My vegetable garden lacks a cold frame.  These mini-greenhouses are useful for acclimatising seedlings to the outside world, or for growing heat-loving plants such as melons, that don't grow too tall.   I decided to make one, using materials to hand.  There are plenty of stones around to build the sides in stone, and I had a couple of corrugated plastic sheets that I used to use as cloches.   I am building it against a south-facing stone wall that I hope will help keep the heat overnight.

I think my woodwork teacher would be appalled at the mess I made of the mortice and tenon joints in the wooden frame for the plastic sheets.  But plenty of white glue and they hold together.   The stone wall's not that pretty either.

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