By Vivian Rowe
THE next bus leaving the station happened to be going to Carrouges and that, as I remember. was the only reason for our being there. It was that kind of holiday; an almost aimless wandering round the French countryside at the least possible expense, it proved in many ways one of the most rewarding of all.
It is my proud and possibly unjustified boast that 1 have a sixth sense enabling me to choose modest hotels that are good, and it did not fail at Carrouges.
"A room, Monsieur? " Surprisingly, the paironne led the way through the kitchen to the staircase that served the bedroom floor. The walls shone with copper pans. the tiled floor was spotless, and the patron, overpowered by a disproportionately tall and wide chef's hat, moved pots and lifted lids at the stove. muttering to himself
what we charitably assumed to be pra yers.
Above, the corner bedroom was scrupulously clean and the two beds of the usual high French standard of comfort. There was a fitted basin with running cold water: hot water came straight up from the kitchen in an enchanting copper ewer.
Our dinner began with a tureen —in size a cauldron--of heartwarming soup, accompanied by the inevitable pot of cream (one is expected in the Norman countryside to put a large dollop in the middle of one's plate of soup); this was followed by a substantial dish of bream. locally caught, and washed and washed and washed again until its delicate flavour was free from any taint of mud. The steak that came next overflowed the sides of the wide plates.
" Was there." asked the patrone anxiously. " anything wrong with the cheese 1 " • There was not: it was locally made and in perfect condition. but our appetites now flagged. The unit locally grown, was perfection itself.
NEXT morning we set out to see the château. l knew it only by name.
In a quiet way it was enchanting. Dating mainly from the time of Henri IV, it is in red brick and white stone. It is not so much a museum or a show-piece as a place lived in for centuries by the same family, with decorations and furniture of each succeeding generation: Gothic fireplaces, Louis XVI chairs, ironwork by lean GoujonHampton Court on a domestic scale, and utterly delightful.
WHY PLAN ?
IF 1 have lingered over Car rouges, it is because it represents our general experience in Normandy: clean and unpretentious inns with superb food, all local and fresh as the dawn; and some gem of church or castle everywhere.
In this green and varied countryside, modest board and lodgings cost about 25s. a day each for two, sharing a double room, to which should be added about 5s. a day each for the bus journey from place to place. It is almost impossible to plan the bus journeys in detail beforehand, such are the complications of days and times at which they run or do not run-but why plan?
MANY experiences linger in the memory — Lisieux, with the old church and the new basilica standing triumphantly intact where all about them is newly-risen from the ruins. Dear, sleepy old Bayeux, untouched by war; the vivid presentation of the Tapestry, authentic strip cartoon of 900 years ago; the impressive cruiser stern of Bishop Odo's cathedral.
Nearby Mulberry. with personal memories of an unfittingly hilarious landing in 1944 (our American L.S.T. steered so badly we could not reach the pier). I he 4(Y) stallions of the State Stud at Le Haras-du-Pin. housed in buildings designed by the architect of Ver ctances Cathedral, the acme
of pure Gothic art; the interior is a mathematician's dream. The pluperfect ordering of the neoclassical château of Balleroy, theatrical in its symmetry. Re-born Falaise, with the castle that was the birthplace of William the Conqueror still proudly standing.
The fascination of Le Bee Hellouin, the monastery that gave the England of the Conquest three Archbishops, three Bishops and seven mitred Abbots. and the world
'a Pope, Alexander a Benedictine community is once again in possession.
And what I look upon as my own discovery, an exquisite miniature. Conches: the stained glass in the ancient church is by a pupil of Diirer but might well have been by the master himself; the little village is named after Conques, half-way house, on the pilgrims' route to St. James of Cornpostela, and there is the same seclusion. similar woodcovered hillsides. Little paths run down to the stream; the waterwheels turn no more, and there is no sound other than the singing of the birds.
ALL these are south of the majestic Seine. Rouen extends on both sides of it, and if you wish to see how crafts
manship in this age can vie with that of medieval times, visit the rebuilt cathedral. It is—I choose
my word carefully—inspiring. In the new work you will find the same devotion to purpose, the same loving care for detail, as \in theono old north hank are Jumieges and Saint-Wandrille, the former Gothic ruins breath-taking in their sheer loveliness, the latter happily reoccupied by a Benedictine community, though the Gothic church is in ruins, not cheerless, but of romantic beauty: the pointed arches seem to support the sky itseLlafstalsy.cathnoe
old beam and plaster houses and the open market of Lyons-la-Foret are alone worth the journey. but I love it for the beechglades of its forest where for eight centuries every King of France hunted deer and boar. The play of light and shade, the cathedrallike effect of the tall boles and branches arched over the rides will long remain a perfect visual memory.
IF you can tear yourself away from the seaside, this kind of holiday can be a wonderful change. Access is easy, swiftly, by plane to Deauville or overnight on the steamer from Southampton to Le Hilvre.
Other French provinces have their similar possibilities, but none can surpass Normandy, almost on our own doorstep and so little known beyond its coastline.
WITH DR. SCHWEITZER IN LAMBARENE, by Clara Urquhart (Hama, 10s. 6d.).
THIS is a pictorial volume with A a short but suitable accompanying text by an obvious admirer of this great Nobel Prizewinner—and who is not an admirer of this fine man?
Its photography gives the opportunity for us to have a rare glimpse of the settlement at Lambarene. and to appreciate a little of what it must mean to the people. The text too is both easily read and restrained in its praise.
TRAVELLING ABROAD ON A SMALL INCOME, by J. Allen Cash (Hutchinson, 2s. 6d.).
THERE is little new or original in this book. and it cannot compare with "Abroad on the Cheap" (Faber, 10s. 6c1.), but to someone unfamiliar with travel abroad the 2s. bd. will not be wasted.