Third time - no snow

Well wrapped up against the wind I think I could afford their garage Le Crotoy on the far side of the bay I have nothing to do with them Mum and Debs discuss the price of fish 1904 Graffiti on the chapel wall St Martin's Church They only won because they had horses
Click on the thumbnails for a larger picture Gargoyle - from the French: to gargle They don't usually call him William of Normandy Anton and Peter Warming hands Hilary and Mum She can be such a lady ! Page 2

St Valery

7 March 2010

St Martin's Church

St Martin's Church

Well it took us until March and even then there were the odd flurries of snow across the north of France - but none around here. We had cold weather and a bracing sea breeze but also lots of clear blue skies and sunshine.

The temperatures were still a good bit beneath the seasonal norm but sure, that's why you buy pullovers.

As an afternoon trip out I thought that we could head over to the coast to St Valery and the Somme estuary. The last time I was there with Anton and Debs it threw it down - and that was August. We remember getting out of the car near the dam and having the brollies all but ripped from our hands.

This time we were at least going to be able to see something. Rather to my surprise for a chilly March afternoon St Valery was packed and it was not that easy to find a parking space. I remembered from visiting Guy in the hospital that unless you want to park kilometres away - everywhere is paying in the town. And it is not cheap either.

I got us as close to the bottom of the medieval town as possible and we walked up through the Nevers Gate. Famous last words from Dad - It's not so bad out of the wind - as we walked out onto the ramparts near St Martin's Church.

Why doesn't St Valery have an accent over the -e- you ask.

St Valery's Chapel

St Valery's Chapel

The answer is because the name doesn't come from Valéry but from the name of a monk who became a hermit in this area in 611. His name was Gualaric which over time became Walaric and then Valery. The things you can learn here.

From up on the hill you can get a fabulous view out over the mansions down below and on a clear day like that afternoon a superb view right the way across the bay to Le Crotoy on the far side. I was here in the summer with Florian but the haze hadn't lent itself to good photos.

We climbed the hill and meandered through some of the back streets. Many of the houses are very pretty but I am sure that in such an exclusive location they come at a hefty price.

The old part of the town is steeped in history and the upper gate, known as the William Towers, was already in place when William of Normandy set sail from the port in 1066 in order to prove that just because your mother was a dairy maid doesn't mean that you can't be king of England.

Interestingly, the story goes that when Harold was an emissary of the English court he was captured by Duke Guy de Ponthieu in 1053 and held in what is now known as the Harold Tower (Well you had probably already guessed).

Joan of Arc was also held captive here by the Burgundians in 1431 before being handed over to the English.

The window to St Martin

The window to St Martin

Further up the hill we followed a footpath out to the Chapel which has one of the best locations in the town. It is built in a local style alternating flint and limestone blocks in a checkerboard pattern. It would appear that people have been inscribing their names into the chalk blocks for over a hundred years.

The original chapel dated back to Roman times but the the summer holiday visits by Vikings and Normans (In effect the same thing) burnt the town down numerous times. To them we can also add Richard the Lionheart in 1197.

In 1475 it would be the turn of the French King, Louis XI to burn the place rather than allow his Burgundian rival Charles the Bold to take it.

Returning to the Church of St Martin at the bottom of the town we took a moment's respite from the wind - though it was cold enough inside to be able to watch our breath steam.

The original 12th century church was destroyed in 1475 by Louis XI's burning frenzy and the current St Martin's dates from 1500. It is built in the same flint/limestone fashion as the chapel and many of the other walls that align the streets.

It is a fisherman's church and within their are a number of models of boats to remind you of St Valer's former importance as a fishing port. The stained glass windows are splendid and to remind us that there is a link with William there is a copy of a section of the Bayeux Tapestry.

Down at the marina is a monument to William's fleet. Nearby is the Steam Train Station for the summer service to Le Crotoy.

All this walking about in the cold had helped us work up an appetite. In the evening the Magnicourt gang arrived, heavily laden with wine, chocolate cake and fresh cream - straight from the vache - none of the usually runny French stuff for Hilary's 3000 calories the glance torte.

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See also

Winter Snow