Saturday, March 19, 2016

the first day of spring

How do I even begin?

Let's start with the obvious: it's spring! My beloved season -- one that lines up so well with all that I hold great -- looking forward, finding opportunity, a budding garden, an open door to the outside world -- the list is long.

I don't know how spring unfolded in your home town. In Bayeux, it is a cold and blustery day. They say it may reach the mid forties F (7C), but what one hand delivers, the other taketh away because the winds surely make it feel much colder.

Let me divide this day for you into two parts. First comes all that I found in Bayeux this morning.


Bayeux, on the first day of spring


As always, I'll start with breakfast. A few nice small touches, plenty to fill your protein/bread/sweet tooth needs.


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The brioche stands out. The rest -- fine. So many French people find fussing about breakfast a strange preoccupation. In a country that obsesses about introducing young kids to savory tastes and subtle food textures, you'll often find a child's breakfast consisting of a baguette with butter and jam. Now go to school already!

Alright, no school for me, but there is something that really tugs at me: today is the day of the farmers' market.

Living in the Midwest, I don't really pay attention to the market as a source of credible food to prepare until, oh, maybe June. (There are a few exceptions -- asparagus, for example, comes early. But mostly, our spring markets are for gazing at flower packs and cheese curds and loaves of Stella's cheese bread.)

Not so in Bayeaux. The whole town is in a tizzy because it's market day!


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Baskets abound. Oh, I could load you with many market photos: mushrooms, fruits, clothing. Potatoes, white asparagus, seafood. Cheese. Strawberries from the south of France, lettuce, endive, leeks. The list is so long! Let me just pick out a few pics, randomly selected because they have the color orange in them. Why not!

She contemplates how many to buy...


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You can buy carrots by the sack (I have to wonder -- who? and why?)


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This guy picks up his chickens by the feet and places them into the orange crate. So... are they for Sunday's chicken dinner?


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If I lived here, every market day, I'd pick up some of his paella for supper.


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But is it just the market that livens up the food scene here? No.  Most of France may be a bit nuts on the subject of bread product, but here, in this town of some 15,000, I counted at least eight bread stores. Some examples:


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Including this one which has an attached tea shop. With chocolate bunnies for sale. For Easter.


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Halfway into the morning it occurs to me that Bayeux is a rather prosperous small town. I am walking along the main commercial road and I come across one after another store selling children's clothing. I go into most of them and I notice that much of what they sell I'm likely to find in Paris. At these same prices.

Again, just a few examples of what catches my eye, starting with something in orange. This little outfit is from the boys' rack, but I think Snowdrop would look stellar in it. I could tell her the birds are penguins...


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Other, more traditional choices:


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I don't spend the entire morning examining the commercial backbone of Bayeux. I do some of the touristy stuff as well: I admire the timbered structures that survived so much in the last centuries!


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One more example:


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And I go to the museum to study the eleventh century tapestries that are possibly the main artistic draw to this town. They depict the Norman conquest of England and the scenes stretch over a canvas that is some 270 feet long.


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I'm there just as an English school group is about to enter. A teacher warns a (high school aged) boy to quit flirting with the local French staff. The kids snicker. I try to move ahead of them all and failing to do so, I give the tapestry an indecently short amount of time. It's an unforgettable piece of work, but I am not going to gain more from standing with these kids, listening to a tapestry sermon through an ear phone.

Once outside, I'm surprised that it's nearly noon. I have one other museum I really want to see, but I put it off until tomorrow morning. I walk briskly back to my bed and breakfast, passing the river that flows through town.


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And now it is time to give in to the adventuring spirit that hits so hard in spring. It is time for the velo (aka the bicycle).



the Velo

To be continued tomorrow. What? Disappointed? Well now, you know more than I did as I put myself through this challenge: I survived. Tears were shed, frustrations -- heaped on like those sacks of carrots. But I survived. Come back tomorrow to learn how this chapter unfolded. First day of spring indeed!

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