From Joan of Arc to the Sound of Music….

We spent a second day near Orleans, but rather than go into the city itself decided to visit nearby Beaugency. This was a very compact little town, but with plenty to see.

The 11th century bridge was, until relatively recently, the only river crossing in the area and is, surprisingly, still in use. Kampington crossed here! It changed hands a few times during the Hundred Years War before being recaptured for the French by Joan of Arc in 1429.


In the central square, there was a ruined belltower (the church it belonged to having been destroyed during the French Revolution) and a statue of Joan herself.


Other attractions included a ruined 11th century tower and a chateau (which was closed when we visited so we only got to look at the outside).


Beaugency’s Notre Dame church also has plenty of history. This is the very church where Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine had to show up to get their marriage annulled on the grounds of cosanguinity (which then enabled Eleanor to marry her closer cousin Henry, the future Henry II of England,a few weeks later…. whoever said the Church was logical?). Mark thought that the stained glass windows here were the best he’d ever seen (being bright and quite striking in their design)…


The town itself was really attractive. We had to explore pretty much every street whilst Mark hunted for a boulangerie that was open. Finally, success! Not only did he get his baguette but also a cake which was presented in a cute, pink butterfly-adorned little box. He almost skipped back to Kampington….


We had a day in hand before we needed to head to Dieppe for last-minute shopping and to catch our ferry, so we dug out an old episode of Coast that covered this part of the Normandy coastline. This showed a wooden church at Honfleur that Mark quite fancied visiting, so off we went. It is unusual in that the bell tower is separate from the main part of the church and that the wooden ceiling inside really does look like an upturned boat (reflecting the skills of those who constructed it).


Our last day in France was uneventful except for a cracked shower tray… again….. The new tray did seem quite thin and flimsy when it arrived last year,but with nothing else available in the required size, there was nothing we could do but fit it. It’s lasted even less time that I expected…. We took a trip to a French DIY store (amazingly, our first DIY shop of the trip) and acquired the necessary items with which to make a temporary repair to get us home. I’ve had a look online and there is now a company offering a fibreglass tray which they assure us is “made in England” and looks to be to exactly the same design as ours. It isn’t cheap but it does make you suspect that we’re not the only ones fed up with cheap Chinese rubbish and looking for an alternative…..

We had a calm if boring crossing back to Newhaven and spent the night on a pub car park near the ferry terminal.

The next day we visited Cissbury Ring, an Iron Age Hill Fort. It’s National Trust, but as they don’t charge for access we have yet to start our 2016 “Savings” list.


From there it was across to East Preston to drop off the Azpilicueta for Mark’s Uncle Keith and Auntie Wen. Keith and Wen, no doubt alerted by the blog to our date of return, had managed to book flights to Scotland to coincide with our visit, but left keys and a note to cover our every possible requirement (going so far as to point out that there was home-made bread in the bread bin). Marvellous…. We had a really good chinese takeaway with Mark’s cousin Tom and his wife Jude before unloading the wine and departing towards Portsmouth first thing the next morning.

The thing is, we still had things to visit on our Portsmouth Historic Dockyard “all attractions” ticket from November (which is valid for a year) so we needed to get back there and get our Tesco Clubcard Voucher’s worth……

Today we visited the two museums on the Gosport side of the harbour. The Submarine Museum was fantastic! We got a tour of the HMS Alliance, the only WW2 era submarine on display in Britain.



There was a midget submarine that attacked the harbour at Bergen, Norway during WW2.


They also have the Royal Navy’s first submarine, the 1901 Holland 1 (designed by a Holland – no relation as far as I can tell to my Cheshire Holland ancestors). This was obsolete by 1913 but sank near Plymouth as it was being towed for salvage. It was found and raised in the early 1980s (I don’t remember this; perhaps it was overshadowed by the Mary Rose; I do remember being late for school the day that one was raised as it was being shown live on breakfast TV).


The second museum we visited today was the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower. I must admit that I didn’t find this one as enthralling (this may be a girl thing…..?). There were guns…. and bigger guns… and some whacking great big guns outside… and missiles… and torpedoes…. and… erm…. other stuff.



I do have one minor piece of trivia to impart though. You never know when it’ll come up in a pub quiz….

Meet Robert Whitehead, one of the inventors of the torpedo in the 1850s.


His granddaughter Agathe Whitehead married a guy called Georg Johannes von Trapp, had some kids and then died. He then got a nanny in, the kids took up singing, and the rest is history (and a film… and a musical….).

We’re heading back to Portsmouth tomorrow to finish off our tickets…



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