Clécy and Lisieux

We took the slow route to Clécy, the capital of the Suisse Normande, on Friday morning. We passed through lots of interesting towns and villages along the way, despite Tomtom’s insistent efforts to direct us to the nearest motorway 😈.

After parking up on the free aire on the edge of town and grabbing some lunch, we headed off to explore. Clécy’s a pretty little town:

The local tourism initiative has done a very good job of putting signs outside a lot of the buildings in town telling you who lived there and what the buildings were used for in the past, often with photos. We also came across some reproductions of scenes by André Hardy, a local impressionist painter (he has his own museum in the town centre):

Unfortunately there were no signs to tell us anything about the really good sculptures we found near the church:

The tourist office was of course closed (it still being official lunchtime) but we managed to take a photo of a sign in the window with a sketch of a 4.5km walk they were proposing; we used this as a rough guide for our own meanderings around the town and its surroundings.

The area is certainly picturesque, though not particularly “Swiss” looking to our eyes:

We got the feeling from the number of kayaks and pedalos etc lined up along the river in town that the place might get very busy during the main summer season. There’s not just messing about on the river to be done: we also came across a group of French kids all kitted out with climbing gear heading towards the rock faces on the far side of the viaduct.

So all in all, a lovely area and we can see why it’s popular – but it’s not very “Swiss”. Mark’s most Swiss moment came after we arrived back at SOK and put the kettle on. He retrieved a piece of Toblerone from the fridge, plonked himself down on a seat, and announced “When in Rome”…..

Fast forward to Saturday and Tomtom had no trouble at all directing us along some very picturesque D-roads to the town of Lisieux.

We’re now back in the part of Northern France that we’ve criss-crossed many times over the years. Between Clécy and Lisieux we passed close to Falaise, the birthplace of William the Conqueror, which we visited on our way South for the winter in November 2015 (see old blog post).

First things first, on arrival at Lisieux we headed into Intermarché for diesel and supplies. Here you are Yvonne, we have the new set of motorhome wine glasses that you requested (eat the mustard at your leisure 😋):

The thing we’d come to see was the basilica, which is apparently France’s second most important pilgrimage site, after Lourdes.

You wouldn’t guess it was built from reinforced concrete…….

Keeping the story as short as possible, Saint Thérèse was born in 1873 to a deeply religious family. All four of her sisters became nuns, as did Thérèse at the unusually young age of 15. We know pretty much nothing about religion, but in general terms, Thérèse seems to have believed in making oneself as small as possible (to make it easier for you to be lifted to heaven) – so no big ego and no grand gestures.

I did wonder how someone with such admirable qualities of self-restraint would have come to the attention of the church authorities and ended up a saint? Perhaps the fact that she died at the age of 24 from tuberculosis helped spread her fame?

Getting back to the basilica, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was canonised in 1925 and the decision was soon taken to built a basilica for the growing number of pilgrims visiting Lisieux. Work was started in 1929 but not fully completed until 1954 (the Second World War having intervened). There isn’t a bit of reinforced concrete on show – it’s been tastefully clad with granite and marble. The interior is covered with very bright and cheerful mosaics:

The undercroft houses a chapel, with a more blue / yellow theme to the mosaics covering the walls and ceiling, and the reliquary of Thérèse’s parents (the big gold casket in the centre of the photo below; it’s come out a bit dark) who were canonised in 2005 (there’s nowt like keeping it in the family……).

We were bemused by the on-site waxwork display, which comprises 13 tableaux from the life of St Thérèse. We declined the 30 minute free audioguide (30 minutes felt like a veeeery long time to spend looking at wax models). Hmmmm. Here’s St Thérèse at an audience with the pope asking to be allowed to become a nun at 15 (not completely shy and retiring then?) Apparently she wasn’t for leaving and had to be carted out by a Swiss Guard, hence the third figure on the right.

The obligatory death bed scene (run away! run away! 😨).

We exited the creepy waxwork display and retreated to SOK. It was only 20 minutes or so up the road to our overnight stop at Thiberville:

We nearly didn’t get here, having passed a road sign to Broglie on the way. I knew we’d been to Broglie; Mark reminded me that it’s the town with the really nice aire next to the library. We spent our first night in France there on our way South in November 2014. Crikey, that must mean that we’re also very close to Le Sap, which we last visited on the way back North in February 2015 (old post here). How time flies! We somehow managed not to veer off route towards Broglie, which has turned out well as Thiberville is a nice little place and it would have been a shame to have missed it. We’ve checked out the town centre (Mark’s peering into the charcuterie window below) so now we’re back in SOK drinking tea and making plans.

At this stage of a trip, plans do tend to centre on lists of things to be bought and matters to be sorted out during the brief turnaround before our next trip. Today’s decision has been that a vacuum cleaner would be a good idea. I do feel that we’re moving the dust around in SOK rather than getting rid of it (We dust it off the seats and dashboard etc and it lands on the carpet… we then brush the carpet, and much of the dust flies up into the air and lands right back where it started….). If anyone has any experience of Dyson cordless cleaners (we’re looking at a V6 Car and Boat) then do please email us your thoughts 😘

Tomorrow’s destination is Les Andelys, a village on the banks of the Seine a few kilometres to the South East of Rouen. The plan is to take the slow roads again so as to experience as much of French life as we can along the way, visit a medieval castle in the afternoon, then carry on a few more kilometres to a free aire at Gournay en Bray for the night.

Right, well that’s our organisational chores done for today. Time for a nice glass of wine 🍷😀

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