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Published: December 31st 2019
Le Bec Hellouin
Another pretty Normandy village - they just kept coming
We broke camp after breakfast and headed for the Calvados region of Normandy. On the way we called into the Super U to buy a few bits and pieces and purchased a bottle of Calvados 42% proof apple brandy to use to celebrate Christmas Day. Our first Christmas Day in Gabby and our first slurp or two of Calvados . Who would have thought it? Certainly not us. Had you asked me a month ago where I would be spending Christmas I would have replied at home. We love the supermarkets in France . Super U , LeClerc , it does not matter as the choice of food is amazing .
We hit our first peage motorway. We had been trying to avoid them this holiday but we found ourselves on the motorhome and had to suck it and not complain too much. At least it got us to where we wanted to be without having to negotiate changing speed limits and unreal street furniture . All aimed to slow us down . The French drivers were ignoring the speed limits so clearly they were not working as well as the French government had hoped.
We had stayed in
this area a few years ago . At Camping St Nicholas where they grew apples and turned them into first class cidre which they sold from a shed in the campsite . Green bottles full to the brim with a first class cidre. Mother cooked frites to sell to campers . Diversity at its best. Today we were not going to the campsite which was closed for the winter but parking up on a free parking area just up the road at Le Bec Helloin. The home of an abbey. The houses in the village were of the usual Normandy design of paint and half timber. The village had invested in lighting in the pavements which shone at the homes at night. A creperie was open as was an art gallery. The only other shop open was a shop selling the products of the terroir. It smelt lovely in that shop. A mixture of earthy smells combined with the sweetness of soap. A gently smell of pine followed us in . The shops had all made huge wreaths of pine which they hung around the doors . As we brushed past them the smell of pine was released . They
looked tasteful . Not a sign of tinsel anywhere . The village was neat and tidy . No rubbish to be seen. We need a lesson from some of these small French settlements . We have a lot to learn . The pace of life looked ideal . Who wouldn't want to live in such a delightful place? It may not be the same when hoards of tourists arrive in the summer months but today it felt like a little piece of heaven and the reason we love travelling.
Le Bec Hellouin was charming. We had come to see the abbey. Bec Abbey and the village have recently been named as yet another of the most beautiful villages of France. It was dead . Not one soul passed us on our way to abbey . The abbey was founded in 1034 by Saint Herluin and carried on through to 1035. The followers of William I supported the abbey . The abbey was left a ruin by the Wars of Religion and the French Revolution. The large 15th century tower the Tour St Nicholas was left standing as was the monastery to the side.
We walked inside and found
it closed to visitors. It opened at some points in the day but sadly not when we were there. What did we miss ? Cloisters and a library. The monks produced hand made pottery which they sold . It was a peaceful place . The nuns lived down the road and again did not welcome visitors from the outside world .
We may not have managed to get inside but walking round it on a peaceful Christmas week made it still a worthwhile part of our trip . Some you win . Some you dont . We were not too disappointed . There is always somewhere else tomorrow . And as an aside - did you know Tooting Bec in London was named Tooting Bec because it was owned by the abbey of Le Bec Hellouin ? No I hadn't got the connection either . But I have it now .
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