Jumièges

The Romanesque Abbey of Jumièges

We wake up on a clear sunny day in the camper area of Jumièges, not too far away from the abbey. While we’re having breakfast a multitude of baby goats appears from a wooden hut just beyond the fence and start to roam around the lawn. They’re too cute not to take some pictures. A young man comes out of the hut waving at us. At first, we think he wants us to leave, but soon we realize he is inviting us in. We walk past the fence among the goats,  first staring at us and then giving some confidence playing with their paws on our legs.

Baby goats coming out of the barn

The breeder tells us that he is milking in the stable and asks if we want to join him and take some photos. It’s an offer we can not refuse! He’s really kind and we follow him in the small but neat and clean stable, that, by the light look of the wood has been recently built. To greet us the looks of a dozen goats that stare at us while chewing straw.

Curious goats watch us at our entry into the barn

Our friend, armed with a bucket, approaches a goat and, in a relaxed way, begins to milk her. After a while, he invites us to try. A bit hesitant and embarrassed, we go ahead and realize that it is by no means easy.

At milking school

He teaches us how to hold the hands and how to tighten. Ste is up,  but even following the instructions, he can’t pull out a great deal of milk. Then it’s my turn to try, so I kneel near to the goat in the middle of the straw and, with a little fatigue, I milk her! The result of my work is just two fingers of milk, and we’ve been told that one liter is needed for a cheese. It would probably take us the all day then! Happy for the unexpected experience, we leave the stable welcomed by the baby goats and warmly say goodbye to our teacher.

Jumièges Abbey is surrounded by green meadows and tall trees

We walk to the Jumièges Abbey, which has just opened. Two tour buses have poured through the entrance. To avoid the crowd we do the visit in the opposite direction to that recommended by the map provided at the entrance so we are able to enjoy the architectural complex almost always alone.

The ruins of the Abbey still convey a sense of majesty

The Romanesque building, part of a monastery, which still survives a small portion of the cloister, is preserved. Only the tallest masonry remains, giving the idea of the abundance of the abbey architecture.

Our Norman adventure ends here. We get to the van and head towards Rouen, from where, after a short break, we drive back to Holland.

 

Tips

Jumièges Abbey: 6,50 €

 

Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel, one of the most iconic places in Normandy

After breakfast with pan au chocolat, we are off to Mont Saint-Michel, whose shape stands out to the north of the camper area where we spent the night. Arriving in the area, all the roads come to a large parking lot from which is possible to walk or board one of the many free shuttle buses that cover the 2 km distance to the island. In recent years, Mont Saint-Michel has been subjected to a number of works to restore the maritime character of the site, which had been gradually distorted by the accentuated sedimentation. Now the island is reachable by a bridge-walkway designed to support the sustainable development of the bay and the abbey.

Access to the fortified island through the bridge-walkway

At the date and time of our visit to the site, the tide is very low and we can safely walk around the Mont. Studying the tide cycles in advance, one can enjoy the mountain surrounded by the sea and witness the water tide rising “like galloping horses”. Once past the fortified walls that surround the island, it’s all about a steep, narrow alleyway packed with touristic boutiques that accompany various walkways and terraces overlooking the coast and the sea.

View from one of the numerous overlooks of Mont Saint-Michel on the terraces and spiers below

Despite the chaotic touristic face of the place, the complex seems to have maintained its medieval atmosphere. However, the restoration is perceivable in the excessive aesthetic perfection of the architectures. Moving uphill, we find a tiny alley mentioned in the guide, only 50 cm wide and, after some photographic overlooks, we arrive at the abbey on the mountaintop. The abbey is characterized by ample and diversified environments and its tour takes about 1h to be completed.

One of the interiors of the abbey, covered by an impressive barrel vault

After the tour, we walk down the narrow streets of the village and venture on foot on the sandy terrain around the Mont discovering the prospects and glimpses of the less known side of the fortified island. Occasionally the sand becomes soft and damp, forcing us to walk past the rocks to avoid saltwater pools. By the time we get back to the car lunchtime has already passed.

Mont Saint-Michel saw from the coast
Grazing sheep in Lower Normandy not far from Mont Saint-Michel

We eat a quick bite at the St. Michel Café, a small bar that we find on the way, and start heading towards Upper Normandy on the way back. By browsing the dedicated Meridiani dossier, we find an article on the Route des Chaumières, houses with “the hair” or the straw roof, typical of the area. The area on which the Route runs is along the route we have taken anyway, so we decide to go there.

A “chaumière”, a rural house with a characteristic roof made with wheat straw, rye or with reed stems
Unexpected surprise along the Route des Chaumières

We leave from Marais-Vernier in the direction of Notre-Dame-de-Bliquetuit, through the Parc Naturel Regional des Boucles de la Seine Normande. The route is gorgeous, surrounded by greenery, and crosses small villages, many of which count numerous chaumières. As we stop to take some pictures we get complaints by one owner reminding us that the house is a private property. We conclude the tour with a visit to the really enchanting 17th-century chaumière mill of Hauville.

The seventeenth-century chaumière mill in Hauville at sunset
Geometries of the plowed fields in front of the Hauville mill

The beautiful and intense day ends in Jumièges, a place known for its abandoned abbey, which we can see between the tops of the trees, approaching the town. We arrive around 8pm so we decide to leave the visit to the abbey for the next day and have dinner with galettes at La Bonne Famille . We find confirmation of the idea that we had that in Normandy with the term “crêpes” only the sweet crepes are indicated, while for the salads, the word “galettes” is used; in Provence, we had seen the same term “crêpes” for the sweet version of the dish as well as for the salad and “galettes” for the crusts prepared with buckwheat flour. Anyway, the galette ham and goat cheese is great, like the chocolate crêpes to follow. Drink, a glass of cider.

After dinner we go in search of the camper area indicated by the Furgoperfecto nearby, with no services but no charge. There are already some campers parked at the edge of the gravel area so we stop the van on the grass ahead for a bit of privacy. From here, the upper part of the abbey is clearly visible stretching out above the trees.

 

Tips

Mont Saint-Michel: free. Parking: 6 € for 2h30′, 11,70 € all day. Abbey: 10 €