Monday, 25 March 2013

Le Havre, and what I did there. (Part 2)

We woke at about 9 and set off for a little breakfast; a small bakery that Kate had showed me yesterday does the most enormous, the most delicious brioche rolls for less than a euro. Admittedly at first the chap got my order wrong; he was too busy staring at the vision of beauty beside me to actually listen. There are disadvantages to having attractive friends.

(Well, that's not quite right; there's a disadvantage to living in a society where being attractive also means being treated like a piece of art, or a piece of meat - something to be looked at and sized up.)

Tucking in and strolling back, we met up with the last member of our little trio and headed to the hotel to pick up Mary's parents and brother. We'd told him we'd be over at 11 last night, but we rocked up to find sleepy faces all round. We should have seen the flaw in our plan last night; at 2am it would have been tricky to tell their parents anything, since they were absolutely fast asleep.

In any case, they told us they'd be ready briefly and we retired to the bar downstairs for a coffee. Before long the Scales has descended (sorry) and we set out, heading towards the beach. The weather was a little less misty than yesterday, and I managed to snap a look out towards the cape.


That's a patch of sand. It should be noted that Mr and Mrs Scale kindly didn't point out that beach here has quite a different meaning to the one it has in the US; I suspect they were expecting slightly more in the way of sand and slightly less in the way of...well, rocks. 

This is them, by the way; the very sweet (and very slightly chilly!) Scale parents:


And no, I don't know where he got the beret and yes, I am exceedingly jealous. It's a lovely beret. 
Having looked out to sea for a little while, we struggled back up the rise of rocks and to a little stall the girls had nicknamed "Victory Fries." I struggled to understand why until I tasted them; truly they are kings among chips and would be crowned victorious in any contest of taste.
However, the elder members of our little fellowship were starting to struggle in the cold, and we made for a restaurant nearby. The restaurants by the sea in Le Havre are rather unique; they are essentially collapsible. Come tourist season a lorry drops them off, they are constructed overnight and in the morning you have a fully-functional restaurant, including kitchen, floor, chairs, tables and all the other wonders one thinks of when one thinks of restaurants. This included heat, a welcome relief as we sank into chairs. It fell to Mary, Kate and I to order, which we managed with a hodge-podge of orders spoken over each other with pauses to speak to our English speaking friends. I have to commend the poor waitress; understanding only one half of a conversation being held in front of you must be frustrating in the extreme but she smiled all the way through.

Conversation was varied and the food was excellent; I had a warm goat's cheese salad and divvied up the tomatoes and olives between father and daughter. I hate tomatoes. Mary and Mary's father are rather keen on them, and as I felt a certain kinship with the pater familias I favoured him a little more. I have suffered Mary's keen wit once or twice before; to have lived with it was, I felt, deserving of an extra tomato. Mary did not feel the same. The look she shot me through her lashes would have skewered a lesser man, but I rallied and skewered her straight back. 

Kate and Mary's mother had mussels. Kate had an ingenious way of excavating the little morsels from their shells; using an empty shell as tweezers she made short work of a shell that years of evolution had crafted. The rest of the Scales stayed away from seafood and plumped for pizza instead. All was sumptuous, and when the bill came Mary's mother surprised us first by offering to pay - a great kindness - and then by revealing that she spoke French as well. The tip she left was as generous as the lady herself, and the waitress stammered thanks as we left (a little slower, unwilling to leave the heat) and made for the ice cream stall.

I had sorbet, lemon and strawberry. An unfortunate intolerance to lactose meant I was already feeling unpleasantly unwell from lunch, and so decided not to exacerbate that particular problem. The others plumped for various different flavours, all of which sounded scrumptious (including salted caramel, which I'd have never thought of by myself). Ice cream in hand, we made our way back to the hotel in which the Scale family was staying and ordered hot chocolates and coffees to round off the day. 

The rest is unexciting; I caught a train back to Paris, another to La Défense, and a bus home. Sadly at every point I was confronted with "Manif pour tout" flags, a nasty little aberration which is attempting to block a law giving gay couples rights equal to those of straight couples. I'm not going to waste another byte on these people save to say that taking your kids to a protest is stupid. Kids have absolutely no opinion on the subject, and it just makes me feel that you're trying to indoctrinate them from the cradle and that's messed up.

Enough about them. They're unpleasant and I hate unpleasantness. Instead, marvel at this picture taken inside the church at Le Havre which is square, with a circular spire that inspires someone who's spent too much time with Assassin's Creed (me) to give serious thought to climbing it. Note also the helical staircase that clings to the inside of the tower and which gave me a shiver just to look at.
So that was my weekend over. Thank you for sticking with me all the way through.