The end of August is always a splendid time to be in Lonlay l'Abbaye. Not only is the countryside green and fulsome, the weather mild, but the village has its annual "vide-grenier" and festival. We were lucky to be there this year for some of the best fireworks I have ever seen.
We stayed at Sarah and Geoff's AirBnB, a restored house near the small river that runs through Lonlay. In this picture, it is the brick and columbage house with sea green windows and door and the open skylight. Velux is the best known brand of skylight in France, so rather than use another word, a skylight is usually referred to as a "velux," the same way we might ask for a "kleenex," rather than a "tissue." Their renovation was very well done. They have kept much of the original woodwork, including an old hardwood staircase that is similar to the one in our house. Perhaps the houses are of a similar era.
At least some of you are thinking of commenting right now about how great our place in Lonlay l'Abbaye turned out. Hold that thought, please. I must remind you that the lovely spaces depicted above are of the AirBnB we rented in August, not our place! We are still on the proverbial slow boat to China, but...
... our hardwood floors are in! These are photos from opposite ends of the long ground-level room that will be our kitchen and living room/lounge. We are pleased with the rustic look and color of the wood. The finish is brushed and oiled in a natural way that is compatible with a country village house. The slight color variations give it some character.
Upstairs: If I look pensive in this photo, it's only because I can see lots more work to be done! We are anxious to get the attic insulated and finished off as well. The hardwood floor on this level for the main bedroom and small study is a bit darker and more formal. Stained but not varnished, the solid oak planks have a slightly reddish tinge. They are slightly more narrow than the honey-colored oak planks downstairs.
Our builder Jim was clever enough to use some of the extra oak from upstairs to build us a first step that was needed on the ground floor.
The next step in renovation will be to put in framing, electrical and plasterboard walls to finish out the middle level. Above is my amateurish sketch done to show the builders where we would like electric outlets (lots!), lighting, and the dividing wall between the study and the bedroom. Two electric heaters with internal thermostats will be placed here under windows to combat the cold.
And, of course, the bathroom must be tiled and outfitted. Because it is so small, we are asking our builders to have the door open outward, rather than into the bathroom. That should leave us room for a sink on the right with the toilet in the righthand corner. The shower will be built into the left hand corner, and we will have a heated towel rack (a necessity, not a luxury, in Normandy) on the left hand wall.
Now, let's go back outside!
Now, let's go back outside!
Lonlay l'Abbaye, at the end of summer, was in its glory. The apple orchard that surrounds the old cider press near the center of the village was beginning to bear ripe fruit.
We took Bullet for a walk across the old wooden bridge that spans the Égrenne river to the ancient abbey. There were flowers everywhere and the river was splashing along happily like a stream.
This ancient crucifix is so weathered that it seems more of a pagan representation. It is very close to the old abbey. On another visit, I will try to find out how old it is.
The Abbey at Lonlay l'Abbaye was first consecrated in the early 11th century. Its doors were open to the public all during the festival weekend.
Inside the abbey, it was peaceful and cool. Recorded choral music added to the atmosphere. The church has many treasures and surprises.
Some of the statues are over 400 years old.
Outside in the village square, a kiddie carnival ride was set up, food booths were opening for business, and the main street was turned into a mini-midway.
The warm-up band had to play during the daylight hours and attracted a small, but growing fan base. As darkness fell and we got closer to fireworks time, another band took the "stage" and the village got more lively. There was beer and wine, grilled sausages, a "guess the weight" raffle, and a team of dedicated village volunteers who kept everything running smoothly. We saw Mayor Deroüet, but he was surrounded, so we did not get a chance to say hello.
Then suddenly, the fire department marching band appeared...
The children were given paper lanterns on a stick with lighted candles placed carefully inside (would not happen in the U.S.!) and of course, they were enchanted. Then the marching band led the children away into the dark like pied pipers, along with most of the village adults as well. We had no idea where they were going, but could hear them winding away down the narrow streets.
We followed the sounds and caught up with them all on the village green - just in time for those stupendous fireworks!
After the fireworks, we went back to the house to check on Bullet and relax, but we could hear the merriment and could look out the window to see dazed tiny kids whirring around on the lighted ride until way after midnight in the warm air while their parents laughed and talked with each other.
The next day, Sunday, found every street and corner of the village turned into a huge market, mainly of second-hand goods, vintage items and antiques - the famous "vide-grenier" (empty attic) type of rummage sale. Even our own house - in the photo just above - had squatters with a yellow sun umbrella in front. I did not spot anything I could not live without, but it was good fun, and we had a delicious steak at the village restaurant, Le Relais de l'Abbaye.
Besides the charming village fête and vide grenier, we also had time to let Bullet explore the orchard (whilst wresting her from wormy apples she was determined to eat), and we drove to La Fosse d'Arthour, a small natural site close to Lonlay l'Abbaye, associated in legend with King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere - but I'll write about that another time.
We do hope to be back soon.