Thursday, 15 August 2013

Travellers tales part two: of castles and kittens.

The part of Normandy we were in is significant for the connection with Guillame, or William the Conqueror as we are taught to know him.  As you leave England, you pass by Leeds Castle and remember the impact this ambitious man had on England.  As you travel through Normandy, following the road map and struggling with road numbers, you realise there is a trail dedicated to Guillame.  One such (marked) spot is Bataille d'Arque and the presence of the Chateau d'Arque-de-Bataille.

From the road the castle looms above the valley, high up and commanding.  It makes a romantic silhouette in the darkening sky or early morning sun; add the touch of sea mist and it appears to float just above the town. However, during the warmth of a summer afternoon the ruin begins to reveal it's nooks and crannies.

Sadly the building itself is far too unstable for visitors to explore within.  On the walk up to the mound there is the remains of a wall; the mortar crumbles away at the lightest touch and serves warning for the those who don't consider the danger signs to be serious.  Like many of the churches in the area the building has evolved as a mixture of chalky stone, flint and brick.  The imposing moat remains and the body of the gate house and the body of the  tourelle (turrets) on the far side.
As you amble along the outer edge of the moat, circumnavigating, you come upon the ruin of the bridge that allowed ingress to the main body of the castle.  Time has brought it to it's knees now, and the size of the supports brings home to you how deep the moat must have been.
As you stand on the edge of the castle mound and look down the valley you realise just how powerful the positioning of this castille is.  It commands a view of the surrounding area that would afford fair warning of enemy or friend approaching.  The valley nestles in rich farm land, close to the sea and near to beech forest; food and raw materials in abundance as well as the wealth this must have afforded.  History tells us this was the stronghold of Williams uncle, William himself besieged and captured the castle from his uncle. It was fought over during the 100 years war, possessed by the English (through capture) and liberated by the French in 1449; Jeanne d'Arc is said to have been imprisoned there before her trial at Rouen.  It's history carried on at the centre of battle and siege until the 1600's, after which it began to be abandoned and left to become the ruin we now see.

The castle sits above the most delightful town.  A place where you find yourself wandering narrow streets only to find them opening out onto a neat town square below the Marie.  The architecture of the building runs from Northern European (almost Flemish) to classic French Baroque.  

It was very pleasant to sit in the square, sharing ice-cream with the boys and their aunt, picturing the history of this little town and it's guardian.

However this is a tale of [not only] castles but also of kittens.

In the previous post I mentioned the delightful lane, that ran up the hill behind the house.  One afternoon I took a stroll along the lane, camera in hand, looking for whatever I might find.  As I neared the trees, just before the turn, I heard the most peculiar squeak.  Then again, and again, so I looked around and found...
The moment it realised I had noticed it, the kitten clambered down from the hollow and climbed onto my foot, all the time giving out his plaintive mew.  I looked around for it's mother, assuming she was moving her family and had left him whilst carrying others.  No sign of other cats, or people, to be seen.

I started to walk back towards the house, kitten came with me.  He weaved in and out of my feet, talking all the time.  As the village bread van came past he needed whisking up out the way-clearly not road savvy then.  I had walked a good 1/4 of a mile up to this point, I walked the same 1/4 mile back but this time I had my new companion in tow.

Needless to say the children fell in love.

Having a much needed drink of water, he was a thirsty boy.
Dilemma ensues. This is a French farm kitten, we are English visitors; this is a rural area people by farmers or 2nd home owners (mostly English).  Our host could not keep it, he only lives here for part of the year and they have a dog in England (even if he wanted to keep our feisty new friend).  Unfortunately dilemmas like this require hard decisions and an unsentimental head.  Much as I hated the idea the only thing to do was return the kitten to his hollow and hope that Mum returned to find him.  
There was a somewhat sad farewell, then John and I walked back up to the spot where I found him.  Kitten protested most of the way and he did try to follow us back again; we had to run back to the cottage.  Not surprisingly both boys and aunt Ellie were sad and occasionally tearful.  When we went out later there was a swift search by the adults in case our kitten had ended up under the wheels of a car.  However there was no sign of him.

This story has a happy ending.  Not long after leaving the kitten where we found him our next door neighbour took the same stroll up the lane.  One very determined little scrap followed Xavier back to the cottage, wound his way around ankles and into a new home.


  1. oh what a good ending to this cat tale I was holding my breath Charlotte!

    1. It was such a relief as I felt awful putting it back. Funnily the next door neighbours are incomers (Parisien) and only live in the house 4 days a week; they have a housekeeper who persuaded them to keep Kitten and has offered to look after him when they are in town.

  2. Hooray! Glad to have a happy ending for him. I used to bring lots of kittens home without telling my parents when I was a little girl in Japan. : )

    1. So were we; I had visions of my eldest smuggling it into his luggage.

  3. Phew! Thank goodness the kitten found a home, what a wonderful happy ending to, what looks like, a lovely holiday.

    1. It was lovely. Very easy to slip into the lovely slow pace of life and forget that you need to earn a living

  4. Hurrah, hurrah for the happy ending! I'm relieved now that this lonely soul won't have to "struggle with life" anymore, but will live, hopefully, surrounded by love and care!

    You are such a good storyteller, Charlotte!:) I adore the pic of the "thirsty boy"!:)))!
    Do you have pets at home - someone your lovely sons to take care of and to play with?
    It was very interesting to learn the story of the castle - the glory stays forever, although in ruins...:)

    1. I am flattered at the accolade of story teller. I am not a natural writer and have to work at it. Thank you for finding my scribbling readable.

      We have a cat of our own, a rescue short haired black boy who rules the house. John adores him, he relaxes with animals in a way he doesn't with people. Given the opportunity I would fill the house with both cats and dogs, but we are out all day and it wouldn't be fair on a dog.

    2. Yes, the dog needs special cares. Everyday walks above all, which, by the way, are a very good occasion for us to go, walk and even run sometimes!:0) We had a dog and we miss him badly!:(

  5. Oh thank goodness this had a happy ending. Seeing these strays on holiday breaks my heart

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