Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Monday, 19 October 2009

French Flanders – part 2

Monts des Cats

As there’s only a short distance of about 10 km between the town of Bailleul and the ‘Monts des Cats’, the highest hill in Flanders’ plains, we decided to take the scenic route, instead of speeding down the motorway.

The meandering country roads led us through immense fields of leeks and Brussels sprouts. I’ve never seen so many leeks in one field! I suppose they are used to make one of the region's specialties, the ‘Flamish’, which is a quiche-like 'tarte' with eggs, leeks and a local cheese as main ingredients. I will have to look up the exact recipe and make a ‘Flamish’ for Sunday lunch one of these days. I’ll keep you posted!

Seen from a distance, the ‘Monts des Cats’ was a bit of a disappointment. It didn’t stand out as proudly as I’d expected it would be. The slightly elevated terrain softly blends into the surrounding countryside. However, once we had reached the top we understood what all the fuss was about. Coming in from the East, we had approached the ‘Monts’ from its less spectacular side. From the top a breathtaking view over the plains on the western side unveiled itself to us. This photo just doesn’t do it justice, but I can assure you that it was magnificent.

View from the top of the 'Monts des Cats'

We parked the cars and strolled over to the abbey that is situated on the top of the hill. The door to the little Saint Bernard chapel was unlocked and we walked in. It’s a very austere place, with an unadorned altar. Luckily there are the stained glass windows to add a touch of colour.

We were also very intrigued by the unusual steps that led into the chapel. They were made of fine firestones laid out in a very intricate and artistic pattern. They looked very authentic indeed.

Intricate stonework on the steps of St. Bernard chapel

The signposts leading to the main entrance of the abbey indicated that there was another, larger church and a ‘fromagerie’ inside. Being very interested in visiting the ‘fromagerie’, we quickly walked up to the main door … where we were immediately stopped by a big sign saying’ LA FROMAGERIE NE SE VISITE PAS’ (The cheese making shop is not open to visitors). Disappointed, we made our way towards the abbey’s shop selling the local produce. The gate was open but blocked by a chair. On it sat another sign ‘FERME’ (closed). The opening hours during autumn and winter were from 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. only!

However, this new disappointment couldn't affect our good mood and we decided to move on to the next place we wanted to visit: ‘Le Musée de la Vie Frontalière’ (The museum of life on the border) in Godewaersvelde.

Arriving there we were immediately charmed. On each side of the narrow path leading to the entrance, and right opposite one another, were the statues of the patron saints of the ‘douaniers’ (customs) and the ‘faudeurs’ (the smugglers).

Saint Matthew on the left and Saint Michael on the right!

This museum was clearly not without humour … which we failed to appreciate at the time. Because when we reached the entrance, the museum was … closed!!!

Once again opening hours during autumn and winter were from 2 till 5 p.m. This time, however, we were determined to see the inside of the museum. We therefore decided to come back after lunch. It was almost noon and we were beginning to feel hungry and thirsty.

We had an aperitif at one of the typical ‘Estaminets’ called ’Het Blauwershof’ before walking over to the ‘Roi du Potjesvleesch’ to enjoy the dish that had brought us to this part of France in the first place.

(to be continued)



chm said...

Who said you weren't sure you had anything to talk about?

Keep up the good work, girl! And the humor, too!

ladybird said...

chm: I'm still not sure ... but I'm trying! Thanks for your regular and kind support. Martine