What to do with a couple of adolescents on a damp Easter sunday afternoon? Offer plentiful chocolate with a ‘catch’ of course.
I had been promising myself a trip out to the Chateau de Miromesnil, near Dieppe since I first came to France. Its potager is legendary; and what better opportunity than an Easter egg hunt to make the visit accessible and appealing to adults and adolescents alike!
It was disappointing to wake up to a Normand mist this morning after a week of glorious sunshine. It was the kind of mist that seeps into every corner and dampens every last bit of undergrowth, plant and flower, and yet sparkles on spiders webs without a drop of rain actually falling.
The Chateau of Miromesnil, near Tourville sur Arques is famous as the birthplace of Guy de Maupassant in 1850. I have just put down ‘Pierre et Jean’, his novel written in 1887, wonderful for his depiction of the values and hardships of society, and his colourful descriptions of the towns and villages of Normandy in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
The chateau was built in 1600 in the style of Louis XIII. The generosity of Armand Thomas Hue de Miromesnil, its owner during the 18th century, to the local population allowed the chateau to pass unscathed through the Revolution.
Plan in hand we headed off to decipher the first clue.
Enticed by the knowledge that 2kg of cacao were used to create the prize draw chocolate egg, the adolescents of the party engaged internet access on their mobiles to determine the exact distance from the chapel to the chateau. ….400m.
The goats were protecting the pink eggs hidden in the undergrowth….and the next clue was hidden behind the woodpile.
The identity of the ‘recolte des tetes blanches en été’ (gathering of white heads in summer) gave us a few problems…. we narrowed it down to mushrooms. Another family asked us for the french translation for dandilion. (Aren’t dandilions yellow?) There was some foot shifting, no-one was quite sure whether to discuss the clues. The prize egg was, after all, pretty enticing. We were inclined to give them the translation rather than share the mushroom theory.
Google translate and Wikipedia came in very handy in determining the vegetable under the plant genus ‘Alliacé’ ….. onion. We noticed another competitor reach for his mobile.
Over to the younger members of the family to count the 54 shutters on the rear face of the chateau which the butler had had to close daily. Though by the looks of the concentrated expressions, the adolescents were keen to check the numbers.
The spring garden was in full bloom.
and I caught my first glimpse of the potager…
and admired the view back to the park where we’d collected the moss, bark and feather.
We changed our mind about the mushrooms and decided on garlic, before impressing on the staff that we live just down the road and that collection of said egg would not be a problem…..
‘Were we really there two hours’, said the adolescents ‘ we thought it was only one!’
The beauty of a good day out is to arrive home damp but rosy cheeked to find dinner ready and waiting. What better than slow roast ‘Souris d’Agneau’, with tomato and avocado salsa, couscous and mint yoghurt, and a generous glass of wine.
As for pudding, we’re waiting for the phone to ring…