Monday, August 9, 2010

The Little Bourgeois Robitaille Party’s First Weekend in Arras

The first night in Arras we decided to celebrate Andre’s Mom’s birthday since Andre would be leaving for Normandy the next day (her actual birthday). We had a nice dinner at the apartment followed by a custard pie from the bakery up the street. The next morning Andre left bright and early. We spent our first full day together in Arras touring the city, getting groceries, driving the standard rental car, and shopping. That night for the real birthday dinner we had chicken salad and macaroons for dessert.

We also had bought some bad garlic the day before so we peeled it all that night to save it by keeping the good pieces in oil.

The next morning was market day! We went to the market in the morning and bought all sorts of cheeses and meats to take with us on a picnic that afternoon. We picked a Chateau from a regional guidebook and headed out in the rental car. As we were driving we saw the remains of L’abbaye du mont Saint-Éloi. All that remains of this emmense abbaye is the front façade of the cathedral.

Click here for a French newspaper article on the archeology at the site

We walked around the grounds and had our picnic in a small park across the street. We finished our picnic just as it started to rain and headed back to the car to continue our drive to the Chateau. We arrived at the Chateau Olhain at two, but it wasn’t open until three. So we continued driving to the next small village where we found aroadside restaurant and fishing pond. We stopped there for a café and watched the people fishing in the fully stocked man-made ponds.

A little old French man came to greet us in the restaurant (an old custom when entering a restaurant is to greet everyone already seated) and then after discovering that we were obviously not French went back outside to show us how much the local ducks love him. With a baguette from his pocket, he fed a whole family of ducks who recognized him and immediately came running out of the pond when he stepped outside.

"Volia, ils m'aiment!"

After our cafés we headed back to the Chateau. The Chateau wasn't open when we arrived and while waiting outside the gates a British tour bus operator told us that many Chateaus in France are privately owned and open to the public to obtain government funding.

The Chateau was really phenomenal. It is a medieval fortress really, surrounded by a moat and built by the knight Hugues d’Olhain around 1200 CE.

One of the inhabitants was the knight, Jean de Recourt, who fought in the siege of Compiegne where Joan of Arc was captured. Upon entering the first set of gates you come into a walled courtyard which leads to the drawbridge of the main castle.

There are two towers still standing, and a large terrace over looking the moat where the third tower once stood. You can also climb the hundred steps of the spiral staircase all the way to the top of the watchtower.

The next day was Sunday, our day of rest. We spent the day hanging around the apartment and going for walks, ending off our first weekend in Arras.

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