We journeyed tirelessly and brought the Queen of Cakes to our chateau in the heart of the Normandy countryside.
As evening drew close, we told stories of Parisian adventures while the little prince and princesses drifted sleepily into dreams of dashing duels and swirling sword dances on the steps of mediaeval castles.
A bracing breeze blew across the now-deserted beaches of Operation Overlord in the morning …
… and my elder princess tugged urgently on Rose’s sleeve to show her the marker she had found among the dunes.
We warmed our chilled toes and icy fingers back at the chateau by feasting on tender slices of magret of duck in an orange marmalade sauce. Throwing caution to the wind, the sauce-maker deftly pilfered Rose’s perfectly-fried pieces of garlic and was only spared an untimely death by the perfection of his sweet, griddled courgettes.
Our time together was filled with the yeasty aromas of freshly baked bread …
… the magical knotting of colourfully beaded strings …
… and the joyous convivial sounds of laughter on the terrace.
We visited the local outdoor market and discovered gastronomic riches among the brightly jewelled stalls.
After covertly sharing a crêpe swathed in deep, dark salted caramel …
… we approached the fish stall with anticipatory thoughts of the evening meal ahead.
“How should we cook a turbot?” we asked, looking with anxiety at its large, irregularly-shaped flat body.
“Dans une turbotière,” came the reply. Ah, how silly – of course, a pan shaped like a turbot would indeed be the simplest way of cooking such a fish.
We did not possess a pan shaped like a turbot.
“How else can we cook a turbot?” we asked.
“In white wine on a bed of onions and tomatoes, covered with foil and baked in the oven for thirty minutes at two hundred degrees centigrade,” came the reply. Our helpful fishmonger then offered to cut the fish into pieces so that such unfortunately turbotière-challenged people as ourselves could still enjoy the delicacies of its firm white flesh.
“A whole bottle of wine?” I asked Rose, watching helplessly.
“A whole bottle of wine,” she mercilessly replied.
Whilst too many cooks may sometimes spoil the broth …
… on this occasion a smooth, velvety sauce appeared wondrously from the strained and reduced juices of the baked fish and its voluptuous bed. With the addition of a large spoonful of thick, soft Normandy crème fraiche and some small pieces of butter, even those who normally disliked fish were nearly (but not quite wholly) converted.
The shadows lengthened, darkness fell and the moon rose over the chateau.
We packed our belongings once again and carried our fond memories home with us across the water.
Our time in France may have come to a close, but our adventures together in Devon were about to begin …