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The comeuppance of Henri, vicomte de Belzunce, in 1789 Caen

Setting the scene It is August, 1789.  The French Revolution, which started idealistically enough with the formation of a National Assembly on 17 June to balance royal power, has become rather less polite as the Bastille is stormed on 14 July. This political drama follows months of hardship for the people of France as appalling…

Orbec; diary of a small Normandy town

Or – Fires, trains and scandal in the Pays d’Auge In the far south of Normandy’s Calvados region is the small town of Orbec.  It has all the usual essentials; church, mairie, schools, shops, and some fine old Pay’s d’Auge timber buildings.  But for some reason Orbec, unlike most Normandy towns, has never been at…

The rampant ambition of Blanchard the balloonist, from Petit Andelys

Jean Pierre François Blanchard was born in Petit Andelys, the second son of an odd-job man, on July 4, 1753.  Perhaps the vast remains of Chateau Gaillard that tower above the town inspired him to the possibilities of human endeavour.  Whatever the cause, Jean Pierre was destined to go down, sometimes literally, in history. The…

The life of a small harbour; Le port du cap Lévi, in Cotentin

The top left of Normandy is the Cotentin Peninsula and within that, the Val de Saire.  A region with timeless pockets of wildness and a shoreline that has been battling the sea since time began. All around its maritime boundaries are ports; from stately Cherbourg to little stone pockets by small villages that huddle against…

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