Tag Archives: Utah Beach

The unveiling…

And here we are 4 months after starting our project it’s FINISHED!!!

Back at the end of June Mike decided I should start marketing without any photos with availability from 1st August…not shying from a challenge I went for it using our other properties as a touch stone and a follow up telephone call to reassure folk we were not talking nonsense! Our 1st guests arrived on the 2nd for 1 week…apart from sewing curtains until 11.30 pm the night before we were pretty well on track.

Our date to be able to say finished for fixtures and fittings was agreed as 30th July for us to stay and try the house out…thus the reason for late night curtain making – street light actually attached to our house between the bedroom windows…we never noticed it until we went to bed (the bed a super kingsize & possibly the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept on),turned out the light and then asked Mike to turn his light out as it was light enough still to read…a dash up to Cherbourg the next morning to buy blackout material…but for one reason or another I bought 5 meters forgetting there were 2 windows – I needed 10 meters – so a 2nd trip was needed!!!!!!

So here we go – I’ll try to line up the before’s & afters!! The main bedroom started as 2 rooms.

St Marie du Mont 15 (1 of 1)

St Marie du Mont 14 (1 of 1)

main double bedroom

main double bedroom half way

bedroom armoire

bedroom space

armoire bedroom

The bedroom at the back was in a dreadful state, broken windows, holes in ceiling and water penetration destroying all the plaster


St Marie du Mont 12 (1 of 1)


The bathroom was a kitchen…holes in ceiling.

St Marie du Mont 13 (1 of 1)

shower 1

shower2double sink


Kitchen – oh dear, basically falling down! New roof, walls etc.

St Marie du Mont 17 (1 of 1)



St Marie du Mont 11 (1 of 1)


lounge 3lounge 2

St Marie du Mont 16 (1 of 1)


St Marie du Mont 18 (1 of 1)


unveiling BoB House  More pictures here

I’ve embroidered all the towels, put in as many little thoughtful things folk would enjoy – I just hope everyone that comes to stay with us enjoys the house as much as we really did renovating it!


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We’ve had a brain storm! Another vacation rental coming on line…

Mike, did you notice that stone cottage opposite the church in Sainte Marie du Mont for sale?   I heard myself ask a couple of weeks ago

…funnily enough I did he replied, do you think we should look at it?

I’ll phone Stefan The Notary, I  said…so I did and 2 weeks later we’re ready to complete the purchase!


56 Place de l’Eglise 50480 Sainte Marie du Mont


Now the bad news…no one has done any work inside since 1944!! The floor is a beautiful example of the floors laid just after the war in haste to get everyone back into the land of the living as it were! I don’t think it’s been decorated since then!! Holes in the roof and around the chimneys…well take a look and then tell us we’re mad!! We may give it a shot to be ready for the 6th June week – we’ll see, but certainly it will be ready for July this year – I think it will make a great vacation rental…you can’t beat the location and next door are fresh oysters straight from Utah Beach the other neighbours are 2 restaurants, a butchers across the road, 2 boulangeries and a mini supermarket, 2 museums, hairdresser, post office and 3 miles from Utah Beach!

We’re the one with the red sign in the windowImage

The view from the master bedroomImage



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Remembering why we are here!

sam 15 (1 of 1) sam 14 (1 of 1)

1st Time back to Utah Beach all the way back from Utah State!

1st Time back to Utah Beach all the way back from Utah State!

After our horrendous experience with Harriett and 5 days later loosing Monty the 20+ year old dog I found at the side of the road our heads really dropped. We also had a run of folk coming into the rentals that really shouldn’t have tried to ‘do’ Normandy in a day and a half we felt quite ineffective and at a very low ebb…then the day arrived for Jan to bring her Dad back to Utah Beach…90 in July a WW2 D Day +2 veteran…we weren’t sure what to expect but we went down to the station to collect them and this tall upright gentleman got off the train with a lady around the same age as me, it was them. Sam stood on the platform for a minute or two and then said ‘is that the road to Coutances & the harbour is down there…right?’. Absolutely spot on …I knew then we were in for an emotional time…he hasn’t been here for 69 years – born in Utah State & landed on Utah Beach aged 22.

We were delighted to make the acquaintance of Sam & Jan – that 1st afternoon we sat and had a cup of English tea along with a good chat we soon realized that he really did know his stuff and remembered well plus is quite remarkable for his age!

So DAY ONE…off we went to Utah Beach Museum – we had rung ahead to the Director Ingrid that we were bringing a veteran  – so when we got there the red carpet was out! A guide was all organized for us Rodolphe who was just super… not a dry eye in the house when Sam saw the beach for the 1st, or should I say 2nd time…the Rodolphe took him to view a map of the actual invasion…after we were done looking at everything and admiring the museum  (which is really fantastic) Ingrid came to see us and presented Sam with a medal and certificate, then the Mayor of Sainte Marie du Mont, the town of Utah Beach got involved…it was truly wonderful then folk who were visiting the museum realized Sam was a veteran and started to come up to shake his hand…Jan his daughter by this time was awash with tears!



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UNESCO and Sheep Shearing!

I haven’t had the time to get to do a blog for a while – quite a lot has happened since I last visited here!

Mr Willerby my incredible Jack Russell (The Irish pocket Jack) managed to have his evil way with Urenee on Utah Beach – the result 4 fabulous little Jacks – Urenee is a Jack Russell belonging to me dear friend who lives opposite our rental house at Utah Beach…the puppies were born in Paris so I didn’t get to see them until they were 5 weeks old…of course we ended up keeping one! So we now have FIVE dogs – Grace O’Malley our latest addition is a great little dog – she’s teething at the moment so we seem to be in a sea of chewed twigs, cardboard and other things that take her fancy… whicker baskets especially

Our cats are bigger than the dogs!Mr Wibbs & Grace put on a floor showGrace O'Malley

at the moment!

The name Grace O’Malley came about as I wanted to give a nod to the fact that Grace is half Irish and conceived on a beach… Grace O’Malley was a 15th Century female Irish Pirate !

Talking about Utah Beach we’ve just found out that the whole area is being designated as an area of immense importance for conservation etc. and possible being made into a UNESCO site…now I think this is wonderful news. Basically how it will affect everyone is that there will be no development in the area – if you want to change the colour of your house even, you have to apply to the architect du France. It will also apply to trees & plantation – only plant things in keeping with the area…hopefully that will mean some monster pine trees near us will HAVE to come down …hurrah!

But a few local folk don’t like change so it’s descended into quite a few public meetings… so we’re waiting to hear the outcome.

This is something I found how they choose a site http://www.france24.com/en/20100804-35-unesco-world-heritage-sites-france

For the past 4 months or so we have been incredibly busy here at Ferme de l’Eglise – however we had a little break –  this morning the 1st morning with no early start for comings or goings…I said to Mike last night that as I did everything yesterday, all the ironing and everything is ready, I would do a rare unheard of thing – have a lie in… he laughed – won’t happen he said…he was right!

The 1st part of plan worked – went out to let the chickens out and feed everybody in my PJ’s with the idea come back in,

make a cup of tea and head back upstairs… to my horror the sheep shearer was half way through the flock in the field next door… he comes to us to do our 2 after he’s done the others…so had to round Larry & Harry up shut them in the shelter (all of this in my PJ’s with them watching!) rush back in and get suitably dressed in sheep shearing gear!

Before!the indignity of it all!are you sure you're who you say you are?checking each other out!

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6th June d- day celebrations in Normandy

I know it is the 13th June but we have only just started to recover… so goodness knows how the stars are – the veterans! I have heard all the serving parachutists and Army boys were complaining of being tired too!

What a week we’ve had!

Muir, Harry & Harry2

Harry Kulkowitz came and stayed with us in our home for the 7th year… he landed on Utah Beach 6th June 1944 and went right through to the Battle of the Bulge, lied about his age and joined up with a whole host of other New York Jews who all joined up enmasse. Harry was a radio interceptor, trained in England and came across the channel by boat.

We were asked by our Mayor when we first bought our house in this village if we would take a veteran in as English speakers so obviously we were delighted – Harry was billeted with us and as we tease him we can’t get rid of him! I think over the 7 visits we’ve had all 3 grand children, his sister, his 2 daughters and each time his son Mark who owns and runs the Mad Batter & Carroll Villa in Cape May NJ. see this link http://www.philly.com/philly/green/96201444.html

He came this year with his son Mark and his youngest daughter Tessa.

Harry is rather frail now – he’s having memory problems but quite frankly when he is stimulated he is a lot better, but there were a couple of occasions when he was completely exhausted so we had to help him stand on parade and one time in a wheelchair… but take into account jet lag as well he did remarkably well!

For this post I’m mainly going to add photos so you can all see for yourselves the respect and the love that is shown to the veterans. This year we had 600 paratroopers come down over Ste Mere Eglise – French, German, US, British, Belgium and Canadian. 10 planes. The men all here for a week to see for themselves the 6th June celebrations… it was just wonderful to sit on a table with Americans and Germans side by side bantering and showing huge respect to the old boys.

Our weeks was as follows:

Harry arrived 3rd June – slept 15 hours and then on the 4th June it all kicked off…

4 p.m. ceremony in Carentan to be awarded the Order of the Senate – effectively as he is already a knight of France holding The Legion d’Honneur this senate is equivalent to being made a Lord!

6 p.m. Houesville for ceremony to mark the passing of Reg Alexander a Screaming Eagle that came to Houesville for over 25 years died in January. followed by Vin du honneur in the Salle du Fete

8 p.m. Banquet with 2 star general and 200 or so serving soldiers – we left around 1 a.m.

5th June the 600 parachutists, big event in La Fiere followed by a birthday celebration here for a little boy born on 6th June (cake & champagne) followed by another banquet this time in Ste Mere Eglise – 600+ people to include soldiers and local people – huge firework display at the end – got home around 1 a.m. again.

6th June we tried to keep it calm – so it was just a visit to Utah Beach and the museum there – dinner at The Mayors house, 5 course meal – home for around 2 a.m.

7th June Went to Grandcamp Maisy for lunch and met the 2 star General in the same restaurant then on to Coleville sur Mer where Harry was invited to fold the flag at taps. Got home for 7 p.m. and straight out to dinner with a local French Army Officer – another 2 a.m.

8th June party for Harry at our house 35 for 4 course dinner – very late night – 2 a.m. with Harry, Mark & Tessa due to leave at 6 a.m. – luckily Mike woke up!! They got off OK we’re left with a mountain of washing up!

We also had a British Veteran staying at our Utah Beach house – he was a Scots Guard and came through Normandy in a Churchill Tank… delightful chap and with his son researched one of the battles he was in – traced a house that he almost demolished, returned to the spot and apologized to the owners… still the same family to this day!

We met another British Veteran – another Harry – Royal Navy his job during the invasion was dropping off the lads as close to the land as could get… he was escorted by 3 ex Royal Marines that all served together one of whom was the first 4 British Legion chaps to pay respects to the fallen coming through Wootton Bassett from Afghanistan. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/5771032/Wootton-Bassett-A-very-British-way-of-mourning.html

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photographs © Mike Forster

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Poodle Parlour & blood test

Rudi has had his spring cut… 1st day of Spring and he’s all spruced up!! Poor boy was getting terrible hot under his Bob Marley look a like get up… his coat was starting to get dreadlocks! He has Toilette 1st day Spring… always for 6th June week (his appointment is 2nd June this year) so he looks his best for all our American visitors especially Harry the veteran, possibly again end of August and dependent on weather his final cut of the year in November… but this year the weather closed in so he’s gone quite a time… looked like some little shaggy unwanted scruff!

Rudi before

Rudi being finished off in the poodle parlour

The funny part of it all was is this was the 1st time Mr Willerby the Jack Russell pup saw Rudi as a clipped poodle! As well as the new look there was the the smell of all the powders and skin lotions for his nose to get by. Willerby seems to spend a long part of the day tormenting Rudi and swinging from his ears, Rudi seems to actually like it – however we were concerned that without all that shaggy fur would the pup hurt him… if anything the game seems to be more controlled with Rudi more the boss! It was amusing to watch the double take by all 3 dogs when Rudi was reintroduced to them… Madge had a sneezing fit, whilst Monty challenged him, Willerby just though better ears to swing from! Dear Rudi just takes it all in his stride… he’s a great dog!

Mr Willerby had to have a blood test for his passport today, but because he is so small the vet had to give him a general. It was all a bit stressful as it really hit home how much this little creature has wormed his way into my heart and has the power to squeeze it hard!

Now we wait for the results (83€) if the anti bodies are high enough the countdown starts for his passport which will be issued in 6 months to the day of the blood test results…. then he and Madge can come to England with us if they want. We haven’t had passports done for Rudi & Monty as they are quite elderly dogs now, Monty is 16 we think (I found him at the side of the road with his teeth kicked in waiting to die 6 years ago)


and Rudi a millennium pup is now 10 – he also a rescue – I intervened with the old man that had him as the dog looked so dreadful – ‘vous voulez’ and the leash handed to me is how Rudi joined us! They have all their rabies injections up to date but as they only speak French we don’t think they want to go to England… as Madge is from Derbyshire and Willerby is Irish they’ll quite like visiting!

Monty we think may have been a gypsy dog. We have quite few camps in the area. The real Gypsies pass through here with their horse drawn caravans on the way to various horse markets to buy & sell the Norman Cobs they breed… these guys treat their animals well… but we think Monty came from the travelling trader side of things, white transit van pulling a Fendt with a trailer on the back for the dishwasher, washing machine & tumble drier… lets just plug into any power we can find attitude and leave a great pile of rubbish when we leave. We think he was tied up possibly under a caravan or in a kennel, offered food and the kicked when he took the food. It’s taken almost 6 years for him to take anything from our hand and then he is still hesitant. Every evening we have a routine, ham time. A slice of ham is shared out between the 4 dogs (Tommy the cat joins in too now!), we put any medication that is needed into this treat plus gradually Monty is getting confident enough to take a treat… only takes 2 minutes for him to pluck the courage up now… he used to retreat under the table and hide – if you tried to get him out he’d bite – we have moved on big time as he used to hide under the table at meal time and amuse himself by biting unsuspecting visitors feet… unfortunately he did it once to Jean-Louis and bit through his 200€ kid leather Italian moccasins – he was not amused!

We live opposite the church (built in 1743) the bell tower is almost level with our bedroom,probably 50 meters away) if anything goes wrong with the bells I am the 1st to the Mayor to report them… they are a way of life now – a rhythm in our day, Easter they fall silent I can’t wait for them to start up again. They’ve just struck 7 a.m. d’angelis  so time for me to get on with waking the household up, making up Claries’ bottle, letting everyone out and feeding everybody… now takes me an hour in the morning and the same in the evening – plus a midday feed for Clarie – I’ll be glad when she’s weaned! We’re only half way through as well!!

To show how close we are the the church – here are some photos – the 1st one actually of this village being liberated 8th June 1944 our bedroom window is the very small window set back slightly – the tree opposite is the yew tree in front of the church door

All photos I use in this blog are by my husband Mike Forster unless otherwise mentioned… so really this is a joint blog! The original war photo is held in Caen museum.

liberation of Houesville June 8th 1944

60th anniversary Liberation of Houesville

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A cat like Beckham and St Patrick

St Patrick turned the stone to the warmer side –  yesterday, St Patrick’s Day… it was the most glorious warm Spring like day here and must have been in Ireland too as this pearl of wisdom came from my cousin Shelagh in Northern Ireland… this in actual fact is the best news for a long time because it means we should be having a beautiful summer!

I spent my St Patrick’s Day fiddling around in the garden and not really achieving a great deal, we have the builders here rebuilding the hanger that collapsed under the weight of the snow in January, they are doing a marvellous job but it still is disruptive to us. The timbers were delivered yesterday and caused a traffic jam in our village… well, one car was held up for about 10 minutes! The lorry with the crane to lift the wood had to put the stabilizers down so effectively blocked the road.

We have a very shy ginger cat that we call Freddy (Fred & Ginger…) he is the brother of Tommy Tucker

Madge and Tommy

Freddy checking out the war jeep

Freddy and Harriett checking out the Wilys Jeep

who is full on and never out the house, Tommy thinks he is at least a dog if not a human and gets more smacked bottoms (not hard you understand) than any creature I’ve ever had – an example of Tommy’s persistence  – I make a pot of tea, he’s on the counter watching, I get the milk out the fridge – he changes counter, I get jug out cupboard & put it down on the counter – he’s there, ” Tommy get down” I say, he will if I push him down, he’s down – I pour the milk into the jug, turn to put milk in the fridge, turn back to pick the jug up to take to the table for the tea… what do I find Tommy with his head in the jug lapping the milk… lightning fast and very very naughty… his shoulders move as if laughing when he’s been naughty! I can’t stay mad at him long.

Freddy though a different kettle of fish… only ever comes in if the weather is bad… the most effective weather forecaster I have ever seen in action – never wrong… if Freddy comes in batten down the hatches! Our first day back from England and Freddy comes in – stays on one of the armchairs in the everyday room – odd I think as the BBC and France Meteo are all forecasting good weather. Next morning he’s still there – I tiptoe around so not to frighten him but as soon as Mike & the dogs come downstairs he disappears… Oh well, I think I’ll see him outside. Later that evening he reappears – he’s been hiding under the fire place in the stone niche, that’s when we realize he’s limping, too late to get him the the vets. He has a really big meal and goes to ‘his’ place when he does come in which is behind a wicker basket I keep my onions in under a cupboard on a granite work surface, (he stayed there for almost a week during the big snow). Morning comes and he’s still there so a quick capture and he’s off the the vets (hasn’t been to the vet for 4 years!) it’s an injury very similar to David Beckham’s… our French vet who is so into rugby and football thought this injury highly entertaining … just hope England beats France this weekend!!!

Big anti inflammatory injection, meta calm and some special tempting cat food to entice him in everyday (present from the vet), after a couple of days he ventures out again. I saw him yesterday evening while feeding Clarie before locking everybody up…’ Hello Freddy’ I say, with that he turns looks at me and raises his sore paw!!!

I hate being away – we had to go to England for the Land Rover swap over and at the same time visited my parents to try and spoil them a bit, happily everyone here was fine when we got back, a lot of noses out of joint as their routines had been messed about – the dogs especially! It’s taken quite a bit of doing in getting everyone re-organised and all the eggs sorted out as for whatever reason the house sitter decided to leave all the eggs… I had marked the ones the sitting girls were allowed to keep with the instructions any unmarked eggs collect… so I’m afraid I’ve had a smashing time… can’t consume them if they’ve been sat on for a few days.

Clarie is doing really well, Esme is getting quite funny now and is very curious when I go up to feed everybody – she follows me into the granary to ‘help’ … but the best of it is Clarie is challenging Mr Willerby to play – if it happens again today I will get some photos as it is very funny… Clarie head buts the puppy, quite hard, the puppy rolls for a while and then when he’s had enough of that  starts play bowing and play biting and the two start charging around together – very interesting to watch!


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