On a lazy summer’s day in Vancouver, the shoebox under the bed calls out to me for attention.
A shoebox into which I have tossed letters, post cards (when we still sent and received them!) and other memorabilia that I wanted to keep or at least not throw out upon receipt. You know the sort of thing.
The jewel lay quietly at the bottom of the box – an anonymous rough brown envelope addressed to my decades-ago address in London and post-marked August 25, 1972!
50 years ago!!
With great anticipation, I look inside the envelope and find a tourist guide to France, The Traveller in France, Love France for her thousand beautiful faces,  January 1972 and pictured below! It’s a true jewel and I love the cover illustration.
In this time traveller envelope I also discover tourist brochures about places we had visited, including Avranches and amazingly, I find a travel diary for a particular road trip to France, September 6 – 17, 1972, entitled, “Holiday, 72 France, Diary”.
Reading a diary from 50 years ago is when the past becomes the present. From the diary, I can see I was as interested in wine and food in those days as now and several meals are described. One in particular stands out. On the first day of our trip we drove to Avranches in Normandy and my diary provides the following tempting details:
“We drove onto Avranches. Booked into Croix d’Or. Hadn’t changed at all. Had magnificent meal of eight courses: potage, pâté, fruits de mer, moules, truites Croix d’Or, Canard/Entrecôte, fromage et meringue pudding and coffee. ½ bot. Chablis, and bottle Chateau Neuf du Pape.”
Wow, some meal!
I remember those multi-course meals at the Croix d’Or and although it sounds like a lot of food, the portions were small and you take your time and savour the experience and flavours. I commented in the diary that it hadn’t changed because I had been to the Croix D’Or on several memorable, previous occasions with my family when my father, someone who really appreciated good food and wine, was alive.
Avranches is an interesting, historic town, near Mont St Michel on the Normandy coast. The brochure from the 1970’s outlines at least three facts of interest for history enthusiasts.
– In 1172, the excommunicated Henry II of England received absolution in Avranches for the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury committed by others following Henry’s famous comment, “Will no-one rid me of this turbulent priest?” He made public penance before the Cathedral (which was razed as unsafe in 1794). The paving stone on which he knelt is marked by chains on a small square locally called La Plate-forme and is featured in the Avranches brochure.
– General Patton, the World War II American military hero is recognized in the Monument Patton for his role in liberating Avranches in July 1944 and for his famous breakthrough of enemy lines ultimately making possible the liberation of France.
– Mont St Michel – A Benedictine Abbey founded in the 10th Century or earlier and built on an island in the bay that connects Brittany and Normandy. Subsequent to our visit in 1972, it was identified in 1979 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s accessible at low tide and I’ve made that crossing in the past. The Traveller in France , 1972 magazine p.17, mentions, “ At Mont-St-Michel the town’s festival is held on the first Sunday in May, while at the end of July there is a colourful pilgrimage across the sands”. It would be interesting to know if that pilgrimage still takes place.
The Croix D’Or Inn at Avranches as well as the town and its interesting sites are on my list now for a return visit!
Sometimes I wonder about keeping memorabilia from years gone by. We seem to be endlessly encouraged to declutter, get rid of paper and streamline. It might be easy to just throw it all away. And yet, there would be no gems to give such pleasure, to remind us of places and people otherwise forgotten, to connect the past with the present and help us make plans for the future.
I’m keeping the shoebox!
 The Croix D’Or Hotel and Restaurant, Avranches, Website: https://www.hotel-restaurant-avranches-crois-dor.com