The day started with a surprise after breakfast: snow! We walked through the front door of Hotel Magenta for one last constitutional and found the footpaths white and the air full of small, feathery flakes. At Versailles, it cold and the snow quickly turned to ice, but today it settled and gave the street-scape an unearthly softness.

We were so organized that we time to go shopping for Paula’s boots. These were a pretty good bargain and she can now display herself a la Parisienne.

The journey to Caen was smooth except for the usual nightmare on the metro. Lugging bags is never fun, and even with a backpack we ran into strife: I was trapped between a turnstyle and a barrier and had to do an illegal slide under to join Paula inside the station.

The trip itself was pleasant but I was reminded of how large and complex France is: Paris alone is huge, with a busy industrial periphery. As we came into Caen, we saw factories and distribution centres: signs of a complex prosperity.

In a station complex filled with highly sophisticated rolling stock, modern buses and a really cool tram on bus wheels, we collected the car. We grabbed a Tom-Tom GPS and thank God we did. Not withstanding the Allies rather extreme approach to town planning in 1944, the streets a bit of a maze. After some challenging moments, we found the hotel (a Mercure) and settled in.

A tour of town centre, with Eglise St Pierre and Duke William’s castle, included dinner discovery. We had a great meal at le Grillot and crashed after a pretty strenuous day.