One of the best parts of traveling near or far: the people you meet.
During our trip to France in September we got acquainted with a fascinating couple, Tansy and Michael Forster. They owned the cottage we stayed in, which was 50 feet from their large and wonderful stone farmhouse. I guessed he was English, which was correct, and I thought she was French. No, she also was English.
“He said to me one day, ‘let’s move to Normandy,’ and we did,” Tansy said. Twelve years ago they bought a big farmhouse with lots of acreage and a tree-lined drive up to the house. “It was in the middle of nowhere. We were from London so we were used to lots of people and lots of action,” she said.
After two years they decided they wanted to be more a part of the community so they bought the house they’re in now, which has the farm acreage behind the house. The front part, which is across a narrow road from the church, is certainly part of the tiny village of Houesville near Carentan.
I was amazed when she said that neither of them spoke French when they moved there. Did they take classes? “No! You don’t go to school to learn French, you mix and get on with it,” Tansy said.
And there at the 300-year-old Ferme de l’Eglise they do get on with it, taking care of two llamas named Fernando and Esmeralda, chickens, two black sheep named Larry and Harry, goats, pigs and several chickens. Three Jack Russell terriers add to the mix, and my favorite, the brilliant one named Madge, makes herself at home in the cottage.
Tansy mentioned that for 25 years Mike, who is a well-known photographer, worked for the Daily Mail newspaper in London, circulation 3 million. But the part that made me gasp was that he was the ROYAL photographer. “Every newspaper in the UK has one photographer assigned to the royal family, mainly to make security less confusing,” he said.
Yes, he knew Princess Diana because he had traveled all over the world shooting photos of the royal family. “If they went, he went,” Tansy said, as she handed me a huge binder of gorgeous photos of Princess Diana. Many were the photos that ran in papers all over the United States. As a royal follower and Princess Di fanatic, I nearly had a heart attack sitting there with the man who had taken all those photos.
But I must say the former intrepid photographer wasn’t quick to tell stories about the woman I’ve always been fascinated with. I told him he had to tell me a story about her before we left for home the next day.
The next morning he was in a hurry to get to another property they own near Omaha Beach, but I wasn’t going to let him leave without telling me a story about the princess that few people knew. He said it took him awhile to think of one that I could print. Of course that made me want to tackle him and tie him up until he gave me the real scoop.
He quickly told me of the time Princess Di was in the south of France and got off the yacht and motored over to a boat several photographers were in. She and her “detective” (bodyguard) pulled up to the side of the boat. Princess Di took hold of the side of the photographers’ boat and asked how long they were going to be there. They explained they wouldn’t leave until she left. Then she told the photographers, “The next thing I do is going to amaze you. You won’t believe it,” and she left to go back to the yacht. “We knew she wasn’t going to marry Dodi (Fayed), but we never found out what she had planned. She died a few days later,” Michael said before he said goodbye, jumped in his Land Rover and was gone.
I stood there with my mouth hanging open wishing I knew what in the world she had planned to do. On the long plane ride home I thought of all kinds of things. Maybe she was going to move to the United States? Or maybe she was going to marry someone we didn’t even know about. We will never know, but it added a bit of mystery to a wonderful trip. Part of the fun was meeting this dynamic duo who reminded us that it’s good to take chances and to “just get on with it.”