A Diary By Ammonite

-----Day One, 6/8/99-----

George arrives earlier than expected, I'm still in bed! Finally get organised and we pile into the car to collect Ally then head off south. Stop off at Stafford for a pie 'n' chips.

Ally and George wait for the Pie 'n' Chips

Making really good time till we hit the dreaded M25 London Orbital Motorway!!!! Gridlock... Took more time to go 20 miles than it did to go the previous 200!!!

Finally made it to Canterbury. Checked in at the Guest House , explored the town then had a meal and a few drinks to celebrate the Big 40 for Ally.

Where we stayed and the gate to Canterbury Cathedral

After getting soaked in a torrential downpour, we went to bed exhausted.

-----Day Two, 7/8/99-----

Got up early and headed for the Dover ferry terminal.

After a calm ferry crossing we were in Calais. Then we got lost. Not just once...... Eventually got on the right road and managed to check out a couple of possible sites for eclipse viewing. Got lost again on the road to Rouen.
Finally made it to Damville and our little cottage. Celebrations, food, wine and beer as we all eventually arrive.

Clockwise round the table - Bob, June, Hazel, Martin, Fiona, George, Sue, Eileen, Ally

Celebrations carried on into the night, Ally and me finally headed off to bed at 6am.

-----Day Three, 8/8/99-----

A slow day recovering from all the travel. Hazel, me and Ally went for a stroll into Damville. A quiet little town.

EEEEk... Hazel and Ally wearing shorts... it makes you wish for winter again!


In the evening we went for a few drinks and ended up in a bar owned by a lunatic who kept giving us french lessons.

The Crowd with Mm. Patron and M.Patron in the background.

-----Day Four, 9/8/99-----

Martin was sure that the coast would be a good place to view the eclipse so we went on an investigation to Fecamp. Discovered it was going to be invaded by EuroDisney on the big day so would definately give it a miss.

George, Richard, Hazel, Jessica, Martin, Fiona, Ally

They had a food fayre on the Quay-side. Loads of stalls with sausages, cheese, bread, wine and beer fron various regions of France.

Checked out a few costal sites on the way back to Damville. Nothing promising.
Back at the cottage we fire up the barbecue... it comes on in a downpour of rain and we hide inside... 30 minutes later it is blue skies again and we barbie!!!

After the barbie Eric has a few beers and starts telling stories of his younger days when he was an Astro-Navigator on a Star Ship... " You could see the galaxy back then... "

"Star Fighters exploding on the shoulder of Orion....."

-----Day Five, 10/8/99-----

Not much done today, a walk round the forest and back to the cottsge. It was decided we all take a dish to the PEP, ( Pre Eclipse Preperation ).

Huge meal, then lots of planing for the Big Day.

Maps and plans for the Big Day

Panic and work into the night!!.... Eric has no eclipse spectacles.... Manage to make a pair to his liking.....Sleep contentedly.

-----Day Six, 11/8/99-----

The Big Day

Early start... the three cars set off... and miracles we all meet up at Forges les Eaux - our first choice for Ground Zero!
After a frantic search for a crate of beer we head off for a small country road. Arrive to find it crowded with people with the same idea.
The skies are cloudy and Martin wants to head North towards the coast.. We procrastinate and finally decide to stay put and set up our gear.

We set up our gear in a muddy bean feild.

I set up a contraption made of cardboard, gaffer tape and velcro !!!

My Solar Projector

The clouds are clearing and we wait for First Contact... I watch my screen... George watches through his camera filter...A little notch appears on the edge of the suns disk......

First Contact..!!!

The Dragon begins to devour the Sun!

Slowly, the Moon slides over the face of the Sun. We wait and watch.

Pictures taken from my projector of the partial phases.

The shadows take on a strange orange hue. The temperature drops by several degrees. It almost feels like being under water.

The image on my screen fades to a thin line, breaks up into a few bright dots and then is gone.

Second Contact !

I turned round to see the most beautiful sight that I have seen in my whole life! After an initial "ooooooooooooooh" we stood in stunned silence. The glow of the solar corona round a black disc. Venus is a sharp point in the sky, lower and to the left.

La Raison D'etre

Picture taken by George

Two minutes later the edge of the Sun flashed from behind the Moon. Third Contact, totallity was over.

A ripple of applause ran over the muddy bean field.

Ally popped the cork of some fizzy wine and we celebrated the success of our mission.

Years of planning had all come together and it had worked better than we could ever have hoped for!

We moved on to a grassy picnic site and relaxed after the Big One. I watched for Fourth Contact but by then no-one was interested. The beauty and splendour of those 2 minutes had left us flat... "We have seen it all. What can we do with the rest of our lives?"

Back to the cottage. Go to Damville and attempt to get a meal in the evening. Most places are shut. Get a pile of takeaway piazzas and dine at home. Got to bed with the image of a black disc over a glowing Sun every time I close my eyes. Forever, when I think of that muddy bean field, I will see that image.

-----Day Seven, 12/8/99-----

Should have been going to Paris but we needed to wind down. Go on an expedition to a few local sights - A cider and calvados farm then a church with an amazing tower.

All head off for a meal in Damville and return to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower... "Just one more and I'll go to bed.... " Foooooom.... Wow......"Just one more......." .
Eventually get to bed.

-----Day Eight, 13/8/99-----

Today is Paris. George was going to drive to the railway station then come into Paris with us. He was worried that he might have damaged his eye when he looked at the sun through his telephoto lens, he wants to see a doctor to ease his mind. Martin took us to the station and we got on the train to Paris.
Arrived at St Lazarre station in Paris and got lost trying to find the Metro. The station has just been built and half the signs are missing! Finally find Line 12 and Metro to Sacre Coeur, The Giant Merangue.

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur in close up.

We walked down from Sacre Coeur into Monmatre, into what we discovered to be the ethnic quarter! While we were looking for cheese, bread and wine in a market I noticed that we were the only white people in the area. Loads of weird fruit on the stalls, kaftans, sandals and wigs in the shops. (Evidently lots of black women wear European style hair!).
Metro to Ille de la Cite.
Rats... Notre Damme is covered in scaffolding, it's being cleaned. Walk round and have our picnic under its shadow.

Gorgeous Flying Buttresses

Walked round a few places, never had the time to stay long.

The nice old bit of the Louvre

The ugly new bit of the Louvre

Place de Concord with the Eiffel tower in the background.

Got ripped off in a Paris bar, 40 ff for a beer...
Back on the Metro and back to our cottage. Just had a few drinks then off to bed.

-----Day Nine, 14/8/99-----

Time to start for home. Collect all our baggage and head for Calais again. Surprise.... we never got lost! Get on the boat and relax. Ally, me and Hazel decide we have to give George a gift for being such a great driver through the tour, give him a litre of Smirnov Blue Label from the duty free shop.... just for putting up with us!. Over the water then head for Lincoln. I only screw up on the navigating once!!!

Where we stayed in Lincoln.

-----Day Ten, 15/8/99-----

Early start and head back to Aberdeen. All in the car are a bit down at coming home from such a brilliant holliday. We get home on a low note.

We are home again!