Tentatively lifting a corner of our cottage's curtains to see what the weather was like, we were pleasantly surprised to see the lake illuminated by mellow early morning sunlight. There were some dark clouds about as well, which for the moment we chose to ignore.
And look, here's one of the two resident sheep, coming up to the house for its morning treat!
It was a toss-up between a day at the seaside or a hop over the border into France, but when we learned that rain might be on the menu on this side of the border, while there was a sunny outlook for our planned destination in France, the decision was virtually made for us.
I decided on wearing one of the pairs of wide floral trousers I'd brought. I found this particular pair in a charity shop in Shropshire, and this was actually its first wear. My suitcase contained a choice of tops to wear with it, but I opted for full-on visibility by choosing this turqoise blouse with over-the-top blowsy flower print. It closes at the back with a very long zipper, which is only one of several indications that it started life as a dress. Isn't it wonderful that someone, somewhere, decided to salvage it by turning it into a blouse?
Having decided on a day abroad, our destination for the day was the town of St. Omer, 45 kilometers and a drive of just under an hour away.
The town, which has medieval origins, boasts a rich heritage with several historical monuments, and - according to its website - is the ideal place to wander, with cobbled streets and lively squares.
We cursed under our breaths when soon after starting out, at the point when our satnav made us turn off the main road and onto her favoured small country lanes, the first drops appeared on our windscreen.
It rained on and off for a while, then it stopped altogether, with more and more patches of blue emerging and the dove grey clouds being joined by white cotton wool ones.
The road meandered through endless acres of fields, and the landscape, which had been dotted with tiny hamlets and tumbledown farms with ancient equipment rusting away alongside them, was getting emptier by the minute, until we were driving through what looked like an enchanted forest laced with marshland patches.
A sign told us that this was a nature reserve called le Forêt Dominiale de Rihoult Clairmarais (the Forest of Clairmarais), and soon we saw another one directing us to the Grotte de Clairmarais, a prominent place of pilgrimage. We parked our car and made our way to the grotto, where we burned a votive candle bought from the small white pavillion on its right, a self-service shop with an honesty box, selling an array of saintly goodies.
After this diversion, we finally arrived in St.Omer, our satnav directing us to the town centre. Having seen no car park signs, we parked opposite a forbidding Victorian style school building in the Rue St. Bertin, where we were assured by a passing town official that parking was free and the walk into town would only take 10 minutes.
In order to make sure we'd find our way back, I took a picture of the street name of the nearest side road, which was the Rue de Notre Dame de Patience.
By that time, I was getting quite impatient to go and explore the town.
We soon passed a small square on our right, the Place St. Denis, where the eponymous church (top right and bottom left), orginally dating from the 13th Century but partly rebuilt in the 18th Century, clearly seemed to have seen better days.
Continuing on the Rue St. Bertin, our eyes were drawn to the Italianate tower of the Jesuit Chapel, which the late morning sun was illuminating with an orange glow. We walked into its direction but found its doors firmly locked.
I'd printed a walk off a travel website but, before we could make a start, we wanted to get our bearings, so we went in search of the Tourist Office to get a map and some leaflets.
Following signs pointing us into the right direction, we found it tucked away in a courtyard off one of the town's main squares. Deckchairs printed with the town's name were set out on the lawn, which faces the side of the town's cathedral, and which we will visit in a minute.
Armed with a town guide, we had a cup of coffee in the on-site café, a small pavillion which had the most fabulous wallpaper ever. Here you can see that, not trusting the weather forecast one bit, I was wearing my famous green raincoat!
As it was still too early for lunch, we thought we'd check out the cathedral first.
Well, what can I say? First of all, we were simply knocked over by its vast size of over 100 metres and, in places, a height of 23 metres.
Situated at the heart of its own close, the cathedral has been on the list of historical monuments since 1840.
Even from the very back of the close, and with the wide angle of my camera, it was virtually impossible to capture its full size in one photograph. The best we could do was using the cheapo fisheye lens we'd bought for our phones (top left).
Saint-Omer-cathedral, or to give it its proper name, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saint-Omer, was started before 1200 and was finally completed in the 15th Century.
Due to its magnificent interior, it is one of the richest churches in France. The organ (above, bottom right) is one of its main treasures. There are other exquisite details to explore as well: marble and alabaster chapels, classical and baroque paintings, funerary monuments, wood carvings and ancient floor tiles, this cathedral simply has it all.
There has been an extensive restoration programme in the last decade, and although there is still a lot of work to do, I have to admit that I thought the juxtaposition of the cathedral's opulence and delapidation particularly charming.
Case in point is the genuine Rubens painting, The Descent from the Cross, dating from 1616 (above, top left), in its ornate gilt frame, which is displayed rather incongruently in a grotty corner, behind a makeshift barrier even I could have jumped.
We explored the cathedral's fascinating interior with its endless nooks and crannies, until our stomachs told us it was now definitely time for lunch.
Before we go outside again, however, I wanted to show you the cathedral's innovative way of divesting you of your hard earned money (top, bottom left). No need to despair if you haven't got any cash on you, as you can make a donation or even buy a candle using your bank card!
Walking back towards the town centre, I remembered a restaurant recommendation from the website I'd downloaded the walk from. Called Les Frangins, it is one which is also frequented by locals? which is always a good sign. Looking up from consulting my paperwork for its address, I actually spotted its name at the far end of the square we'd just entered.
We both ordered salmon, which came accompanied by rice and locally grown veg - the area is particularly known for its cauliflower cultivation - not to mention a most delicious sauce.
After a "petit café", we were ready to roll again.
By then , we had abandoned all pretense of following the walk's directions, deciding to just saunter around the town, following our noses and taking note of the squalor which went happily hand in hand with the splendour, a phenomenon which seems to be typical of the towns of the area.
We then retraced our steps to the Jesuit chapel as recommended by the lovely lady at the Toursist Office. Built between 1615 and 1640, it is no longer in use as a church. After its refurbishment between 2013 and 2016, this architectural jewel's lofty interior is now the place for exhibitions, concerts and seminars.
We were in luck, as it was the final day of the current exhibition of early 20th Century black and white photographs of the town and the area.
We'd spotted a bakery a little further up the street - Artisan Boulanger, you can see its sign in collage number 5 above - where we stopped to buy a loaf of bread for our evening meal and breakfast. And no, it does not come with a recommendation, as that bread turned out to be quite unpalatable. Oh well, we probably should have bought a baguette. When in France, and all that!
Before calling it a day, there was one more historical site that we wanted to visit, which was at the other end of the street where we'd parked our car.
Close to the edge of town, where it meets the Canal de Neufossé and the marshy areas of the Forest of Clairmarais, lie the romantic ruins of Saint-Bertin-Abbey.
Created in the 7th Century, it was one of the first Benedictine abbeys to the North of Paris and it grew into one of the most powerful abbeys in Northern Europe during the entire medieval period.
During the revolution, the abbey was closed and fell into ruin.
The site of the ruins, however, cannot be visited, but only admired from behind the iron railings surrounding them. On the square in front of the ruins is a marble statue of Abbot Suger, a benefactor of St. Bertin.
Rather then returning to our car, we took a paralell road leading us back into the town centre, as we couldn't possibly leave without any fortifications.
These we found at a Salon du Thé in the town's main square, situated rather appropriately inside the town's former town hall which due to its shape is fondly called "the coffee mill".
Here we had another "petit café", which was served in gold coloured cups, and scrumptious Moelleux au Chocolat with warm chocolate sauce.
Then it was really time to call it a day and return along those delightful country lanes, accompanied by great big skies full of clouds which appeared to be gliding over the harvested fields.
Linking my wide-legged trousers and floral blouse to Mica's Weekday Wear Linkup.