"Much the same, only more so" is the impression of Normandy in May. Roadside verges are scattered with a liberal sprinking of Pyramidal Orchids on the chalk plateau that covers much of this region. Thank heavens for the end of municipal herbicides.
The Seine snakes ox-bow-like towards the sea from Paris, cutting deep gouges in chalk cliffs along the way through dense forests that are now mainly hunter-free. The forest of Ronde is criss-crossed with paths (yes, in France!) for exercise by foot or bike, and in an afternoon spent wandering along them I met precisely nobody.
The canopy held more birds than an equivalent wood in Britain, and provided me with good views of a pair of Wood Warblers both calling and singing, and of Crested Tits flitting above me with beakfuls of food for the family.
There were disappointingly few butterflies, but a pair of Black-veined Whites provided some entertainment.
Occasionally the path would sweep across a slope, creating a sun-warmed bank where a profusion of plants grow, like Lady Orchids, Deadly Nightshade, Bastard Balm (appropriate for Normandy - think about it) and plenty of unidentified sun-lovers.
These oases contrasted with the darkness of the woods surrounding them, holding occasional Bird's-Nest Orchids, White Helleborines and Spiked Rampions.A visit to the ruined Abbey of Jumieges not only provided more Military Orchids by the roadside, but also a large meadow of wild flowers dotted with Pyramidal Orchids and a group of Bee Orchids - and some of the relatively few butterflies to be seen on the trip.