Idyllic France

Weekend Note: What is Horror? Ether Capacious (click)

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When Aunty travels on assignment--less during Granny Cracker's final year--it often as not means a lady traveling alone. Reckon y'all know it fits mah temperament to stay in convents and monasteries wherever that be possible, but it is also a good option for safety.

This trip were mostly personal, so I included some rural manor homes in the convent/ monastery line-up. Here are some photos from a lovely 16th century manor hidden away in a remote corner of Normandy.

Gate house looking out onto rural road lined wif' Plane trees

Below is the welcoming committee.

The charm of course is that this'n be a working manor inhabited by a real family of folks jes' struggling to keep their inheritance intact. For the moment their major source of income is a separate farm some seven kilometers distant an' the paying guests that they welcome each month. 'Tis an honor to have stayed wif' this dedicated family for a few days.

For about the price of a room at the Holiday Inn, I had a sitting room (above) and a lovely bedroom overlooking the rear lawn of 20 acres, plus a state of the art bathroom disguised as four hundred year old dressing chamber. Outside I walked amidst lush Hortensia, er, Hydrangeas, down the path to the family's own pocket sized chapel! (yes, envy is a sin, but I cannot help it.)

... beyond the chapel, hungry cows.

The lady of the manor, in chinos an' a work shirt, proudly led a tour of their outbuildings. Y'all may know that Normandy, famously known for apples an' Calvados, wuz the center of French cider making. An' this manor wuz onc't in the thick of it. As mayhap be the French way, stuff ain't thrown out jes' cause it's 400 years ole. No sireee!

(I'se playin' wif the sepia settin' on mah camera when I snapped this ole cider press)

The Lady an' her Squire is pushin' hard to reestablish their home's historic position in the world of cider--in fact, they use the ancient cider press still on the property (along wif' various other vintage implements that I wuz relieved to hear were fer cider an' not torture.)

Their idea is to begin an appellation system for cider similar to that of wine. They hope to replant apple orchards such that all their cider is homegrown, not blended wif' juice of other farms. This family an' others are desperate to devise a system that will lead to sustainable historic homes in their region of Normandy.

Natcherly, as a glorified B&B, a delightful breakfast wuz served in the ancient kitchen on an antique trestle table laid wif' heirloom linens.

Our hostess took great pride in her homemade jams, served wif' various cheeses an' local made yogurt. Her own hearth-warmed full grain bread made a hearty addition to the ubiquitous croissants.

Mah favorite jam were the oddest combination of orange, carrots ( yes, homegrown carrots), red pepper and a hint of rosemary.

As always, when we travel, ain't thar' a temptation to imagine oneself in another life? Well, I has no trouble a'tall seein' mahself livin' on a manor wif' its own chapel, some cows an' apple orchards. Reckon even Uncle could git wif' that program. What a dream!

But, later, upstairs, while packin' to depart, I gazed out the window (below) an' thought of the actual plight of this family's dream, wif' high EU taxes, oppressive regulations about what an' how they can farm or bottle cider, their struggle make a modern living yet preserve the idyllic charm of the past...The Lady admitted the difficulty her family faced, "This manor has changed hands about every hundred years, or every three generations. We are the third generation of our family. We simply mustn't lose our home."


More from France here

and here


Pam said...

Aunty, wish I had some of your resources to find these places! What a gorgeous spot in the world and I so respect what this family is trying to do. It is all very Chickory to me ... this is the place and this is how things are done in this place. Gorgeous post, Auntie! I sent your page about the pilgrimage over to the guy I know who lives in that town. He's a true Sooner who married a Spanish girl ... You might be having a new reader of your blog page.

Aunty Belle said...

Pamokc!! I'd love to hear from yore Sooner -friend! Pleeeze tell him I'd luv to know if he has interaction wif' pilgrims.

Yes, ain't this a dear place in Normandy? I admire what these folks is doin' so much--an' pray they can keep it afloat.

Actually, I found this lovely spot via another blogger--an English woman marriet to a Frenchman who lives in a valley near this manor. Check out Sharon's My French Country Home to see a fun blog an' view her own guest cottage.


Iffin' youse headed to Europe an' wanna stay in monasteries email me--mayhap I can make a suggestion or two fer ya'.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post Aunty! On my recent sojourn in France I drove through the Chateau region of Normandy. I seriously considered knocking on doors to inquire if I could indenture myself to any one of those spectacular properties.

I don't know much about apple orchards or making cider but maybe if I beg ...


Jenny said...

wow! That's a lovely place. And so much better than a standard hotel/B&B.

I jokingly tell Mr. Boxer all the time we can always become inn keepers if we fall on bad times and need to keep the beach property.

Even the dog looks French.

moi said...

How beautiful. How sad. I can't imagine the expense of keeping something like that going, to be property rich but cash poor, but I admire the determination to try.

BTW, did you drink any Calvados? Yum. One of our state's two distilleries, Silver Coyote, just came out with a Calvados-like apple spirit that I'm dying to try.

fishy said...

Haiku Monday theme is up at the Pond!

Anonymous said...

I'd charge more. And make up stories to tell the tourists.

Aunty Belle said...


I'se purty near shure they'd take ya on as a cider-maid.


I'd come to yore B&B! You an' the Mr. Boxer on the Island as a redoubt fer weary off-gridders--oh yeah!!


no Calvados, but some Clavados soaked cake thangs--yum! An' mercy, but to lose a place like that would devastate us--wouldn't it? is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?

Will await yore review of the new local beverage.

Troll-Man, heh. Ever the bidness man. I doan think their stories wuz made up--truth of it wuz evident. BTW, ya cracked me up wif' Jeremiah on Joy at Fishy's.

Sharon Rudd said...

What an idyllic setting indeed! Fascinated by the idea of cider with appelation controlee - and by that jam you mentioned!

Have a fine weekend, and I hope to read more about your sojourn to France.

sparringK9 said...

Isn't this a beautiful canary singing? My heart breaks for the state imposed obstacles to relieve this family of their home - their means of independence. Beautiful photographs, great write up - LOL at your envy of a private chapel - thank you for posting and thank goodness your photos were retrieved. (i thought i left a comment on the previous post but its gone)

Aunty Belle said...


Yes, isn't that an intriguing idea? The LAdy noted that as with grapes, different mircoclimates produced variations in the soil/ flavor of the apples. Then, of course, there be the matter of how the cider is produced. Her jams were all distinct--a trio of lovely li'l porcelain jars accompanied the basket of breads.


oh Pup, I know you will hear this: you would have stayed thar' fer weeks. The dawgs, the property, horses, a the gatekeeper's house an' chickenyard--under mah breath is mumbled, "Ya' kiddin' me?! I'se jes' driven through the gates of a storybook illustration."

Jes' as a writer I wanted to git under the surface of their daily lives, as a painter you'd a found this a very fertile spot.

Their sons are learnin' the ropes--I pray this family makes it outa the mine.

Debora said...

What an idyllic place to spend some time! Of course, as often is the case, it's not that idyllic to those who live there day in and day out. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just trade lives with people for about 30 days a year, then come home? I think everyone would benefit from such a plan.

Aunty Belle said...


Oh I like yore plan! Two birds one stone--a change of scenery, then a new appreciation when ya git on home --appreciate how good ya' have it.

Thanky so much fer stoppin' in on the Porch!

sharon santoni at my french country home said...

What beautiful pictures and how great that you took the time to talk to the owners and understand that it's not all plain sailing to have a beautiful property in this part of the world.
Their grounds look wonderful
Thank you