As you travel along the pretty winding roads of the Pays d’Auge you will not go far before coming to a village. As you slow down, as required to do on entering villages, look out for a rather quaint little building that looks like a miniature version of an official building of the République. The French flag will be flying if anyone is there, flower filled window boxes may adorn the sills and borders; if you look more closely you may see, over the front door - carved in the stone - the word Mairie.
I had never noticed that - until my last visit in October 2010 but had always wondered what theses little buildings were.
We decided to make a holiday project from our discovery - to photograph each one we found and discover something of their history.
The first part was easy - having spotted one in St-Loup-de-Fribois the village next to Crevecoeur-en-Auge where we were based, we went on to find two or three each day. To learn their history took longer and was found by a stroke of luck.
In a French magazine we came across a review of a recently published book of photographs simply called Petites Mairies du Pays D’Auge by Éric L’Hotellier and Dominique Guérin.
These modest little buildings were built at the end of the 19th Century and symbolise the adoption of democratic values of the Republic by the rural dwellers of France and to this day it is to the Mairie that local people go to discuss their community affairs and problems.
Later when browsing in a bookshop we found the book but thought that at 20 euros we preferred our own photos rather that the atmospheric, somewhat forbidding black and white photos of the book.
This privately owned Chateau (the house is not open to the public) is famous for its beautiful grounds - a mixture of formally laid out gardens, lakes and streams , woodland and winding paths, ornamental follies and ruins. There is also an organic farm which produces cider and calvados, fruits and vegetables and other produce from the farm. All can be bought in the Farm shop.
We arrived before 2pm thinking that 4 hours would be ample time but we were rained off just as we reached the farm and shop - 10 minutes before closing time. The walks are lovely so to see it all allow plenty of time!
Late September may not be the best time to see the flowers at their best - particularly the series of colour-themed walled gardens - but the autumn tints and light cast by sun low in the sky created a sense of tranquillity which made for a most peaceful visit.
The whole estate was fearfully damaged in WW2. A German hospital was set up in the Chateau and a Panzer Tank Division. An Allied bomb destroyed a major part of the farm buildings, ancient trees were destroyed.
After the war the chateau housed refugees and workers employed on reconstruction of roads and railways. Violent storms in 1987, 1990 and '92, followed by the hurricane of 1999 brought down hundreds of 200 year old trees.
Renovation is ongoing with the help of donations from Heritage Foundations .
Groups of more than 20 people may visit the House on request.
It is only a very short distance from Crevecoeur-en-Auge. Follow the road to Mezidon-Canon and the signs to the entrance, which is at the back of the Chateau, with a parking area outside the gates. NO vehicle entry via the main gate and drive.