Touring the region

Woke up feeling fine. Mirinda said my temperature rose to nuclear levels in the night. Oddly I didn’t feel at all hungry. Meanwhile our landlords had gone away for a week, so we had the place to ourselves. It’s a pity they didn’t give us the keys to the big house as a parting gift!

After a leisurely hang-around-the-poxy-gite-while-clothes-try-to-dry time, we went into Orbec for a wander and a coffee. Down passed the church is a road that leads to a mill and a picnic area. Tracks follow the Orbecquoise river back to the town.

The Orbecquoise

The Orbecquoise

The whole place felt derelict today with very few people and the houses seemingly empty. Perhaps it was my vomit. Tiny little back streets look like the revolution only passed through a few hours ago.

We then set off for Mirinda’s first long drive on the wrong wide of the road. And it’s obviously wrong because the roundabouts go anti-clockwise!

We headed up to St-Germain-de-Livet, a 15th century chateau that looks like a tiny fairy tale castle, nestling in a little valley. In the front of the chateau is a lovely orderly garden alive with peacocks. One particularly randy peacock kept opening his tail to any female who’d bother to look. To be fair, it only seemed to impress the humans, the female peacocks looking singularly unimpressed.

Chateau St Germain de Livet

Chateau St Germain de Livet

We joined a tour of the chateau. After the guide asked, in French, if anyone DIDN’T speak French, he handed us English booklets explaining most of the rooms as it was all in French. In the guardroom are frescoes around the walls. Two that stand out are Judith with Holoferne’s head on his sword and Salome with John the Baptist’s head on a plate. I think the guards had a thing for killer woman.

This is the oldest part of the chateau, dating from the 15th century. The frescoes are of 16th century origin. Throughout the building are scattered many examples of fine furniture, dating from Louis XIII to Louis XVI to Aubusson.

At one stage the house belonged to Leon Riesener, the artist cousin of Delacroix, who claimed Leon was the originator of the impressionist movement. His daughter was also a dab hand with the brush, until she married and gave it up to devote herself to her hubby. I would have liked to have learned more about the origins of the house but the booklet didn’t go into any depth. I have found out, however, that it was bequeathed to Lisieux in 1957 but by whom and why, I cannot say.

Opposite the house is a churchyard full of little plaques telling the folkloric meaning of various flowers as they relate to the church calendar. Of particular note is the local tradition of “shooting the bouquet“. I can’t remember when this happened but a bouquet would be placed on top of a pole and the men would shoot at it. Flowers that fell would be given to the eligible females.

We drove back via Livarot (the home of the cheese museum), stopping off at Preaux St Sebastien, which is supposed to be a pilgrimage site. It is a church which was closed – something to do with Easter I guess – with what appears to be an excellent stained glass window of St Seb being stoned and tied to a tree.

Preaux St Sebastien, closed for Easter

Preaux St Sebastien, closed for Easter

We wandered round the church – there’s a couple of houses there as well but nothing you could call a town – and noticed in a little room that the nearby town of Notre-Dame-de-Coursin is twinned with Sandford-Peverill in Devon due to a mug with the same printed on the side. We then drove off.

Mirinda wanted to see a forest so we headed for Bernay without realising it is twinned with our very own Haslemere! We drove through Foret de Beaumont, which was lovely, then back to the gite, which was not.

I didn’t eat as I was still a tad delicate. Mirinda had an old bit of pizza. We made some extreme plans for the next day.

Click here for a list of things wrong with the gite.

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