meta name="p:domain_verify" content="8b08da541f8a920e6 Marie Z Johnston: Chasing Normandy

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chasing Normandy

Having spent many a childhood summer on the vast and dramatic Normandy coastline, it wasn't difficult to say 'YES' when invited along on an expedition to the area. The purpose of this trip?  To locate, once and for all, a lovely little 'Folie' (maddness) built as a hunting lodge for Louis XV that my friend had seen in a book and obsessed about ever since!

View of the moat at Chateau d'Hartcourt
Entering the grounds of the Chateau d'Harcourt
'medieval' stairway
We really had no plan, just a general idea of the direction we were headed in and a desire to see as many chateaux as we could, time permitting. Our first stop was the 12th century Chateau d'Hartcourt.  An impressive example of medieval architecture, this chateau not only is one of the few remaining examples of it's kind, it is also home to the oldest arboretum in France with 230 acres of trees and walking paths.

View from the chateau to the garden
Wandering paths and inviting benches of the arboretum
Gates in the walls to lure you deeper in the forest
Mind you this was a spontaneous stop on the way to ferreting out the 'folie', and while quite an impressive place, it was not the chateau Elissa (of The Traveling Pear) had in mind.  We climbed back in the car and set off to find the 'nearby' hamlet where said illusive chateau is perhaps in hiding.  Elissa had done her homework well! After a couple of false starts we eventually found ourselves on the Rue du Chateau and there, behind a massive, locked gate and a bank of trees, we could just make it out.

Glimpsing the infamous 'folie' amongst the trees
After driving around and around the property trying to find a way in better view of the place, we saw something red on the road, in the distance by the main gate. Given that we were driving and the something red was walking, it took but a moment for our big grey van to pull up beside a red haired woman in a red jacket with three dogs.  A few moments of conversation, a couple of questions answered and lots of big smiles later we were standing smack in front of the 'folie' with Constanze and her friendly canine companions.

Elissa and the 'folie'

Pan before the fountain
An ancient tree on the property
To our surprise and amazement, Constanze invited us in (provided we removed our shoes which we gladly did) she then gave us a grand tour from the 'cave/cuisine' to the tippy top bedrooms.  Each room was more fantastic than the next, some had the original painted and gilded wood paneling complete with portraits of people who must have loved the house in times past.  "Madame', who owns the place, is obsessed with the 18th century and some 25 years ago spent a great deal of time, effort and money recreating the 18th century in this gracious retreat not too far from Paris.

The kitchen in 'la cave'
The spiral staircase cares not a lick for windows
another view of the spiral staircase
Constanze allowed us to take as many photos as we wanted, that said, we promised her not to publish anything particularly identifying or revealing.  So the images I am sharing with you, my readers, are only some of the beautiful details of this rather  fantastic house.
Details, details
The chandeliers were true crystal pieces, turned a lovely shade of violet
The yellow room through the grey rooms door
 After viewing the house, we put our shoes back on our (now frozen) dusty feet and Constanze took us to see the much older towers standing guard independently of the house and to meet her sheep.

Open to the elements, the stone walls have turned mossy
Ancient graffiti - a sketch of the village church.  Was this a stonemason's home?
Constanze and her sheep
The sun was getting low and we had kilometres to go before reaching our bed for the night. Tomorrow was to be another day of Chasing Chateaux and a visit to Omaha beach.
We said good-bye to Constanze, the sheep and the dogs and headed off, literally, into the sunset.

Horse stables of the 'folie'
A grand and satisfying adventure to be sure.... and more to come.

A Bientot,

PS:  The Folie is for sale.  If you are interested, drop me an email, I'll put you in contact with the right people.


Partager Paris said...

What a wonderful adventure!

Dawne said...

This sounds like the Ultimate Road Trip!!! I'm so, so glad you took a photo of the kitchen! I have collected photos of all the other rooms over the years, but have never seen the kitchen [ I understand that there are two, according to an article in in AD in 2001.] Kudos to you girls for your Nancy Drew spirit!!

Marie Z said...

@ Dawne: Yes, there is another kitchen 'a l'etage' but as Constanze warned us, it's dated Ikea. Practical but unattractive. Very out of place...

Mark Craft said...

What a great adventure, and a lovely story. Thanks for the wonderfully evocative photos, too.

Elissa said...

I've read this blog a dozen times...because I still can't believe we did it! I get to relive the moment over and over again...Thanks Marie for posting. BTW working on another 2 follies to chase ready?

ChaumiereLesIris said...

What a story! We visited Harcourt recently - a perfect castle - wonderful, but without the added interest of your visit!

ChaumiereLesIris said...

Oh, and out of pure curiousity, would love to know the what this wonderful building is being offered for?

Marie Z Johnston said...

Hello there 'Chaumiere',
We were quoted 850,000E - which truthfully, is an absurd price given the overall condition of the house and the complete lack of modern amenities (like heat and bathrooms). Plus it's in a part of France that gets so little sun you can't grow tomatoes! We loved visiting the place but live there? Not I.