The first thing Walt said to me this morning, as he was coming down the stairs on his way out to take a walk with the dog, was: "Okay, I'm tired of winter now." So am I. That feeling sent me back — way back — in search of summertime memories and photos.
It was 2001 — June. We had spent a week in Vouvray, about 30 miles from Saint-Aignan, in a gîte rural, a vacation rental, that we really were comfortable in. We were traveling with our friend Cheryl, and the three of us had flown over to the Loire Valley from California for a two-week vacation. The weather was gorgeous. We were lucky, and we were enjoying ourselves.
Nine years ago — I can't believe it. I was "only" 52 years old then, a veritable spring chicken. That trip to Vouvray was the second time Walt and I had stayed in the same gîte and toured around the Loire Valley, and it turned out to be a pivotal moment. Just a year and a half later, we ended up buying our house in Saint-Aignan, because we liked the area so much. We sold everything and left California behind.
After that first week in Vouvray in June 2001, I drove Cheryl up to Paris, where she wanted to spend a week on her own, and picked up CHM, who was in France for the summer. He and I drove on up to Rouen to visit friends there for a couple of days. Walt stayed in Vouvray at the gîte, because he was enjoying just being there, relaxing, and watching the French Open tennis tournament on TV.
CHM and I left Rouen on a Monday morning to do the four-hour drive back to Vouvray. I called Walt and told him to expect us for a late lunch. CHM had planned out an itinerary, and there were at least six châteaux and a couple of churches we wanted to see on our way back through Normandy to the Touraine, not to mention a few towns and villages.
Needless to say, we didn't make it to Vouvray by early afternoon. In fact, the "four-hour drive" took us nearly 12 hours. CHM and I were lost on little winding roads and narrow village streets a lot of the time. But it was a beautiful day, and it would have been a shame not to take advantage of the good weather to see the beautiful sights and scenery all along the way. We ended up having a two-hour lunch in a typical old-fashioned French restaurant in some little village near Argentan or Alençon.
It became downright comical, because I would call Walt from a phone booth every couple of hours all through the day and say, well, don't expect us before 2:00, and then 4:00, and then 6:00, and finally 8:00 or 8:30 p.m. We still laugh about it today.
One of the places we visited along the way was the Château de Médavy, which is in a village by that name near the big town of Argentan. I had never heard of it. I don't think the château was open to the public that day, but we stopped anyway and walked up to the front gate. A man came out, and CHM asked him if we might walk around the château grounds and take some pictures. "We've come all the way from California to see your château," he said, approximately, "and this is our only chance. Please let us come in."
Okay, come on in, the man said. CHM is very good at gaining entrance to otherwise private properties by explaining politely what the situation is... and using a little ingenuity.
According the the little bit of information about Médavy and its château that I've found on the Internet, the current buildings there were built in the early 1700s on the site of the ruins of an ancient fortress. Hugues de Médavy, the earliest known lord of the domain, was the gouverneur d'Alençon as early as the year 1113. Two 15th century towers, one converted into a chapel, remain on the château grounds. There's an old moat with three bridges over it, and the château is surrounded by formal French-style gardens.
None of it was in very good repair, however, and the gardens and buildings were a little overgrown in some places. But that just contributed to the charm of the site and the moment.