The next town we got to was Bellême (pop. 1,600 — it feels much larger). Walt and I visited Bellême with friends Evelyn, Lewis, and Marie in 2011. Here are some posts about the town and the area, and just below is a photo I managed to take between rain showers last Sunday as we neared the town. CHM and I drove around in Bellême for 15 or 20 minutes, but it was raining, and on a Sunday afternoon nearly everything was shut up tight. It's a pretty town, though, and merits a visit on a dry day.
By about 4:00 p.m. we arrived in Saint-Paterne, a small place just outside the city of Alençon (metro. pop. 68,000) in lower Normandy. Saint-Paterne is where the son of an old friend of CHM's owns and operates a hotel-restaurant or maison d'hôtel (link). It's in an old château and has 17 bedrooms to rent out as well as a large living room, a dining room, and a swimming pool set in a large private park, all for the enjoyment of its clients.
We spent an hour or so talking with the owner-operator, whose name is Charles-Henry de Valbray. He not only runs the hotel and restaurant, with his épouse Ségolène, but he has also co-authored a couple of cookbooks. He told me that he spent a year in California as a student some years ago, and he and his wife both speak English. Most of the hotel's clients are British or American, he said.
Next door to the château at Saint-Paterne is this old stone church
CHM and I also visited the city of Alençon that afternoon. It was wet, and as I have said, everything was shut up tight. Charles-Henry de Valbray told us that the city has fallen on hard times since one of its biggest employers, the Moulinex home-appliances firm, shut down a few years ago. In the photo above, that's my Citroën parked under the red awning, with CHM sitting in it while I braved the rain to take a few photos of the old town and the church.
P.S. I got another new camera. The Canon is good but I just haven't been able to get over pining for my old Panasonic Lumix. So I bought myself a new Panasonic, the Lumix DMC-TZ60. That's the European model number. In the U.S., it's called the Lumix DMC-ZS40.