21 January 2010

Le Château de Médavy in Normandy

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.

The Château de Médavy, near Argentan in Normandy

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.

Médavy was rebuilt in the 1700s,
on the site of a 12th-century fortress.

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.

The outbuildings at Médavy — stables, barns, servant quarters

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.

At Médavy, the 15th-century « Tour St-Jean » in brick,
with the 18th-century building behind it

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.

At some point, the St. John Tower was converted
into a chapel — note the cross on top.

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.

The 15th-century « Tour St-Pierre » — you can see
how overgrown and patched up it all was.

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.

CHM and I were certainly the only visitors
at Médavy that day in June 2001.

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.

Here's a grand view of the 18th-century château de Médavy.

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.


  1. This post brings back a lot of memories! Just like you, I was a spring chicken then and enjoyed every minute of that trip. Of course, I was only ninety-eight at the time and still going strong. Not anymore. MDR-LOL

    As usual the photos are very good.

  2. chm, would you plan a route for us? It seems you know all the attractions on the back roads (back roads are our specialty). We are happy to take 12 hours for a 4-hour trip if it means seeing 6 chateaux plus a few churches. We wouldn't do it all in one day, though!

  3. Carolyn, over the years, I've given Ken and Walt a few tips about things not to miss when they traveled in France. Whether it was chateaux, churches and the like I had seen with my own eyes or that I knew of from hearsay or pictures in magazines and books.

    Also, it helps if you can read a Michelin map. There is there a lot a information not immediately obvious to the casual eye. Since neither one of us had ever been in that area before, we tried that, Ken and me, on that particular trip and it paid off.

  4. It was a fun day and remains a really good memory. Over the next few days I'll post some more pictures of places we saw on that trip.

  5. Ken, Thanks for posting such nice sunny pictures. I feel exactly like Walt: "Vive le printemps" as the weather we're having right now is getting on my nerves.

    I'm sure you had a lovely journey travelling from Normandy to Vouvray. Come to think of it, we were in the Loire Valley in June 2001 and it was our third annual stay. Maybe we met then without even knowing it. Wow, that's weird, isn't it?

  6. What a great story and wonderful pictures. There's nothing like having the place to yourself !

    Like Martine, I am so pleased to see pictures taken in summer. A reminder that these dark days won't last forever.

  7. That would be a nice little summer cottage.

  8. Looking again at your photos it reminds me the roofs on both towers were damaged by that awful winter storm of 1999 that uprooted a lot of trees notably in the Parc de Versailles and many other places.

  9. "La mauvaise volonté des choses qui nous servent."
    Once again Blogger likes Anonymous better than chm; what can I do?

  10. The summer pictures are beautiful, and what a great place Medavy would be for a ghost--one that wafts around the garden at midsummer, trailing clouds of white organza.

    But your header picture is simply spectacular. Thank you.

  11. CHM, I had forgotten about that storm. That explains the patched rooftops.

    Starman, you must live in a palace.

    Emm, thanks. That was a beautiful day.

  12. CHM, I had forgotten about that storm. That explains the patched rooftops.

    Starman, you must live in a palace.

    Emm, thanks. That was a beautiful day.

  13. My fiancé grew up just down the road from this castle - it was the most ideal childhood!! They used to take a rowboat into the moat and go fishing.

    This chateau has recently been bought and restored, which is wonderful but a bit sad for us... he used to be able to walk around on the grounds without worry, but since they don't know this new owner it isn't the same. Still, we are so glad that it is being restored and saved. Loved your post with all the pictures!

  14. Thanks for the news about Médavy. I'll be up in that area next week and I might have to stop by to see how it's looking.


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