28 August 2011

The gîte near Mortagne

The gîte rural is located at a place called La Bouée, on the territory of the commune (township) of Coulimer and eight kilometers south of the town called Mortagne-au-Perche. Le Perche is the name of the old province. It's the lower edge of Normandy, squeezed in just above the Loire Valley and the Beauce wheat-growing region southwest of Paris. It's three hours north of Saint-Aignan.

La Bouée, near Mortagne-au-Perche

La Bouée is about a mile off the main road, the D931, from Mortagne to Mamers, and a few miles south of a village called Parfondeval ("By the Valley Bottom"). You turn off onto a narrow paved lane, go about a mile, and then turn left onto a gravel path. It goes up for a few hundred meters through a "tunnel" of overhanging tree limbs and you arrive at the house. It is nearly totally isolated. There's one other house on the lane, out near the main road. It's a big farm. There are two other houses at the end of the paved lane, but they're far enough away to remain unseen.

A view of the house and barn from down on the road.
Walt built a fire in the fireplace Wednesday afternoon.

I wondered about the name La Bouée. A bouée is a buoy — what's called a "sea buoy" on the North Carolina coast, where I grew up. It's a kind of floating channel marker that helps ship captains navigate dangerous waters, find their way into port, and avoid sandbars and reefs. Why would a place out in the middle of farm and horse country be called "The Buoy"?

Marie and Callie walking down the road toward daylight

The woman who owns and operates the house called La Bouée as a gîte rural — a furnished vacation rental, we would call it, or, in British, a self-catering holiday accommodation — gave me an answer. The house was home to several hermits, or monks, 200 or 300 years ago. It had a connection with an abbey —in French, une abbaye, pronounced [ah-bay-EE]. It's not far, phonetically, from l'abbaye [lah-bay-EE] to la bouée [lah-boo-AY], and the local pronunciation ended up changing the name in an unexpected way. That's what she said.

Another view of the road out

The house is isolated, so you have to drive everywhere (except for walks with the dog). The big town, Mortagne (pop. 5,000), is five miles north, with shops, restaurants, cafés, and supermarkets. The village of Coulimer is three miles west, but there's no bakery there, only a little grocery store. When we tried to buy bread in the store, we were told there was none available. We could see half a baguette on the bread shelf, but it must have already been spoken for. North, at Parfondeval, we saw no shops at all.

The barn as you arrive at La Bouée

The house itself is an old stone farmhouse with two large bedrooms, a small kitchen, a decent-size living/dining room, and a bathroom downstairs. A third bedroom (smaller) and second bathroom (more modern) are upstairs. The kitchen is well equipped, and there is plenty of hot water. There are three fireplaces in the house, and we used the big one in the living room. There's an old stone barn right next to the house. This year, the whole property is surrounded by fields of tall corn.

The barn at La Bouée, right out the living room door

We enjoyed it, despite the fact that there was no internet connection or cell phone signal. That took some getting used to. It was very quiet. Staying there for a few days made us realize how much we have come to depend on being able to look up everything, from words to maps to tourist information, on the web. We had to go to the tourist office in Mortagne to get a wifi connection and an internet fix.

The old house named La Bouée

I'm back in Saint-Aignan now. And BTW, my family in N.C. is fine as far as I know. I talked to my mother yesterday at about noon her time. She said there was a lot of wind and rain, but nothing terrifying. The worst problem was that the electricity had gone off so she couldn't make coffee or cook — or use AC or heat or look at blogs. It's a big pain when the power is off. I'll call again in a few hours and get an update.


  1. Glad to hear your mother is fine.

  2. When I heard that Irene made landfall near Morehead City, I was concerned for your mother and am relieved to hear that she and the rest of your family are okay.

    We've been getting blustery rain for hours but nothing worse.

  3. The East coast is so lucky Irene is not a hurricane anymore but still powerful enough to wreak havoc. Glad to know your family is OK.
    La Bouée is so typic. Would you go back again in the same spot?

  4. I'm glad your family is no longer in harm's way, and don't want to downplay the dangers of extreme weather, but I laughed a lot yesterday reading this on facebook, "As Hurricane Irene batters the East Coast, federal disaster officials have warned that Internet outages could force people to interact with other people and neighbors for the first time in years. Residents are bracing themselves for the horror of awkward silences & unwanted eye contact. FEMA has advised: “Be prepared. Write down possible topics to talk about in advance. Sports, the weather. Remember, a conversation is basically a series of Facebook updates strung together.”

  5. LOL, Kristi. Thanks for that.

    My mother says that one of her neighbors had a can of sterno, so they succeeded in heating up some water and making a few cups of coffee.

    Nadège, yes, I would like to go back to La Bouée and to le Perche. Bellême and Mortagne are beautiful. I didn't get to go to Nogent-le-Rotrou, which was the place I really wanted to see. Next time...

    Carolyn, le Perche was fantastic. The Haras du Pin and Carrouges, along with Mortagne and Bellême, were our highlights.

    Susan, merci.

  6. What a lovely vacation! It is fun, and a bit shocking, to be out of range of...everything. Even bread. Yikes.

    We're glad to hear that all is well in NC.

  7. I'm glad your mom and the rest of the family are okay, and really enjoyed the updates about the Perche trip :) I hope the power is back on soon for your mom.


  8. Glad to hear your mom is fine. A bit sobering isn't it when we are deprived of our gizmos. Think I'd have to go for an occasional internet fix too :-)

  9. Nice photos, Ken. We really slept well in that farm house, didn't we?

    So glad your mom is Ok and got some coffee.

  10. Interesting blog about the gite. So very green there.
    I'm glad to hear your mother and her house are OK.

  11. By the time the storm got to my relatives in Delaware, it had pretty much lost most of its power, so I can't imagine why NYC is having such a problem with it.

  12. Whew! Another weather crisis that is pretty much done. I, too, am happy your Mother is over the dreadful part and is now only dealing with minor inconveniences.

    How desperate did you all get without your techie toys? Did you play charades? play cards? tell ghost stories, pop corn?

    Sounds like you had a truly quiet vacation! Glad you are back home safely.

    Mary in Oregon

  13. It looks beautiful and restful I've not yet stayed in a Normandy farmhouse but I think I'd rather enjoy it. No web would take a bit of getting used to though (I know, that's pretty sad!)

  14. Glad you mom's OK. I was thinking of her when they said landfall would be at Morehead City.

  15. Added to Starman, the storm was very slow-moving and dumped huge amounts of rain on NY, with sea surges, and on New England, with reultant flooding. If you have any spare prayers around, use them for Vermont, which has been devastated.

  16. Hey! My name is Julie. My husband (Kasper) and I bought this house 8 years ago. I've already seen your blog then.. But now I came across it again and I wanted to let you know that it got sold and we slowly but surely repairing it. Internet is still a struggle! We had a parabole, satellite connection that went down after the invasion in Ukraine, now it's a 4G connection that works on and off 😊. If you would ever want to come back to France and see Nogent le rotrou, please come by and have a look at the changes we have done! (we had a house fire 5 years ago, so the roof was the first thing we had done). Loving greetings, Julie (and Kasper)


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