10 June 2015

Bellême and Alençon

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.


  1. The best is the charming old church

  2. Too bad the weather wasn't cooperating. But the touring was very pleasant, as well as the visit with my old friend's son and daughter in law. We reminisced a lot!

  3. The chateau/hotel is lovely. Looks like the same time perior and/or style as Cheverny.

    Is that chm headed for the front door?

    Alençon certainly is a pretty town with that Norman half-timber architecture. It's a shame it has lost its main employer.

    1. That is indeed CHM, trying to get in out of the rain!

  4. I like the neat little allotments in the first picture...
    each with its own shed... every man needs a shed!!
    And this blog is becoming like a camera review, Ken....
    you'll have to start putting the camera each picture was take with as a caption... ;-)
    You had a case of Panasonic Panic...
    or Lumix Withdrawl Syndrome!!
    It is interesting how different cameras in the same brand can differ so much...
    it makes choice, via t'Interweb, very difficult...
    but, are you going to ditch the Canon??

    And I agree with Diogenes... losing the main source of employment is an absolute disaster...
    the coal towns of South and West Yorkshire are just shells now...
    not quite ghost towns, but most without a pub or Working Mens Club...
    not enough people to support them...
    and in quite a few cases, no village shop or Post Office.

  5. We know that scene in Alencon. We arrived by chance due to the fact that we cancelled our hotel in LeMans as we were given a shocking hotel room. The LeMans MC GP was on and as we booked many months ahead at a discounted price, we were given a ghastly room. We found Alencon delightful for an overnight stay.

  6. What a gorgeous building that hotel is. Lovely stone, great proportions, and a feeling of solidity.

    I think that's actually why we go to France--for the architecture.

    Alencon's downtown is sad. Plenty of shops but no shoppers. At the same time, the outlying big box stores are packing them in, which makes me wonder how long the old center will be viable.

  7. I'm glad you have the right camera now! That hotel is beautiful even in the rain.


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