Omaha Beach located on the coast of Normandy (France) is synonymous with the Allied invasion of occupied France in June 1944 and rightly so. Many remnants and museums line the rolling hills and ocean floors of this region, as a token of our history.
Facing the English Channel, this 5-mile (8km) stretch bordered by a limited number of inconspicuous homes (fishermen’s cabins still apparent) and bound on either side by lush rocky cliffs is to me a place of bliss and inspiration…
Deserted most of the year (n/a from May – September), I have spent countless hours on our friends’ teak porch spotting the first trotters on the imprint-free beach at low tide, contemplating the unobstructed horizon, following the flocks of birds as they ride the waves or dive for their prey. A place to disconnect (or re-connect) – in fact mobile access is scanty!
We enjoy : a rare excursion to la criée at Grandcamp (authentic) or Port en Bessin (more touristy) seaports Saturday mornings to pick from the local catch of the sea ; having a crêpe with a bolée of cider (local specialty – and bringing home a few bottles from a local farm is even more fun) post-visit of the cathedral (or tapestries) in the historical city of Bayeux after the market ; and shrimp fishing at low tide (frying live shrimp in a pan with heavy salt, a handful of parsley and a sprinkle of whiskey is GRAND!).
First time visitors of this historic region should stretch their itinerary out to the Mont Saint Michel, one of the wonders of the Western World.
This weekend, we had the immense treat of discovering a private property (its Marais are hunting grounds for our friends) a few miles inland and dominated by the Château de Colombières, a classified Historical Monument dating back to 1147 under Lord Philippe de Colombières.
Our host, Count de Maupeou, led us through the living areas of their home (in his wife’s family since more than 300 years), with parts dating back to the 14th Century including period furniture (not the beds or amenities, rest assured!). I visited 2 suites and a room available on B&B basis – not a single indicator of the hospitality industry had been apparent – j’adore.
I got a kick from the avant-garde leopard carpet lining the stone staircase in one of the towers, the kitchenette installed inside an antique armoir, and I was amazed by the soundlessness preserved by the 2,7m thick walls and 10m high ceilings – despite his grand children playing outside. The beautiful medieval wooden staircase leading to the two suites in another tower, as well as the original tiles and tainted glass in one bathroom provide additional flare from bygone artisanship. And what I loved most was the presumption-free vibe to it all as he retorted with a smile to my inquisitive questions « neither hotel nor phone services» : bienvenue au Château !
Bienvenue au Château is a non-profit association created 21 years ago to help protect and enhance private châteaux, manors and historic homes on the western coast of France – expanding to the central region and Paris area. I was thrilled to discover this first gem, and can’t wait to explore more…
la VF arrive!