Château d’Ô

A Château Built on Water

Built on the ruins of an ancient fortress, the château d’Ô is a fairytale castle in the centre of a lake, its Renaissance turrets delicately pointing to the sky.

Château d'Ô

Château d’Ô

In the twelfth century, the village of Mortrée in the Orne was at a strategic point on the frontier between the plain of Argentan and the Bocage of Normandy. Long periods of war alternated with times of peace in Normandy, so the nobleman Robert d’Ô constructed a fortress on an islet at a broad point in the Thouanne river, where it would be surrounded by a wide stretch of water on all sides.  Robert d’Ô also accompanied the first Duke of Normandy on crusade to the Holy Land.

Destroyed by the English during the Hundred Years War, the fortress was rebuilt after 1449 by Jehan d’Ô in Gothic and Renaissance styles, the whole structure built on piles driven into the boggy islet. At the rear two round towers flanked the main building.

In the sixteenth century Francis d’Ô completed main building work by adding the two wings of the castle, one of which is an example of Henri IV style.

Château d'Ô

Château d’Ô

Francis d’Ô was Royal Treasurer but was himself almost penniless at his death in 1594 due to his extravagant personal spending; the property was seized by the Crown and auctioned in 1611 to Alexandre de la Guesle, who died heirless. His niece then sold it to Count Luynes who passed it to the Montaigu family. This family did further work on the château d’Ô, including interior decoration.

In the eighteenth century the Rocques family obtained the domain; the Orangery was built in the château grounds outside the moat and the large gallery that connects the main building to the entrance pavilion was rebuilt towards the end of the century.

In 1841, the family of Albon acquired the château and the moats were enlarged in order to reflect the château in its entirety, as we see it today.

Unfortunately the last heir of the Albon family let the château fall into neglect in the late nineteenth century; the castle fell into disrepair and the moat and become a silted tangle of weeds.

In the early 20th century, the château came into the hands of the state and served as a vacation camp for those in need in the Navy and then for children. Uniformly over-painted, the interior of the house became characterless. The former guardroom was transformed into a kitchen.

In the 1970s the latest owner, Jacques de Lacretelle, came across Château d’Ô and fell in love at first sight. In 1973 he and his wife took possession of the estate and they began bringing it back to life. Repair work started aided by grants and practical assistance from public bodies. It took several years to consolidate the walls, renew the moat and restore the château and setting in all its beauty.

The repairs to the interior of the castle led to some singular discoveries. In the large living room behind the painted walls was hidden a huge mural of the nine Muses, gathered around a trompe l’oeil of Apollo. Restoration was carried out by an expert of the Louvre who spent eight months to repair the fresco.

In another room are discovered other trompe l’oeil panels painted to resemble marble.

Upstairs, the large gallery that connects the main building to the Entrance Pavilion is not only made luminous by windows on both sides, but also by chandeliers and huge mirrors that line the gallery between each window.

Mirror Gallery

Mirror Gallery

Château d’Ô is Mortrée, south of Argentan. Free entry and guided tour – don’t forget to tip generously.

You can also visit the nearby Château de Médavy, the village of Camembert and Haras National du Pin.

According to one source the château is open daily July and August from 10am to 12pm and from 2pm to 6pm.In June and September from 2.30pm to 6pm and at Easter and All Saints 2.30pm to 5pm. Closed Tuesdays June and September. More information (French): http://www.patrimoine-normand.com/index-fiche-29738.html

According to another site it is open 31/07/2015 to 09/09/2015 from 10:00-16:00. More information : http://www.normandie-tourisme.fr/pcu/chateau-do/mortree/fiche-PCUNOR061FS0007M-1.html

Given the conflicting information, best check by ringing in advance: Tel : + 33 2 33 39 55 79

“Le Bois du Puits” Garden – revisited

A new garden at Bellême

We visited Le Bois du Puits, a garden near Bellême, in the last weekend of May 2014 and had been looking forward to revisiting a year on to see how it has developed – and boy, has it developed! IMG_0045 IMG_0018 IMG_0028 IMG_0030 IMG_0032

The owners are retired nursery owners who have created the le Bois du Puits garden on the site of their previous business.  Frankly, at 4.5 hectacres (over 13 acres) it is more like a park than a garden but it is packed with interesting trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, dotted with ponds and sculptures.

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There’s something interesting at every turn. All the plants in the garden are labelled with their Latin names – this proved particularly useful as I was able to identify a couple of plants in our own garden whose names I had lost. Over 2000 different plants are grown at Bois du Puits and the area is divided into plots with different themes or specific groups of plants such as acid lovers, a plantation of oaks, bog plants and so on.

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We saw that many of the plants and shrubs had bulked out even in one short year, and we also noticed that a substantial new Italian garden is under construction – the owner claimed it would be ready in two weeks, so we’ll have to go back later in the year to see if he managed this feat, as there looked to be a lot still to do.

Garden Plan

Bois du Puits

Practical Information

Garden Opening Times

Le Bois du Puits is open from May 1 to September 30, Friday / Saturday / Sunday and National Holidays, afternoons from 1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.


Garden entry 2015 is 6€ for adults, under 12s free.


Le Bois du Puits Route de Nogent le Rotrou 61130 SERIGNY

Les Jardins d’Angélique

Montmain, Normandy

Just south and east of Rouen in the small town of Montmain are “les Jardins d’Angélique (Angelica’s Gardens) which we visited in early October 2014.

Les Jardins d’Angélique comprise two wonderful gardens situated in the Normandy countryside .  Originally created by Gloria and Yves Le Bellegard in memory of their daughter Angelica, the two separate gardens are very distinct in character.

South of the manor house is a formal garden with walkways and clipped hedges, Italianate in style with box-edged beds of perennials and ornamental grasses, punctuated by yew topiary and a central fountain.

To the north is a flowing “English-style”  garden, dreamy, romantic, with grassy paths winding between hundreds of  shrubs, plants and trees.

Yves loved roses and the garden contains over 2000 different varieties.  Since her husband’s death, Gloria has continued the task with the help of her daughter Clair.

Benches and seats are thoughtfully dotted throughout les Jardins d’Angélique.  I imagine it is beautiful at any time of year (the images in the slideshow are photos we took in October 2014, just before it closed for the season) but Gloria recommended we come back to visit the garden end of May/early June when the roses are in their first flush. Despite her protestations that it was past its best, we still loved this garden in October.

Opening hours

Open daily except Tuesday 1 may to 15 October, 10am – 7pm. Also Tuesdays in May and June – presumably because this is when the roses are in their first flush.


Route de Lyons

Tel : 02 35 79 08 12

Rouen Bridge Reopens

Pont Mathilde will reopen to traffic at 5pm today, 26th August 2014, 22 months after the important Rouen bridge was damaged in a fire leading to major diversions around Rouen for drivers.

Opening ceremonies will take place on the bridge between 11am and 3pm today before it is cleared and made ready for vehicles to cross.

In October 2012 a petrol tanker crossed the central reservation, crashed and caught fire on the Pont Mathilde; several vehicles beneath the bridge were destroyed in the conflagration and while no-one was seriously injured, the damage to the bridge was severe. Work to repair the bridge had started in September 2013.

In October 2013 the driver of the lorry was given an eight-month suspended sentence for causing the accident.

“Le Bois du Puits” Garden

A New Garden at Bellême

I’ve been meaning to write about le Bois du Puits, a garden only recently opened near Serigny-Bellême, since we visited it the last weekend of May this year, but have been so busy that I’ve only just now got round to it.  The owners are recently retired nursery owners, who decided to create the le Bois du Puits garden on the site of their previous business in order to occupy them in their retirement.  At 4.5 hectacres (over 13 acres)  it is going to be a full-time job!

Le Bois du Puits is a botanical garden, meaning all the plants are labelled with their Latin names. Over 2000 different plants are grown. The whole is sub-divided into different gardens including the “Flirty Garden”, “For the Birds”, “In Mirror” or “Trompe l’oeil”, “Easter Island” and many more.

The garden is very young so as it matures it will rapidly change – it’s good to be in on it at the beginning to see how Bois du Puits will develop.

The time we visited we had experienced some very heavy rainfall and parts of the grounds were soft underfoot – bear it in mind if you go after heavy rainfall!

Garden Plan

Bois du Puits

Practical Information

Garden Opening Times

Le Bois du Puits is open from May 1 to September 30, Friday / Saturday / Sunday and National Holidays, afternoons from 1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.


Garden entry is 6€ for adults, under 12s free.


Le Bois du Puits
Route de Nogent le Rotrou

D-Day Diary 2014

A clear guide to events taking place in Normandy for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day in 2014.

D-Day 2014

D-Day Commemorations 2014

The 2014 D-Day anniversary will be marked by a large number of commemorations and festivities including firework displays, parades, parachute drops, recreation of military camps, musical concerts and more. In addition to those described here, there are commemorative ceremonies and the laying of wreaths (“depot de gerbe”) in towns up and down the coast on 6th June.

June 2014: Special Events for D-Day 70th Anniversary

31 May – 9th June: Military Camp Reconstruction

Military camp and display of vehicles at Sainte-Marie-du-Mont: afternoons only.
Club du Souvenir Militaire – 02 33 71 56 54

31 May – 10th June: Reconstruction of Camp Méautis

Reconstruction of the “Bloody Gulch” camp at the Manoir de Donville
Click here for more information

1 – 8 June 2014, 9am to 7pm: Reconstruction of American Air Force Camp: Sainte-Mère-Eglise

Camp reconstruction representing the American airborne forces in Normandy.
Demonstration of equipment, vehicles and more than a hundred participants in period costume. Featuring a field hospital, communications post and a field cinema.

4th – 11th June: Military Vehicle Encampment at Hillman Bunker, Colleville-Montgomery

A large camp of WW2 military vehicles and the reconstruction of a WW2 field camp. Also chance to visit the restored Hillman bunker. Organised by the Friends of Suffolk Regiment.
Click here for more information

4th – 8th June: Parachute drops from DC-3/C47 aircraft, various sites

Memorial parachuting from a large number of Douglas DC-3/C47: the aircraft arrive directly from England under the “Dakotas over Normandy” programme.

  • June 4 2014 at 14h in the area of Ouve Bridge, Carentan
  • 5 and 6 June 2014 at 19:30 at the Museum of Utah Beach, Sainte-Marie-du-Mont
  • 5 and 6 June 2014 at 22h at Foucarville Prison Camp
  • 6 June 2014 behind the community hall of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont
  • 7 June 2014 at 14h at the Hangar Site of Ecausseville
  • 8 June 2014 at 9:30 am at Sainte-Mère-Eglise

More info: Round Canopy Parachuting Team Website

5th June: Coastal Fireworks: displays at 24 towns along the D-Day Landing Beaches

24 major firework displays synchronised between all the 24 mains sites of the D-Day Landings
Click here for more information

5th – 9th June: Concerts for Freedom: Caen, Sainte-Mère-Eglise, Sées, Lisieux, Cherbourg

A musical evening with the regional orchestra of Lower Normandy featuring 150 young musicians playing the Mass for Peace by Karl-William Jenkins; illustrated with images from the archives of Caen Memorial.
Click here for more information

6th – 8th June: Reconstruction of a British military camp: “Gold Beach Camp” at Ver-sur-Mer

Reconstruction of a British military camp by the “Gold Beach 60 Years On” Association. The re-enactors wear the uniforms of the Royal Navy, Army and Air Force. Regiments who landed on Gold Beach King will receive awards.
Click here for more information

6th June: IMAX film ‘D-Day Normandy 1944’: Zénith, Caen, Calvados

40 minute 3-D IMAX film on the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy
Click here for more information

7th June: Procession of military vehicles: Grandcamp-Maisy & Isigny-sur-Mer, Calvados

Procession of Jeeps, Dodges, GMCs together with heavy equipment (14:00)
Click here for more information

7th June: Fireworks display: Sainte-Mère-Eglise, Manche

On the Place de l’Eglise
Click here for more information

7th – 9th June: Liberation Tattoo: Zénith, Caen

First military music festival bringing together 650 French, Belgian, Canadian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, British, American and German musicians
Click here for more information

8th June: International Parachute Jump: La Fière, Sainte-Mère-Eglise, Manche

Major military and civilian parachute drops on this 1944 drop zone
Click here for more information

D-Day Normandy Beaches

D-Day Normandy Beaches

Further Exhibitions concerning D-Day 70th Anniversary 2014

Until October: ‘Leaving the War behind. From the Battle of Normandy through to Reconstruction’ exhibition: Calvados

Travelling exhibition visiting 14 towns, bringing together local inhabitants and those who lived through the war, plus lectures and various events
Click here for more information

Until October: ‘Cherbourg… and Freedom came from the Sea’: La Cité de la Mer, Cherbourg

Photo exhibition showing American troops in the days following the liberation of the port of Cherbourg
Click here for more information

Until December: ‘Grandma what was it like during the war?’ exhibition: Juno Beach Centre, Courseulles-sur-Mer

War-time experiences of Norman and Canadian civilians, mainly of children, from 1940 to 1944
Click here for more information

Until December: ‘100 objects from the 100 days of the Battle of Normandy’ exhibition: Caen Memorial

This exhibition recounts the conflict which led to the Liberation of Paris and Western Europe putting the emphasis on objects which are remarkable or previously unseen
Click here for more information

World Equestrian Games 2014 Normandy


Tickets for the World Equestrian Games 2014 go on sale to the general public from 19th November 2013 – at the moment tickets are only available to members of the French equestrian bodies such as the FFE and FFP, games sponsors and equestrian clubs.

Tickets can be bought online directly from the organisers at this site: https://ticket.jemfeialltech2014normandie.fr/

Calendar of Events

The World Equestrian Games opening ceremony takes place on Saturday 23rd August 2014, with competition starting on Monday 25th August running through until the closing ceremony on Sunday 7th September 2014.  The individual disciplines comprise:

  • Carriage driving
  • Eventing
  • Dressage
  • Endurance
  • Para Dressage
  • Polo
  • Reining
  • Show jumping
  • Vaulting

In addition, Horseball – football on horseback –  will feature as a display event.


The venues are :

  • Caen
  • Deauville
  • Sartilly (Mont St Michel)
  • Haras du Pin (which is also the National Horse Stud Farm)

The Haras du Pin is the closest 2014 World Equestrian Game venue to us, though we are also only 1.5 hours from Caen.  The Haras is hosting the prestigious “Eventing” discipline – an equestrian triathlon, eventing combines show-jumping, dressage and a cross-country. For the cross-country test, the competitors must jump obstacles spread out over an all terrain course of 6.5km at an average speed of 35kph (20mph).

World Equestrian Games 2014 Accommodation

La Basse Cour is near Alençon in the Orne department of Normandy and offers “chambres d’hôtes” – this is like “bed and breakfast” in Britain and other English-speaking countries.  If you prefer self catering accommodation then in French this is “gîte rural” (pl. “gîtes ruraux”) – please consult the Gites de France website.

La Basse Cour B&B accommodation is 50km or half an hour from the Haras du Pin venue for the Equestrian Games 2014.


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