Monday, May 14, 2012

Le Pays d'Auge: Falaise, a Market, Coupesarte

A full-value day: five "things" in the end, four of them good to excellent.


The plan in the town of Falaise was to visit the Musée des Automates and take a quick look at William the Conqueror's home castle, but a church intruded.

The Musée des Automates commemorates the automated displays produced by Gaston Decamps for the major Paris department stores in the first half of the 20th century. Each year the stores competed to have the most elaborate and amusing animated scenes at Christmas. A number of these displays have been restored and put on view in simulated store windows on a simulated street.

Overview of the street of shop windows.

"Tour de France and the pigs," based on an actual event; 1936

OK, on to the castle, where we easily found parking owing to it only being 10:30, hah! Next to the car park, the church of the trinity and a dramatic sculpture of William the Conqueror.

Paused to read the info board in front of the church, which says the choir has a "magnificent chestnut ceiling." Wut? Have to see this.

They did not lie. David did, on his back on a stone floor, to get this shot.

Detail of magnificent ceiling.

Took only a hasty look at the outside of the castle.

W. the C. says, "Get out of town!"


Next up, market day in St-Pierre-sur-Dives, where a large and busy market is held in and around three sides of a medieval market hall. This structure is of wood, and did not survive the Battle of Normandy, but just a few years later the townspeople rebuilt the hall using the same materials and construction techniques (joinery and wooden pegs).

We lucked into a parking space three from the edge of the marketplace (parking is difficult anywhere on market day).

The market hall and about 1/20th of the surrounding open marketplace...

... where many things were for sale, including a blue-eyed goose.

Interior of hall showing construction technique.

We bought sausage and a Charentais melon and some oranges, and a small baguette from a nearby baker, and ate lunch on a bench in a tiny park. Then gave up our fabulous parking spot and went on.


On, to the town of Livarot where we visited a cheese factory.

Norman cows working on cheese materials for Livarot, in the distance.

Fromagerie Graindorge has been making cheese here since 1910, now under management of the third generation of Graindorges. Big, extremely modern factory full of stainless steel tanks and plumbing, offers a well-designed automated tour ending (of course) in the boutique where you can buy cheese and cheese-related things.

Most interesting factoid? The appelation-controlled Livarot cheese has to be wrapped in a reed, the traditional way of keeping its shape during shipment.

Ladies hand-bind each and every cheese in reeds cut on the property.

In the end David found the Livarot not to his taste, and we'd already had some Camembert, which doesn't travel well in a warm car, so we bought a small Pont l'Evêque for future lunches and sped onward.


Onward to look up another of the stately homes from Catherine's book, the Manoir de Coupesarte. Unlike the one we looked at yesterday, this stately home is open for exterior viewing, meaning you are free to walk into the yard and all around the house and take pictures. And it is worth spending some pixels on.

Do click through and revel in half-timbered beauty.

Later we learned that when a half-timbered building has the spaces filled with small tiles like these, they are broken or rejected roof tiles. The masons would take pains to position them for artistic effect.

A few more details of this extaordinary building. Alas we can only speculate what it's like inside. (Probably totally modern.)

Dormer window.

One of two corner towers.

Finally we visited Château Crèvecoeur-en-Auge, a reconstructed medieval manor farm. It consists of several nicely-restored buildings within an original moat, and a Lord's keep on a Motte (mound surrounded by moat). The buildings are pretty and there was an informative video about half-timbered construction methods. However, there really wasn't much of interest besides. The family that owns it has a history in oil discovery, and some of the buildings contain exhibits related to this, no English translations. So, we headed on home well satisfied with most of the day's "things". Tomorrow: transfer to Avranches!

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