Like many independent Catholic travelers, we like to try unusual things. Although staying in a chateau is not terribly unusual, it was the first time for us and therefore we considered it outside the norm. For some reason, we just don’t seem that keen on B&B’s. Can’t explain it—just prefer hotels. Perhaps we feel less privacy when staying in someone else’s house rather than a hotel. So when planning a trip to Normandy (mainly the Catholic pilgrimage site of Pontmain, Mont St. Michel & the D-Day beaches) we decided to try a chateau just to see what it was like. We hopped a train (our favorite way to travel in Europe) from Paris to Lisieux to visit the Shrine of Saint Therese of Lisieux. It’s only a little over an hour by train and so we spent a day there and then caught the high-speed TGV to the city of Rennes near the Normandy coast where we picked up our rental car. From here it was a short drive to the Chateau de Bouceel, our choice for this trip.
As you can see, the setting was like something out of Downton Abbey (minus the staff & the British accent). The chateau itself was beautifully maintained and definitely had atmosphere. The chateau briefly housed the German army officers for a few months in the summer of 1940 but they later moved elsewhere since the chateau did not have electricity at that time. The owner pointed out the front steps where his father, as a member of the French Resistance in World War II, was arrested by the Gestapo and was due to be shipped off to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp where he would no doubt be executed. However, the rail lines had been bombed and since by now the Allies had landed on the Normandy beaches he eventually was freed by the Allies. With all this history, staying here was a unique experience.
We had a car and made day trips to nearby Mont St Michel, the Normandy Beaches and Pontmain among other sites.
Our host had a book of cartoons (in French), the cover of which is shown below, detailing his father’s experiences during the war which he signed as follows:
To the brave young heroes from the U.S., Canada, England, Australia….who gave their life and without whom my dad wouldn’t have come back, this book wouldn’t exist….I wouldn’t be here to sign it.
Let’s never forget!
People who prefer a chateau or B& B cite advantages such as individually decorated rooms, direct contact with the owners or the chance to mingle with other independent travelers.
Those who prefer hotels cite the more flexible check-in times (often you cannot come and go as easily), more anonymity, usually a restaurant on the premises. So I guess it is just a matter of taste.
Certainly, in our case, the chateau fulfilled all our expectations and then some.
How about you? Do you have any experiences you would like to share with everyone?