Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Thursday, 4 March 2010


During one of our early travels to Normandy in the early 90-ties, we only had a general Michelin road map covering the whole of France. Compared to today’s standards it was very rudimentary. And yet, in spite of these limited means of navigation, we hardly ever got lost. Except this one time.

We were driving around through the countryside and I was doing the map reading. My friend, who has a solid military background, has taught me how to do it and over the years I have become quite good at it. It was a nice and sunny day and we were looking for Balleroy castle. Maybe you know it or have visited it yourself. We had been following a ‘route Nationale’ (N) for a while when a signpost with the name of the château instructed us to turn right. The large ‘route Nationale’ became a ‘Départementale’ (D), which very soon turned into an even narrower ‘route Communale’ (C). Pretty soon it became a dust road that let us straight into the woods and fields.

The neatly trimmed and manicured gardens of Balleroy castle in Normandy.

By then we had lost track of our position on the road map and only had two options: to continue or to turn around and try to find our way back. The sides of the road being very muddy and unstable, we quickly discarded the second option … We had no idea of where we were and where the road was leading to. Finally we reached a kind of clearing in the woods and at a distance saw a large white villa and a line of stables.

We ventured on … realizing that we were probably trespassing. From the stables came the noise of neighing horses and the stamping of hooves. In the house nothing stirred. We stopped by the end of the driveway leading to the main house. A high wall with a wooden gate surrounded the whole property. There was no way of getting out of there, except by the gate.

We were just starting to panic, when a van towing a horse trailer rounded the corner of the stables and drove in the direction of the gate. My friend put the car into gear and slowly followed the van at a distance. It stopped by the gate and the driver got out. He typed a code on the small keyboard by the side of the gate. When he turned around to get back into his van, he noticed our car. He signalled and mouthed “Vous voulez sortir?” (you want to get out?). When we nodded ‘yes’, the guy signaled us to follow him. The gate opened automatically and we quickly did as instructed, before further questions were asked.

Apparently we had missed the turn to the château’s main entrance and had involuntarily ventured into its ‘haras’ (horse stables). This, however, was private property and definitely not open to the public. After this little incident, we easily found the entrance to the castle and spent a lovely time exploring the neatly trimmed and manicured gardens.



Carolyn said...

You two do have your adventures! How nice that you got to see part of the chateau grounds not open to the public. Now I have to look up where Balleroy is.

chm said...

With a dear old friend of mine, I went to Balleroy two years ago after visiting the abbey of Cerizy-la Forêt on our way back to Bayeux where she lives. It was late in the afternoon and just had a peek through the gate.

Balleroy used to belong to Malcom Forbes of Forbes Magazine. I don't know if it was sold after his death some twenty years ago or if it's still in the family.

Nadege said...

What a gorgeous place!

chm said...

Malcolm Forbes would have flown faster with two L [L=ailes in French, wings in English]. But he was interested in balloons!

ladybird said...

Carolyn, Yes we do get around... and sometimes most, which often results in these little anecdotes :)

Chm, Malcolm Forbes was indeed a big fan of air balloons. His 'hobby' is mentioned on the website of the castle :

Nadege, The presicion with which the hedges were clipped was very impressive.

Anonymous said...

The hot air ballon museum above the shop at Balleroy is interesting if a ballonist etc. there are only a few rooms open to the public inside the chateau but does still belong to the forbes family. The grounds are great to walk in though- at any time of year.

ladybird said...

Anonymous, Thank you for posting a comment. I had heart about the museum but only visited the beautiful gardens.