Chateau de Gratot

In which we decide to ride coastwards to the town of Gratot, to visit the chateau there, encounter a Google Street View car not once, but twice, and get lost in an industrial estate near Coutances!

A visit to Gratot Castle was recommended by Anna and Gerry, and judging by their photographs it seemed to be a good recommendation! I plotted a route that started just like our route on Day 2 (though we called at the boulangerie in Cerisy for a baguette  and two almond croissants for our lunch) – unfortunately we seemed to go a bit wrong in our navigation shortly after crossing the D972. It may well be that in the future we’ll be seen puzzling over a map in Google Street View, since we encountered one of the Google photo cars. In the end we seemed irresistably drawn to an industrial estate, where the traffic was busy and the road markings confusing! Finally we escaped, and continued on our way towards Gratot.

Arriving at Gratot chateau, we parked the bike and hungrily devoured the almond croissants. There was a single picnic table, and it was already occupied, so we decided to wait until after we’d visited the chateau before having lunch. The chateau is another one of those building that was partially preserved by being used as farm buildings, and has been the subject of a neat restoration undertaken by a group of volunteers.

Gratot Chateau was begun in the 14th century, but continued in fits and starts through to the 18th century. It has a splendid moat, and a variety of odd-looking structures. One suspects that some of the restoration may not reflect historical accuracy, as apparently contemporary plans aren’t available. Gratot Chateau is famous for one of those strange myths, in this case about a fairy and a tower. Wikipedia describes the legend:

According to the legend, a lord of Argouges met a very beautiful young woman at a well. He immediately fell in love, and asked her to marry him. The beauty said she was a fairy, and would accept to be his wife only if he would never say the word “death”. The lord promised. One day, during a feast at the castle, the lord was upset at having to wait while his wife was dressing and said: ”Madam, you are very slow in your tasks! You would be good to send to fetch death, as you take so much time.” Then the fairy shouted, climbed onto the window sill and disappeared, leaving her handprint on the sill.

This legend is known as the legend of Melusina and was probably appropriated by the Argouges family to add prestige, or to explain some event in the family’s past.

We did venture up the Fairy Tower, but I couldn’t discern any handprint on the sill! The chateau is certainly very picturesque, and the field behind seems to show regular geometric lumps and bumps that might reflect a former formal garden lost to the ravages of time.

By the time we’d finished looking round the castle, the solitary picnic table was vacant, so we occupied it and made up sandwiches with the baguette bought earlier in the day. A fine lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches! Our return journey kept well away from the industrial estate, and instead followed part of the course of the Duo Normand 2-up time trial, through Marigny (where we stopped for supplies at the supermarket) and home via Cerisy. Another hot day, topping out at 34ºC, according to my bike computer.