On many occasions I have driven up through Normandy to Le Havre to catch the ferry home. As I have done so I have seen the typical Normandy tan and mahogany coloured half-timbered thatched cottages. I always promised myself I would pause on my rush to the ferry port to explore the region and the rural architecture. Never did I envisage actually staying in a traditional Normandy thatched cottage.
I found the cottage on the HomeAway website (£) at the last minute when a 9 day gap appeared in my diary. On the face of it seemed to be perfect but I have previously had experience of properties not being quite what they seem to be on the website. I made a couple of enquiries with owner through the website and was pleasantly surprised when I received a reply within a couple of hours. This immediately created a good first impression. I always maintain that you do not get a second chance to make a first impression.
We booked the thatched cottage we discovered with www.homeaway.co.uk (£) in a simple and straightforward manner and received an email confirmation from the owner inside a couple of hours. He asked whether we wanted any of the extra options (linen, wood for the fire, and a cleaner) which we declined.
As the booking was short notice and nine days instead of the usual Saturday to Saturday booking we received an email with the arrangements for picking up the key, where to park and how to contact the owner, Laurent. Normally he meets his guests but as our booking was a Tuesday to Thursday booking this was not possible because of his work. However, everything was sorted with a minimum of fuss.
On arrival we found two hikers admiring the cottage and its delightful garden. They were taking photographs of the three picture postcard thatched cottages one of which was ours for the next nine days. Bouquelon, the village where the cottages were is close to Normandy’s Route des Chaumiére or Thatched Cottage Trail and many people make the small detour to see the thatched cottages in the village with the three grouped together were considered one of the highlights. No doubt this was due, in part, to the well kept French style cottage gardens surrounding each thatched cottage.
Like the two hikers my first instinct was to take out my camera and take photographs but I suppressed the urge and after finding the key let myself in.
Inside was exactly as you would expect a cottage to be. A large fireplace was the focal point of the living-room. An oak wood dresser and dining table were behind a sofa that faced the fire. It all looked very snug but without the impression of being crowded. The bedroom was large enough for a double bed with a single bed in the corner and plenty of floor space to move around in. The double bed was set into an alcove with curtains draped either side and flanked by built in wardrobes. An oak “tall boy” and a couple of chairs were the only other pieces of furniture. It had a very “cottagey” feel to it; very rustic.
The beds were firm and very comfortable. I had a good night’s sleep every night which is unusual when travelling a great deal as I do.
The kitchen and bathroom were off the living room with access either side of the fireplace. Considering the size of the other rooms these two were rather small. In the kitchen there was an oven and a two ring gas hob. This was a little limiting if you don’t intend to eat out. A fridge, microwave, washing machine and the ubiquitous coffee machine were the limit of the kitchen appliances. Storage space and a work or preparation surface were limited but adequate for the two of us.
The bathroom has a bath but does not list a shower in the description despite having a hand held one and a rather complicated trio of shower curtains over a window cupboard door and along the side of the bath. There is enough hot water to give a decent bath but you have to remember that the water is heated by electricity which you pay for at the end of your stay and is done automatically overnight like the storage heaters on a cheaper tarif. You can either switch off automatic on the switchboard or work around when the water is hot. Beware though consumption can be high if you switch to constant.
You cannot have a 17th century cottage of character and keep most of the original features with out uneven walls and floors. For me the low beams and doorways are all part of the package and the charm of staying in a historic cottage.
Laurent, the owner, is eminently contactable and deals with any issues rapidly. Even before booking he had responded to queries with in the hour; it’s one reason we booked with him. Queries about a kettle and hot water were dealt with almost immediately. For me that makes a huge difference as issues that are minor can escalate into major problems and ruins stay if not dealt with in a short timeframe. Most queries were dealt with through the HomeAway website and they rate the response time of the owners. Laurent was always contactable by telephone.
We met him at the weekend as of the three thatched cottages one is his home to which he comes at the weekends. He shared with us the details of the thatched cottages as well as some of the things we hadn’t discovered. He is a keen gardener and loves his English roses. The gardens surrounding the cottages are all in keeping with the cottages with roses, wisteria and plenty of cottage garden plants. Lawns stretch out the front to the gate and behind Le Chardonneret Chaumiere are several lawned terraces seperated by shrubs. The view from here and indeed the windows of the cottage over looking the terracing are of the Marais Vernier and Seine Valley.
If you want time to relax in a rural location and stay somewhere with bags of character then Le Chardonneret Chaumiere is the place to opt for. It’s location gives you the chance to explore some of the lesser known themes of the. Seine Valley such as the Thatched Cottage Trail, the Norman Abbeys and the same scenes that inspired the Impressionist painters.
There aren’t many places I would like to return to but this thatched cottage in rural Normandy certainly has me considering a return.
This property can be booked on www.homeaway.co.uk website (£). There is also another similar sized cottage in the same grounds as the one reviewed above which can be booked through the same website – www.homeaway.co.uk (£).
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