Just over the hill from us, beyond Descartes, is the gorgeous château at Les Ormes.
We have visited before, the first time being a few years ago, during one of the patrimoine weekends that occur each September. On that occasion, the entrance fee was minimal and the place was heaving with visitors. Last year we went in the middle of June when my brother was staying with us and had the place virtually to ourselves.
When we arrived there was only one other car outside in the car park which was probably owned by a member of staff. The place seemed completely deserted. We stood around in the fabulous entrance hall for a few minutes, wondering what to do, until a man appeared from a doorway. He took our money, pointed us in the direction of the salon and disappeared again. We then didn't see another soul until we were about to leave. A family of four turned up and once again the man emerged from a mystery doorway to take their money.
This is the kind of château visit that we like. Free to roam by ourselves and better still, no other visitors to get in our way. There are several lavishly appointed rooms to see on the ground floor. Drop dead gorgeous yet cosy at the same time.
Mantlepieces are adorned with busts of previous owners, family members and other important people.
Even though the house was deserted, we were never far from the gaze of someone from days of yore keeping an eye on us.
The house is full of interesting doors, locks and windows. For someone like me who is fascinated by such things it's pure delight.
There is even a display of old knobs, locks and knockers from around the property. The reflections from the glass case made it difficult to photograph but you get the idea. Lovely!
And, not only that, but, joy of joy, it has two kitchens! One a century or two newer than the other but still pretty ancient and therefore full of wonderful old equipment, the purpose of which can be debated for hours.
The kitchen is always a favourite part of any château visit for me.
All those lovely old pans, ancient pots and baskets.
I realise that life in these kitchens was probably pretty terrible for the people that worked there. Hard graft, long hours and dangerous to boot. Noisy too I expect.
Even something as mundane as a tap is fascinating.
There isn't much in terms of outdoor space to see at Les Ormes, especially compared to other châteaux a bit further away. No elaborate gardens or ponds. No tea room either. But well worth setting aside a morning or afternoon for.
Back here in the UK we find ourselves "orming about". That's a north of England expression that means wandering aimlessly, killing time. With February coming to an end and the worst of the winter hopefully behind us we can't wait to get back to France. To the sunshine, the châteaux on our doorstep and the peace and quiet of country life.
It has been, yet again, a long and horrible winter here. Rain upon rain and more rain. A couple of weekends ago we had a deluge on a Sunday. The toilet and shower were gurgling, there was water gushing from our drains, a lake at the bottom of the garden and outside the front door. The water was a couple of inches up the car wheels. For more than a moment I wondered if we were in real trouble. Luckily the rain stopped, the water drained away and all was well. Many thousands of people in the UK have not been so lucky. My heart goes out to them. Dealing with the filth and stench that floodwater leaves behind must be heart-breaking, more so if your insurance company is tardy in responding to your claim.
Nick and I have both been ill this winter, nothing serious, just enough to make life difficult. On top of that my dad has had to give up driving, something we all dreaded and that has taken a good deal of time for us to organise the changes in his life accordingly. His car needed a lot of repair work in order to sell it for a decent price - it was alarming to find that he hadn't noticed that the brakes didn't work and that there was a loud clunk coming from somewhere with every bump in the road. It's gone to a new owner now, fully repaired and a bargain for someone who needs an old car with low mileage and one careful owner.
Maybe we all have to endure winter every year so that we can really appreciate Spring when it finally, thankfully comes along.