ANET (Pop: 2,700)
Castle of Anet
Diane de Poitiers, widow of Louis de Breze, Grand Seneschal of Normandy, began the construction of the castle of Anet in 1547. Five years were sufficient to complete the work directed by famous architect Philibert Delorme. In 1566, Diane de Poitiers died at Anet. To respect her will, her daughter Louise de Brézé, Duchess of Aumale had a funeral chapel built near the castle, which has just been restored. In the 17th century, the castle belonged to the Dukes of Vendome who brought major changes: the main staircase and the government pavilion were built by Claude Desgots in 1680. The canal was dug at the same time from plans by Le Nôtre. In the 18th century, the Duchess of Maine and the Duke of Penthievre gave magnificent parties in the castle. Confiscated and sold as national property during the Revolution, it was ransacked and partly destroyed. From 1840, the castle was restored by the family who still own it today. It can be visited on weekends in the low season and every day except Tuesday from April to October.
PACY-SUR-EURE (Pop: 5,120)
Railway of the Eure valley
Resurrected by a fan of enthusiasts on a section of the old Rouen-Chartres-Orleans line, the Eure Valley Railway makes it possible to rediscover this corner of Normandy as it was toqards the end of the 19th century. Departing from the Pacy-sur-Eure train station, the train rides last from 1:15 to 2:30 hours depending on the chosen circuits. "Theme trains" include Trains Resto, Halloween Train, Santa Claus Train.
Castle of Brécourt
After remaining in the same family for nearly two hundred years, the castle of Brécourt was looted during an episode of the Revolution called "the battle without tears," because nobody was hurt. Sold on 16 Fructidor year VII, the castle was finally bought by Marquis de Pérignon, who became Marshal of the Empire and whose family kept it until 1903. Listed in the inventory of historical monuments, Brécourt was also for a time the residence of the United States Ambassador. In 1979, the house became a hotel. It is now for sale.
VERNON (Pop: 24,000)
Vernon used to be a holiday place for French monarchs and their relatives – William the Conqueror, Philip II Augustus, Saint Louis, Louis XI, Madame de Pompadour or Louis Philippe. It has become a haven for some figures of the show biz aristocracy. Alain Delon, Catherine Deneuve, Thierry Lhermitte or Emir Kusturica reside in the commune. Dubed "the Norman Neuilly", this pretty little city just 70 km from Paris is also the hometown of Ousmane Dembélé, the FC Barcelona striker.
The different buildings making up the castle were built at different periods since the early 18th century. The Duke of Belle-Isle, the Duke of Penthièvre or Louis-Philippe, the last king of the French, all left their mark in Château de Bizy. In the salons, renowned for their 18th century woodwork and their Gobelins tapestries, memorabilia from the Napoleon Empire are on display, gathered by the descendants of Marshal Suchet, the Dukes of Albufera.
Château des Tourelles
Shown on most Vernon postcards, the castle, built by King Philip Augustus to stop the advancing English troops, is one of the few 12th century castles in such a good state of preservation. Small, but flanked by four towers, it has been listed as a historical monument since 1926 but its inside buildings are too damaged to be visited.
PRESSAGNY-L’ORGUEILLEUX (Pop: 700)
Site of a hermitage dedicated to Mary Magdalene in the 12th century, the village grew thanks to aristocrats who came hunting in the Vernon forest. Chateau de la Madeleine is located on the site of a former priory and the village has become a haven for rich Parisians. Famous French publisher Gaston Gallimard had a house in the village, as did filmmaker Jean Renoir.
Château de la Madeleine
The first settler in the area, in the 12th century, was Saint Adjutor, the holy patron of the Seine boatmen. The grandson of Richard of Vernon, he went to the crusades and was miraculously brought back by Mary Magdalene to the spot on which the castle stands today. He built a monastery that became a priory in the 15th century before being destroyed at the French Revolution. The estate was bought by Napoleonic general Bremond and later by poet Casimir de la Vigne. In 1849, wealthy Baron Thenard, who discovered the virtues of hydrogen peroxide, became the new owner. He died three years later but his widow and his daughter spent most of his fortune building the rococo and baroque castle as it is today. Abandoned in the 1960s, it was purchased by the Clermont family who still live there and have turned it into a guest house.
LES ANDELYS (Pop: 8,140)
Spread around Chateau Gaillard, built by Richard I of England over the Seine, Les Andelys always inspired painters, who worked and lived there like Nicolas Poussin, Paul Signac or Ludovic-Rodo Pro, one of Camille’s seven sons.
For more than 800 years, Château-Gaillard has been watching over the town of Les Andelys and one of the most beautiful loops of the Norman Seine from its rocky outcrop. Built in record time between 1196 and 1198, in order to protect the Seine and the city of Rouen from the pretensions of French King Philip Augustus, Château-Gaillard is a masterpiece of the defensive architecture of its time. Château-Gaillard fell to the French in 1204. In the same year, Normandy, with the exception of the Channel Islands, became attached to the Kingdom of France. A place of residence for the kings of France (Louis IX, Philip III the Bold), a place of exile (for David Bruce, future king of Scotland) or a prison (Marguerite of Burgundy, Charles the Bad and Charles de Melun), Chateau- Gaillard was alternately taken by the French and English troops during the Hundred Years War. In 1598, Henri IV was convinced to demolish the castle, finally dismantled in 1611. Its majestic inspired the English Romantics, impressionist painters, poets and contemporary writers.
Nicolas Poussin Museum
The Nicolas Poussin museum is located in an old mansion from the 18th century. It retraces the history of the city of Les Andelys. The museum also presents a painting by Nicolas Poussin, “Coriolan” loaned by his family. This masterpiece recalls the local origins of the greatest French painter of the 17th century, who gave his name to the museum.
BEZU-LA-FORÊT (300 people)
Castle of Fontaine-du-Houx
It is an old manor of the kings of France, especially occupied by Merovingians and Carolingians, destroyed by fighting during the Hundred Years War. The building was rebuilt between the 16th century and the 18th century.
FERRIÈRES-EN-BRAY (Pop: 1,590)
In 1850, Charles Gervais, a small employee of the Paris Les Halles market, joined forces with a Ferrieres-en-Bray farmer, Mrs Heroud, to create the recipe of a dairy product they dubbed Petit Suisse. It made the Gervais group one of the world leaders in the dairy sector. The main Gervais factory and the group’s headquarters are still implanted in Ferrieres-en-Bray.
GERBEROY (Pop: 100)
It is impossible to resist the charms of Gerbreroy, labelled as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Its cobbled streets, small colourful half-timbered houses and the flowers growing on the old walls are part of the magic. A perfect setting for films, and a few of them were shot on the spot. Roses are everywhere, and a Rose Fair is held every year in June. Magnificent samples can be seen in the garden of post-impressionist painter Henri Le Sidaner.
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