Bienv­en­ue à Lassay-les-Châteaux

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My moth­er lives in a small town in North­ern France called Lassay-les-Châteaux. For a few years she’s had a holi­day cara­van in a park nearby, and at Christ­mas she bought a house in the town. The English version of wiki­pe­dia has prac­tic­ally noth­ing to say about Lassay-les-Châteaux other than show­ing photos of two of the three local castles- one in the town centre, the other two just outside. (The town’s name also sounds like it means “leave the castles” in French). The French entry doesn’t tell you much more, except that a lot of people were guil­lotined there in the Revolu­tion, the local mayor doesn’t belong to a polit­ic­al party (after a long line of right-wing­ers), and that Victor Hugo visited once. It’s just not a place where things happen. If you want the quiet life, you can find it in Lassay.

There’s a small town square with a phar­macy, bakers, conveni­ence store, two bars, café, flor­ists, hairdress­er and an antique shop that’s rarely open, and a post office a short walk away. There’s a small super­mar­ket and a vets just outside town, but for anything else you need to drive to the next towns, which are just over the border in Normandy.

The picture above is my mum’s street, just off the main square- Rue du Champ de Foire- Fair­ground Street (the green where they used to have the fairs is a short walk away). Her house is on the left. An old man lived there before, so build­ers are currently updat­ing it, so no interi­or pictures yet. There’s steep wooden stairs up to the attic, and a nice walled garden with apple trees in.

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This very grand house is a few doors away. I’m not sure if anyone lives there full-time though. Maybe rich people from Paris own it.

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This is a more typic­al modern French house.

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The tradi­tion­al houses are all tall thin terraces built of grey stone. This is prob­ably not people’s mental image of France, they imagine eleg­ant Hous­mann era apart­ment blocks in Paris, or Medi­ter­ranean villas. Every­where in the North-West of France looks like this though.

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The houses in the town are either very well cared for, or almost derel­ict. I think there are a lot of build­ings where no-one’s quite sure who owns it, due to complic­ated inher­it­ance rules in the past, and the fact that at one time no-one wanted to live in small towns in Normandy.

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The houses that aren’t done up still have things like coal bunkers and outside toilets.

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But the houses that people live in are well-cared for, and the town regu­larly wins local prizes for its flower displays.

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This house was await­ing sale. It wasn’t very expens­ive. I can’t find the list­ing now, but you can have this house with an identic­al layout to my mum’s for €33.5k (although it seems to need more work done than hers), or this total wreck for less than the price of a new car. If you do restore the house, there’s a sign with paint­chips outside the town hall, show­ing you the approved colours you can choose from for front doors in the histor­ic zone.

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If you walk down by the old castle walls …

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You can tell it hasn’t changed for a long time.

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A lot of people’s gardens lead out onto this alley­way.

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And a lot of people here are keen on garden­ing (the soil is very fertile- it’s prime farm­ing coun­try)

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If you walk down to the bottom, you come to the allot­ments.

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And someone’s prize dahlias. At this point it star­ted rain­ing heav­ily, so I’ll show the castle and lake some other time.

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