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The 20 “World” destinations for traveling in France in 2021: from Château de Tocqueville to Barfleur, breath of fresh air in the Val de Saire


By Eric Collier

Posted January 15, 2021 at 5:00 a.m., updated at 5:03 p.m.

On the land side, it is an enchanting network. Small roads and forest paths that swerve from one valley to another, across the whole range of greens, oaks and ferns, meadows, pines and palm trees. Here and there, modest structures span the river at the origin of the name of this small country, the Val de Saire, the eastern horn of the Cotentin. Closer to the sea, sometimes with emerald reflections, the relief suddenly gives way to a peaceful-looking plain, at least in calm weather. After Saint-Pierre-Eglise, the D 901 goes straight towards the Manche. Not a curve, not a hill or even a false flat, a road without obstacle, as straight as the old Roman roads. A few kilometers before the pretty port of Barfleur, at the exit of Tocqueville, a gate appears on the right. It opens onto another path traced with a line, lined with trees: young oaks planted there to reforest the path created a century and a half earlier by an illustrious occupant of the place, Alexis de Tocqueville.

Alexis de Tocqueville inherited this 16th century building in 1836.

In the middle of the XIXe century, the Count of Tocqueville, already famous in France and soon in the whole world, had gradually become infatuated with this family home, a former fortified manor of the XVIe century, regularly transformed and enlarged by its ancestors, the Clérels, who became Clérel de Tocqueville. This castle, which can be seen today behind the rows of oaks, he had inherited from his mother in 1836. At first, without much enthusiasm: “An old house flanked by two heavy towers, where nothing seems done for the convenience and even less for the pleasure of theœhe “, he wrote. A native of Paris, the future minister, deputy and president of the general council of La Manche, shared his time between the capital and this stronghold, which he ended up appreciating: “ This dear Tocqueville!, he wrote in 1837 to his wife, Mary Mottley. It only presents itself to my imagination as the asylum of peace and happiness. It is the port in the midst of all storms. I have never, after all, been so much and so happy as there was. ” Nestled in a large estate, with a pond, a so-called “Moroccan” garden and a dovecote, the place, which has remained in the Tocqueville family, today looks great.

The old manor house, which has been remodeled and extended many times, now presents a multifaceted architecture, a mixture of styles and eras.

According to Jean-Guillaume de Tocqueville, descendant of Edouard, one of the brothers of the most famous count of the Clérel de Tocqueville line, it is in the copyrights drawn from his successes in bookstores that “Alexis” had drawn on to finance the alley of oaks, replaced in 2005 by young subjects. The old manor house, which has been remodeled and extended many times, now presents a multifaceted architecture, a mixture of styles and eras. The central pavilion and its triangular pediment decorated with the arms of the family are next to a round tower, from the XVIe century and, on the other hand, with a square tower built at the end of the XIXe century. “An almost harmony when everything is odds and ends”, smiles Jean-Guillaume de Tocqueville. The Parisian lawyer has made it his second home and is offering part of the castle for rent, in the square tower. Guided tours are also organized, by appointment.

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