Villedieu-les-Poêles

By Carol Baumeister Schmidt
This item appears on page 15 of the May 2013 issue.
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After stays in Colmar and Paris in September ’12, our traveling companions Paul and Mary Ellen Quigley and my husband, Klaus, and I made Bayeux our base for exploring Normandy. On the day we planned to visit Mont-St-Michel it was rainy, so we headed for a nearby town described in our Michelin guidebook, Villedieu-les-Poêles, home of the La Fonderie de Cloches Cornille-Havard, in the Manche department, northwestern France. 

In this town, where pots and pans have been made since the 12th century, the bell foundry has been casting and exporting bells for over 200 years. 

The day we visited, “Gabriel,” one of seven named bells to be cast for the 850th anniversary of Notre Dame de Paris, was in its cooling stage, having been cast one day previously. The eighth and largest bell will be cast in the Netherlands, lending a European air to the bells, which will then sound like the originals. (The bells were to be in place and sounding by Easter 2013.)

Using local clay and horse manure and goat hair from England, a faux cloche (dumb bell! or, literally, “fake bell”) is made, and metals acquired from around the world are smelted for pouring the brass bell in the mold. The process described by the factory’s tour guide was a lesson in bell casting that impressed and educated us. 

We had requested an English-speaking guide, and the tour took 1½ to two hours. The admission fee was about 8-10 (near $10.30-$13).

The city, itself, is quaint and charming and boasts of shops that sell locally made copper and brass household items. The restaurants which spilled out into the street and on the sidewalks were busy with locals and French tourists. 

Since the Calvados region was so close, after our lunch we enjoyed Calvados, reveling in our good fortune at having found lovely Villedieu-les-Poêles. 

CAROL BAUMEISTER SCHMIDT

Hastings, MI

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After stays in Colmar and Paris in September ’12, our traveling companions Paul and Mary Ellen Quigley and my husband, Klaus, and I made Bayeux our base for exploring Normandy. On the day we planned to visit Mont-St-Michel it was rainy, so we headed for a nearby town described in our Michelin guidebook, Villedieu-les-Poêles, home of the La Fonderie de Cloches Cornille-Havard, in the Manche department, northwestern France. 

In this town, where pots and pans have been made since the 12th century, the bell foundry has been casting and exporting bells for over 200 years. 

The day we visited, “Gabriel,” one of seven named bells to be cast for the 850th anniversary of Notre Dame de Paris, was in its cooling stage, having been cast one day previously. The eighth and largest bell will be cast in the Netherlands, lending a European air to the bells, which will then sound like the originals. (The bells were to be in place and sounding by Easter 2013.)

Using local clay and horse manure and goat hair from England, a faux cloche (dumb bell! or, literally, “fake bell”) is made, and metals acquired from around the world are smelted for pouring the brass bell in the mold. The process described by the factory’s tour guide was a lesson in bell casting that impressed and educated us. 

We had requested an English-speaking guide, and the tour took 1½ to two hours. The admission fee was about 8-10 (near $10.30-$13).

The city, itself, is quaint and charming and boasts of shops that sell locally made copper and brass household items. The restaurants which spilled out into the street and on the sidewalks were busy with locals and French tourists. 

Since the Calvados region was so close, after our lunch we enjoyed Calvados, reveling in our good fortune at having found lovely Villedieu-les-Poêles. 

CAROL BAUMEISTER SCHMIDT

Hastings, MI