A chaumiere is a thatched cottage, built from a skeleton of wood beams, infill of clay or lime and sometimes reinforced with horse or cow hair, and a roof of reeds.
Les Iris is on the Thatched Cottage Road, a 53-km route that runs through the Boucles de la Seine national park connecting Notre-Dame-de-Bliquietuit to Vatteville, Azier and Vieux-Port and winding along the Seine to the Vernier marshlands.
“The thatched roofs of our buildings, from whose tops grow irises with their sabre like leaves, appear to steam as though the humidity of the stable or the barn rises up through the straw”
The Seine flows at the end of the garden, between limestone cliffs and occasional villages. At certain times of day, large boats glide silently past, heavy on their way to Rouen, or, lighter, back out to Le Havre and the sea beyond.
This being Normandy, there is the requisite apple tree in the garden. Ours is large and old and the unripe apples taste sour and floury. The garden is full of herbs, and along the footpaths from the village up into the ancient forest there are plentiful mushrooms. The abundance this season has been a general topic of village conversation, and we ate the wild mushrooms cooked with butter and herbs by a neighbour. You can take the mushrooms you have picked to the pharmacy in the next village, and they will tell you which ones you can eat. We haven’t tried this yet.
The small village church from our window. There are said to be graves in the cemetery from the hundred years’ war. During the day the bell tolls every half hour and with particular vigour at 7 am and 7 pm.
Meals are outside in the sunshine overlooking the Seine, or in the salle a manger at the petrin (dough-making table). The top lifts to reveal a trough, which provided a warm, draft-free place to knead dough and leave it to rise.
No space for bathtubs under the thatched roof, but there are two lovely bathrooms, one on the ground floor, with strong showers. The country kitchen has windows overlooking the garden and a Belfast sink.
The floors downstairs are traditional Pont Audemer tiles, and upstairs, hardwood throughout.