Views from château de Gaillon (October 2016)

Gaillon is a small town located about 58 miles (94 km) west of Paris, or about 32 miles (51 km) south of Rouen, the largest, nearby city in the Normandy region. Like many of the dozen or so small towns and villages in the Eure department of Normandy, it’s home to a small château, the eponymous château de Gaillon, which has had a notable history throughout the early 16th to 19th centuries. Unassuming as it is, Gaillon is worth a train stop while hopping from town to town in Normandy, to explore the essence of the northwest region of France.

I only had a very brief visit in Gaillon when I was a teaching assistante in Normandy. It was my second year in the region, and I was curious to check out more of the smaller, local gems. I was living with a bunch of other assistant.es in another small town nearby, and my German roommate invited me to see a bit of the town in the beginning of the year, before work got busy.

That said, we caught the train from our town to the gare de Gaillon-Aubevoye: it was only a seven-minute ride, and we literally got off the next stop to head the 2.4 km into the city proper, as the train station served two conjoining towns, Gaillon and Aubevoye. It was a fairly-uneventful stroll, as we were walking the sidewalks (and eventually, on the side of the street) of a major street that connected to the highway, so there wasn’t much of a scenic route. We did have to be careful, however, not to get hit by any cars!

There wasn’t much in the town center; everything was shut in the afternoon. We had also gone on a Sunday, and usually, Sundays in France are deserted as it’s the day of rest. We headed to the château de Gaillon, the pièce de resistance of the town. It was about a 600-meter walk to the entrance from the town center, with a slight incline to get to the main gate. Upon reaching the entrance, we discovered that the place was closed, as again, it was a Sunday.

20161009_140114Closed entrance to château de Gaillon 😦

The château de Gaillon was first constructed in 1502 at the very beginning of the French Renaissance: it was the summer residence of Georges d’Amboise, the Cardinal Archbishop of Rouen. Over the years, the château expanded to include Italian-styled gardens in its interior, as the Georges d’Amboise had been inspired by his trips to northern Italy, including Milan. In 1764, the château burned down, but was later constructed and actually took US ambassador Benjamin Franklin as a guest. It later became abandoned after the French Revolution and, after being sold and exchanged by several private hands, it was auctioned off to the public in 1975. Restoration took place in the late 1970’s and today, it’s a museum dedicated to its history and surrounding Normandy region.

Since we were unable to visit the château’s interior that day, my German roommate and I took a moment to admire the town views from above– a bit chilly and overcast for an October day, but beautiful all the same. We then descended the incline to walk the way back to the train station to return home.

Overall, Gaillon is a really-small town that is not necessarily a tourist spot, but it does offer a charming château to check out. If you happen to be in Normandy and desire to go château hopping, this place would be a stop to consider.

— Rebecca

31 thoughts on “Destination: Gaillon, France

  1. Love the pink and purplish hues in the sky in the first photo. It’s one of the worst things for travellers: the closed sights. We get that a lot lately as our main exploring and sightseeing day happens to be Monday, also known as the day when nearly all museums are closed.

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    1. Yes, that overcast Normand sky is iconic of the region. Timing when it comes to travel is crucial, as you wrote, when it comes to visiting sites. God forbid that you only have one day in town and nothing’s open!

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    1. Gaillon isn’t known for being touristy, so I can understand why you didn’t go. Aside from the château, there isn’t much else to see, but I think it’s still worth a stop over for a glimpse of local, Normand life!

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  2. I admire your curiosity to visit everything around the places where you live, even if they are not really known. It’s so annoying that everything is closed on Sundays, it’s starting to change.

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    1. I did a lot of exploring throughout the Normandy region when I lived there for two years. There are tons of small towns and villages that many outsiders (even the French from outside the region) don’t know about, but are worth visiting for their history, many of which have vague American ties, surprisingly!

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  3. Sorry you didn’t get to see the inside! Seems like you enjoyed the walk and scenery though. I’ve definitely experienced small French towns on a Sunday and just taking a walk seems to be the best thing you can do.

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  4. I’ve never heard about Gaillon before, but I have to say that the chateau is a remarkable Renaissance building the like of which you wouldn’t expect to find in Normandy. When I look back on all our trips around France, I realise that taking the time to visit lesser-known villages and towns brought me more joy than exploring big cities. Thanks for sharing and introducing me to a new place 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. I personally find delight in both big and small cities on my travels; I find they offer different perspectives on a country’s culture and people. I admit, though, visiting the smaller sites do tend to yield pleasant surprises!

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  5. It looks like a lovely little town, even though you couldn’t get inside. I just spent a few weeks traveling in “off season” and most things were closed. Still, there were still some advantages, no crowds.

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    1. I made frequent visits to Rouen when I lived in Normandy, and it’s such a stunning, historic city. It’s also not very big, which makes getting around on-foot incredibly easy!

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