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Crossed by the Normandie Maine and the Perche Regional Nature Parks, Orne is a largely agricultural region.

La Chapelle-Montligeon

The **Basilica of Our Lady of Montligeon, dedicated to “Our Lady Liberator of the Souls of the Purgatory”, is a pilgrimage church, the center of a sanctuary dedicated to prayer for the dead. It is located in La Chapelle-Montligeon, a small town in the Perche region, near Sablons-sur-Huisne.

The building is hard to miss if you’re driving through, and worth a stop to see the particularly fine stained glass. It’s a new cathedral, built from 1894 to 1911 by the architect Maître Tessier.


Sablons-sur-Huisne

**Domaine De Villeray is a surprising stay experience – in the middle of nowhere, a former 16th century castle and 19th century water mill. The town & hotel are largely synonymous – forty guest rooms are spread over the Mill, the Castle and the Percheron outbuildings.

It’s very castley, in moderately good repair. You’ll have the feeling of being a guest in a well-worn country home of an elegant family. Meals are served in the mill, and quite good.

The spa is large, slightly odd, and popular. It had the feel of a social space, for hen parties and the like. There’s an indoor pool, one hamman, one sauna, and very large places to sit and chat.


Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei

Heading overland through Normany is a relatively low-key experience, with small stone towns, grazing cows, apple & pear orchards, and modest churches.

On the Sarthe river in the Mancelles Alps, the village was founded by Saint Céneri, an Italian monk who built a monastery here in the seventh century. It was later burned by the Normans, but the 11th-century church on the site remains, its saddleback roof and tower emerging from the trees. Inside, 12th-century murals have recently been restored – a pretty, very red collection.

Pretty houses around the church and along the river have been preserved, as has a lovely 15th-century chapel. The village has charmed many famous painters, including Camille Corot and Eugène Boudin.

It’s a nice stop to stretch your legs. There are 2 or 3 restaurants, not open during the off seasons.

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