From Bayeux we returned to Caen, by way of Creully, passing along bad roads, through an open, uninteresting country, almost wholly cropped with buck-wheat.—The barony of Creully was erected by Henry Ist, in favor of his natural son, the Earl of Gloucester: it was afterwards held by different noble families, and continued to be so till the time of the revolution. At that period, it gave a title to a branch of the line of Montmorenci, whose emigration caused the domain to be confiscated, and sold as national property; but the baronial castle is still standing, and displays, in two of its towers and in a chimney of unusual form, a portion of its ancient character: the rest of the building is modernized into a spruce, comfortable residence, and is at this time occupied by a countryman of our own, General Hodgson.
The church at Creully is one of the most curious we have seen. The nave, side-aisles, and choir, are all purely Norman, except at the extremities. The piers are very massy; the arches wide and low; the capitals covered with rude, but most remarkable sculpture, which is varied on every pillar. Round the arches of the nave runs a band of the chevron ornament; and over them is a row of lancet windows, devoid of ornament, and sunk in a wall of extraordinary thickness. Externally, all is modernized.
The view of Caen, on entering from this direction, is still more advantageous than that on the approach from Lisieux. Time would not allow of our making any stop at the town on our return: we therefore proceeded immediately to Falaise, passing again through an open and monotonous country, which, thoughtfully cultivated, has a most dreary aspect from the scantiness of its population. We saw, indeed, as we went along, distant villages, thinly scattered, in the landscape, but no other traces of habitations; and we proceeded upwards of five leagues on our way, before we arrived at a single house by the road-side.
[Illustration: Castle of Falaise]
Falaise appeared but the more beautiful, from the impression which the desolate scenery of the previous country had left upon our minds. The contrast was almost equally pleasing and equally striking, as when, in travelling through Derbyshire, after having passed a tract of dreary moors, that seems to lengthen as you go, you suddenly descend into the lovely vallies of Matlock or of Dovedale. Not that the vale of Falaise may compete with those of Derbyshire, for picturesque beauty or bold romantic character; but it has features exclusively its own; and its deficiency in natural advantages is in some measure compensated, by the accessories bestowed by art. The valley is fertile and well wooded: the town itself, embosomed within rows of lofty elms, stretches along the top of a steep rocky ridge, which rises abrupt from the vale below, presenting an extensive line of buildings, mixed with trees, flanked towards the east by the venerable remains of the castle of the Norman Dukes, and at the opposite extremity, by the church of the suburb of Guibray, planted upon an eminence. Near the centre stands the principal church of Falaise, that of St. Gervais; and in front of the whole extends the long line of the town walls, varied with towers, and approached by a mound across the valley, which, as at Edinburgh, holds the place of a bridge.